~ by Heather Blanton
Recently a friend asked me in a gentle tone, “How do you come up with all these really bad bad guys?” While her voice was soft, her eyes all but shouted, “Does Carl beat you?”
No, my husband has never laid a hand on me in violence. He’s not that stupid. So how do I write my villains so life-like?
For one thing, I’ve learned God doesn’t let any experience go to waste.
Take my first fistfight. I can clearly recall the day a snarky little redhead shoved me and told me to mind my own business (whilst four of her buddies surrounded my friend). I did not like the odds. I did not like watching my friend back away in fear. I especially, however, did not like being shoved. I reacted in a most un-Christian way and slugged the snarky little redhead, who then attempted to pull all my perfect Farrah-Fawcetty hair from my head. Another punch to her gut cured her of that notion. The bullies exited stage left. I think about this fight (and a few others) when I write such scenes.
A former journalist, I also love research. I frequently read hundred year-old newspapers. I’ve actually held in my hand a ransom note written by a bandit in 1878. Why, I still have my 1982 copy of Bloodletters and Badmen by Jay Robert Nash, an encyclopedia of murderous wackadoodles. Villains scream to be noticed. And they should be. The darker the villain, the more our heroes and heroines shine.
Furthermore, knowing that people are capable of anything has made me an observer. I watch the way the cop keeps glancing at the restaurant’s door. I listen to the conversations behind me in the grocery store check-out line. I see the glances that pass between the boy on the pew and the girl seated in front of him. I notice the unkempt fellow wandering aimlessly about the park.
My point is we writers pull from our past experiences to create a world that feels like reality. We do research so that we can add depth and richness to it. We observe our neighbors because odd little idiosyncrasies can be endearing … or horrifying.
I strive toward developing the ability to so seamlessly weave together the realms of reality and fantasy that neither I nor the reader can tell where one world ends and the other begins. The fictional world envelopes us, and we’re lost for a time.
… But some folks would just call that crazy.
Check out all of Heather’s amazing books at the Pioneer Hearts Book Store
I wrote my first story when I was five: a ghost story, of all things. Over the years, I’ve worked as a journalist for newspapers and magazines, but fiction fell by the wayside. When I lost my older sister Suzy to breast cancer in 1999, I wrote a novel as a way to deal with the pain … and memorialize her. The character of Hannah from my Defiance series is based on my sister and her amazing journey from unwed teenage mother to mighty woman of God.
I self-published that first book, A Lady in Defiance, in 2012. My goal was to sell 200 copies for my Relay for Life team. A Lady wound up selling over 8000 copies that year! Ironically, during this same time period, this book made it all the way to the contract meeting at a major Christian publisher. The company turned me down because my sales projections were too low. Second toughest moment of my life, but, clearly, God had an amazing a plan for me!
I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne Westerns. My most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to my daddy, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester!
Now, I live with my husband and two adventurous boys on a farm outside Raleigh, NC.
You know, a lot of authors spend time blogging about how to write, when to write, what to write. They earn extra income editing, critiquing, speaking at writers conferences, etc. They enter contests b/c accolades from our peers are so wonderful and affirming. But I decided a while back that I don’t really care about all that. Or, more precisely, other writers are not my first priority. YOU are. I write for you; I write what I hope you would want to read. I hire editors because you deserve as good a product as I can turn out. I pray because I want my books to bless you and glorify God. So, thank you, everyone, for your support! I am humbled and grateful!