J.N. Duncan guest post & giveaway: Oh, the villainy!


I write supernatural crime fiction, commonly put on the shelves as urban fantasy. Most of you who read the blog here are quite familiar with the genre. Frequently, the themes run toward the heroines and the heroes, who the favorites are, why they kick ass, and who the preferred choice would be to hop into bed with. Chelsea mentioned that villains do not get much air time here, so I figured that would make for a good topic of discussion.

Who doesn’t like a cool villain? Sometimes they even upstage the main characters in their coolness, even if you can’t wait to see them go down in flames.

My Deadworld series is not unlike many urban fantasies in that the hero and heroine have to deal with baddies of the supernatural variety in each book. Here’s a little montage I put together (thank you Google images and image manipulation software):

Villains of Deadworld

On the left you have Cornelius Drake, the villain from Deadworld. He is a centuries old vampire that the hero, Nick, first tangles with in 1862, and is still attempting to defeat in the present when Deadworld starts. Book two, The Vengeful Dead, involves an enraged ghost which you don’t really get to see because she possesses people, but it does introduce The Spindly Man, seen here in the middle (I drew this, so please forgive the meager artistic skillz), who makes its presence felt more significantly in my upcoming release, The Lingering Dead, where the main villain is the young woman on the right, one Charlotte “Charlie” Thatcher, with unfortunate ties to Nick’s past with Drake.

I love my villains. They are probably one of the most enjoyable elements of writing crime stories. Honestly, I think the villains can often make or break any crime story. They are that important. But what makes a villain good?

The Vengeful Dead by J.N. DuncanBeyond providing a body count for the protags to discover and crimes to solve, great villains provide conflict. You may think this is something of a, “duh” statement, but I mean it in more than just the central plot of the story. Of course their actions drive the plot of the story. Their job is to make it as difficult on our hero/heroine as possible, right up to the point of failure.

Great villains should provide a force that the h/h can’t come to grips with. Stopping them should seem impossible. If it were easy, the story would lose its punch and be boring. In fact, the great villains are impossible to stop, if it weren’t for some fatal flaw, an Achilles heel that our h/h must discover. It shouldn’t be clear that they will defeat the villain until the very end when it actually happens. This part of what makes you love to hate villains so much. They are so good, so cool about what they go about doing that you can’t help but be impressed. Look at Hannibal Lector. Who doesn’t have some part of themselves, even a small part, that wants him to get away? Which in fact, he does in Silence of the Lambs.

Great villains should also provide emotional conflict. They go beyond just being evil and doing the evil things that the h/h must stop. They get under their skin. They tap into the emotional flaws of the h/h, which provides yet another stumbling block for success. They set up both an external and internal conflict to overcome. Silence of the Lambs is an awesome example of this. If you’ve never seen it, do so. When it comes to this aspect, it’s hard to beat.

In Deadworld, without being too spoilery if you haven’t read it, Drake manages to take away the most important thing to the heroine, Jackie. He kicks out the emotional crutch that has been propping her up for years. She falls apart, and this becomes as much the obstacle for her to overcome in order to achieve success as finding a way to defeat him. It works the same for Nick. Drake has been defeating him over and over again for decades. He’s beaten down, on the verge of tossing in the towel, trying to push everyone away from the case so that nobody else goes down with him. The great villains always put the characters on the brink of ruin.

The Lingering Dead by J.N. DuncanPersonally, I don’t like the villains who just plain psychotic and go around butchering people. I find them kind of boring, which is why most horror movies don’t do anything for me. Sure they may be incredibly skilled at what they are doing, and so powerful that they are nearly impossible to take down, but you have no connection to them, however tenuous. The great ones have charm.

On some level, if they weren’t doing these evil things, you might actually like them. This can range from pure sex appeal to a suave coolness that would have you wanting to just hang out with them. You empathize. This can often take the form of sympathy for the plight that brought them to be what they are. You develop an understanding of what makes them tick and part of you feels bad for them on some level. In The Vengeful Dead, the ghost is pure rage. She’s almost one note in her character, but we see that she was murdered with her unborn child and you understand how she could turn into this supernatural whirlwind. In a similar position, you would want to become vengeance incarnate as well. In the upcoming Lingering Dead, Charlie has similar motive, but her actions are more subtle and insidious.

So, to sum up, great villains are just as important in these types of stories as the protagonists. They are main characters in their own right, even if they don’t get the page time. They drive both the external and internal conflicts of the main characters, placing impossible obstacles in their paths that leave you wondering just how they will be overcome. You sympathize with them. You even like them to some degree, and we love to hate them for this fact.

So, who/what are your favorite villains and what makes you love them so much? Comment on who AND why and the marvelous Chelsea will crank up the random number generator to see who gets a signed set of all three Deadworld books! Thanks for commenting and to Chelsea for having me on here today. Happy reading/writing everyone.


A big thanks to J.N. Duncan for offering up a signed set of his Deadworld books. They have this refreshing noir tone and such a complicated heroine. Also, if you’re wanting a bit more on hero Nick and his backstory with the villain Drake, snag the short story “Blood Justice.”

The contest is open through April 8 to those with U.S. and Canadian addresses. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

43 Responses to “J.N. Duncan guest post & giveaway: Oh, the villainy!”

  1. Julie says:

    While not a true “villian”, I do love Ian who was the main protagonist in “One Foot in the Grave”. I knew he could never win over Bones (who could?) but I was sort of rooting for him and he’s sexy as all get out. I hope someday Ian will see his own book from the amazing Jeaniene Frost. Can you imagine the woman who would be HIS match?

  2. Julie says:

    *Crap* I meant “Antagonist”. Sorry.

  3. Rebe says:

    I’ve always liked Ghastek in Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. He makes such a smarmy bureaucrat!

  4. Riva says:

    I kind of like the various gods and goddesses who are the villians in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. I like all the different ways they find to get our boy Atticus in trouble.

  5. Vicki says:

    Hmmmm, favorite villian. I think I’ll have to say Vlane in the Fever series.

  6. Surfin4Disney says:

    I have to go with Algaliarept from the Rachel Morgan series. He’s a character who I absolutely love to hate and hate to love. He’s written with just enough vulnerability to keep him on this side of being truly evil, enough wit and snark to make him hysterically unpredictable, and enough just enough straight-up unadulterated meanness to place him squarely in the villian category. My favorite McMeany Pants.

  7. Na says:

    I’m not sure I have a favorite villain. I do know I like villains when I can see where they are coming from and have an idea of what goes on in their mind. It makes things more interesting.

  8. I love a villan with personality. Sometimes they can outshine the heros. They have to have some shred of humanity even if it kills them. I guess it would be someone like Damon on Vampire Diaries.

  9. Sara says:

    Favorite villian would be Vlane or Barrons from Fever Series. And Bellatrix Lestrange from HP…sorry I know but I just love her!

  10. Pardeep says:

    Darroc from the Fever series!

  11. Keira says:

    So, I have a few:

    Roman, Succubus Blues.
    Bellatrix, Harry Potter.
    V’lane, Fever series.
    Ian, Night Huntress.
    Valentine, Mortal Instruments.
    Bran, Kate Daniels.
    Joe Morelli, One for the Money.
    Rumpelstiltskin, Once Upon A Time.
    Carter, Reinfield Syndrome.

    That’s all I can think of right now…

  12. kiki w says:

    Villians sometime add more personality to a story.

  13. Liz Semkiu says:

    The Omega from the BDB series, the archangel Lijuan from the Guild Hunters series, Bellatrix from Harry Potter, Roland from the Kate Daniels series. A strong villain strengthens the plot and character development of the hero and heroine. We love to have someone to boo and hiss at like Snydly Whiplash from Duddly Dooright!

  14. books4me says:

    Vlademorte from the Harry Potter series is one heck of a villian!

  15. I Love Cyrus the villain from Jennifer Armintrouts Blood Ties Series!!!!! I was actually rooting for him in a way!

  16. Bethany C. says:

    The evil queen on Once Upon a Time is totally killing me right now! As far as vampires go, Lavinia Kane is a nasty adversary.


  17. Dawn Hagan says:

    a sexy bad boy is always my favorite villain!

  18. Kristen Heyl says:

    I have to agree with Vicki in Vlane in the Fever series.

  19. I find the idea of this series to be really interesting and would LOVE to win the whole set for my home library.


  20. Rachel Vessar says:

    I think Sebastian from the Mortal Instruments series is a good one. He is so evil and he will not go away he keeps coming back. I love to hate him.

  21. erinf1 says:

    Thanks for an awesome post! You’re top of my wishlist and I would love to read your books! You’re absolutely right. A good villain totally makes or breaks a H/H. If there isn’t convincing and engaging conflict, then it doesn’t matter how perfect the H/H are, they would be dull without a good villain!

    Everyone has listed some awesome villains. I totally agree with Voldemort from Harry Porter; Al from Kim Harrison’s Hollows; The gods and goddesses from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid. Ummmm… the only new villains I could add to the list would be Mab Monroe from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series or Perry from Lilith Saintcrow’s Kismit series. Both were central adversaries to the main characters throughout the series and helped to shape and mature the heroines into kickass status!

    I guess I

  22. Erin says:

    I love how Trent has gone from villain to love interest in Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan books.

  23. The Omega from BDB, Myst from the Indigo Series by Yasmine Galenorn, Bellatrix from Harry Potter, Vlad in the Tales of The Vampire Bride Series by Rhiannon Frater and Salvatore from The Blood Curse Series by Tessa Dawn…to name a few. This series sounds fantastic! This is the first time I’ve heard of it. Thank you for the chance to win it! 😀

  24. Karen E. says:

    Love this series. So looking forward to reading this book. I would have to say my favorite villain is Trent from Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series is my favorite only because he is so go at being bad.

  25. Darren Dayton says:

    Hmm… favorite villain? That’s a tough one. There are so many I like. I’d have to say that my favorite villain from a book is probably “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. He’s just epic.

  26. lostime4me says:

    Definitely Stryker in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series. I was drawn to him and repelled by him (in the beginning).

  27. Britta Heiss says:

    One of my favorite villains is from Rob Thurman’s Madhouse, Sawney Beane. Gotta love redcaps!

  28. bn100 says:

    This sounds like a very interesting series. I’d like to read more about Cornelius Drake.

  29. Sariah says:

    I would have to say either Ian or Vlad from Night Huntress series. I really enjoy both of them.

  30. Chris says:

    I think this is a great topic to discuss but i cant pick my favorite

  31. Villians are my absolute favorites but the best ones are those you love to hate.

  32. Pam O says:

    I love the series and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.

  33. Pam O says:

    I love the series and can’t wait to get my hands on the next book. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up!!

  34. Pam O says:

    Love the series and can’t wait to read the next one.

  35. Kristy says:

    My favorite villain has to be Lothaire from Kresley Cole’s IAD series.

  36. Sharyonda says:

    I tend to like all of them. But the most important one comes from the thriller series of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

  37. Joani S says:

    Well, since I recently watched Harry Potter, the first one to pop to mind was Voldemort, plus I just got done reading the Rachel Morgan series, so of course Al also popped to mind. He’s a demon for crying out loud, yet Harrison writes him to be almost acceptable, sometimes I find myself thinking he might have some good in him. I’ve really been wanting to read these, thanks!

  38. JanArrah says:

    Sure psychotic butchers can be boring, but a villain with an odd quirk or mentally disturbed somehow can be VERY interesting. Like Gail Simone wrote Mad Hatter in Villains United (comic) as being in LOVE with hats, literally. It made him vastly interesting.

  39. traci loya says:

    I agree with several above. I think bellatrix was my face. She was scarier than voldemort!! Thanx for the great giveaway!!!!

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