Among the questions I solicited from you a while ago were these three:
–From Edea Baldwin: “Have you ever written a character that you disliked intensely? Or must you feel some affinity with any character you write?”
–From Jeanette Harris: “Which of your characters have you liked the least and why?”
—Shelia Hudnall: “Just how often does a secondary character morph into a primary character for you? How often are you surprised when that happens? Or does it surprise you at all?”
I have created my fair share of villains. There are a few I would make different if I were to write the book now, because I don’t like what I think of as “silly” villains–that is, those who are evil for the sake of being evil and enjoy it. I think of some cartoon villains in that category. I like to consider the whole complexities of the human condition when I create characters, whether they be heroes and heroines or villains or neither. And with very few exceptions (I am not going to touch upon that possible extreme here) no person is purely evil. There are reasons for what people do, so numerous that I don’t think I can even begin to give examples. And most of us are a bewildering mix of good and bad. We are human! I like to create heroes and heroines in whom good ultimately prevails, though never in a purely happily-ever-after way. As the hero of the book I have just finished (ONLY A KISS, Imogen’s story) says almost at the end: “I want you to love me for my sorry self, which I will try very hard for the rest of my life to make worthy of you–and worthy of me. I can do it. We can always do anything as long as we are alive. We can always change, grow, evolve into a far better version of ourselves. It is surely what life is for.”
There are a few villains in my books that I regret. One of them is in HEARTLESS, which will be republished next summer. I have left him as he is, however, as I always think it is a bigger mistake to change an older book, when one is coming at it from a wholly different life perspective. I have a number of other villains who are unredeemed at the end and have never been redeemed in future books, though some readers have asked that it happen. Some of you may remember Lionel, villain in both DARK ANGEL and LORD CAREW’S BRIDE. I have never redeemed him, though I think I could! He is very human, but he had allowed self absorption and a good bit of sadism to dominate his character. The fact that he looks like an angel does not help him. Having created him and been inside his head, I can see that such a man is very unlikely to change unless he has to face some really cataclysmic event in his life. I prefer to let realism prevail in cases like Lionel. The same applies to a number of other villains in my books. They must be allowed to live the life they have chosen–or rather (to be fair to them) the life I have chosen for them!
And then there are the villains I have redeemed. Sometimes poor or downright wrong choices can land people in deep darkness. It is often easier to remain in it, especially if there are addictions involved, and even to spiral downward. And sometimes people, speaking and acting from such a place, do downright nasty things and cause other people to suffer. To emerge from the darkness, to make some right choices and keep on making them, to build a will of iron and an ability to take one step at a time without being discouraged by how many need to be taken, is obviously incredibly difficult. We all probably know such people or at least know OF them. But if they can do it–oh my goodness! My character Freddie was pretty nasty in COURTING JULIA, even going as far as to kidnap the heroine so that she would have to marry him and solve his money woes. And even at the start of his own book, DANCING WITH CLARA, he is plotting marriage to a plain, crippled woman who is also rich. But when Clara accepts his offer, she does so because he is beautiful and there has been little beauty in her life. She is not deceived for one moment by his apparent ardor. Freddie has to face suitable torture during the rest of the book before he emerges as a worthy hero for Clara as the end. I LOVE redeeming villains or bringing characters from a dark place to the light.
Does it surprise me when a secondary character in one book morphs into a primary character in another? Sometimes it is planned. Very often it is not. I will be searching around in my head for a suitable heroine for a hero I have in mind (or vice versa) and find the perfect character embedded in a previous book. I needed a heroine for Ann Jewell in SIMPLY LOVE, and up popped Sydnam Butler. I had not created either one of them to end up with the other. I needed a heroine for Flavian in the upcoming ONLY ENCHANTING and remembered that at the end of THE ARRANGEMENT he had danced with Sophia’s friend, Agnes Keeping. Guess who the heroine of ONLY ENCHANTING is. It is always lovely to discover a ready-made hero or heroine instead of having to start from nothing.
I have two more advance reading copies (uncorrected proofs, plain paper cover) of ONLY ENCHANTING, due out on October 28, to give away. I will send them to two people who leave a comment below before the end of August. Good luck!