What would a story be, without its villain? As we’ve established, bad guys come in all guises, from the school bully to the lecherous suitor, to the demented next door neighbor with his endlessly-barking dog that never stops yodeling even to breathe (not that I have such a neighbor. Oh no, not me. That was just a random example). In my humble opinion, a good villain gives depth and interest to a tale. Without bad guys, all would go well for the protagonist—far too well—and who the heck wants to read that?
So, a good villain is as necessary as a stellar hero. It all has to do with that darkness vs. light business. In many cases, the villain is like a big, pointy stick prodding the heroine/hero to accomplish what s/he must, and as such embodies that golden word: motivation.
But what if the villain in question is also the most dastardly of things: a member of the family? This is the cruel fate which befalls Clara Allen, heroine of my new release, Dead Handsome: a Buffalo Steampunk Adventure. Clara’s devious grandfather—as indecently aged as he is wealthy and mean—never liked the man his daughter married. Following his daughter’s untimely death, he allowed Clara and her father to remain in the fine home he’d entitled to his daughter. But to hold the property, Clara must toe her grandfather’s line, which means being meek and married by age 21.
What’s a girl to do? When our story opens, Clara has only days to conform to her grandfather’s wishes or get tossed out along with her dependents—many of whom are children—into the cold streets of Victorian Buffalo. But Clara has a secret: she can raise the dead. She decides to resurrect a murdered prisoner, believing he’ll be nothing more than a blank slate on which she can write, someone she won’t have to love, honor or obey. Anyway, she reasons, what could possibly go wrong?
I enjoyed creating the character of Clara’s grandfather, Randolph Van Hamelin. I could see him so clearly in my mind’s eye: a wizened, sour-faced fellow with a head like a skull and an iron grip on all he sought to control. There’s always the danger of overplaying such a character, but Van Hamelin came to me easily and tended to display his nasty nature in ways with which I just couldn’t argue: abusing his steam servants (the only sort he could keep, because the human ones tended to desert like rats from a leaky Erie canal barge) and forcing his granddaughter to crawl to him for favor—which he then refuses to grant. And Clara does come crawling, a thing she’s sworn she’ll never do, but only in an effort to hold on to her resurrected man, who turns out charming and Irish and oh, so irresistible.
What’s Randolph Van Hamelin’s motivation? That’s an interesting question to contemplate. He could have shrugged off Clara’s disobedience, plumbed his soul for a little mercy and granted her some independence. He could have tossed a bit of money in the direction of the waifs under her care. As he enjoys telling Clara, he was a penniless boy, once. But he delights far too much in watching others squirm. Clara should thank him, really. Without his unreasonable demands, no doubt she never would have ended up with a man so completely dead handsome.
Title of Book: Dead Handsome: a Buffalo Steampunk Adventure
Author: Laura Strickland
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Clara Allen needs a husband in order to keep a roof over the heads of her assorted dependents, a roof her nasty grandfather will re-appropriate unless she is married by her 21st birthday, only a few days away. Strong-minded, unwilling to take orders from any man, she decides to solve her problem by raising a murdered prisoner from the dead and marrying him. She expects an empty-headed puppet; she certainly never dreams he’ll be so devastatingly handsome.
Liam McMahon doesn’t recall much about his life before his hanging in the prison yard, other than being Irish. He does remember the kiss Clara bestowed as she brought him back to life. Every time he looks at her, his desire gets out of hand. But his former life is chasing him down like a steam engine, and when a couple of mad geniuses decide he’d make a fine experiment, he wonders if he’ll live long enough to claim Clara’s heart or if he’ll die all over again.
The room needed to be warm–she had learned that during past experiments. It helped if the subject awakened in an environment that was moist and heated, akin to the womb. And the breath of life was more easily received by warmed flesh.
Still obviously uneasy, Georgina rejoined Clara at the table. “You know you’re going to have to touch him.”
“I’ve already touched him. Ruella and I stripped and washed him down.”
“You’re going to have to kiss him.”
“It isn’t a kiss. It’s a resurrection.”
The room had warmed quickly. Now clouds of steam billowed and surrounded the table, lending an unreality to this thing she undertook. It blurred the edges of her vision and her reason.
She rested her fingertips lightly against the corpse’s chest and closed her eyes. He no longer felt cold but he did feel quite dead. She’d learned the difference over these many months. Against all the distractions she quieted her mind and reached for the power within.
It slept much the way the man’s flesh did, resting in oblivion. Like a separate entity within her, it mellowed and simmered until she called upon it, when it flared to life, bringing life.
She let the power grow and flare and burgeon inside of her because she would need a great quantity of it, more than ever before. When it threatened to overspill her like hot water in a steaming kettle she opened her eyes.
She felt full; she felt ready. She drew a deep breath–deep, deep, deeper than ever before–leaned down and placed her mouth upon that of the corpse.
Born in Buffalo and raised on the Niagara Frontier, Laura Strickland has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. To her the spunky, tenacious, undefeatable ethnic mix that is Buffalo spells the perfect setting for a little Steampunk, so she created her own Victorian world there. She knows the people of Buffalo are stronger, tougher and smarter than those who haven’t survived the muggy summers and blizzard blasts found on the shores of the mighty Niagara. Tough enough to survive a squad of automatons? Well, just maybe.
Author Web site: www.laurastricklandbooks.com
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Author Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Strickland/e/B001KHSACW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1