I’d like to say I think like the hero, and mostly I do. I tend to follow the rules, try to help people out, and just in general be an annoying goody-goody. I’m so bad at lying that I have to call my sister when I need a whopper. I won’t tell you which sister, and I have three. But one of them is a genius at lying. Simple lies, complicated lies. She’s got the gift. She doesn’t lie all the time, but it’s there when she needs it, and it’s also there when I do.
So, I think I’m mostly a hero.
But recently I borrowed a friend’s car. A non-writing civilian with a real job. He was having problems with his boss and told me not to put anything in the trunk so it would be empty when I picked him up from work. Without missing a beat, I said, “So you can put in a body?” He looked at me in total astonishment and said, “So I can put in the boxes if I have to clear out my desk.” And that was when I realized that maybe I think a bit like the villain after all.
I’m trying to pass that off as a good thing, so pay attention here (and, no, I didn’t call my sister before coming up with this explanation). Every hero has some bit of villainy he needs to vanquish in himself and conversely every villain has noble reasons for her actions (yup, I’m messing with the pronouns just for fun).
Hero? My main character in A TRACE OF SMOKE thinks long and hard about taking in an adorable five year old orphan who appears on her doorstep one night. She doesn’t send him out into the darkness alone in the middle of the night, but she thinks about it.
Villain? My main villain is based on a historical figure, top Nazi Ernst Roehm, who was sure that he was the hero who was going to restore Germany to greatness. He did terrible, reprehensible things. He also had a warrior code that he lived by, he suffered horribly in World War I, and he was a highly decorated soldier. Like all villains since the dawn of time, he was human. For better and for worse.