Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Guest: Tamie Dearen

My Guest this week has chosen to tackle the Dark Side... Yes, it's not all about Heroes and Heroines, folks. There are some fantastic Bad Guys out there... Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...

Tamie Dearen

Greatest Literary Villian

Who is the greatest literary villain in history? 

Before I answer that question, let me explain my methods of determination. Employing a (highly-scientific) poll of my Facebook friends, I compounded a list of probable candidates. The question was, “Who are the top ten literary villains of all time?” The response was overwhelming. My criteria included a specification that any movie villain must have first originated in a book. Despite these instructions, a number of folks nominated Darth Vader. Many suggested villains from comic books, and I decided to include these in the list, rather than be thought a literary snob. The following is the list, in no particular order. I don’t claim to have read every book on the list, so I don’t have personal knowledge of every villain’s qualifications. And I apologize if your favorite wretched fiend has been excluded, but I will be glad to add them in.

What makes a good literary villain?
Amazon Link

Villainous characters are plentiful, found in most literary genres. Some are simply selfish or mean-spirited people. Some have supernatural strength and inhuman power. Some are terrifying to behold. Some hide their evil behind an eerily beautiful façade. The White Witch’s enticing beauty, for example, conflicts with her evil intent.

Stephen King was nominated multiple times for his bone-chilling villains, but Randall Flagg stands out above the others, appearing in multiple books with multiple names. In Flagg, we find a villain who is the embodiment of evil. Pitted against average humans, his supernatural powers allow him to spread evil and destruction, continuing the fear and horror, seemingly impossible to kill.

Cruella De Vil ranks with these other villains simply because she wants to kill puppies. We can always find some reason a man deserves to die, but someone who kills innocent puppies and skins them to make a fur coat is truly villainous. In Oliver Twist, Bill Sikes beats his dog and bludgeons his girlfriend to death, while Fagan uses and abuses children, another intolerable act to solidify status as a villain. 

Amazon Link
Every villain crosses an unwritten line separating acceptable and unacceptable social behavior. It is not the act of torture that makes the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada a villain… It is the torture of innocents. Telling a lie wouldn’t be a villainous act, but for Fagan’s plan to enrage Sikes to the point of murdering his faithful girlfriend. Dolores Umbridge takes after-school-detention to a new level. The more innocent the victim, the more villainous the act. 

What motivates a villain?

Literary villains act from a variety of motivations. Commonly, human villains are selfish, greedy, and power-seeking. Often the author will show how life’s circumstances caused a normal person to transform into the evil character we love to hate. We can almost forgive the man who commits dreadful acts when we witness his horrific, torturous childhood.

But some of the most terrifying villains are those who seem to be evil without just cause. At the age of twenty-seven, Iago had no extenuating circumstances to justify his lust for evil. Demonic and supernatural villains, such as Randall Flagg and Count Dracula, and creatures, like Grendel and Dr. Frankenstein's monster, fall into this category. 

And of course some of our villains are simply insane, Annie Wilkes being a prime example. Perhaps this mentally instable nurse from Misery is particularly disturbing to authors. The sadistic Nurse Ratched demonstrates borderline personality disorder, which would qualify her for admittance to the mental hospital she controlled. 

What bothers us about villains?
Amazon Link

The highly intelligent villain, such as Tom Riddle, will often commit heinous acts with anonymity. Dr. Moriarity is a criminal mastermind who readily kills innocents. Hannibal Lector’s murders and cannibalism are concealed for many years because of his brilliance - an intelligence quotient of two hundred. And the reader cannot help being fascinated with him, despite his horrific acts. 

Iago’s ruthless evil is couched in devious subterfuge. His insinuations cause good people to commit vile acts, destroying the people they love along with themselves. Had Iago simply murdered Desdemona by his own hand, the act would have been tolerable. But the reader is horrified when his intimations cause Othello to murder his innocent wife.

Aaron the Moor commits vile acts without obvious motivation, while appearing to take pleasure in the suffering of others.

Mrs. Coulter is another character we hate for her despicable actions against children. And yet, she almost redeems herself in the end, leaving the reader feeling unsettled and unsure of her motives.

Some villains remind us of real-life. Voldemort’s effort to eliminate all but those with “pure blood” is all too reminiscent of Hitler. And the fictitious Grand Inquisitor Torquemada was, of course, based on the real inquisitor. 

Who is the greatest villain in literary history?

I would never presume to have that answer. But I will give you the name of the villain at the top of my personal list… Simon Legree from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe).

Legree is thoroughly vile and without remorse. He treats his slaves as objects rather than people. Along with his henchmen, he beats his slaves, sometimes to the point of death. He also rapes women. He reminds us of the true horrors of slavery. He probably wouldn’t be the most terrifying character in a horror flick, but he epitomizes the real-life human villain. And one is further sickened by the fact his sadistic actions would have been perfectly acceptable during that time period. 

I’ve taken a stand and given my opinion. (I hope that doesn’t make me a villain in your book!)


Tamie Dearen lives with her very romantic husband of thirty-two years. She has two beautiful daughters, two amazing son-in-laws, and one awesome grandson. She plays piano, flute, harmonica, keyboards, and guitar, and loves composing and art. And she hates housework. Tamie has been a dentist in private practice for thirty years. In her spare time, she writes books.

Tamie met her husband as a freshman in college when she acted out of character on a whim. One night in the library lobby, she spied a cute guy with his first name written on the back of his shirt. She called out his name. When he approached to talk to her, she pretended that she'd met him before, asking about his classes and how he liked college. To her surprise and delight, he also pretended that he knew her, but of course he didn't know her name. They continued this false relationship for two months. Each time they saw each other, an event that occurred three times per week at the cafeteria, he would pretend he knew her. Meanwhile, all of Tamie's friends were careful not to reveal her name to him. When he finally admitted his ignorance of her name, he was astonished to learn the truth. And the rest is history.

When Tamie is not placing the Bad Guys under close scrutiny, she can be found at:

Follow her on Twitter: 

Thank you Tamie for such an interesting article. It's often the villains that make for outstanding novels, so take note of Tamie's observations when crafting your own.

Eric @

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Guest: Judith Lucci

My Guest this week is a fellow writer of Thriller novels and she talks about, what I consider, one of the most fun parts of writing in this genre. But it can also have a downside... Ladies and Gentlemen...

Judith Lucci 

Is Research Important in Fiction?

Had you ever read a novel and realized parts of it were untrue?  I have and I find it irritating, enough so that I often do not finish the book.  As a writer of medical fiction, I know how much blood a patient has in his body, and I know how much blood you can lose and still live.  When I see medical errors in a thriller or any book, I doubt the veracity of the writer.  For many years, I was a medical researcher and a social scientist but most of all, I was and still am a nurse.

Alex Destephano medical thrillers novels have three purposes: to engage, to entertain, and to educate. This philosophy comes from my teaching days.  My bio and blog say it all: "Judith Rocchiccioli writes about what she knows...  Hospitals, patients, healthcare, doctors, and nurses".

Amazon Link
When I wrote the first book in my Alexandra Destephano series, ‘Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center’, research was not in a major issue.  I was living and working in New Orleans where the story takes place, so I did not need to research setting, dialect, and local customs. I wrote the book off the cuff.  ‘Chaos’ has a skinny research file, with the exception of the references to the Healthcare Affordability Act, compared to my second medical thriller novel, ‘The Imposterthat takes place in a psychiatric unit at the same hospital.

 I did not have a lot of experience working on psych units, so I had to do a little research and to find out just how severely ill psychiatric patients in America really are. In my fictional psych facility at Crescent City Medical, there is a prison unit that houses the most criminally insane patients on the Gulf Coast, and a general psych unit.  That is not a good combination.  ‘The Imposter turned into a psycho thriller as well as an exposé on how dismal the state of psychiatric care is in America.  Based on the research I gathered for ‘The Imposter, I am writing a nonfictional piece called Sarah's Story for which I am researching the misdiagnosis of bipolar disease in the US.  This research involves searching medical databases such as CINAL, PUBMED and PSYCH ABSTRACTS.

Amazon Link
I keep an electronic marketing file for each book as well as a folder with all of the research and websites I have visited.  I also have a complete reference list done in APA style.  In addition to my electronic files, I keep hard copies of most of the documents I have used in my stories.  My PhD research days prepared me to save everything in case someone asked me a question or challenged what I wrote.

In my new release, ‘Viral Intent’, my series switched genres from medical thriller to political/medical thriller. The storyline, the outbreak of a noxious, lethal virus in the hospital emergency department on the day before a political convention, "Operation Fix America" in New Orleans, has police and Secret Service battling domestic and international terrorism.  With POTUS coming to the Big Easy, I had to research the Secret Service, the FBI, chain of command, and jihad.

Amazon Link
To write a technically correct book, I subscribed to Al Jazeera magazine and visited numerous websites about jihad, its mission, how they recruit, how they are financed, and how they operate.  The next time I flew to New Orleans for a book signing, I found I was on the FBI "Watch List". Air marshals detained and interrogated me for at least an hour about my knowledge of jihad.  My research on how to construct bombs got me in the worst trouble. They dusted my hands for chemicals, examined my luggage numerous times, and asked me the same questions a dozen different times.  In return, I offered to let them see my research files, and of course, read my books.

While this experience upset me, I was happy that I had the “evidence" to help them understand why I had visited those websites.  I am all about protecting our country, so now I just go to the airport two hours early, have my files on a USB drive, and have books available.

Today, I conducted research for my fourth novel in the Alex Destephano series, ‘Toxic New Year’, which I will release at the end of 2014.   In this book, Robert and Monique attempt surgery in a bouncing ambulance to save Jack's life from a shrapnel injury. I searched to find how ambulance and rescue squads cooperate with each other, but I could not find documentation of that anywhere. In desperation, I called a paramedic friend of mine and he was able to explain the process for Virginia (where the scene occurred).  He also said they would never do surgery in a moving ambulance, but I had to remind him that I was writing fiction!

This has been my experience conducting research for my books. Some might consider it a bit excessive or compulsive, but I think it comes from my background as a researcher.  At this time, it is helping me as an emerging writer.  If you would like more information about how to keep your writing and research files organized, please email me at or visit my website at 


Judith is a registered nurse and native Virginian who grew up in Richmond.  She holds graduate and doctoral degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.  She has been a practicing clinical nurse for over 25 years and is currently a professor of Nursing at James Madison University and the author of numerous academic and health-related articles and documents.  In addition to her academic writing she is the author of the Alexandra Destephano novels, a group of medical thrillers set in New Orleans and Virginia.  When not teaching or writing, Judith is an avid silk painter and multi-media artist.  She owns  Artisan Galleries, an art gallery with locations in Harrisonburg and Massanutten.  She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her family and six dogs.

When Judith is not being tossed around in the back of a moving ambulance as she tries to take research notes, she can be found here:

Thank you, Judith, for a superb peek behind the curtain at the hard work that goes into writing an authentic thriller novel. Hey, don't you think there should be special interview rooms for novelists at airports? Red Channel, Green channel, Writers channel. You know, somewhere with access to the Internet so we can prove what we do more easily? Just a thought...