by Jennifer Young
One of my favourite real-life villains, Little Bad Jim, is commemorated in a plaque set into a pavement in downtown Denver, Colorado. (Read his story in the picture.) Little Bad Jim is the best of villains — a human one. I spend far longer than is healthy speculating about what drove him to be a villain when he so obviously didn’t fit the job description, and whether he ended up hanged for his trouble or was just sent to bed early wth no cocoa.
My villains usually don’t want to be villains, either. In No Time Like Now the villain overstepped the mark of organised crime and fell into company he couldn’t handle. In Running Man it was all to do with money and the need to prove himself. In my upcoming novel Blank Space, the villain (I won’t name him — it would be a spoiler) is torn between right and wrong and the choice he makes is what tips him over the edge. In the sequel, After Eden (currently at last edits stage) the villain is driven to violence by bereavement and grief.
When I write a villain I always start off with a someone who has the potential to be the hero. Just as our heroes, if they are to be real, ought to be flawed, our villains, if our readers are to invest in them, must have qualities. In Blank Space my villain could so easily have been my hero, but “if there was a weakness in the man’s armour-plated, guilt-resistant capability for the job, it was that he always liked to be in charge. That was what made him a maverick. He had the qualities of a potential hero, but a controlling weakness, nonetheless”.
I like to think that both Blank Space and After Eden have moved on a little from my usual straightforward romances. They are romances, certainly, but both are woven through with tragedy, with each villain a hero in his own sub-plot.
But maybe I’m over-thinking it. And in any case, neither of them is quite as much of a wuss as poor Little Bad Jim.
Blank Space is currently available for pre-order on Amazon at a special price of £1.63/$1.99 and will be published on December 21st.