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Sunday, 28 April 2013

I Don’t Like Villains... I Like Very Interesting People


I thought I'd remind everyone on where I stand with villains and bad boys, following on from the Mr Perfect Meets Miss Virgin post!

Face it. Nine times out of ten the villain steals the show. Whether it’s the witty one-liners, the charisma, suavity and charm or the tragic back-story that jolts you into feeling sympathetic or even empathising with them, it’s the villains that make a cracking story. After all, what would a story be without conflict? And how would the hero develop without a strong antagonist to push back?

My love of villains and all things... villainous ... began as soon as I was introduced to Disney. What has Aurora got that Maleficent can’t beat? Seriously. That woman has class, style, an amazing hat, and turns herself into a dragon. When I discovered that Angelina Jolie will be playing her in her very own movie, aptly named Maleficent, (out 2014), I was beyond excited.

The evil fairy Maleficent is pretty much the epitome of a successful villain: she’s interesting, memorable, and has cheekbones you could cut your sandwiches with. She also has real emotions (it hurts to be the only one not invited to a party... how would you like it?) and without her, Sleeping Beauty would have been a bit of a snooze-fest. [See what I did there?!]

            My novel, The Book of Fate, first in a planned quadrilogy, revolves around a very simple premise: what if the villain got the girl? ... How many different ways could a classic hero story end if that was the case? The best thing about a premise like that is that you could write it a hundred different ways, and it would come out differently each time. Why on earth The Book of Fate ended up the way it did is anybody’s guess, but I blame my various twisted influences, of whom Alan Rickman was probably the strongest...!

Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

... But what’s with my obsession with villainy?

When asked in an interview why he always plays bad guys, Alan Rickman replied, “I don’t play bad guys. I play very interesting people.”
            That’s one of the most important keys to writing any antagonist: they have to be interesting. They can be immature, sarcastic, or just flat-out hysterical, but without a sense of depth to them they fall a little flat. Antagonists need a gripping, well-thought out back-story, a reason to be who they have become, a reason to do the things they do, and a personality that you can really engage with. Whether you love them, hate them or love to hate them, they have to provide the hero - - and the reader - - with a real challenge.

            Just as importantly, they have to be memorable. There’s a reason people know who Hannibal Lecter is even if they haven’t read the novels or seen the films. You don’t forget the charming self-assured psychopaths with a penchant for eating people in a hurry.

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs

As an author who comes over all maternal when talking about my characters, my villains are far and away the favourite children. For the character of Kristof I borrowed from the historical figure Vlad the Impaler, tapping into my lifelong Dracula obsession. Borrowing from history and mythology is a great way of creating new and original characters that really stand out, and feel real.

If you were to make a list of your top five, what would they have in common?

I think I’ll leave you with that thought, and, just for fun, my own top five favourite, interesting, memorable villains of my childhood... (mine was an interesting childhood...)

5. Maleficent

Best Qualities: Magic powers, dragon transformation, and, like most of us, hates being left out of things. She doesn’t get mad. She gets even.
Best Line: "You poor simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. Me, the mistress of all evil."
There we have it folks. Mistress of all evil. Top Five it is. 

4. Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham

Best Qualities: He. Is. Hysterical. Also oddly attractive (come on, tell me you can’t see it!), completely barking mad and dysfunctional, balancing between sinister and sympathetic with a screwed up childhood (raised by the witch Mortiana who turned out to be his mother – the scene where he found that out got cut, sadly, but is supposed to have been the funniest scene in the film...) and not a snowball’s hope in hell with Marion.
Best Lines:       That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!”
                        “LOXLEY! I’m going to cut your heart out with a spoon!!!

3. Hannibal Lecter

Best Qualities: Suave, sophisticated, hates rudeness and unrefined behaviour and believes it should be punished. He once ate a musician for playing out of tune. His expensive tastes run to the opera and fine dining. His complex relationship with Clarice Starling is brilliantly conceived and the psychological twists of his deeply disturbed psyche are fascinating to read.
Best Line: “I’m giving very serious thought... to eating your wife.”

2. Jadis the White Witch

Best Qualities: She is, quite literally, one of the coolest villains around. She controls the seasons, lives in an ice palace, and turns people to stone. Her wardrobe is amazing. She is terrifying and alluring, and genuinely frightened of Aslan, which gives her a vulnerable side.

Best Line: “You know, Aslan, I'm a little disappointed in you. Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor? You are giving me your life and saving no one. So much for love. Tonight, the Deep Magic will be appeased, but tomorrow, we will take Narnia forever! In that knowledge, despair... and die!”

1. Dracula

Best Qualities: Based on genuine folklore, superstition and the history of a certain Wallachian [NOT Transylvanian] prince, this character propelled vampire literature into the popular imagination like nothing before. The Byronic vampire – a sophisticated twist on the bloodsucking peasant corpses which clawed their way out of the dirt to plague their unwashed relatives in rustic superstition – had been created in 1819 by Polidori, a friend of Lord Byron’s. Stoker created a similarly aristocratic and gentile figure, basing it on the real-life 14th Century figure of Vlad Tepes or Dracula, son of Vlad Dracul, known as Vlad the Impaler. He is able to walk in the sun but his powers of nature are diminished in the daylight. He is not killed by sunlight, but by being stabbed in the heart with a Bowie knife and having his throat cut. Vampires are said to read minds, control thoughts, become animals, control the weather and even turn into mist, and of course, they can create other vampires. Dracula’s power over women and the way he turned them from dutiful and nurturing wives and mothers into sexual predators and child-killers was a terrifying concept to Stoker’s Victorian public. They are also themes which resonate deeply in people today (men and women alike), and have sparked the ‘vampires = liberation’ of many modern interpretations of the vampire myth. Without Dracula and his evolutionary ethos, we would never have had Lestat, Angel, Spike, the Lost Boys, Bill Compton, Eric Northman (and the rest of the True Blood clan)... the list goes on. We probably could have done without Edward Cullen, but if you are one of those that could not, then you have Stoker to thank for him too.

Best Lines:       “Listen to them - children of the night. What music they make.”
                        (1992 film) “We Draculs have a right to be proud! What devil or witch was ever so great as Atilla, whose blood flows in these veins? ...”

So there we are! My personal top five. I’ll leave you on that happy note!
... Sweet dreams...

Friday, 26 April 2013

Tick Tick Tick

Winding Down?

... Some of you will recognise the title of this week's post if you've read The Book of Time. It's Father Time's way of letting the reader know a time jump is about to occur, and that the next section will take place a little further along - maybe a few hours later, maybe a few days later, or maybe even six years later. It's quite a handy little three-word device! But lately, I've been feeling like that is actually happening... as if someone just says three little words and - tick tick tick - and *poof* the week's gone somewhere and I've not done half of what I meant to do!

I've been a bit bogged down with several projects alongside real life, and that has been a bit of an issue.

Historical Fiction Smackdown

If you've never participated in a smackdown, they happen in The Pub, a secret club in the darker reaches of wattpad, where all sorts of wondrous things take place. They happen throughout the year and across all the genres (or most of the genres... if they don't happen for yours, start one!!) and are great fun to get the juices flowing.

I'm in Round 2 and my entries are here:

The Book of Chance

Book 3 of the Faustine Chronicles is being fleshed out, but please bear with me... I'm having to pause every so often to readjust the plot! I've nailed it now, though... and the next two chapters are up! So if you're following the adventures so far, have a little look at this:


I've got my query letter and synopsis of The Book of Fate all polished up and ready to fly. I now need to edit the MS and give it a final polish. I've torn apart the first 25 pages and they are just about ready to go. It's just the rest of it...! *facedesk*

Fortunately, I have the help of some wonderful wattpadians and fellow aspiring authors. Stay tuned, as some of them will be guest blogging here in the near(-ish) future!

I must leave you now, and keep this brief.

Check out - my official facebook page - for more updates, and follow me @cmrosens on twitter!




Friday, 19 April 2013

Mr Perfect Meets Miss Virgin

Meeting Mr/Ms Right

The subject of this post was suggested to me by a rant - or rather, a considered complaint - by wattpad author PJ Malone, who pointed out the following: 

'Most people don't get swept off their feet by some hot thing, and I'm tired of reading about something that makes me want more than a happy normal relationship where you meet, you fall in love, you fight, you make up, you fight again, make up, start a family, and repeat the fighting/making up thing, get old and fat and both of you look beautiful to the other because of your soul, not your face.'
The debate this sparked was very interesting. Some pointed out that if you spend $7 on a book, (or £7.99 in my case) you want it to be hot, and that is absolutely fair enough. When you read something for fun, you don't always want it to mirror real life. Escapism is just that - a way of retreating into a world where anything can happen, where belief can be suspended in the cause of something light and mindless, a tale you can get lost in. Others agreed that they were tired of the Mr-Perfect-Meets-Miss-Virgin type stories where the odds of meeting said Mr Perfect are unrealistic in the extreme. I suppose Fifty Shades is a case in point. Then again, how likely is it that said Mr Perfect is also a sparkling vampire? 
Speaking personally, what I love are the warts-and-all stories, the tales of after the Happily Ever After, and the realism within the romance. Perhaps that is why there have been several attempts to create life after marriage for the Darcys, from Sharon Lathan and other regency romance authors to P. D. James. Everyone wants to know what happens after the curtain falls. 
 The first book that springs to mind where neither He nor She are angelic and perfect and made for each other is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre
Plain Jane with her many faults and the brooding, self-proclaimed unattractive bachelor with a sordid history are still the greatest players in the best warts-and-all romance I have ever read. I think this is the tale that has inspired me above all others when writing romantic relationships
My description of The Faustine Chronicles in response to PJ Malone's questions was this: 
My MC is considered freak-show standard ugly by the standards of her society and as she's had that for all 21 yrs of her life she finds it hard to accept that anyone would think differently and owns her ugliness. The other is Vlad the Impaler on steroids, pretty much, and he is a womaniser and has got one dead wife and several dead mistresses and one betrothed who killed herself to his name, so there's a reason why he is currently available. I wanted the bad guy to get the girl, and I needed the girl not to be too moralistic. So Miss Virgin (too much self-respect to pay for sex, although she saved up once) is a pragmatic, hardcore survivor who isnt afraid to get her hands dirty. And he tries to be better, although his idea of doing something nice for her involves poison, manipulation, blackmail, theft and then silencing the witnesses. All of which she knows about and ends up being complicit in as the ends justify the means. There's a bit of redemption for the pair of them, but only after a few tragic soul-searching moments. I promise no one that they will live happily ever after... and you can imagine what their kids are like.
The Book of Fate is not the end of the story - there is also The Book of Time, The Book of Chance and, ultimately, The Book of Death to contend with. The relationship is never perfect nor does it ever pretend to be, and the brooding 'bad boy' certainly isn't changed fundamentally by the love of a good woman. It's not that he doesn't try, it's just that... well... he just isn't wired that way. 
Even my romantic subplot in Black Gables, a murder mystery set in 1955, does not have two smoking protagonists. That's a subtle, slow-burning development which occurs under the surface and between two people who are probably not conventionally attractive. 
What do you think? When it comes to romance, how do you like yours? ;)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Life as an Aspiring Author

Well, here we are... life as an aspiring author is ticking along. On top of everything else that I have to do, you would think that I wouldn't have that much time...

Here's the update on things so far.

The Faustine Chronicles

I'm now working on Book 3, and I'll be honest - the plotlines had me on the ropes for a bit. They interweave and wind about me like a bunch of psychotic snakes. My mind is a mess of threads and stray wires. I have at least four drafts of this in various incarnations, and am working on edits and revisions to get it into some semblance of order! ... Book 4 [The Book of Death] is going to be worse, I can feel it. Ah well!

Historical Fiction

A recent love, I'm now balancing my writing time between plotting a new Regency mystery, and the Historical Fiction Smackdown on wattpad. My Regency tale will be set in one small rural town which is experiencing the baffling tragedy of a suicide cluster among its young ladies. Based on a real occurrence a few years ago in a town near my own and an incident recorded by Plutarch, I want to tackle the issues of small English town mentalities, the fears brought about by social upheaval and change, and the moral aspects of the scenario among other things. Central to this will be the struggle of the magistrate to tread the line between giving the families some dignity by declaring their daughters "temporarily insane" and thus saving them the ignominous burial which would follow a deliberate suicide, and his need to make an example of the dead to prevent further tragedy. What should he do when he knows the families personally?

.... Let me know what you think!


I have submitted two short stories for consideration by Angelic Knight Press and Stoneskin Press. I am also involved in the wattpad HistFic Smackdown (!) to keep the creative juices flowing. I've never ever written so much!! Wattpad and its community has really given my work a whole new lease of life!

I'll let you know how I get on. Follow my facebook page or my twitter @CMRosens to keep up-to-date with all my news!

Writing Friends

My writing is also benefitting from a number of wonderful aspiring authors. I will be asking several of them to guest blog here, and will do some reviewing and interviewing into the bargain.

-- C. M. Rosens

Friday, 12 April 2013

Re-Launch of The Blog of Fate

Fate has now left our world, to be replaced with Her author...

It was short but sweet.

She will see you around.