Can a villain be a hero?

 

One of the most common questions I get is – where do your ideas come from? My normal answer is, “My dogs,” because so many of my ideas have come while I am out walking them. It happened again about eighteen months ago. I was walking Hershey and Sadie around the little pond that was right in front of our house in Orting. I was closing in on finishing my book The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver. I was at the point where I was writing what would happen to the villain of the book – the murderer Michael Hollister.

As I walked, a phrase kept running through my head: The Redemption of Michael Hollister. “That’s crazy,” I mumbled to myself. I’d just spent an entire book establishing how rotten to the core he was, and now this voice in my head was whispering to write about his redemption. I put it out of my mind for the moment, and finished writing Thomas Weaver.

When that book was completely done – edited, proofread and ready to be published – the phrase came to me, even stronger than before: The Redemption of Michael Hollister. If you’ve read Thomas Weaver, you know what I did next. I wrote a brief postscript about what ultimately happened to Michael and added the fateful line: Coming Soon – The Redemption of Michael Hollister.

When I was a boy, my dad called that your mouth writing a check you might not be capable of cashing.

Here’s a secret. Beyond the few words I had penned for the end of that book, I had no idea how or why to help Michael find redemption. I honestly didn’t even know if it was possible. Some of my readers sent me messages to the effect of, “Are you crazy? I hate that guy! I don’t want to read a whole book about him.” I get that. I am sympathetic to that viewpoint.

And yet… there was something so strong in my subconscious, pushing me to write it, I knew I had to tackle it… eventually. First, of course, I took a little jaunt around America with my beautiful bride, and wrote a book about that. I also wrote a new book of short stories. I even took another trip around Alaska and wrote a book about that, all in service of not having to sit down and write this book I had committed myself to.

The truth was, I didn’t know if I could really do it. Take a character everyone hates, find the reason for his bad behavior, then set him on a path where he could find his own redemption. Not only that, but I would only write it if Michael’s journey was realistic. Believable. You don’t go to sleep a murderer, then wake up a solid citizen. It’s a lengthy process. I spent a long time in the mind of this bad guy, and eventually, I came to understand him.

That’s part of why this book takes place over a number of years. I had to give Michael plenty of time to absorb the changes in his life and properly react to them. It had to be a gradual awakening, not a sudden epiphany.

Today, after putting off writing this book for so long, I’m happy to say I’m almost there. The end is in sight. I’ll finish the first draft of the book in just a few days.

And you know what? I’m so proud of this story. My friend Terry Schott, the uber-talented Sci-Fi author, tells me it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Understand, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s good – it just means it’s better than what I normally write!

And, I feel a load off my shoulders. Somehow, Michael wormed his way into my psyche on that long-ago walk with the dogs, and he whispered to me – “I deserve redemption, too.”

I’ve done my best to deliver that for him, and I’m excited to get the story out to you and see what you think. I hope you’ll give it a chance.

Cheers!

Shawn

10 comments

  1. I am so looking forward to this book. I did not like the young man, but everybody can have a second chance. The abuse of animals really bugged me. It is funny how ideas came to you. We had horses for several years, and I solved so many of the world problems while cleaning horse stalls.

    1. I think our minds just empty out a bit when we’re with our animals, don’t you? Things that were cloudy, become clear. One thing I can promise: no animals are harmed in the making of this book. 🙂

  2. I’m really looking forward to it! The first book was great, I couldn’t put it down, and would love to read another. It’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out. Go walk your dogs some more, a third story in this series would also be welcome!

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