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Eileen Dreyer | A Villian To Love


I admit it. I love my villains. In fact, if I have a book with a villain in it, I have to make sure I have my villain in place before I consider my hero and heroine complete. Because, if you think about it, the way I show the heroism of my protagonists is to match them against an equal opposing force. And that force had better be three-dimensional and compelling in some way, or else it's pointless. The way I usually put it when I'm teaching is that the villain has to be worthy of the hero, and vice versa.

If there is one complaint I have when I read a book, it's that the author doesn't spend enough time or attention on the creation of their villains. It isn't enough that a person is evil. So what? That isn't interesting. The villain has to have a reason for doing what he(or she) does. It also has to be a compelling reason, at least to the villain.

But here's the secret. It's the best advice I've ever gotten about villains. No villain is truly villainous in his own eyes. He always has what he considers to be a perfectly good reason for what he does. Even Hannibal Lector completely believes that he's the one who's right.

And so we come to my current--and currently favorite--villain. His name is Gervaise Armistan, and he appears in BARELY A LADY. Gervaise is breathtakingly handsome, he's witty and charming and a perfect dinner companion. Gervaise is also the great white shark of stalkers. He has been making my heroine Olivia's life a living hell for five years, orchestrating amazing disasters just so she is susceptible to him. He wants her for his mistress, and he doesn't understand why she isn't.

Here's the fun part(at least for me as the writer). Gervaise simply doesn't get it that what he's doing is wrong. He knows in his heart that Olivia would be better off with him. He is, after all, charming Gervaise. In fact, every bad thing he does, he does with gusto. Because it all makes sense to him. It's everybody else who is confused. As odd as it sounds, I had huge fun writing Gervaise, because he having so much fun.

To tell you the truth, my inspiration for Gervaise came from a movie villain; my favorite movie villain ever, Rupert of Hentzlau in The Prisoner of Zenda. To be more specific, Douglas Fairbanks Jr's interpretation of Rupert in the 1938 version of the movie(the only real version, as far as I'm concerned). Fairbanks was so good that he almost overshadowed the rest of the cast, and considering the fact that the cast included Ronald Coleman, that's pretty impressive.

The secret to his performance is that his Rupert can't imagine anything more fun than what he is doing. He relishes every moment of his day, every action he takes, every challenge he faces. Even more, he is delighted by his antagonist. He is thrilled that in Randolf he finally had an adversary he considered worthy of him.

Of course what he wants is immoral, illegal and probably fattening. But he knows that because he's the smartest one around, he deserves it. He does everything he can to get it. And even when he loses everything, Rupert makes his exit with panache and laughter. You just have to love a guy like that.

I think it's why I enjoyed writing Gervaise so much. I've written a lot of villains, and the glowering, evil, henchman-type villain just gets boring after a while. I mean, who else is going to be surprised that this guy has the worst intentions? But when the villain is everybody's favorite dance partner, and really makes people smile when he walks into a room, then the heroine is in much greater peril, because who's going to believe her that this guy is evil incarnate?

See? Villains are fun. What do you think? Who has been your favorite villain?




16 comments posted.

Re: Eileen Dreyer | A Villian To Love

I have so many I love. Too hard to choose one.
(Mary Preston 12:53pm July 27, 2010)

When you read about so many villains, you love each one of them, for their own reasons. Therefore, I can't just pick one. I do prefer the bad ones that see the evil of their ways and turn good in the end, though.
(Peggy Roberson 6:52am July 27, 2010)

When I read I always look forward to the villian because without them what would bring out the hero in a person? What's can be even more interesting is when the villian can actually turn out to be the hero instead and think how much fun that would be to write.
(Jeanne Miro 1:35pm July 27, 2010)

I do not have a Fav but I like you love a good villain and you do villians great and I enjoy your books alot, Thank you for books that make us hate and love the villian at the same time. Congrats on the new boos
(Vickie Hightower 2:17pm July 27, 2010)

Oh I love to hate villains, my favorite
villains are not from a romance but
from John Sanford's latest Lucas
Davenport novel where you would find
their description in the dictionary
under stupid.
(Debbie Haupt 5:03pm July 27, 2010)

You have made me look at the villain in a whole new light. Thanks.
(Robin McKay 7:30pm July 27, 2010)

My fav at the moment, Matt, is
the one in the book I'm
reading, Suzanne's Letters to
Nicholas. It varies with each
book as there are just so many
great villains out there.
(Lisa Richards 2:33am July 28, 2010)

I haven't read about a villain lately, but I do enjoy a contrast between the bad guy and the good guy. Maybe the fellow trying to steal the hero's girl might be considered a villain in the story I am currently reading, but he definitely isn't equal to the hero. LOL
(Gladys Paradowski 4:19am July 28, 2010)

My favorite at the moment is Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
(Brenda Rupp 5:41am July 28, 2010)

Sometimes a villain can chew scenery like no one else. For me, the best character out of "101 Dalmatians" is Cruella De Vil. She gets to LIVE even if she gets her comeuppance in the end.
(S Tieh 3:35pm July 28, 2010)

OK, since we have opened the door to cartoons, my favorite villian is Gaston from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. He is handsome, the women in town are all drooling after him, and the men admire him. He is a self important, braggart who will do anything, no matterr how vile, to get what he wants. He is the type that hides how evil he is well.
Good post.
(Patricia Barraclough 9:00pm July 28, 2010)

Villains give you someplace to throw your anger and find more ways to be disgusted with their actions. I do enjoy reading about a despicable hero.
(Alyson Widen 6:36pm July 29, 2010)

Personally, I can't think of a good villain at the moment, probably because I don't really focus on the villain. It's true that I find some of them very tedious and just villainous. The book I'm reading just now, one by Jo Bev. has a hero who needs to be a villain in order to accomplish the task he has set himself. In the last few pages I read, however, the real villain has been revealed as being a very clever, motivated person. I'm eager to see how the action continues.

I'm also eager to read your first historical romance. I already have it, but the library wants some of its books back before I can relax with it.
(Sigrun Schulz 7:18pm July 29, 2010)

Patricia, the best part of Gaston is that he really doesn't get it that he's evil. I love him, too. Thanks so much to everyone for the welcome at Fresh Fiction. What fun!
(EILEEn Dreyer 12:44pm July 30, 2010)

Your comment about the evil villans - No villain is truly villainous in his own eyes. - reminds me of a news commentator I heard last night saying the same thing about the terrorists!
(Karin Tillotson 1:58pm July 30, 2010)

Well, Karin, you want a definition of villain, I think that would do it.
(EILEEn Dreyer 1:15am August 3, 2010)

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