Thursday, September 10, 2009

Birds, Beasts and Rotten Relatives

by Anna Campbell

Have you all read Gerald Durrell? His two books of memoirs about his childhood on Corfu, MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS and BIRDS, BEASTS AND RELATIVES are among the most beautiful books I know - and they always make me kill myself laughing. Seriously if you want a treat, get them!

But strangely, I'm talking about neither birds nor beasts today (well, perhaps tangentially, the birds and the bees, but they always get a look-in in the lair!).

I actually want to talk about rotten relatives.

Specifically rotten relatives in romance novels.

It struck me last week how often romance novel plots rely on the device of the truly horrible relation. I only had to think of my own work.

In CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, you wouldn't want Kylemore's mother for quids. She makes a hissing cobra look like Mother Teresa. No wonder the poor boy's so mixed up. Actually his dad left something to be desired as a parent too!

In UNTOUCHED, the bad guy is another relative. Gorgeous Matthew's horribly evil uncle, Lord John Landsdowne, has imprisoned our hero as a madman and is making hay with the family fortune. He's also the guy who kidnaps our brave and virtuous heroine Grace and gives her to Matthew as a sex toy. Not someone you want to move into the house next door, I feel!

By the way, this is the Spanish cover of UNTOUCHED, out in September from Random House Mondadori. Isn't it just SOOOO gorgeous? Apparently Por Primera Vez means "for the first time". Nice, huh?

In TEMPT THE DEVIL, Olivia is blessed with a brother who would make you want to be an only child.

And things are even worse on the family front in CAPTIVE OF SIN. Charis, our brave but virtuous heroine (hmm, seeing a pattern here), meets up with the gorgeous Gideon (yep, definitely a pattern!) when she's fleeing her stepbrothers who have beaten her within an inch of her life. They're trying to force her to marry their degenerate friend so they can split her fortune between them. And Gideon's family, frankly, isn't much better.

Oh, well, at least these two have something in common! I'd hate to think my hero and heroine had nothing to talk about on those cold Cornish winter nights when the sea thunders in and the wind howls.

Mind you, talking isn't exactly their first choice of time filler! Snork, as Duchesse would say! I think this is where the birds and the bees come in!

I can think of hundreds, even thousands of books that have relied on evil family members to push a plot along and to provide antagonists for our protagonists. You don't have to look much further than Cinderella or Snow White!

I have a theory that it's something to do with the promise of the family being a haven of love and security. Sadly, it's not always true, but we all think it should be! When someone in the family does the dirty on us, it really raises the stakes.

So my questions for you are:

Why do you think baddies in the family are so popular in romance novels?

Do you have a favorite baddie in a romance novel who's a relative of either the hero or heroine? Why?


Tawny said...

Oooooh. Is it possible? Could it be?

Tawny said...

SWEEEEEEEEEEEET!!! C'mere lil birdie... We're gonna have FUN today!!!

Hey Anna. What a great post, it definitely got me thinking :-) I've used the family hammer a time or two myself, usually a parent since living up to parent's is often a challenge that most people can relate to. Of course, then my own parents started getting complexes so I had to change it up a little LOL.

Lynz Pickles said...

Curses, Tawny! You've foiled my plans to use the GR to achieve world domination! Grrrr! (Have fun with him, by the way! :)

Who me, insane and possibly containing several personalities? Nope, nope, not at all. *cough*

limecello said...

Baddies? Because they're so much more interesting! They've lived more, are more experienced, fall harder, and it means more when they're reformed. Of course... this is all just in fiction.
As for a "baddie" in a family... Nick Ward, yes? Did I get the name right? For Worth Any Price? by Liea Kleypas... :)

Congrats on the GR, Tawny!

Lynz Pickles said...

Umm, yeah, my comment was too long, so I've split it into two parts. *blush*

Why do you think baddies in the family are so popular in romance novels?

I think there are several factors at play here: first of all - and to the authors here, I don't mean this in a negative way, you know I love you all and read your books obsessively - it's convenient. Most books tend to need a villain, and making said baddie a family member kills two birds with one stone: you've got your bad guy, and you've also got an opportunity for major angst as a result of said bad guy's treatment of the hero/ine. Most novels also need at least some angst, so this is a good thing. It's an easy way of adding depth to your characters and can also prop up your plot. But convenience and ease aren't necessarily bad things; I know that I love me some horrible relatives.

Secondly, it allows nature vs. nurture to come into play. As a society, I think we're all very aware of the fact that the home you're raised in has a huge impact on you. But we also love to analyze how much of who you are is about good old human nature. When you take a character who was raised in an abusive home, you've got an automatic internal struggle.* Their heart is all focused on the basic human desire to be in love and to be with the one they love, but their mind is wary of romantic relationships based on their past. This is perhaps more prevalent with evil exes, but does also apply to family life. How many heroines have been afraid of giving their hearts to a man because one of their parents had an unreciprocated love towards the other? How many heroes are afraid to let people in because of abuse in their pasts?

A third reason is that authors are inspired by... well, everything. And everything is about what's around you. Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that all their friends have perfectly wonderful relatives? Real-life villains came from families, and we sometimes learn about these families when we study the villains. The baddies in your own life have families, too. Isn't it entrancing to know two people from the same family who are completely different, especially when one has a moral code you agree with and the other doesn't?

Reason number four, as Tawny mentioned, is that readers can relate to it. I love finding a book where a character's relatives makes mine look good, because honestly, some of mine could make decent romance novel villains. When this happens, not only does it make me feel better about myself, it also helps me establish that all-important emotional connection with that character. If I were to talk out loud to the character - which I never do. Nope, never. Not even when I'm mad at him/her - I'd say something along the lines of Hey, we have something in common! I want to read about how you deal with your family issues and compare it to how I dealt with mine!

I could go on, but you've probably already stopped reading because honestly, this comment could be an entire blog entry on its own. Also, it's very late and I want to sleep so I can heal the stupid scratches I got courtesy of Niko pulling on the leash when I was off-balance. I fell down the porch stairs and landed on the driveway. Ouch.

*As far as I'm concerned, relatives who were abusive in the past can be the villains if their actions were harmful enough to cause extensive damage in the present. It's a less-active form of villainy, but they're still baddies.

Lynz Pickles said...

Do you have a favorite baddie in a romance novel who's a relative of either the hero or heroine? Why?

Uh, your evil relatives, Anna, because they're so gorgeously, totally, insanely over the top. They're awesome! Dillon's dad in Beth's books. Winston from Mary Balogh's Secrets of the Heart, as he was the only reason I kept reading despite how boring the rest of the book was. Olivia's father in Jo Goodman's The Price of Desire. Clemence's uncle and cousin in Louise Allen's final Ravenhurst book, for best threats. Lizzie's brothers, from Nicola Cornick's Fortune's Folly trilogy. I could go on, but... hey, didn't I just type this bit a minute ago? In my first comment? *checks* Yup, I did. Read it for more information.

Helen said...

Well done Tawny have fun with him

Anna I love your bad relatives in your books and Lynz I too thought about Lizzies's brothers Monty and Tom ( I am reading Lizzie's story now) I have read some great ones over the years but I always find it hard to remember when someone asks me to think of them.

I do love the Spanish cover Anna and I am so looking forward to reading Captive Of Sin

Have Fun

Tawny said...

Hehe, does this mean the Rooster has tips on dominating the world, Lynz? If so, we'll be plotting all day instead of writing *g*

I'm loving the baddie feedback. What wonderful insights so far (and hey, its only midnight here). I totally agree, so far, with everything thats been said *g* And with that blanket statement, the rooster and I are going to bed.

But not together. For some reason, he's offended by my feather pillows *beg*

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Tawny.

Hi Anna,
You do have the loveliest covers. The heroine in Samantha James' "My Lord Conqueror" has an evil half sister. Can't think of anymore right now.

PinkPeony said...

Hi Anna...congrats, Tawny!

I think you write what you know and most of us have at least one crazy/evil person in the family...if I wrote about some of the stuff that went on in my family, no one would believe me. :)

Kylemore's Mommy Dearest comes to mind as an evil character. I'm partial to evil female characters.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am still half asleep and have to get myself off to work but I had to put in my two cents. One more reason to use a relative as the bad guy is it adds a degree of difficulty in getting hero or heroine away from the situation. Especially in the historicals it is all about blood ties. At this moment I can't call a specific name or title to mind but taking anyone away from a blood relative was almost impossible with the exception of marrying them. Even then it was usually a problem because you had to have approval from the bad guy.

Anna Sugden said...

Yay Tawny!! At least he has no fear that you will eat him (though can't speak for your kitties!)

Great topic, Anna. I agree with the others; I think we all have families with odd-bods, villains and ne'er-do-wells. So, we can all identify with them.

And hey, at least the reader doesn't feel so strange!

I can't think of many off the top of my head, though I can't stand Eve and Roarke's parents in the JD Robb In Death series! And The vilain in Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club is pretty nasty!

Oh and don't forget the nasty exes - husbands and wives - they're good fodder for villains!

Joan said...

THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE-twisted, insane fanatic uncle....CHECK

THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE--Self absorbed, morally berefit father...CHECK

THE BARBARIAN'S SOUL--envy ridden, power hungry clansman CHECK

Huh, hadn't even thought about.

These guys just were THERE when I wrote these stories. Machinations and loyalty at the deepest levels betrayed.

I agree with Dianna's perceptions...these types of ties are HARDER at least emotionally and in historical time settings societally to get away from.

Kind of like Tawny and the GR today.... :-)

Christie Kelley said...

Great topic, Anna! I love bad family members too! But then again, I think it rings true for a lot of people. The stories I could tell (but won't) about some of my (and my extended) family's dysfunctionality is unbelievable.

When I wrote Every Night I'm Yours, I deliberately wrote my hero a wonderful mother and, albeit dead, a wonderful father. You know what? I had a really hard time coming up with a good internal conflict for him. He'd had a happy childhood, loving parents, what could be wrong with him?

Now I'm writing a hero with more angst than I know what to do with. Why? Completely dysfunctional parents. It's really a lot of fun :)

Back to the cave for me. My angsty hero is calling.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow! TAWNY got the GR! Go you, Girl!

Fun post, Anna! I think as everyone already said you can relate to rotten relatives. If you don't have them yourself, you have a friend or acquaintence who does. In this case you frequently get to hear about it. Ha!

Also, as Christy and Joanie said, they're fun to write and frequently just There as the natural villain because they really, really, REALLY don't like/envy/hate your hero or heroine. Perfect for creating conflict, and really "real" in terms of how life often (alas) works.

grins. Okay, back to the cave for me!

EilisFlynn said...

Which author was it -- the one who wrote Writing the Blockbuster, I think -- who said that making the villain someone related to the protagonist makes the conflict personal. And I've found that's true in what I've read; it certainly worked out that way in my books, including my superhero book, Introducing Sonika, when the hero is confronted with the relatives no one wants to deal with. And who hasn't ever had a relative like that?

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Anna - you're right. The relatives are either evil or they're dead - take your pick. I seem to be partial to orphans myself - or I make the evil ones stepmothers or stepfathers. Somehow I can handle the evil better that way.

Torturing the characters in their youth does make for a more interesting adult. They've either risen above their particular dilemma or become twisted themselves. Sane and normal is nice - but not too exciting.

I was afraid you were going to ask about real twisted relatives (grin). I'm about to head out to a family event and I could already see the repercussions from answering that one(big grin).

Joan said...

The relatives are either evil or they're dead - the case of paranormals...BOTH! (and not necessarily GONE)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Joan said: the case of paranormals...BOTH! (and not necessarily GONE)

Bwah-ha-ha! I like the way you think, JT...Hmmm...I can USE this...

Louisa Cornell said...

Congrats, Tawny! I wonder if your idea of fun and the GR's idea of fun are one and the same???

Definitely food for thought, La Campbell. And yes, I have read Gerard Durrell's books. I love them!

I must admit Kylemore's mother makes Joan Crawford look like Donna Reed in comparison!

In my second manuscript The Raven's Heart the kindly grandfather is a monster. You just don't find out until the end.

I have to agree that there isn't a twist more evil or more likely to mess with a hero or heroine's head than to find themselves at the mercy of a relative who should have loved them.

Barbara Monajem said...

Yes! I've read Gerald Durrell. My copy of My Family and Other Animals is held together by a rubber band.

As for baddies, I really like the bad guy who is redeemed in the next book and becomes a hero! Of course, he has to be redeemable, so he can't be TOO twisted.

An example of this delightful transformation is in Christine Merrill's The Inconvenient Duchess and An Unladylike Offer. The hero's brother is the villain in the first book and the hero of the second. Fun!

Erica Ridley said...

Now that you mention it, all of mine have evil kinfolk too! Hmmm. Wonder if it's more prevalent in the historical genre, or if the same is true in contemporary...

Great post! (And as I'm off to Spain at the end of the month, I will try to snag a copy of Por Primera Vez!)

P.S. to Joan: hahaha!

Pissenlit said...

Congrats Tawny!

I think family baddies in the story help you identify with the protag more. What I can't decide is if it makes you feel better about your own family baddies or if your own family baddies cause you to have more enmity towards the protag's. :D

No favourite baddies come to mind at the moment. Then again, I haven't had any caffeine today(hopefully this whole comment made sense).

*off in search of caffeine*

Cassondra said...

Hello all, and Tawny, smooth move!

Whatcha gonna do with the chook?

Anna, this is a great blog.

I do this. Use screwed up parents.

Because, mostly, I need to give my main characters issues. With no issues everything is peachy. Peachy is boring. Two perfectly normal, sane people meeting one another and falling in love without conflict--no story.

We all get our issues from somewhere, and it's usually our parents. I'm not a parent basher, by any means. But they do make us what we are to a large degree and it's a relationship which is VERY difficult to get past--even if you're estranged it still has some effect on you. You're estranged for a reason after all.

So I give my characters issues and they usually come from their upbringing. If they don't, they're not deep enough for what I write. They're not believable when the chips are down and the mask comes off. Often, that angst in upbringing is caused by a parent.

Especially with a contemporary, it's difficult to make deeply rooted issues in a character through what would be "larger than life" events. Tortured heroes and heroines have to be tortured by SOMETHING after all.

Parent, step-parent, absence of parent, abandonment, sibling abuse...SOMETHING. I mean if it's your boss who does it, you'll just quit and find another job. The only people who can damage a person badly, internally or externally, is somebody they can't get away from.

That's usually a)prisoner of war torture, or b)parental torture. c)other relative with power of parent. Outer or inner...doesn't much matter. Torture is torture.

Oh...that sounds awful, doesn't it.

I kind of don't see much way around it.

Cassondra said...

Joanie said:

The relatives are either evil or they're dead - the case of paranormals...BOTH! (and not necessarily GONE)

SNORK! Okay, I spewed water.


jo robertson said...

Great post, Anna. I love the "bad" relatives!

Congrats, Tawny, it's been a while for you. Can the rooster help with your unpacking or are you all done?

I think bad relatives as antagonists are so interesting because of the paradox. They're SUPPOSED to love you, support you, and care for you, so when they're evil, when they sacrifice the hero or heroine for their own selfish purposes, they seem even more degenerate.

jo robertson said...

One of my favorite degenerate relatives is Eve Dallas' father, who actually isn't named for many books into the series. We get a little more of his character, or definitely lack thereof, with each book.

As far as fathers go, he's at the bottom of the barrel, but in another paradox, it's likely that Eve becomes the person she is, as a result of the abuse suffered at the hands of her father.

jo robertson said...

Ooops, sorry, should've named that series for those who haven't read it. I was referring to Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb's "In Death" series.

Pat Cochran said...

Family baddies are found so often
in romance novels because almost
every family had a questionable
relative. I won't mention any names
but I can think of a couple who are
not exactly the shiniest stars in
our family crown! I've even been
somewhat snarky a time or two!

I've been reading to my grandkids
recently so Cinderella's evil
step-mother and step-sisters come
to mind. They seem to fit the bill
quite well!

Pat Cochran

susan said...

Baddies are great in books because they add excitement, unrest, blood boiling, scary and sometimes sad to say even a romance affect to the books. Strange how a baddie gets more attention than a normal person. ha susan L.

catslady said...

It's all been said but I agree - we all have some and we'd love to get back at a few of them and since we don't usually do it in real life, a book is a wonderful way to do it vicariously lol.

MsHellion said...

Here are my theories:

1.) As authors and writers, we don't want "unlikable" heroes/heroines, so the quickest way to make us empathize with them is to give them a crummy childhood. Fortunately in early 19th century history, this won't be hard to do, where sparing the rod-spoiling the child mentality is big; everyone (including children) had the 14 hour work day; and no one had a therapist to explain why they were screwed up. Anyway, instead of not liking the hero/heroine, we now get to hate the people who raised them and admire the hero/heroine for rising above the crummy upbringing. (Twofold benefit: built in conflict and built in character admiration)

2.) As writers (more than readers), we pretty much all had crap childhoods. (Why else are we writers if we weren't creating worlds we can escape to that are "better" than ours and in which we can make the outcome we want to happen happen?) Writing is cheap therapy. Creating a STEPMOTHER character makes a nice placard for all the crap some of our bad relatives did when we are relatives. After all, we still can't afford therapy, so by us writing this all down and working through it, it's our version of realizing, "Yep, I have a crappy relative, but I'm okay."

Joan said...

Wow, that's a lot of crappiness MsHellion.....

I think your theory is true in some cases. I was blessed with a non-crappy childhood, thank goodness...though I had extended family who had varying levels of meanness etc. in them to draw from...

Annie West said...

Congratlations, Tawny, on the GR.

Anna, I love the topic! You're right about the number of heroes and heroines who have less than sterling heroines. I remember writing a book where I was determined the character would have a large, loving family. It made it so much harder for my character to be alone and vulnerable I had to kill off most of the family.

You've done some wonderfully rotten relatives! I'm looking forward to see who else you create in this vein.

There's something so devastating about having a family member behave badly. The sense of betrayal is so much stronger. Like you, I started thinking about my own stories and found they were littered with rotten relatives (not all, thank goodness, but some). My next release BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INEXPERIENCED WIFE, has a heroine who's actions are partly dictated by her hated, abusive grandfather, even beyond the grave. She'd had a terrible childhood because of him and as a result developed a deep distrust of rich, powerful Sicilian men. She thought she was finally free of his influence. The story opens when she finds she's not and he'd set her up to marry a rich, powerful, Sicilian man or face terrible consequences (which will impact on a family member she does love).

The extra fun part was that Dario, the hero, had had a loving family and his motivation is all about fulfilling family expectation and honour but somehow that got a little skewed along the way. Both are driven by loyalty to family in a lot of ways and by hatred of the same rotten character. It was great using family as a driver for the h&h because they had such a huge influence on who the h&h had become and how they saw the world.


Annie West said...

Duh, early morning typing. I meant to say 'the number of heroes and heroines who have less than sterling RELATIVES'!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hello Anna!

Interesting post.

I think bad family members are so popular because they remind us of someone in our own families. And don't let anyone kid you, we all have them.

There's the uncle you might not leave your children alone with. Or the great aunt who'll listen to your problems in confidence and turn around and tell the whole world. Maybe the slightly batty cousin-in-law who goes through manic fazes that exhaust your mind! Or the family horder? Maybe you have a darker family member, one who actually "knows where the bodies are hidden"! (and other than the horder, no I don't have any of these in my family!)

So when we see those bad family members get their comuppance in a book we feel a little bit better!

Suzanne Welsh said...

And my current MIP (mess in progress?) My heroine's father abandoned her into the care of her grandmother at one day of age! (He had good reasons, I promise you he did.) But Helena? The evil grandmother? Yep, a real manipulative witch.

MsHellion said...

Joan: I have 1 friend who had a non-crappy childhood. I study her like Jane Goodall studies gorillas because I just can't believe she exists in nature. All the rest of my friends: crap childhoods. *LOL*

Now, on the whole, in perspective, it wasn't godawful, because a) I lived through it and b) I'm not on medication now because of it. So clearly it could have been worse. But it could have been better. *LOL* Growing up broke, you learn to entertain yourself. It's not the worst thing to happen to you--just makes holidays sucky when you return to school and everyone else got an Xbox and you got a pair of deer hooves and a can of mushroom soup.

And it's not even the "growing up broke" stuff. That's practically a character growth there. It's the stuff parents will say to you, in a bid to make you better for the world. Like, "You're not that pretty, so you need to study harder." That's probably true, but was that necessary to say?

What can I say? I'm easily scarred.

Anna said...

I think having family members as the baddies packs an emotional punch. The people who are supposed to nurture and care for you are doing the exact opposite. Who else do you have to turn to if your family has it out for you?

Anna Campbell said...

Better late than never, hey, guys?

I'm away from home in Brisbane for the Brisbane Writers Festival. Had a panel with Madame Christine yesterday that went very well. Romancing the Tone! Then today it's Escapism in Dark Times. Then Sunday we're running a workshop. She'll be sick of me! Anyway, I don't have regular email access - currently in an internet cafe before I head off to the festival.

Thanks so much for popping by and talking to a MIA blogger!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Miss Tawny, congratulations on the chook! It's been a while since he sampled your hospitality, my friend. I hope he wasn't too disruptive.

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, laughed at parents getting complexes. I've had to put in a really good John into my latest opus because of Lord John. My brother John was most displeased at his appearance in the green monster and I had to make it up to him.

Lynz, better luck next time!

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Lime (who must be pining for the rooster!), that's a whole other kettle of fish - baddies who reform!

Lynz, what a fascinating take on my blog. Wow, much food for thought there. Actually those short cuts aren't necessarily a bad thing, I agree - the stakes are automatically high when it's someone close and you can't get someone much closer as a villain than a family member, can you?

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Lynz, what a fabulous selection of unspeakable relatives! It's funny, when I started to think of this topic, there were just so many. As I said, start with Cinderella and count!

Helen and Lynz, thanks for mentioning my baddies. I didn't realise it was such a pattern until I had the idea for this blog. And there was a rotten relative in every single one of my books! There's a rotten relative in the latest one too. Clearly I have a hang up. I must examine my family tree in greater detail to find out where it came from.

Helen, thanks for saying you're looking forward to COS. Not long now!

Anna Campbell said...

Tawny, are you trying to corrupt the rooster? You wicked gal!

Jane, I loved My Lord Conqueror. It's on my keeper shelf. That wicked half sister was a doozy, wasn't she?

Anna Campbell said...

Jen, poor Kylemore, with that awful mother. She was out and out evil. His father was just completely off his tree!

Ooh, Dianna, that's kinda the plot for Captive of Sin! You're so right. Especially for a woman, you were generally the property of some man or other and if he was a baddie, basically you were up the creek without a paddle.

Anna Campbell said...

With Regencies, nasty exes aren't quite so prevalent. But then I guess the legal situation means husbands and brothers, etc., can come into play as baddies with real power over our brave heroine!

JT, I know exactly what you mean. I don't sit down and say what awful relative can I write today. They just seem to come up out of my subconscious! Ack!

Anna Campbell said...

Christie, you're so right. It just gives us so much extra material to work with, doesn't it?

Hey, Jeanne, thanks for swinging by. Glad you got a kick out of the topic. Good luck in the cave!

Eilis, how interesting! I had no idea this stuff was included in how to books. You're right - it does make it incredibly personal!

Anna Campbell said...

Donna, a piece about real twisted relatives could end up with awful stuff in the mailbox or a legal suit! I don't really want either! Interesting comment about the step relatives. Charis's evil relatives in COS are stepbrothers and her stepfather.

Snort, JT! I forget these days that the last breath isn't necessarily the last breath.

Anna Campbell said...

Louisa, I think that's it - we all have imprinted on our psyche that our family, particularly close family, are meant to be on our side. When they're not, it packs a huge emotional punch!

Barbara, I love the redeemed baddy too. It happened in very early Georgette Heyer. The Duke of Avon (who goes by another name in the Black Moth, but it's definitely him) is such a rotter in the first book and he makes a marvellous, if very complex and dark, hero of These Old Shades.

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Erica, good luck with getting PPV. Isn't that the loveliest cover? I haven't seen my author copies yet. I LURVE me some foreign editions. I hope you have a lovely time in Spain - I visited there in 1985 and absolutely loved it.

Hey, Pissenlit, you made perfect sense. Actually some baddies that come to mind without thinking too hard are Jane Eyre's family. Whoo-eee, were they nasty pieces of work!

Anna Campbell said...

Cassondra, as ever, you hit the nail on the head. You need those deep, visceral conflicts to make the story live, don't you? Fantastic take on the blog! Thank you!

Jo, you're the second person to mention Eve Dallas's dad. I've only read the first one in the series. Sounds like I should get the rest! I love me a good tortured heroine (and hero!).

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, maybe family baddies are so popular because they're imprinted on our consciousness through all those fairytales people told us. I mean, go past Cinderella and Snow White. Think of Beauty and the Beast, for example!

Susan, it's interesting, isn't it? I went to a really interesting talk yesterday by Jeff Lindsey who writes the Dexter books. He says part of the appeal of those books is that people like to explore those outer edges of behaviour. I think he's right. By the way, he was GREAT! If you get a chance to hear him, don't hesitate.

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, catslady, now I'm worried. Am I getting back at people through my evil relatives? Bwahahahahahaha! It's certainly a less self-destructive way than throwing a brick at them, much as we might occasionally get the urge to do that!

Hellion, another fascinating take on the blog. Wow, I'm really enjoying everybody's comments on this. So your theory is that we write baddies who are relatives and then our heroes and heroines triumph over them and it's a way of rewriting an unhappy past? I think there might be something in that! Must ponder further...

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, that grandfather in your next release - whoo-weee, he's some piece of work! Gave me the shivers, even from the grave. I had to laugh - I think you're right. Good relatives die and bad relatives live to cause havoc. Tis the way of fiction! Thanks so much for popping by!

Suz, you're suggesting a psychological conspiracy between readers and writers and I think there's something in that. It's cathartic for everyone involved to see these bad relatives get their comeuppance!

Anna Campbell said...

Suz, new book sounds great!

Hellion, you've got so much food for stories there! That's horrible about the pretty thing - my tale like that was my school PE teacher telling me I should be a great swimmer because "Fat people float." Um, great, thanks!

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, that's a really interesting point. The bad relatives make our hero/heroine that much more vulnerable and that makes for a better story!

Phew, OK, caught up and not a moment too soon. Got to go off and play at the writers fest!

I'll pop back in probably tomorrow and answer anybody who has commented.

Thanks again for keeping this going while I've been off gladhanding and kicking up my heels! ;-)

Becke Davis said...

So many books I've liked had awful relatives, it's hard to single out one or two. I've noticed in my stories I tend to kill off the parents and leave my characters without so much as a sibling to fall back on. I don't understand why I do that, since I enjoyed being the oldest of a bunch of kids in real life.

Becke Davis said...

Oh, and Tawny, big congrats on capturing the GR -- you haven't had him in quite awhile, have you?

MsHellion said...

So your theory is that we write baddies who are relatives and then our heroes and heroines triumph over them and it's a way of rewriting an unhappy past?

TOTALLY. *LOL* I'm all about rewriting my past to make me happy about my crap one. But I don't make my relatives "bad" necessarily--I make them say callous things a lot (like: "You're not that pretty"), but I save the really mean stuff for "high school flashback" stuff, pure NEVER BEEN KISSED or MEAN GIRLS stuff. School was my hell. My relatives were just the cherry. *LOL*

NICE about the PE Coach. I think all PE Coaches must be that sort of person...narrow-eyed and mean, like a horse that's narrow between the eyes (a usual trait that the horse is not as smart and is mean to boot.) I don't suppose you were quick enough to say, "Good to know. If we were lost at sea, you'd drown--that is something to look forward to."

Anna Campbell said...

Becke, I've heard a theory for why there are so many orphans in romance. It automatically gets you cheering those characters on because they're up against it from the start. I think there's something in that. And I think that also plays into the awful relatives idea too.

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha! I wish I'd known you in high school! You would have been just my sort of gal. Sadly, I only ever come up with great lines like that after the fact. Love it, Hellion. Actually I ended up hitting her with a softball bat - completely accidentally - but nobody ever believed it at the time and nobody has ever believed it since. So she was narrow eyed and limping the last time I saw her ;-)