Nancy Wallace was my first writer friend. When I first got word from Harper Voyager that I’d been selected from their open call and offered a contract, I posted a comment on a thread on the HV website. I was told not to do that again, politely, and I did. Not everyone had been notified you see and they wanted to make a big, official announcement. As you might imagine, this single comment created a lot of buzz. More than 4500 people had been waiting for 18 months to hear, though the number was surely much smaller by then. Status updates didn’t come as often as any of us would’ve liked and my comment was something new. After that, I had to keep my head down. I answered questions as best I could without revealing anything more. Then I got a message from Nancy. She was also accepted and was told not to say anything yet. That was more than two years ago, and I’m proud to call Nancy a friend. Her first book, Among Wolves, is spectacular and I highly recommend checking it out. The sequel, Grim Tidings, is now available and I’m sure it will be just as good. To mark the release of the book, Nancy is here to talk villains, why we need them, and how hard they can be to write sometimes.
Why Must There Be Villains?
Anyone who knows me well knows that I avoid confrontation, violence, and just unpleasantness in general. Maybe it’s simply my nature or maybe it comes from having worked with children for almost 30 years but that fact is that sword wielding heroes pretty much turn me off. I am more hobbit-like in nature. I like a good cup of tea, a cozy fire, and a good story sans the gruesome details. I believe the Greeks had it right in confining violence off stage where it was hidden safe from sight.
And then, I found myself writing Grim Tidings, Book#2 in the Wolves of Llisé series. I’d left my readers with a cliff hanger at the end of Among Wolves; one that couldn’t be conveniently explained by divine intervention. I knew in my heart that my villain, René Forneaux, had to be really horrible if Book #2 was going to work. The first line of Book #2 gives a good idea that this book will be very different: “At dawn we discovered the first body.”
I found myself squeamishly dabbling at a difficult subject for me – the inherent evil of some people. I have always preferred to believe that everyone is essentially good, if somewhat misguided, and that most people can be swayed by finding common ground. But the farther I went into my story, the darker it became. It was very difficult for me to watch this happen, considering that I wasn’t able to read anything other than the first book of the Hunger Games because I was so traumatized by the violence!!
I had the most difficulty subjecting my original cast of characters to untold horrors, so I created some new ones. Oddly enough, I found the poor traumatized characters rising from the ashes like the Phoenix. I even added a character that I don’t believe I was capable of creating two years ago.
When my manuscript was returned to me with structural edits, there was, thank heavens, not much to change except that my editor felt my villains weren’t quite as villainous as they need to be – even after all my work!! So I tweaked. I made some things more graphic, or as graphic as I could bear to make them and I made René Forneaux a man who people wanted to kill. It made a difference and I learned an important lesson, too: without darkness, light is not so startling in its beauty.
Writing is a study of contrasts, of struggle, failure, and blessed resurrections. It pulls us out of our comfort zone and forces us to see the world as it really is, with all its sorrow, evil, and hurt. But as writers we can also offer beauty to mollify pain, and extend hope to assuage sorrow. That is the benefit of fantasy: in a place that doesn’t even exist, we can imagine ourselves as we might be at our very best!
Book two in the sumptuous Wolves of Llisé trilogy.
As the son of Llis’s ruler, Devin Roch knows its laws only too well. It’s a land where keeping historical records is forbidden. To do so would mean imprisonment or death.
Only bards may share the histories of their provinces, but Devin’s quest to learn from them ended in tragedy. His best friend Gaspard has been kidnapped, Master Bards are being murdered and whole communities are disappearing. Clearly someone doesn’t want Devin to know the true history of Llis.
With his guard Marcus and a wolf pack for protection, Devin sets out to discover the truth. But as terrible secrets come to light, Devin realizes that some knowledge can be deadly.
Nancy K. Wallace loves chocolate, Christmas, and puppets! She collects fairytales and folklore and houses them in dozens of bookcases (alphabetically according to country). Her pets include four lovely cats, and an Arab mare named Ariel. She lives with her husband in a 140 year old farmhouse named Chevonwyck. Fortunately, she has a family who is tolerant of her obsessions and excellent at proofreading! Nancy is the author of 19 children’s books plus The Wolves of Llisé series for new adults. She has reviewed YA literature for VOYA magazine for 20 years.
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