Clarissa Johal: Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Barbara Custer

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Guest Author Barbara Custer

How I Created My Villains
by Barbara Custer

When it came to creating villains for my work, a mentor’s advice stuck to me like a Mylar balloon: You can’t have a mindless brute that plunders and kills for the fun of it. No one is all good or all bad. Even Hitler had his kind moments with his dog.

What Hitler did was despicable, but he was generous with treats when he spent time with his dog. Herein I found my lesson on the multi-layered personality of the villain, and I considered my mentor’s advice when I wrote Twilight Healer and Steel Rose. Drusilla of Twilight Healer started as a cold, bloodthirsty vampire who made feeding on humans her sole mission. After my lesson, I gave Drusilla an impoverished childhood. The story opens with Drusilla as an indigent seeking work at a place where her employers wouldn’t abuse her. After she turns, she destroys, but one scene depicts her comforting an injured child beaten by her stepfather. She then goes after the stepfather. Drusilla’s other actions were despicable, but she had a soft spot for abused children.

Laurel of Steel Rose began as a death angel type of nurse who used her job as a beard for killing young woman and eating their remains whenever the fancy struck her. Her cold, calculating eyes hint that she’d kill just as soon as look at someone. Ah, but Laurel loved her dog Pluto, and she’s good with doggie treats. After her severe injuries in a car accident, she fears something will happen to her beloved Pluto. A scene takes her back to a horrible childhood with parents who duct tape her to a mattress and leave her there for hours without food or water. Laurel also grieves over the death of her older sister. Her killing sprees start when her mind conjures an imaginary visitor named Abaddon who orders her to kill patients and other people. One reviewer felt that Laurel made a stronger character than my protag did.

I’ve struggled with developmental edits on the sequel to Steel Rose, but the editor complimented me on my villain. We meet villainess Woehar in Steel Rose, but she continues manufacturing zombies during the sequel. I’d want to give Woehar more explanation because most people don’t start out life being pure evil. Perhaps someone bullied as a child turns into a bully later on in life. Evilness is relative, too; people have different standards of what they consider evil. One reference I found helpful was the Evil Overlord List.

Basically, the villain will be the opposite of the hero, so I had to give my villains humane moments. Perhaps he or she has a favorite pet, plant, or relative. I had to come up with a real motivation for their bad behavior; having a villain go after the hero because of real or imagined slights on the playground in grade school won’t cut it. I wanted my villain to be someone people could understand, even if they found the actions deplorable.

Blurb for Steel Rose:

The denizens of hell attack. The zombies feed. She's their meal.

Sometimes they come back. At least the Kryszka aliens do. Their leader injects captured humans with a drug, turning them into zombies. Yeron escapes the Kryszka Colony, hoping to practice medicine on the humans who fear him. Alexis-a patient-is afraid too, until his seductive attentions arouse her. Despite his experimental drug, severe arthritis leaves her too weak to handle most guns. The Kryszka troops and zombies who break into the hospital are hungry. Very hungry. How will she fight them?


A random commenter will receive a $5.00 Starbucks GC and PDF copy of Night to Dawn 26.

Buy links:

Author Website
Barnes& Noble


Popple said...

I appreciate the beautiful showcasing. Thanks so much!

Bri Wignall said...

Laurel sounds like an amazon character. The is depth, emotion and reason behind her killings, as well as survival instinct. I love zombie books and this sounds right up my street. I'd love to review it!

Popple said...

Thanks so much for the sentiments. And, Bri, I appreciate your offer to review the book. I will contact you by email. Thanks so much,
Barbara :)

Unknown said...

The French say that "To understand all is to forgive all" BUT...

I'm not sure I want to be all that understanding...or that forgiving, especially to villains like Hitler. Have to admit, it sure is fun to write villains, though.