Villains: Why authors love to write them

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Seb Kirby

continues bestsellers’ musings on the villain: why we write them and what makes them compelling for both authors and readers.

villain with a knifeIn my latest psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies, I wanted to create a villain who was ruthless and heartless, yet driven by forces outside his own control. I found this in Evan Cargill, a military-trained killer for whom all sense of remorse had been long ago destroyed by events in his brutalising past.

All that captivity.

The years in the children’s homes they forced him into were difficult but nothing compared with the times he spent in the Middle East, first as a soldier of fortune, then as a hostage.

They tried to break him every which way but all they did was hone his spirit of defiance. Each time they tortured him, he felt his body responding, strengthening, becoming ever more resilient. Each time they trashed him and left him for dead, he recovered, stronger, more determined.

He survived.

Time to take back what is owed.

But how can you reclaim a childhood?

That’s where it all began. The never-ending struggle that became his whole life.”

Where a villain comes from

I drew some of the inspiration for this character from Mary Shelley’s observation: “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” Evan Cargill does not see himself as a villain. He believes he is doing nothing but good in the string of gruesome murders he carries out. He sees the killings as wholly justified.

He’s not the main character in the story. That’s Emma Chamberlain, a young journalist facing her own struggle to make sense of her past. But in Cargill, I think I’ve created her dark counterpoint.

Here the Truth Lies: psychological thriller by Seb Kirby

About the book

Sometimes your past is stranger than you ever imagined.

Emma Chamberlain has a consuming ambition: to prove the innocence of a convicted murderer sentenced to life. But the more she digs into the evidence, the more she is forced to confront threatening secrets about her own past that lead her to the ultimate question – who is Emma Chamberlain?

To discover the truth, Emma must expose those responsible for a dark conspiracy that has ruined the lives of many and now threatens her own.

Seb Kirby

BestSelling author Seb Kirbywas literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

 

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Writing unforgettable villains

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By Toby Neal

Batman villains: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker 1967

Public domain image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crime writing is fun—and the most fun is dreaming up evil characters who do unspeakable things! Without good villains, the mystery genre would be dead. These deviants drive the plots!

As a former therapist in the psychology field, I have a bit of an advantage in creating bad guys and gals who exemplify the worst of the human race—and showing them in a way that’s believable because its based in an understanding of the human psyche. The best villains are shades of gray, spookily relatable because they are us … in the right situation and circumstance.

Bestselling Hawaii mystery Torch GingerA good villain teaches us something about the world, other humans, and most thought-provoking of all, about ourselves. What would we do, given the situation, circumstances and background of the villain in the story? Some part of us wonders if we’d be much different.

My best villains

I’ve written a serial killer with social anxiety and schizophrenia (Torch Ginger). I’ve written a sadistic gangster villain (Wired In). I’ve written a heroic bandit who stole from the rich to give to the homeless (Broken Ferns) and I’ve written a sociopathic identity thief who falls in love with a ruthless gangster (Black Jasmine.) I’ve written 20 mystery/thrillers, and every one of them needed a villain to drive the story—so I have a special soft spot for them. So many villains, so little time!

My favorite villains have been women. Women, statistically, commit less than a fourth of the violent crime (or any crime, really) than men. But when a woman goes bad? Truly bad? She can wreak a swath of havoc a mile wide, leaving nothing but rubble, ash and broken hearts in her wake.

bestselling Paradise Crime boxed setMy current favorite villainess is Pim Wat Smithson, mother of Sophie Ang, heroine of the Paradise Crime Series. Pim Wat is supposedly institutionalized as a catatonic depressive in Thailand. But really, all the years she was supposedly having a lie-down with a cold cloth on her forehead, Pim Wat was traveling the world, killing people as an assassin.

Pim Wat is a consummate actress, deadly as a viper, and completely narcissistic. She loves what she does and “scripts” her kills, with costumes, dialogue, and little theatrical flourishes. That she is the mother of Sophie, a character we’ve come to know as heroic, dedicated, and self sacrificing, is a wonderful juxtaposition that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings.

Toby Neal

After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, Toby returned to the Hawai’ian Islands where she was born. have been home for the last fifteen years. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Get to know her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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