At Thursday night’s Writing Show–Tall, Dark, and Creepy?: Writing a Believable Villain, author John Milliken Thompson thanked James River Writers for scheduling the event between natural disasters. Despite the pre-Irene showers, a crowd of about seventy-five gathered in the pavillion of the Richmond Childrens’ Museum to hear Thompson, author of The Reservoir, Katherine Neville, author of The Eight, and Alma Katsu, author of The Taker, discuss villains–both their own and others.
The show’s host, writer Meriah Crawford, an Assistant Professor in VCU’s University College as well as a private investigator, referred to the authors assembled on stage as the “Voldemort Panel.” Along with Voldemort, the panelists discussed Hannibal Lechter, another villain known to more movie-goers than readers. Neville observed that what drives The Silence of the Lambs isn’t the search for Buffalo Bill but the character of Hannibal Lechter. Thompson noted his affinity for villains like Wickham of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a character who isn’t evil incarnate but who is deeply flawed. Katsu bemoaned the tendency for some writers to provide motivation for every villian’s actions: It’s a zombie, come on, she said.
Though villains dominated the conversation, the panelists and the host also addressed the importance of the writing habit, of returning to the desk every day. That’s a challenge for all three panelists, who are currently promoting new books. In the words of Thompson, promoting a book is like a wedding ceremony: You want to share your love of the writing with everyone, but then you’re ready to go back to the part that you do in private.