5 Lessons Learned from My Novel’s Villain by Laura McNeill – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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5 Lessons Learned from My Novel’s Villain

In Center of Gravity, Mitchell Carson is believed by the Mobile, Ala. community to be a charming husband, an intelligent leader, and caring father. Early on into the story, Mitchell wrongly believes his wife to be romantically interested in her childhood friend, the county’s sheriff. After attempting to piece together an affair from a few innocent interactions, Mitchell spirals into a jealous rage and refuses to believe anything that his wife tells him.

During the writing of Center of Gravity, I researched narcisstic personality disorder and sociopathy with a friend of mine who is a licensed professional counselor, read books about these clinical diagnoses, and talked to people who have been married (and divorced from) spouses with jealousy and control issues. Here are some common beliefs that most of these “antagonists” share:

1. I am a good person.

Mitchell Carson truly believes himself to be a good person. Unlike many people, he is lacking a true sense of empathy for others’ plights. While he is able to project a very calm, controlled, and charming exterior (for most of the novel), inside, he observes the world in a very clinical and calculating way.

2. I do everything for the right reasons.

As Mitchell believes himself to be a good person, it makes sense that he also believes that all of his actions ring right and true. Though it doesn’t make sense to Ava, or ring true to their marriage vows, Mitchell is convinced that Ava has betrayed him. Because of this, he believes it is his right to keep the children from his wife and file for divorce and custody.

3. I’m an excellent decision-maker.

Mitchell is a very intelligent person and a smart businessman. He’s risen up in the education system and now holds a prestigious job at a Southern university. He is used to making all of the decisions at work and this bleeds over into his home life, down to the extravagant stairway being built in his home and the high-end groceries he expects Ava to purchase. When Dr. Lucy Olsen, his attorney, or Ava have a differing opinion on a subject, Mitchell flat-out refuses to entertain the idea.

4. Betrayal means war.

As is typical for people with narcissistic personality disorder, after being “wronged” by people, including family or friends, Mitchell cuts that person out of his life. Mitchell began this practice with his own mother, who became an alcoholic, his father, who was away in the Army most of his childhood. He continues shutting people out of his life when he decides Ava is having an affair. Though he doesn’t quite take it to this extreme with his 8 year old, Jack, he gets violently angry when his son doesn’t immediately take his side during his parents’ divorce.

5. I’ll never give up on a goal.

As Ava soon discovers, Mitchell proves a dangerous foe during their divorce and custody battle. Whether it is alienating Ava from her former friends or manipulating community opinions, or influencing his employees at work that he is the victim in the breakup, Mitchell is an almost unstoppable force. When Ava discovers that Mitchell will stop at virtually nothing to destroy her life, she has to shed her naïve personality and shrug off any remaining illusions about the man she married.

I’m so glad that Long & Short Reviews suggested this topic as possible blog post about Center of Gravity. This was an interesting exercise for me, as I would typically come up with a list like this for my protagonist(s), but I have never put together “lessons learned” from one of my villains. Though I already had nailed down his clinical diagnosis, coming up with a list of five personality identifiers really allowed me to examine Mitchell Carson more deeply—and helped me to better understand his actions.

Who are your favorite villains—the characters you love to hate?

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true.

In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?

Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

Enjoy an excerpt:

When your children are stolen, the pain swallows you whole. Logic fades, reason retreats. Desperation permeates the tiniest crevices of your mind. Nothing soothes the ache in your wounded soul.

Right in front of me, my sweet, charmed life fell to pieces. Everything destroyed; a hailstorm’s wrath on a field of wildflowers. All I’d known—gone. Foolish me, I’d believed in magic, clung tight to false promises. The lies, spoken from tender lips, haunt me now, follow me, and whisper into my ear like a scorned lover.

What’s left is emptiness.

Give up, a voice urges. Let go.

No! I argue back. My children aren’t gone. Not yet. Precious and delicate, tiny fossils, they exist in glass-boxed isolation. Hidden. Protected.

And so tonight, I run. Blood pulses through my legs, my muscles protest; my lungs scream for more oxygen. Thick storm clouds brew in the distance. The rain falls in blinding sheets. The force of it pricks my skin like needles, but the pain only makes me push harder.

I will rescue them.

Lightning flashes across the wet driveway. The bulk of his truck looms large in the black night. I skid to a stop and catch my breath, pressing a hand to my heaving chest.

They’re here. My children are here.

Thunder booms and crashes, nearer now, the wind whips my hair. A gust tosses tree branches to the ground. Birds cry and flutter to safety. An escaped sandbox bucket spins, clattering on the blacktop.

I grasp the railing and pull myself up the steps. At the top, the door’s shiny-slick with water and humidity. Mother Nature howls and drowns out my knocking.

“Hello! Can you hear me?” With my palm open wide, I slap at the barrier, willing it to open. I will rescue my children. I will rescue them . . . or I will die trying.

About the Author:

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.

Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and Otis literary agency in New York. Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.

She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in interactive technology from the University of Alabama. She is a native of Upstate New York and currently resides near the Alabama Gulf Coast with her two children.

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  1. Wow sounds intense and thrilling.

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. What was the last book you read without skipping through anything?

  4. Becky Richardson says:

    What books do you enjoy reading?

  5. Sounds like a great read.

  6. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

  7. It actually sounds like it would make a great movie! Great post!

  8. This sounds like a fascinating story. I hope it has a happy ending.

  9. Really great book – I’m looking forward to reading it and I’ve really enjoyed following the tour and learning about this book 🙂

  10. I really enjoyed the guest post-powerful insights!

  11. amy bowens says:

    Sounds like a great read!

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