ME: Why I write “real” fiction about evil men… | carlaeanderton.com

ME: Why I write “real” fiction about evil men…

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Why I write “real” fiction about evil men…

(This post originally appeared on the Gritty Blog of author Ron Gavalik on 5/13/13)

I became a writer because I like to tell stories and because, as I often tell people, I’m not any good at anything else. As a child, I was too clumsy for sports. I couldn’t  draw a straight (or curved) line or add up sums in my head to save my life. Heredity gifted me with a flair for the dramatic but, unlike my mother and son, denied me any real talent for the stage. So, that left me with one appreciable skill: writing down the stories that crowd my head.

Unlike many budding child writers, while I definitely had a vivid imagination, past a certain age I was less fascinated by mythological beasts and enchanted princesses and more interested in historical personalities, in people who’d actually lived and walked on the same earth I inhabited. An avid reader whose happiest moments were spent at the neighborhood library, more often than not my check out (and late fine) history included books about “real” people.

My first love was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At age nine, I was introduced to the eccentric composer and his brief, tumultuous existence when a family friend screened the film “Amadeus” for me. What struck me most about Mozart as he was portrayed, quite accurately, in the movie was not his overwhelming talent or his penchant for infantile behavior but rather the dark passions he inspired in others. Here was a man, I marveled, whose talents elicited envy so great that it drove an otherwise upstanding man – court composer Antonio Salieri – to murder.

The summer between third and fourth grade I spent writing a “sequel” to “Amadeus,” my first foray into what would later become commonly known as fan fiction. Nothing of that early work remains, nor was it likely fit for public consumption, but I developed valuable skills writing that painful draft. I learned how to conform to the realities of history, and I found I had a knack for creating likable villains.

A few years later, I decided to again try my hand at writing the Great American Novel. I moved on from writing about the dark aftermath of the Mozart/Salieri rivalry, but the theme of a tormented/frustrated musician lingered. My antagonist, Herr Montand, a scheming musical instructor who bore more than a passing resemblance to Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert in “Lolita,” was a vile creature: a pedophile, a rapist, an unrepentent libertine and a con man. And, yet, in spite of his loathsome nature, he was the character my early readers clamored for more of.

More important, perhaps, was the fact that I loved writing in Herr Montand’s voice. I enjoyed living vicariously through him. I like telling stories from the villain’s point of view and – what’s more – I love dreaming up ways to endear my readers to evil men… and the women who love them.

Most writers will tell you they enjoy experiencing new worlds and situations through their character’s eyes. What they might not tell is you is how incredibly therapeutic it can be. Hate your boss? Disembowel her in chapter six. Pissed at your ex? Decapitate him in chapter eleven. The act of committing to print terrible deeds you’ll never actually do in “real life” is invigorating and liberating.

I never finished any of my elementary school attempts at writing a novel. At the time, I lacked the discipline if not the inclination. Nearly two decades would pass before I could finally call myself an author, when I joined the ranks of those who’ve penned the words “The End” to a manuscript and – further – found someone with enough faith in the same to publish it.

Which brings us to the present day, one week after the release of my debut novel “The Heart Absent,” another tome written in the voice of an evil man. For the better part of three years, I spent some portion of each day living in the head of a man whose obsessions would ultimately drive him to madness. And, I honestly believe because of it, I emerged from each day’s writing a little less insane.

And now, I have the honor of inviting YOU, gritty reader, inside the mind of a monster. Careful, it’s dark in there. Dark… and delightful.

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