Friday, July 6, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: BY ROYAL COMMAND by Laura Navarre

Sympathy for the Devil:  Crafting a Delectable Villain
By Laura Navarre

Good morning, readers!  I was delighted when Monique offered me this chance to chat about a subject I ADORE but, as a romance author, am rarely asked about:  how to craft a believable and compelling villain.  As a writer of dark medieval and Renaissance romance, I’ve always had a sneaking sympathy for the Devil (i.e., the villain) in fiction.  That’s why I wove the tapestry of my medieval romance, By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012), around a deliciously complex villain.  He was a real historical figure in Anglo-Saxon England whose actual descendent, incredibly, is a personal friend of mine.  And I am proud to say my villain does not twirl his moustache.

Set on the turbulent shores of Anglo-Saxon England during the Viking conquest, By Royal Command is the story of a daughter of royalty who must choose between two warring brothers to save the English throne.  Lady Katrin of Courtenay believes she murdered her cruel husband when she prayed for his death, but she doesn’t mourn him.  Struggling to defend her northern lands, she’s proud and courageous as any man.  Determined never to remarry, she believes manipulation and deceit are a woman’s only true weapons.  But they won’t be enough to save her from her vengeful uncle:  Ethelred, the King of England.  Katrin’s marriage to a powerful ally is the cornerstone of his scheme to defeat the Viking invasion and save the English throne.

Katrin’s uncle, King Ethelred of Wessex, was a real historical figure who ruled England until he was overthrown by the marauding Sweyn Forkbeard in 1013.  Ethelred assumed the English throne at the tender age of thirteen after murdering his brother, which cast a shadow over his reign.  The details I provide about Ethelred and his family are mostly true, although his dark brilliance and sadistic tendencies in the story are my own invention.  He began paying the Danegeld, an annual tribute to buy off the raiding Vikings, in 991. Ethelred’s dilemma was immortalized by Rudyard Kipling, who famously warned, “If once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.”

When Katrin makes the Devil’s bargain with Ethelred and agrees to an arranged marriage to save the man she loves, Ethelred becomes Katrin’s dark ally—invested in her success for his own sinister motives.  And I could have kissed the Goodreads reviewer who read By Royal Command and spoke admiringly of Ethelred as a criminal mastermind.  This is a villain worth his salt.

What are my secrets for crafting a villain both the hero and the reader can respect?   Personally, I need to be fascinated—even a little in love—with the devils in my fiction.  Here’s how I make that happen.
1.     1. Villains are people too.  I make my villains human, giving each one a backstory that’s developed as fully as my hero’s story.  I know all the major milestones of my villain’s childhood, the pivotal catalysts that make him the villain he is.  I give him strengths as well as weaknesses, laudable qualities as well as flaws, human vulnerabilities as well as advantages.  Incidentally, the smarter and stronger the villain, the stronger the hero must be in order to overcome him.  In other words, a good villain makes for a good hero.

    2. Every villain is the hero of his own story.  When you’ve made your villain a real person, it becomes much easier to endow him with strong and believable motivation for his dark deeds.  In the immortal words of screenwriter Robert McKee, no villain should ever twirl his moustache.  Although we may not agree with his values, every villain acts for reasons that seem laudable to him.  Bear in mind that, for most villains—unless they’re insane or invading aliens—random destruction does not make a compelling goal. 

3.    3. Make the villain the hero’s dark mirror.  Here I dip into material from the workshop I teach on “Sympathy for the Devil:  Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction.”  Many of the best, most fascinating heroes reveal unsettling similarities at some level with the villain.  Hero and villain may have common backgrounds, a similar personality trait or passion (in love with the same woman?), or a shared history.  Whereas the hero’s response to these stimuli is to behave heroically, the villain follows a darker path.  Thus, the villain becomes the hero’s dark mirror.  In these cases, the villain’s role is transformative, and his opposition makes possible the dark hero’s redemption.

If you’d like to read more about my villain the King in By Royal Command, my publisher has released an exclusive extended excerpt (the first five chapters!) free for a limited time.  You can find the goods here at  

I love hearing from readers!  Let’s keep in touch:
Happy reading!

By Royal Command
by Laura Navarre
Publisher: Harlequin/Carina Press
Release Date: July 2, 2012

Two brothers. One woman. Three hearts at war.

Katrin of Courtenay's husband is dead-and she doesn't mourn him. He was cruel and controlling, and she doesn't need a husband to hold her northern keep. But her vengeful uncle, the King of England, has other ideas: intent on marrying her off, he's ordered his Viking-bred warrior to return her to court.
On the journey, the Viking captures her interest, and for the first time Katrin understands passion. But her guard is honor-bound to deliver her to the king, and so it is settled-she must wed the mysterious Rafael le Senay, the Baron of Belmaine.

A forced marriage to a stranger slowly becomes something more, and Katrin realizes she is in love with Rafael. But with the shadow of her former lover hanging over her, and Rafael's powerful brother making dangerous plans, can Katrin negotiate the delicate balance between survival and happiness?

Read an Excerpt of By Royal Command:

Author Bio for Laura Navarre

In her other life, Laura Navarre is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men. 

Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Laura writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance with a dash of political intrigue. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Published Author Network (PAN) and a 2009 Golden Heart finalist, she has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award, the Golden Pen, the Duel on the Delta, Hearts through History’s Romance through the Ages, and other awards. 

Previously published with Samhain and Dorchester, Laura’s newest releases are her epic medieval romance By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012) and her sexy romantic intrigue The Russian Seduction (Affluent Press, August 2012, as Nikki Navarre).  She teaches writing workshops on “Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction.”

Laura holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine.  Living in Seattle with her screenwriter fiance and two Siberian cats, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.

Connect with Laura here at:

Giveaway Details:

Laura is giving away one $25 electronic gift card to either or Barnes & Noble to one randomly drawn commenter from the tour.  

Please leave a comment along with your broken up email addy. The contest is open the duration of the tour from June 18 – July 2, 2012. The more chances a person follows and comments on the tour, the greater their chances of winning. 

Good Luck! 

Be sure to visit the other blogs on this tour. Click on the tour button below for a list of participating blogs. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.


  1. Thank you for hosting Laura today, Monique! :)

  2. Looks like a delicious read, thanks for hosting.
    emily.heisler @

  3. How incredibly coincidental that you have a friend who is a descendant of the historical figure that the villain is based on!
    castings at mindspring dot com

  4. Thanks for the awesome giveaway. I would love to read this book. It sounds very good. Please enter me in contest.

  5. Very nice post. Thanks for sharing.


  6. A great villain, one you love to loathe, can make all the difference to a story.


  7. Great post!
    When I'm reading, and the villain has even the smallest bit of goodness in him, I'm all "OH MY GOSH HE IS SO TORTURED I WANT HIM TO HAVE HIS OWN BOOK AND LIVE HEA OMG." Haha ;-) Part of me always falls for the bad guy. What that says about me, however....


  8. Great post and thank you for the giveaway!

    Kelsey O.
    kopsahl48 AT gmail DOT com


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