Most authors are probably a little bit fascinated by the psychology behind killers. What makes them do it? How can they live with themselves? How did they get away with it? When I was writing Cruxim, I wanted Amedeo to be faced with villains who weren’t just out to get him for the hell of it, but who actually had chips in the game. It would have been easy for my Vampire villain, Beltran, to just hate Amedeo because he is a Cruxim, after all, Cruxim eat Vampires. I’m pretty sure gazelles aren't fond of lions: same dynamic. But I wanted Beltran, who is also the primary villain in the ongoing saga and appears in later novels, to have a real reason to hate Amedeo aside from the sheer circumstance of the supernatural food chain.
That reason became Joslyn – primarily Beltran’s love for the mortal-turned-vampire, and her enduring love for Amedeo, even as he forsakes her. I drilled down to what I thought were the major psychological issues Beltran had to deal with (and readers will find out more about some of Beltran’s background issues in book II in the series, Creche). Abandoned by his father as a young boy, Beltran turned his feelings of helplessness into a craving for power. At first, it was just the power to defend himself and those he loved, such as his sister, Evedra. But in his longing for power, it became a kind of lust for him. When he became a Vampire and finally had that power, he was unable to control either the power or the lust. It manifested as a need to dominate others, particularly women. But when he meets Joslyn, he falls in love with her innocence. He hates Amedeo not only because Ame truly represents the kind of pure, honorable power Beltran once craved, but also because Joslyn loves Amedeo for that sense of honor and hates Beltran for the perverted way he abuses his own power.
The other major villain in Cruxim is Dr. Claus Gandler, who I’ve found has given many readers shivers even more than Beltran. When I was stripping his character to the bare bones (which is not a bad analogy for Gandler, given his predilection for torture and amputation), I revisited the biographies of some of the most heinous real-life villains in human history. Seriously, you couldn’t make up the kind of horrors these men inflicted on innocents.
I wish I could scrub some of the things I read while researching Gandler’s character right out of my head. Among these beasts was Josef Mengele, the abhorrent, seriously depraved physician of the Nazi’s Auschwitz concentration camp, a man known as the Angel of Death. Not only did he personally order Jews and those of other ethnic minorities to the gas chambers, Mengele also conducted appalling experiments into heredity upon twins and on others he considered abnormalities of nature, such as those who suffered from dwarfism or heredity conditions. Not even children were spared Mengele’s terrors. I also spent some time studying the hateful practice of travelling “freak shows” in the 18th and 19th centuries. As an Aussie author, I’d read a bit about them before, because unfortunately many Australian Aborigines were taken to Europe and exploited at such shows and “world fairs”, disgustingly portrayed as cannibals or imbecile savages.
I also considered how in real life those who come into close conflict with certain afflictions sometimes come to hate others who suffer from them, and I posited how Gandler might feel if he had a child who suffered from a “freakish” disorder. What if his only son, Fritz, was killed directly as a result of having that disorder: a rare blood condition in which he produced too much blood, making him a target for Vampires? Would Dr Gandler understand other “freaks” (and I use the inverted commas because I recognise that these were simply unlucky people who suffered from medical conditions), or would he hate them and use them to try to get to the bottom of vampirism? Would he exploit them for his own ends?
I decided to make Gandler hate the other “freaks” he collects for all that they represent: his inability to protect his son Fritz and his hatred of hereditary imperfections.That hatred, and his desire to understand how to correct/avoid such conditions and how to end Vampirism, leads to the terrible “experiments” he carries out. It is only when faced with his own imminent death that Gandler makes the decision that will eventually lead to his downfall. To my mind, Gandler is a particularly evil character because of the clinical way he goes about collecting and dissecting his victims. His is a controlled, calculated kind of insanity, which is often much more dangerous than all-out “batshit crazy” (a phrase that I suppose applies to Beltran in many ways).
So, did I achieve what I wanted to do with these villains? Yes and no. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time letting Amedeo vanquish his foes. But in the heat of a battle, there's not really time to stop and crow over victories, however large or small; all of that must come after, and does to an extent in Creche and Creed. Overall, I feel like I spent the time to make my villains' motivations work, and the number of reviews I received hating my antagonists (or indeed insinuating that I must be some kind of sadist for writing them into existence), must be some indication of the fact that my crook, baddies, beasts and monsters are, at least, convincing.