C. J. Chase and Inspirational Villains

I’m happy to welcome C.J. Chase back into the lair.  C.J. and I first met over the internet when we discovered we both had books with the title “Redeeming the Rogue” coming out the very same day.  Since then we’ve discovered more similarities including Golden Heart credentials.  C.J. writes Inspirational Historicals for Harlequin while I write historicals that are inspirational in a different way (wink, wink).  Her latest, THE RELUCTANT EARL, is out this month.  RT magazine says “This complex tale reveals the difficulties facing those with handicapped loved ones in this time period, and also provides an interesting look at the political unrest of the time.”  Welcome C.J.!

So there I was, staring at the dreaded blank screen. For hours. Every idea I came up with seemed more pedestrian than the last. You know the people who tweet or Facebook the most mundane things? Yeah, I was all set to make them look like literary geniuses. Bunions are more exciting than the ideas I was discarding

After a totally unproductive morning, I went downstairs to the kitchen. Maybe I could write better with lunch. Or chocolate. My oldest son had just gotten home from class, so I mentioned my dilemma to him.

“Well, what kind of blog is it?” he asked.

“Romance novels.” Duh. Why else would Mom be guest blogging? She has a book out this month, The Reluctant Earl, published by Love Inspired Historicals.

“So write about villains in romance novels.”

Just like that. He accomplished in 30 seconds what I hadn’t done over an entire morning. I’d have bopped the snot-nosed brat on the head except at 18 (as of last week) he’s bigger than I am these days. Instead, I decided to put him to work. We brainstormed for about five minutes. I was having so much fun (and so many good ideas) I realized the entire conversation needed to go into the post.

We decided to finish the discussion in a chat so we could capture the creativity that was buzzing around the room like electricity. Nothing feeds creativity like the presences of another creative person.

C.J. – I’d like to introduce everyone to my oldest son. Why don’t you say “Hi” to the readers and contributors at Romance Bandits.

C.R. – Hello.


C.J. – Since you don’t have an “official” bio yet, tell everyone a bit about yourself.

C.R. – I’m C.R. Chase; I’m C.J.’s son and writing partner. My father and I get to help my mom come up with story plots, and when she starts writing, we’re some of the first ones to proofread her stuff. She in turn has helped me a lot recently in proofreading a story I’ve been writing for fictionpress.com, Deception. With her help, I’ve greatly improved over the other books I’ve written in my Underground Saga. But enough about that, let’s get to today’s topic.

C.J. – Yes, today’s topic. Villains. Should I worry that you seem to know so much about them?

C.R. – Haha. Maybe. Most of my writing knowledge comes from what you taught me. In this case, I expanded on that knowledge by observing the villains in various books and movies.

C.J. – Oh, so now you’re blaming me for your knowledge of evil. How Freudian. Don’t worry. We have a special trust set up for your therapy costs. But back to the topic. You listed a number of different kinds of villains. What are some of your favorites?

C.R. – I guess my favorite would be the megalomaniacal kind, but that may be because my stories deal in grand scale adventures more than romance.

C.J. – Megalomaniacal. You mean like the guy who has an evil laugh, ugly mustache, and a craving to take over the world?

C.R. – More or less. You can hold the mustache and the laugh is optional, but taking over the galaxy, or at least the world, is typically what I think of as my favorite villain. But there are other forms of evil that are just as useful and often less corny.

C.J. – So share your ideas about evil villains first—because I believe we decided not every villain is evil.

C.R. – Well, most evil villains desire political power, money or a hostile takeover of some form or another.

C.J. – Ah, yes, greed. But I notice you didn’t include revenge in your definition. I consider greed and revenge the two most common motivations for a villain.

C.R. – Oh, darn, I overlooked that one. Yes, revenge is a powerful motivation for villains, but in my experience, there are just as many non-evil villains who are bent on revenge as there are of the other variety.


C.J. – You identified a villain from my current release as one of your “non-evil” villains. But doesn’t the very notion of the character being a villain include evil? I mean, I’d consider villainy a synonym of evil.

C.R. – Well, sometimes the bad guy of a story isn’t really a bad person. That is especially the case in those romances where the hero has a rival trying to win the heart of the heroine. The rival isn’t bad, but he is in the way of our hero’s happy ending. There are also villains that are jerks but not evil per se.

C.J. – Let’s talk about the insane villains for just a minute. How does a writer make them “real”? I always feel like I’m shortchanging the reader with a villain who’s crazy. Maybe it’s the mystery reader in me who wants a villain with a logical motive to make the crime-solving more interesting. Or maybe I should say, more solvable.

C.R. – Well, one thing to remember about crazy villains is that they are only motivated by a desire to fulfill their strange desires. Whether it’s death or sex or scientific knowledge, a maniac will use any means at their disposal to achieve their goals. I suppose you could say this is the logic of insanity. The most eerie part about it is that an insane person doesn’t think of him/herself as evil; regardless of the atrocities theycommit, their twisted minds run on a logic of their own that justifies what they do.

C.J. – I think that’s one reason I don’t like doing them. I did once write a story that had an insane villain who did really gross, evil things. And I discovered I didn’t like having to go that deeply into the thought process of such a person. Getting that dark was emotionally draining.

C.R. – I can understand that. Then again, that’s why madmen make great villains in mysteries and horror stories.

C.J. – Let’s go back to our definition of a villain being the person working against the hero. That can be from evil intent, or just from a sincere belief the world (or heroine) would be better off if the hero doesn’t get his goals.

C.R. – Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying; the antagonist, regardless of his motivations, gets in the way of the happy ending. Personally, I’ve always believed the best stories have a combination of various types of antagonists, mixing a redeemable jerk or two along with a really evil guy.

C.J. – I love using multiple antagonists. I remember once when I was stuck on a plot, and you (correctly) pointed out that I only had one villain in the story instead of my usual two (or more).

C.R. – I remember that, too. It seemed pretty clear to me you would have no end of fun working with multiple bad guys that would get in each other’s way as much as the hero’s.

C.J. – Um, remember that you’re talking to the woman who keeps going above her publisher’s word count. “No end of fun” is a very real problem of mine because I can’t find the end of the book! I’m starting to think you have a little villainy in you.

villainC.R. – We all have some villain in us; it wouldn’t be possible to write about them if we didn’t. As with any character, a writer must be able to put their mind into that of their villians, otherwise you can end up with some pretty lousy bad guys.

C.J. – Wisdom from my teenager! Before we quit, I’m supposed to be promoting my latest book. It has a villain (or two or three) in it.

C.R. – Yeah, one megalomaniac, one scumbag and one vengeful but not necessarily bad person.  Of the three, which do you think of as the main villain of your story?

 C.J. — Hmm. I think I’d have to go with the megalomaniac, simply because so much of the plot is controlled by him/her.

C.R. – Interesting. I was thinking it might be the jerk in this case.

C.J. – Well, that one’s more upfront in his villainy, while the megalomaniac is a behind-the-scenes kind of person. But every one of them has a good reason (to themselves) for what they do, huh?

C.R. – Oh, definitely. All three of these villains is well thought-out, particularly the avenger. And the coolest part is how they get in each other’s way so much, that whenever you think you know who dunnit, something new happens.

C.J. – Hey, I might have to hire you to be my PR person!

C.R. — Well, I wouldn’t turn down the offer.

C.J. – So, go ahead. Give me a little promo.

C.R. – All right. C.J.’s book The Reluctant Earl is a wonderful love story in the midst of civil unrest and mystery. You will be on the edge of your seat throughout the whole story, and just when you think it’s almost over, you’ll get a few extra surprises.

C.J. – Ha! Some writers get quotes from famous authors. I have one from a future famous author. Thanks for brainstorming with me again. I don’t know what I’m going to do when you leave for college in the fall.

C.R. – Ditto. My fictionpress stories will really go down the tubes without you.

Isn’t he a cool kid? You can probably imagine the kinds of discussions we have around the dinner table. Someday I’m sure he’ll be signing books to me. In the meantime, if you happen to overhear us plotting a murder at the local pizzeria (something we have been known to do), you’ll know it’s for a book.

So how about you?  Are you a fan of villains?  Who is your favorite villain from screen or page?  C. J. will give one someone leaving a comment a copy of The Reluctant Earl.  Speaking of which – here’s a blurb:

The Reluctant Earl

Alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, rummaging through his clothing—governess Leah Vance risks social ruin. Only by selling political information can she pay for her sister’s care. And the letter she found in Julian DeChambrelle’s coat could be valuable—if the ex-sea captain himself had not just walked in.

As a navy officer, Julian knew his purpose. As a new earl, he’s plagued by trivialities and marriage-obsessed females. Miss Vance’s independence is intriguing—and useful. In return for relaying false information, he will pay her handsomely. But trusting her, even caring for her? That would be pure folly. Yet when he sees the danger that surrounds her, it may be too late to stop himself….

And a link to an excerpt here:

And a fun one. Here’s a link to the trailer (which has a picture of a villain’s hand holding a gun…):




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  • Helen Sibbritt says:

    I wonder who is is visiting today?

    Have Fun

  • Helen Sibbritt says:

    Hi CJ and CR

    A very interesting conversation loved it sounds like a lot of fun in your house.

    I do like a good villian in a story as long as they get what they deserve in the end LOL. There have been some good villians in the stories I have read over the years and at the moment my mind is blank (I do have 2 little grandchildren running around LOL) so I might need to come back with the answer to that

    Have Fun

    • LOL – I think I know what the GR will be doing today – grandchild-sitting.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Wind and rain with grandchildren. Sounds like a movie day to me! Hey, some of the Disney and Pixar movies have great v illations — and they always get their just desserts.

      You know, I hadn’t thought of it before, but villains are one of the things that sets genre fiction apart from literary. In genre fiction like romance or mystery, readers expect the bad guys to get what’s coming to them.

  • flchen1 says:

    Ooh, GREAT to meet you both, CJ and CR! Congrats to you both on your writing careers, and what a blessing to you both to have such a supportive and immediate sounding board at home! 🙂

    As for villains, I don’t actually like them, but they are often a great way to move the plot ahead and to provide a way for the hero/heroine to work together, find true love, save the world, etc. The ones that are very memorable are either the over-the-top ones (i.e., Khan, from Star Trek 😉 or Darth Vader or the Joker or Dr. Evil ;)… or the ones that are so quietly insane but seem almost normal that it’s super scary (Hannibal Lecter?)

    So as a means to an end? Villains play a very important role 😉 And in a few instances, I’ve been surprised and sometimes amazed at how an author’s redeemed a villain in a subsequent story–now that’s always worth reading too!

    • Khan – great villain!

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Thanks, fltchen. We do have a lot of fun at home, It’s really great to share an interest with my kid. (Now the outdoorsy stuff, like the picture of him hiking the Appalachian Trail — I let him do that with his dad!)

      I think the ones that are seemingly normal are the most scary. Makes me look twice at the neighbors for weeks afterward.

  • One of my favorite villains is the wicked witch from Oz – what a classic. What I love even more is how WICKED portrayed her, not as a villain, but as a heroine. It all comes down to motivation.

  • Mary Preston says:

    Sometimes a hero needs a villain so that he, the hero, can realise his full potential.

    I do love a dastardly villain. Growing up it was always the villains that Batman or Superman had to battle that I loved to loathe.

    I have two villains that stand out from fairly recent reading: Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, both from the series A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George RR Martin.

    • Mary – – I remember Joffrey (good choice BTW), but I don’t remember Ramsay Bolton. I believe I gave up the series after book five, though. Does he come late in the series?

      Speaking of print villains – can’t forget Black Jack from Outlander. Can’t remember his real name in the book – just his dastardly deeds.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Oh, definitely, Mary. A “good” villain (just seems funny to write that) is a change agent for the hero. And maybe a reflection of what the hero could be, until the hero is able to fully realize his potential as hero.

      Okay, now you’ve made me realize I need to work more of the villain(s) of the book I’m writing. I don’t know whether to thank you for that or complain.

  • I love a villain who is properly motivated. Then I can really connect with him/her. Right now I’m currently loving the Captain Hook character on Once Upon a Time (okay, he’s not so bad to look at either).

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Yes, motivation is the key, I think. Maybe that’s why I don’t like the insane kinds? I just find it harder to put that on a page. (Revenge and greed are much easier for me to understand and sympathize with.)

      • I just turned in a book and had my villain being mad but my editor really wanted me to be able to redeem him another book so I gave him an opium addiction. That was fun! And now I can redeem him!

  • Di R says:

    I love when a villian gets their just desserts!
    My family watches the Walking Dead, (not my favorite show but I’m outnumbered). I have to say that The Governor is a great villian. It willbe interesting to see what he’ll do next.

    Also, the villain on The Following, is enough to give me nightmares.

    Great blog, CJ!


    • C.J. Chase says:

      Di, I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but in my first attempt at writing a book, the bad guy did not get his just desserts. I mean, that’s like real life, right? Too much, apparently. Everyone hated it!

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Welcome CJ and CR! Great to have you in the Lair today.

    Loved your discussion on villains! Being a fan of romantic suspense and romantic thrillers, I find villains fascinating. Some of the most terrifying are the ones who seem so normal but have a whacked out rationale for their actions! Karen Rose is a master at those.

  • Connie Fischer says:

    I like a strong hero who may have to do some difficult and undesirable things for a good end result. To say that I admire an actual villain, is a stretch because the definition of a villain is a crook. So, I guess I’m on the fence here.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Connie, I think a good villain should also possess qualities we can admire. That is, they shouldn’t be all evil because very few people are totally evil. Most of us have a mix of some bad and some good. So maybe we can admire the good qualities in a villain while being disappointed that he (or she) isn’t using his talents for the betterment of mankind?

      • C.R. Chase says:

        I cannot entirely agree with my mother on this one. While I am a firm believer that every villain should have a tragic backstory or something that lets us relate to them, I also think there is a certain advantage in having a villain which is pure evil. If the bad guy is that far gone, it’s harder to pity him/her. In that regard, I think some of the best stories are the ones where you have the redeemable villain being manipulated by a completely evil villain, a devil pulling the strings, just like how Darth Vader was controlled by the Emperor.

  • May says:

    I think a good villain brings out the goodness in the hero and makes him even better. 🙂 I like Blair on Gossip Girl even though she’s considered as a schemer…. I also like Damon on Vampire Diaries…

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Oh, yes, definitely. A “good” villain challenges the hero to be better than he thought he could be.

      You know, a schemer sounds like fun to write. And a schemer could possibly even be redeemed for a future book.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Nice to meet you, CJ and CR! I have the same kind of symbiotic relationship with my two sons, who are also both very creative in an assortment of media.

    I’m one of those awful people who LOVES villains. Better than heroes – they’re always more interesting! I’ve been a huge Darth Vader fan from the get-go — and I was right about him being redeemable in the end! Ha!

    The best print villain IMHO is the one is Susan Squires’ Body Electric. It is positively chilling to watch him go from a normal-looking Steve Jobs style computer magnate to a frothing-at-the-mouth madman over the course of the book. The changes are so slow and subtle that it shocks you when you realize how totally over-the-edge he’s gone.

    • Darth Vader – Good one, EC

    • C.J. Chase says:

      I’m going to make my son come on here. Star Wars is his all-time favorite movie series. Book series. Computer games…

      I’m pretty certain I could even find a picture of him dressed up as Darth Vader from Halloween a few years back.

    • C.R. Chase says:

      Correction: I was not dressed as Darth Vader. (I never got the Darth Vader mask for my costume, so I was just a random Sith Lord.)

      Reading this post actually reminded me where a lot of my knowledge of villainy comes from. Like you, my ex-girlfriend LOVES villains (and Star Wars), and she taught me a lot about them. I suppose you could say, she mentored me in the ways of the dark side of the books.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey CJ! Welcome to the Lair! Everyone here knows that I’m right with you – I really love the villains! Ha! Obviously, it’s an exclamation point kind of love too. Grins.

    I’m deep under the Lair in my Writing Cave, but I heard the alluring sound of villainy and had to surface long enough to comment. I also have pre-teen sons who will, I hope, turn out as smart and fun as YOURS! Wow! That’s great stuff, CR!

    I’m a big fan of villains, even the megalomaniacal kind, but my true favs are the psychologically twisted kind. Usually have an agenda based on hate or revenge or payback and alllll their actions are logical based on their assumptions. Bwahahaha!

    Then again, I also like the redeemable kind who are just basically disappointed, damaged, or hurting so much at the point we meet them that they are unrepentant villains for the H/H, but not really “The Bad Guy” for the book. :>

    Big fun, this post! Fav villains, prob. Hans Gruber – smary pants! – from Die Hard; Red Skull from Capt. America; the villain from Scarlet Pimpernel who’s name I can’t recall at the moment; Prince John from Robin Hood; and so many in books it’s hard to count! Ha!

    Okay, enough break time…back to the pages!

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Jeanne, my son was allergic to pencils for the longest time. And then when he was about 12, he asked me for a notebook one day. He had a story in his head, and wanted to write it down. He’s home schooled (well, not so much anymore, he’s doing most of his senior year classes at community college), so I gave him a notebook and let him go. He wrote morning, noon, and night for a week straight, and when he was done, he had a 40 page YA story. Yes, the kid who used to say, “What’s the minimum number of sentences I need for it to count as a paragraph?” has been writing stories ever since.

      Have you seen the newer-ish BBC version of Robin Hood? Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne. What a yummy villain.

  • catslady says:

    I can’t think of a particular villian that is a favorite but I like the ones that have some redeeming qualities too – just to make things more confusing lol. I don’t think most are all just evil and there are times that I even want the bad guy to win some times!

    • C.R. Chase says:

      I have a great fondness for redeemable villains and anti-heros but sometimes a series can drag out with them staying on the fence. For example, I use to think Shadow in SonicX was awsome, but by the end of season 3, I was thinking, “Pick a side, already! Are you going to be bad or good?!”

      I don’t think I’ve ever found a bad guy I wanted to win, but there have been a lot that I wished had escaped to plot another day.

      • EC Spurlock says:

        CR, I am also a big anime fan, and another of my favorite villains was Emperor Desslock in the Yamato series (known in the US as Star Blazers). He was such a great villain that he became very popular with the fans and they kept bringing him back over and over. They finally ended up making him side with the good guys against a common enemy and he ended up becoming one of the heroes.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      I was going to let one of my villains die in my current book — sacrifice himself for the h/h as a way of redeeming himself. And then I decided I needed him for the next book.

      I think he won’t be redeemed until the 2nd book, although the process will have begun at the end of the first one.

  • Hi Donna! Hi CJ! Welcome back to the lair. We love to have you here. And you brought us someone who surely counts as a romantic hero today! Hello, CR! CR, rumors that we kidnap potential heroes and lock them down in the deadline cave are completely exaggerated – any heroes down there are there because they want to be. Or at least that’s what they say after six weeks of indoctrination!

    What a fab interview. I think you’re so right that every villain is actually the hero in his own story. That’s true about secondary characters too!

    • C.R. Chase says:

      Oh, I know all the dark secrets about the deadline cave. My father and I prove to be my mother’s greatest tormentors down there, constantly demanding that she write more so we can read it. And when we’re not telling her to write more of her book, we’re chastising her for not reading my fictionpress story and going over it with me more often.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Yeah, I actually gave the kid permission to hassle me when he found me procrastinating. Not sure what I was thinking…

      Thanks for the compliment, Anna.

      And I think he really will make some special lady a fabulous in hero — in a few years once he finishes school. (Did you read that, C?)

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    Darth Vader has always intrigued me. He started out as the cute little blond kid (Anakin) in the movie and ended up as this heavy breathing masked villian. Even after watching all the movies (and yes, I’m old enough to have seen the originals when they came out) I still want to know more about the journey that he took.

    I liked ‘meeting’ both of you, C.J. and C. R. 🙂

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Marcy, I’m not sure I want to admit this, but I remember standing in line to see Star Wars. A couple older cousins took me. I think the two people in line behind us also got in, and then everyone further back had to stand there and wait until the next showing. (It does make me feel somewhat better to say it was the first PG-rated movie that I ever saw.)

    • C.R. Chase says:

      One of the coolest things about Star Wars is that the series was so popular they made books, comics, video games and a tv series based off of the movies. Most of the characters in the movies have their own stories in the Expanded Universe, and Anakin is definately one of the most well explored characters in Star Wars. If you hadn’t thought of it already, I suggest watching and reading the Clone Wars tv series and novels for a deeper understanding of Anakin’s turn to the dark side.

  • CJ and CR, welcome! I love a story with a good villain. If the villain is a wimp, how can the hero seem very strong? Unfortunately, I’m having trouble coming up with an example from a book. The Brian Brown character from Australupis would was a great villain. And Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. And–aha, a book!–Chauvelin from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Yes, the villain has to be smart enough and powerful enough that the reader believes he (or she) could succeed over the hero. If the ending isn’t in doubt until the very end, why continue reading?

      Chauvelin. Jeanne also mentioned him, but I couldn’t picture who it was until you mentioned his name. We went on a Scarlett Pimpernel glom a year or two ago and watched several different versions.

      Has anyone else ever seen The Court Jester? (I only thought of it because the infant king has a purple pimpernel on his royal bottom.) Basil Rathbone is the villain in a role that spoofs his Guy of Gisbourne character in the Errol Flynn Robin Hood movie. Funniest movie ever.

  • Good on you, Helen for capturing our resident villain! Turn him up sweet with some Tim Tams and you and the grands should be safe from his evil machinations.

    What a great interview! And I so love that your son is a writer as well, CJ!

    I love all sorts of villains – redeemable and irredeemable.

    I love Sebastian St. Vincent from Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflower series – the villain in one book and the hero in another.

    Dain in Lord of Scoundrels is a really awful person at the beginning of the book, but is redeemed in the end.

    Dracula 2000 – the film with a young Gerard Butler as Dracula is an interesting study in villainy. We discover that the father of all vampires is actually Judas Iscariot damned for all time for betraying Christ – thus the vampire allergy to silver and crosses. It is rather a campy film by today’s standards, but his speech at the end in which we find out who he actually was is heart-wrenching and presents a real dichotomy of Judas’s place in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      RE: Dain. I’m always in awe when an author can make an (initially) unsympathetic character into the hero. The skill level to keep readers reading until they start to sympathize with and then like and then root for such a person…that’s beyond me.

      Susan Elizabeth Phillips also did it in Dream a Little Dream. I once checked the page number for the first time we get some hint as to why this guy might be redeemable enough to be the hero of a romance. I think it was 60 pages into the book.

      (Mere mortals like me have to give our main characters some element of humanity early or readers will toss the book aside.)

  • Kaelee says:

    C.J. ~ I loved your book trailer and excerpt.
    I had to laugh when I read your introduction as rogues are quite often a bit villainous until they are redeemed. Sadly I haven’t read either of the Redeeming the Rogue books.
    I not much for villains that are so evil they are beyond saving. If the villain is that evil I want to see him wiped out in the story.

  • Diane Sallans says:

    If you are going to have real suspense you have to have a villian to offset the hero – may favorites are those that you start off liking then you can’t believe what they’ve done. One of my favorites is the character Tony Goldwyn played in the movie ‘Ghost’.