It’s been said that authors need stories, more than stories need their authors. At 27, Tanner Lutheran has published the story he needed to write, “Detached: I Hope All Your Flowers Turn Into Beautiful People.” While he credits a “constant need for expression” for leading him into his writing career, that will only get a person so far if they don’t have a story to tell.
Lutheran’s course has twists and turns, seemingly never wanting to smooth out—yet, it brought him to where he is today. Born in Swansboro, North Carolina, his journey of self-discovery has taken him to Florida, Wilmington, Greensboro, New York, Wilmington again, and finally Winston-Salem.
At times, moving to a new place was driven by the need for steady work. During his second stay in Wilmington, Lutheran decided to draft the story he held into a novel. “I wrote half the book in the three weeks before I started selling cars,” he recounts. “And then I wrote the other half of the book three weeks after I quit.”
Up to that point, his experience with writing was limited to schoolwork and songwriting. The learning process proved to be challenging. “I’ve always taken [my writing] seriously,” he says. “But it was always a matter of having the resources to take it to whatever level I wanted it to go.”
Where songs are built lyrically and rhythmically with natural voids to allow for creative interpretation, novels have their foundation in detail, layers and character development. Laughing at his naivety, he remembers: “When I moved to writing the book, I approached it with the same mentality that ‘this won’t be hard.’ Then I learned that there was a lot more to it.”
Lutheran came to know the main characters, Zachary and Astrid, as if they were real. He now knows their mannerisms, instinctive reactions and darkest secrets.
After the first series of hurdles to writing the story, the editing stage was also more difficult than imagined. For someone just staring out with his first novel, Lutheran found that self-editing was initially his only option. However, after repeated re-readings, tweaks and editing on his own, he ultimately decided that he needed outside help.
His learning process has cemented his belief that many authors have a story to tell but not the means to get it done. “There were a ton of times when I wanted to say it was finished, but then I would read it and think I needed to change it,” he says, laughing about the struggle to let a piece of writing go. “Finally, my editor told me to just find a stopping spot.” Between 2013 and 2017, “Detached: I Hope All Your Flowers Turn Into Beautiful People” found its life.
The root of the story goes further back. Lutheran recalls an accident that happened when he was seven years old, during a morning commute to school. There was a curvy country road and a simple fender bender. While waiting for police, there was a truck speeding down the same road and hugging the curve. Lutheran was hit by the truck, resulting in numerous broken bones and critical structural damage throughout his body. He relates in honest, yet impressive detail the story of the accident and how, while he was in a coma, doctors didn’t give him much of a chance at a normal life. However, recovery from this may have been the first instance where he embraced the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Despite the negative prognosis, Lutheran recovered from his many injuries, surpassing all professional expectations— and meeting those that he and his family had set. Though his body would need multiple surgeries as he continued to grow physically, the accident seemed to expedite Lutheran’s emotional growth.
He was never given special considerations in school or at home, because his family didn’t want the accident to define him. Yet, people are undeniably shaped by what life hands them, and he explains how “it got to a point where [he] had to recognize the disconnect between what happened and who [he] was.”
While his accident could have defined him with handicaps, he decided, with the encouragement of his family, that it wouldn’t. The experience made him more aware of human mortality sooner than most children. Lutheran says that he began asking “a lot of more mature life or death questions from that point.” He gained a self-awareness and greater appreciation for life. His outgoing personality, healthy goal orientation and determination have all grown out of a near tragedy.
When asked how he imagines what his life would have been without this accident, he says, “I wouldn’t have been as adventurous. I don’t think my intentions would have been as clear. I am thankful that it happened, because I like who I am.”
Not one to be an underachiever, Lutheran has also crafted a multimedia approach to presenting “Detached: I Hope All Your Flowers Turn Into Beautiful People” to a larger audience. The creative energy of writing the novel carried over into an increase in songwriting, and, in this flurry of new music, he developed an audiovisual delivery of the story with the song and video for “Window Art.” Even with this, he isn’t done.
“Someone asked me, ‘Aren’t you tired of talking about this story? How are you still talking about this book?’” he recalls. “I feel like the story is a part of the book, but there’s more to it. I don’t just think about the story.”
He continues: “I’m always thinking about different ways people connect to it and different things that I can create around it that are in a different expression. None of it feels the same. It’s not a tired thought.” And, Lutheran continues to pursue additional creative outlets to enhance the story’s accessibility.
“Once I create something, I like to develop things around it to make it appealing to other people, so anyone can pick it up.”
In a unique, clever and modern approach, Lutheran intends to reach all audiences with this story, even the non-readers. “There are a lot of people who don’t read or who don’t have time, which is why I want to have a shorter version of the book,” he says. “You can still experience the story through the music and video. Everything I do is connected in order to give people a chance to connect [to each other].”
This pursuit of openness is designed to bring people together in a time when technology drives our intake of art and culture. It’s a movement that creators can work with instead of trying to fight the tide.
Though his novel was published in September, there is no rest for Lutheran. In addition to exploring multimedia opportunities for “Detached: I Hope All Your Flowers Turn Into Beautiful People,” he has already started work on the second volume of the series. This time, he is able to use some of what he learned with the first volume to make the process a little less painful.
“Going into the second [book], I have a better understanding of layers in the writing and editing process,” he explains. “I can think about that and have the foresight to write like I’m editing.” Beyond that, he also already knows the subject material for his next series. Then, of course, he’s also filling book orders, printing the covers and packaging at home to take care at every step in the process. His care for the delivery of the story and for the audience experience is equal to his care for the book itself.
Lutheran’s experience and determination planted a seed to a story that he needed to tell. His creatively restless mind is focused on pushing the limits and known delivery for a novel, and as an audience we have only seen the tip of that iceberg.
“You never know what’s going to come of what you create, but you never know what the potential is until you really push it.” He will continue to write and develop innovative channels to bring his stories to more people. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
On Sunday, November 5, Lutheran is holding a book signing and reading for “Detached: I Hope All Your Flowers Turn Into Beautiful People” at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro, starting at 3 p.m.