I’ve had some wonderful feedback on some of the antagonists in my novels, like Ryan Knight in The Reunion, and I’m pleased to be creating people you love to hate. The other day I was describing an antagonist I’m developing for my new novel, The Journey. Her name, at least for now, is Denise Sanderson, and she’s going to be exceptionally nasty. As I was describing her to a fellow author I had to stop myself in mid sentence and say, “You know, I don’t know where these people are coming from, but it’s kind of scary when I stop and think about it.”
Ask any novelist and they’ll tell you that after awhile the characters will start to create themselves. They’ll tell you who they are. That said, they still spring from somewhere deep in our creative psyche, so where are all these bitches and bastards coming from? I’ve always considered myself a good person, and I’ve always tried to treat others the way I would want to be treated.
Some of my villains, like Jason and Ryan in The Reunion, were inspired by some of the not-so-nice people I’ve encountered in my own life. Writing about them has been very cathartic because it really has helped me release a lot of previously unresolved issues. But other antagonists, like Maggie in The Deception, and Denise, in The Journey, are totally fictitious. They have no real-life counterpart–at least no one who I can recall, so it’s made me wonder. Do I really have some deeply buried darker side?
Probably. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us do have a dark side. These antagonists represent our fears. They represent the sense of outrage, frustration and injustice, that most, if not all of us have encountered at one time or another. These antagonists give us the opportunity to vicariously act out our own anger and frustration. Maybe that’s why we’re so delighted when we finally see them get their just desserts. It gives us a chance to purge our own demons, and that’s a good thing. That said, they still scare me.
You know, creating devious, diabolical, despicable villains really is too much fun. Take Ryan Knight from The Reunion. He’s certainly raised a few eyebrows and he sure got both my editor’s and my proofreader’s dander up. That’s when I knew I’d created a great villain.
Ryan appears in the flashback chapters. He’s a college student getting ready to graduate and embark on a career as an architect. He and Gillian, the leading lady, have been dating for a couple of years, but lately their relationship has been strained. Ryan’s been putting in a lot of overtime at the architecture building. He says he’s having to work late on class projects, but Gillian is having her doubts. A few days after his graduation he calls and asks her to stop by his apartment. He has news he wants to share. Gillian believes he’s going to propose to her, but Ryan’s idea of a proposal is the last thing she expects to hear.
Ryan was inspired by several real life men; a moody ex-boyfriend, my ex-husband, and a good friend’s ex-husband. With a cocktail like that you know you’ve got a real monster on your hands.
Cynthia, my editor, commented that Ryan was, “a bit mental.” But Dolores, my proofreader, had me rolling on the floor. She’d printed out some of the pages and was working on them in her apartment complex laundry room. She said Ryan made her so mad that she started yelling at him and calling him an S.O.B. (Only she didn’t say the abbreviated version.) She then told me that she looked up and noticed other people in the laundry room were giving her some very strange looks. She was so mad that I worried she would quit on me. I had to reassure her that Ryan only appeared in the flashback chapters, early in the novel, and that his contribution to the story ended at chapter six, with only rare mentions of him throughout the rest of the novel. Now that’s a real villain.
And now for another true confession…like Ian Palmer, the leading man in The Reunion, Gillian, the leading lady, is also based on a real person–me. Granted, we’re not clones, but we do have a few things in common.
Gillian has had a successful career as an artist, and she’s even had a little bit of fame to go along with it. And while she’s done well professionally, her personal life has been a disappointment. Gillian has a knack for getting involved with the wrong men, but that all changes when she travels to Denver for an opening at a gallery and a man from her past suddenly reappears. Ian Palmer is the one man she never got over. Gillian and Ian resume their friendship, and, once again, become lovers. Unfortunately, her world will shatter once again when something unexpected occurs behind the scenes, and an accident nearly takes her life. Later on, she’ll become the object of affection with a new, and much younger man, while Ian attempts to win her back for a third time.
Okay, maybe my life hasn’t been quite so dramatic as Gillians. Or has it? I survived a car crash that, had it happened a split second sooner, may have killed me. And yes, there really once was an Ian in my life, but, thankfully, he’s never reappeared. And doggone it, I haven’t found myself enamored by a younger man–at least not yet. However, like Gillian, I started out my career as graphic designer and artist. I also lived in Denver for a time, and while I was there, a few of my paintings were accepted in some juried art shows.
So there you have it. Gillian is my alter ego, of sorts, even though I’ve never experienced most of the things that happen to her in The Reunion. That’s where imagination takes over, and it’s what made writing The Reunion so much fun.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that until now, only my closest friends knew. Ian Palmer, the leading man in my novel, The Reunion, was inspired by a real person.
Ian is an architect who appears in most of the story as a middle-aged man. He’s had a successful career, working his way to a prestigious position with a large architecture firm. His personal life, however, has been less than stellar. He married the wrong woman for the wrong reasons, and the marriage ended after he discovered his wife had cheated on him. Now Ian’s life is about to change. He has a second chance with Gillian, his long-lost love, but his new-found happiness will soon be put to the test. As new challenges come his way, Ian struggles to balance Gillian, parenthood, and his career, which is about to come to an unexpected and untimely end.
Ian also appears in this story as a young man. During the flashback chapters readers will see him as an outgoing but ambitious college student who, just by chance, happens to meet Gillian, the girlfriend of one of his classmates. The two quickly become friends, and, after Gillian’s relationship with Ryan ends, they become more than friends. Unfortunately, Ian’s ambition and desire to succeed will be their undoing, at least the first time around. It’s this younger Ian who was inspired by someone I once knew.
Now I can’t divulge his real name. That would violate his privacy. I’ve also gave him a different physical description and hometown than his real-life counterpart. What I can tell you is that just like the Gillian, I attended Arizona State University, and while I was there I met a young architecture student who turned out to be the love of my life. In fact, how I met him was pretty much the same way as I’ve described Gillian meeting Ian. So, for those of you wondering about his real identity, that ought to narrow down to a few thousand people.
Does the real Ian know about The Reunion? Somehow I doubt it. We lost touch with one another years ago, and I’ve long since moved on. But if he ever should hear about The Reunion, I hope he’ll like it, and I hope he’ll take the Ian character as the complement he is meant to be.