My awesome pals at YA Misfits are having a Halloween Blog Hop to give you guys a chance to get to know them all a little better now thay their blog is up and running. I’m talking with Mariekeyn Nijkamp aka The Foreign Exchange Student aka Most Likely to Make You REVISE (if you don’t know what I’m talking about here, check out their year book) about VILLAINS. Mawhahaha!
Sharon: We’ll start off with the question that has to be asked. Who is your favourite villain of all time and why?
Mariekeyn: Hm… I think I will have to go for a classic villain here. Captain James Hook. And nowhere better described than in the play text of PETER PAN. ” Cruelest jewel in that dark setting is HOOK himself, cadaverous and blackavised, his hair dressed in long curls which look like black candles about to melt, his eyes blue as the forget-me-not and of a profound insensibility, save when he claws, at which time a red spot appears in them. He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and it is with this he claws. He is never more sinister than when he is most polite, and the elegance of his diction, the distinction of his demeanour, show him one of a different class from his crew, a solitary among uncultured companions.” Can you imagine being the actor who reads this in his notes? How do you even go about playing a character who is profoundly insensible? At the same time though, it’s a fantastic bit of characterization–the educated, polite pirate captain–that made Captain Hook such a unforgettable villain.
On that note, that description above? There are countless gems like that in JM Barrie’s scripts. Definitely worth a read!
Sharon: Who is your favourite villain sidekick and why?
Mariekeyn: Not sure if you can call him a sidekick, but I *love* Caliel in Lynn Flewelling’s TAMIR TRIAD. He’s the best friend of the story’s antagonist and remains at his side throughout the story, despite everything that happens. It causes plenty of crises of consciousness, because he isn’t blind to what’s going on around him, but he sticks by his friends. It’s a fantastic insight in the ‘other side’. (Parts of the story are from antagonist’s point of view too, so.)
(The series–about a young princess magically disguised as a prince to keep her safe from her insane uncle’s murdering rampage–is pretty much awesome for a lot of other reasons too. It’s marketed at fantasy, but it definitely has crossover YA potential too, and the way it deals with gender is nothing short of amazing. Also, I kind of love all the characters.)
Sharon: Which villain would you liked to have seen win instead of being defeated?
Mariekeyn: There are usually two reasons for me to root for the villains. Either they’re incredibly well-written and well-motivated, or the hero annoys me. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s the latter. For all that I *love* HARRY POTTER, I was a LOT more fussed about Snape, Sirius, Lupin… than I was about Harry. In fact, as a good little Slytherin, I wish Snape had won. Not Voldemort, I won’t go quite that far, but oh Severus…!
Of course, my next step would be to argue Snape was never a villain at all 😉 He was an antagonist to Harry’s story, sure, but never a villain.
Sharon: Which villain makes you want to hide under the bed sheets?
Mariekeyn: Can I go for a Doctor Who enemy here too? Because the original Weeping Angels, during 10’s reign, made me want to hide behind the couch. Statues STILL creep me out.
(Yeah, I totally used to hide behide the couch when the Darleks came out!)
Sharon: If you could be a villain for a day who would it be?
Mariekeyn: Captain Hook too? Dude, pirate in a magical land. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!
Sharon: If you could give YA villians a theme song, what would it be?
Mariekeyn: I had to think about this for a while… until the song came to me and it was suddenly GLARINGLY obvious. Lion King’s BE PREPARED. Because it’s such a perfect villain-y song all around. Especially the movie version, because Jeremy Irons’s voice makes it that much more epic. (You know, for the first 75% of the song 😉 Bonus points to anyone who knows who sings the last bit.)
Sharon: What story would you like to read from a villain’s POV?
Mariekeyn: Oh, quite a few actually! Antagonist PoVs intrigue me no end. When I was at college, I once wrote a paper on the ethics of Javert in Les Miserables and it was so interesting to crawl into the mind of this character who is set upon doing the right thing but can’t continue that when what he thinks is right conflicts with what he thinks is good.
Honestly, I don’t like the ultimate evil overlords, but I am all for villains or antagonist who are well-rounded, whose motivations make sense from their point of view. They don’t necessarily have to make sense to the hero, but they should make sense to them. It doesn’t have to be good, but it should be their right. Give me a villain like that and I will *always* be interested in their story, no matter how heinous.
Sharon: What villain cliches get up your nose?
Mariekeyn: ALL OF THEM. Okay, that’s not true, but have you ever read the Evil Overlord List? It’s a fantastic collection of villain cliches. There’s an even better version over here: http://www.sff.net/paradise/lists.htm and I LOVE it. Basically, keep away from ALL of them and you’d make me very happy. So no big, red, threatening buttons which should never be pressed under any circumstances. No keeping heroes alive simply to gloat. No shooting messengers. No walking around in ridiculously over-the-top costumes. And the five-year-old advisor really is a good idea.
Sharon: What would you like to see more of from writers in regards to villains?
Mariekeyn: After my previous answers, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: I lovelovelove villains who are the heroes of their own story. That’s what, for me, it all boils down to. From their PoV, villains are the heroes of their story and they are just as well-rounded as the heroes. There is no black or white, but there’s an afwul lot of gray.
That doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t do unspeakable things. In Melina Marchetta’s LUMATERE CHRONICLES there is true evil–the days of the unspeakable in FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK are horrendous. In CODE NAME VERITY (*cry*) it would be so much easier to set apart Maddie’s interrogators as inhuman and monstrous. But for all that their acts are, the characters aren’t. In both cases, the villains do what they believe is right and in both those cases there’s more to it than meets the eye. Yes, they go to extreme measures… but don’t the heroes do the same sometimes? Where do we draw the line between what’s evil and what is right? And who decides?
It isn’t just evil, it’s human too. And perhaps that’s what makes it so impressive.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Voldermort or The White Witch: Voldemort!
Poison Apple or Spindle: Spindle.
Broom or Death Star? Death Star, no question.
Hydra or Medusa? Ooh, tricky… Hydra.