Tea with Kitty

Her Grace paused for a moment in the doorway of the private sitting room where today’s guest was waiting. Kitty’s attention was currently caught by something outside the window, so Eleanor could examine her without embarrassing the young woman. Her popularity on the social rounds was not unexpected. She had wealth, youth, good looks, intelligence and excellent manners. Her beautiful voice charmed all who heard her sing. And the value of Eleanor’s sponsorship could not be discounted.

But something was wrong. She was too thin. Her eyes, when she thought herself unobserved, hinted at shadowed horrors. Eleanor’s servants reported that she kept a lamp burning in her room all night, and was besieged by nightmares even so. She flinched when touched unexpectedly, had to steel herself to accept the arm of gentlemen to whom she had just been introduced, and refused any but the most decorous of round and line dance.

Eleanor was determined to get to the bottom of it, for she could not help if she didn’t understand. So today she had sent Ruth, Kitty’s constant companion,  on an errand to allow her to see the girl alone.

Eleanor knew something of what had happened in June when her nephew, the Earl of Chirbury, had brought down a criminal gang run by people with the highest connections. The whole matter had been kept very quiet, though the death of two peers made complete secrecy impossible. Eleanor did not know why it affected Kitty, or how, but her knowledge of the younger of the two malefactors meant she could make an educated guess

Best, perhaps, just to ask.

“My dear Kitty,” she said, sweeping into the room. “Come and sit beside me. You shall make the tea, my dear, and tell me what you are most enjoying about London.”

A servant had already set out the tea makings, and a selection of savouries and sweet cakes. Eleanor kept the conversation light. Kitty’s pleasures, it seemed, were solitary or with a friend: visits to the bookshops, museums, and art displays; trips to the theatre; shopping for presents to send to her sisters and her niece.

“So tell me, Kitty,” Eleanor said, once they both had a cup of fragrant oolong, “what did the Earl of Selby do to you?”

Kitty is the younger sister of Anne, the heroine in Farewell to Kindness. The story discloses her relationship with the wicked Earl of Selby and the reason for her distress. Farewell to Kindness was published in 2015 and is the first book in the Golden Redepenning series. I’m publishing the second, A Raging Madness, in May this year, and am working on the third, The Realm of Silence. Kitty’s turn comes fifth in the series, in The Flavour of Our Deeds.

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Why I love writing villains

villain memeI don’t want to think too hard about what this says about me, but I love writing villains.

I enjoy creating characters of any kind, and I’ll happily spend days answering questionnaires about my main characters. I really enjoy seeing the people in my head coming to life on the screen as I type, and I’m often surprised by how strong their opinions are about the way the story should go.

But I particularly love listening to and watching my villains. The brakes come off, and I give them the kind of dialogue that suits their personality: sociopath, or spoilt young man, or self-centered society beauty, or thug.

In the stories I’ve written so far, I’ve had some of each, and my current work-in-progress features a return of the sociopathic society blade, the Earl of Selby, from Farewell to Kindness, and two nasty friends.

Even more than other supporting characters, villains need a complex personality and a convincing backstory. No matter how good the protagonists are, if the villains aren’t convincing, the conflict in the story isn’t convincing, and the happy ending isn’t nearly as satisfying. A good story needs an excellent villain.

Here’s how I write villains:

  1. I pick up things that frighten, worry, or annoy me – in characters on shows, or people in real life. What are the character flaws that cause this response in me? What would the people be like if those flaws were magnified and their good qualities absent or reduced?
  2. I think about the villain’s past. What terrible things have they done in the past? What terrible things have been done to them? Are they victims lashing out or are they just trouble makers? Were they deprived of love as children or were they born that way?
  3. What are their redeeming qualities? Do they love their cat? Collect bone china? Have a soft spot for orphans?

When a reader tells me that they loved to hate my villain, I know I’ve done a good job.

Here’s Selby with one of his closest friends. My heroine Prue has denied them access to her murdered mistress’s bedchamber:

Selby stopped in the doorway and looked straight at Prue for the first time. “Is this the one, Annie?” He didn’t wait for Annesley’s nod, but continued, “I’ll remember you, too. Worth, isn’t it? One day soon, Worth, my friends and I will find out just what you are worth.”

“That’s a good one, Sel,” Annesley said. “Just what you are worth, yes.”

Selby ignored the interjection to peer at Prue in the dimly lit hallway. “Do I know you?”

Prue shook her head. It was true enough. Nobody knew her except, perhaps a little, David.

“She’s the housekeeper, Sel,” Annesley told him. “She probably let you in when you came to see The Diamond.”

“It’s not that,” Selby said. “I have it! She looks a bit like my wife.”

“Which one?” Annesley asked, the question setting him sniggering. “Which one? That’s a good one, Sel.”

Selby stared at Prue a moment more, while she lowered her face to hide her chin; the feature she shared with her sister.

Selby’s next words appeared to be for himself rather than Annesley.

“No. Just the general shape of the face. There must be a thousand women in England who look a bit like Chassie. And she doesn’t have any relative called Worth.”

“Are you coming, Sel?” Annesley said, impatiently. “We can’t swive The Diamond tonight, so we need to find another whore.”

(This post was first published on Caroline Warfield’s blog in July last year.)

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Wickedness on WIP Wednesdays

9ba02bf02563af86012883795a80af1cIn our fictional worlds, virtue triumphs—it is probably just as well, therefore, that the villains don’t know they’re fictional, so they lay their mischievous, selfish, or downright wicked plans, sure that they will win the day.

Today’s work-in-progress Wednesday is dedicated to the ways they act. I’m looking for an excerpt—I say eight to ten lines, but whatever you need to give us a feeling for what’s going on—that shows your villain (male or female, an irritation or an evil danger) doing something that displays their real character.

My current work-in-progress is the story of David Wakefield, best friend of Rede, the hero of Farewell to Kindness. David and his heroine are private detectives back when the name for such people was thief taker, and Embracing Prudence (set earlier in the same year as Farewell to Kindness) includes one of the villains who so complicated life for Rede and Anne.

Here is the Earl of Selby. He has just blackmailed the courtesan into giving him a night in her bed.

“Tiv won’t be happy,” the Earl gloated.

“You will be, my Lord. I guarantee it,” Miss Diamond replied, her voice a husky purr.

The Earl caught up his hat and walking stick, and in one fluid movement, backed the courtesan against the wall, trapping her with his stick held across her neck.

“I’ll collect on that guarantee,” he said, his own purr sounding of threat rather than promise.

Miss Diamond did not react, standing impassively within the cage he’d formed of his body. He leaned the last few inches and slowly, deliberately, licked the side of her face, from her jaw up to her eyebrow, then grimaced.

In another supple twist, he was off her and heading for the door.

“Don’t wear powder tomorrow night,” he instructed, as he left.

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