A book's villain can really make or break a story, and a strong, well-rounded antagonist is as central to a book as the protagonist. Ciara Knight, author of The Neuamrian Chronicles, knows a thing or two about creating fully developed villains thanks to her deliciously evil Queen Mandessa Valderak. Today, Ciara discusses how her antagonist came to be and how she came to write such a fleshed out villain. So sit back, relax and read on! Take it away, Ciara!
When I wrote Queen Mandessa Valderak in The Neumarian Chronicles, I knew more about her than I described in book one, Escapement. The queen wasn’t just a character born at the start of the series, but a living, breathing creature with a history.
Authors tend to avoid too much back story, worrying that they’ll lose their reader, but writing convincing characters makes it imperative to know and understand their social, economic, religious and family history — even if we don’t immediately share it with readers.
I first became acquainted with Queen Valderak when she was a small child named Mandi. An orphaned girl with advanced intelligence, whose mother suffered from Schizophrenia. After her mother turned to self-medicating with street drugs to stay the voices, Mandi was placed in foster care. Struggling to find her place in a family that wasn’t her own, she sought affection in inappropriate ways, alienating her foster parents. As an unloved child, who had to bend at the will of her foster parents, Mandi developed a strong desire to become master of her own destiny. This social history began to mold Mandi into a three dimensional villain with reasons for her hatred and dysfunctional ways.
Most villains are not born evil, although, there are sometimes genetic markers for evil acts, usually there are also environmental influences as well. This is why it’s imperative for authors to dig deep when creating a believable villain. In The Neuamrian Chronicles, our antagonist isn’t born evil, but her aggressive nature develops during her childhood, stemming from being unwanted in a foreign home. This creates an environment rich with reason for our queen to hate and resent family, producing a villain so vile, she tortures her own child into submission. Of course, this doesn’t all happen overnight, more occurs to produce a villain who attempts genocide of a species she’s jealous of, a group of individuals with powers that could threaten her upward path to becoming a supreme ruler.
Mandi first discovered her ability to take a life at an early age. When her foster mother brought home another biological baby, Mandi is once again dismissed as a person of interest and utilized only to cook, clean and care for the small child. One day she accidentally takes the life of the new baby in an attempt to silence it. Blamed for the death of the child, yet unable to prove it, her foster mother declares her hatred for Mandi.
As time progressed and Mandi became a young adult, she developed a psychiatric disorder. She believed the world’s sole purpose was to conspire against her. With the knowledge of her mother’s lack of discipline and wasted life, Mandi chose another path, one of dominance. Her desire to control and rule over all became her drug of choice, ultimately leading to her downfall during the Great War of 2185 when she lost two limbs and an eye. The loss didn’t deter her, instead, it fueled her desire to rule not only the ones she loved, but the entire world.
Obsessed with power she committed unspeakable acts to secure her position of queen, leading her people in a war under the disillusionment that Neuamrians are dangerous creatures who will murder humans and Kantians in their sleep.
Once the seed of fear was planted in the people, she secured her place as supreme ruler, and the most hated person on the planet. At that point, she became a dictator with the motivation to be truly evil.
Curious to learn more about Queen Valderak and the other characters in The Neuamrian Chronicles? Then be sure to pick up the series today, including the latest installment, Pendulum! And for more YA authors and insights, visit our Everything Young Adult Page!