Wednesday 25 January 2012

Jacobean Inspiration

Blogging about villains on the Choc-Lit site on Friday got me thinking about my own villainous impulses.  American author Karen Rose claims that accidentally reading Edgar Allen Poe at a tender age put her on the path to writing nail-biting thrillers.  With me it was theatre, and specifically the play The White Devil, which I saw in London as a young teen.  I've seen the play a number of times since, notably a performance in Greenwich, with Rupert Everett and Ciaran Hinds amongst the cast, but that early experience is the one that fixed the idea of what made a villain firmly in my head.  I'd gone to see the play with a friend, because a TV actor, on whom we had a severe crush, was starring in it.  Neither of us knew what we were getting into -- I don't know what impression it made on Diane, but I loved it.  Webster is not the sort of play that you would choose for an impressionable adolescent’s first trip to grown-up theatre, - decadence, corruption, excess, evil, dense poetic language -- I didn't understand all the poetry, and still don't, but the sheer fascination of the words and the performances had me hooked.  It simply glittered, and I was entranced.  Just about everyone in the play is a villain of some sort -- Duke, assassin, Cardinal, courtesan. 
Say the word villain now, and it automatically conjures up in my mind sword fights, poisons, women in rich Renaissance costume, eavesdroppers hidden behind tapestries -- the whole works.  And that, I realise, is what is in the back of my mind when writing a thriller -- a Jacobean body count – why have one body when you can have a whole stage full -- and a villain with endless fascination, but no redeeming features at all.  The body count in Never Coming Home is 10 -- and some of them very nasty ends indeed. Where it comes from I don’t know. Perhaps I’m tapping into whatever prompted Webster, with his parade of evil, and Shakespeare, with the last act of Hamlet and a stage littered with corpses.  It's gruesome, scary and a heck of a lot of fun to write -- well not fun, exactly.  At least …

On a much lighter note, today, 25th of January, is Saint Dwynwen’s day.  Not much is known about her, except that she has an affinity to Anglesey, to wells and to the sea and has become the Welsh patron saint of lovers – Wales’s answer to Saint Valentine. 
Happy Saint Dwynwen’s day!