Guest Post: “The Bastard in the Mirror” by R.S. Belcher + The Night Dahlia Giveaway!
***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!**
Do you ever find yourself drawn to the “irredeemable” protagonist? Have you ever come across an asshole character you just love to hate to love because they are just so complex and intriguing? This was how I felt when I first encounted Laytham Ballard, the star of the Nightwise series and a cynical and narcissistic trash-talking bastard who was capable of doing some truly terrible things. On April 3, 2018, Laytham will make his return in The Night Dahlia, the second installment in this dark and gritty urban fantasy series, and today The BiblioSanctum is pleased to take part in the celebration of the book’s imminent release with a guest post from the author R.S. Belcher himself as he discusses the creative process that went into creating his fascinating protagonist. I hope you enjoy, and if you’re in the US or Canada, don’t forget to enter the giveaway afterwards!
THE BASTARD IN THE MIRROR: WRITING AN IRREDEEMABLE PROTAGONIST AND HIS STAGGER TOWARD REDEMPTION
by R.S. Belcher
There are days where I hate Laytham Ballard, the protagonist of my second novel, Nightwise, and its sequel, my sixth novel, the Night Dahlia, releasing in April from Tor Books. Antiheroes are pretty much a dime-a-dozen in Urban Fantasy, but I wanted Ballard to be different, someone that would stick with my readers and induce a strong reaction. I think I succeeded.
There is no denying that Ballard is part of the “trench coat brigade,” the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed occultist detectives that folks like Alan Moore, Richard Kadrey, and Jim Butcher have been fundamental in creating as an archetype, but I wanted him to stand out from the crowd. I wanted Ballard to not have a heart of gold hidden under the dross of his demeanor. I wanted him to be a selfish, lying, arrogant, egomaniac, capable of sacrificing others to stay alive. Ballard started out wanting to use his legendary magical prowess to be a good guy, but, like many with vast power, he has fallen way past antihero, solidly into the realm of villainy.
It was a pretty big risk for a guy with one novel to my name at the time, to challenge my readers to invest in a bastard as a “hero” and hope they’d give a damn what happened to him. It has polarized my readers. Many dislike Ballard, others find him refreshing from the usual UF fare.
I think Laytham Ballard’s saving grace is that most folks can identify some of themselves in his struggle between doing what’s right and wrong. A reason for that connection is that Ballard is, in some ways, me. Nightwise and the Night Dahlia are the most autobiographical books I’ve written. I wrote them at difficult times in my life and there is a bit of catharsis and sympathetic magic sewn up into them. Readers can smell bullshit—they can feel what’s cut from the cloth of the writer’s life and what’s not and can feel a connection there to their own. It’s my job to tell a made-up story out of pieces of truth.
We’ve all fucked up, maybe not as hugely, or as often, as Ballard. We’ve all regretted what we did or didn’t do, and those who were hurt by us. As the years fall upon us, many get the feeling that it’s too late for redemption, too late to change the story, to fix our mistakes, or ourselves.
That’s the secret to writing Laytham Ballard. In a universe full of secret societies, and monsters and magic, his struggle to “be good”, to “do better”, to “not fuck up again”, is a human struggle, a real struggle, and hopefully, a struggle readers can empathize with.
In the Night Dahlia, you see who Ballard started out as, and how far he’s fallen. I do believe in redemption. There have been times in my life where I held to that belief like a grail. I have fallen many times, but I’ve gotten back up again every time. I think I have gained a little wisdom in that process. I think Lytham Ballard has too. Those days I don’t hate him quite so much, but don’t tell him that.
R.S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly. He lives in Roanoke Virginia with his children: Jonathan and Emily.
The Night Dahlia Giveaway
We hope this has piqued your interest in The Night Dahlia, and if so, you’re in luck! With thanks to the publisher Tor Books, The BiblioSanctum is pleased to be hosting this giveaway opportunity for one print copy of the book open to residents in the US and Canada. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “THE NIGHT DAHLIA” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Sunday, April 8, 2018 and we’ll take care of the rest.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!