We have all been there. Reading a novel and a character that we have joined on a journey that has grown close to our heart perishes and all we are left with is the tears. We were emotionally invested, we agreed with them, my goodness we knew them. What a loss. Why would the writer do this? Of course, when we drag ourselves away from the release of reading, we understand. The writer’s intentions had been achieved. What is bad makes a good story. There has to be sorrow for there to be joy. It is the proverbial oxymoron.

Richard Gough, The Cheerleader

Richard Gough, The Cheerleader

Since I was a child, I have always been interested in villains. In every story I read, every movie I watched and every game I played, I always wanted to be the villain. This was not in a nasty way, I just liked them because they were different. There was usually an interesting back-story that created them. When I watched Sleeping Beauty, I could not relate to her, but Maleficent – now there was someone who was different. She did not play by the rules. She had the gall to suggest the rules might be wrong. In some cases, it was the villains who were the brave ones for standing up to the norms of society.

When I set about writing ‘The Cheerleader’ it was not the hero with whom I was initially concerned. To ‘do the right thing’ is obvious. There are a few different types of heroes – anti-heroes, superheroes and the oppressed, to name but a few. But to be bad, well that really opens up some questions.

I began with my villain. I needed my killer to have a reason for murder. It had to make sense. Why go out on a killing spree in the first place? It got me thinking about the villains of society. We find them everywhere. Some are from broken backgrounds and never have a chance. Some wear suits and sit behind desks crushing the lives of their employees (I am sure we can all relate to this at some point or another.) Others are more overt and are absolute dictators. Some are not bad at all, just portrayed that way by the media.

Can there be a good villain though? Is there a scale of villainy? This is what forms the basis of The Cheerleader. What would happen if a villain systematically murdered other villains? We go about our day-to-day lives encountering a wide variety of people. Every time we sit on a train there could be a potential villain within our vicinity. Heck, we could even be that potential villain in the eyes of some.

For me it is the aspect of secrecy that makes crime and thriller novels such a joy to read. We suspect everyone. That is what makes us continue. It is the unknown and our thirst to see if we were correct. So why not have a killer who kills villains? Why not have someone who is trying to make the world a better place, who genuinely believes they are doing good, when they are adding to the problem?

Regardless it is the villain that is the centre of my focal point. It is the villain for whom I write and for whom I read. I still remember the days of going into toy shops and always asking for the toy of the ‘baddie’ despite my parents’ wishes for me to go down the ‘goodie’ route. It never sat well with me and still does not.

You see it is all about the villain. It is easy to be good, but it is fun to be bad.

By Richard Gough, author of The Cheerleader. Published by The Book Guild and available from Amazon, The Book Guild and all good bookshops

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