Those of you who have been in the blogging world for some time will know the name Sacha Black. Creator of www.sachablack.co.uk and, of course, The Annual Bloggers Bash, Sacha has now written and published her first book: 13 Steps to Evil (and from all accounts this is the first of many that will be out within the next twelve months) and she’s kindly agreed to let me interview her about her new creation, her process and a little of what makes her… Sacha.
Tell us about your new book – 13 Steps to Evil.
13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft Superbad Villains is every writer’s comprehensive guide to creating kick-ass villains. It’s based on a commonly held misnomer by writers: that their hero is the most important character. Without the villain or antagonist within a story, there is no conflict. Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is.
In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover:
- How to develop a villain’s mindset
- A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
- Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible
- What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs
Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge. These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs. If you like dark humour, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love this guide to crafting superbad villains.
What was your inspiration?
A few things happened all around the same time. First, I wanted to write a better villain! With everything I’ve done on my journey to publishing, I decided to write about it. So, I blogged a few of the lessons I’d learned about villains, and they got so much traffic I realised that I wasn’t the only one after the info. I specifically wanted to write a better female villain because they are woefully under represented in film, TV, and books. I needed a book that taught me how to write better villains, but when I went to look for a book on creating villains, there wasn’t one.
It was kind of a happy series of events that led me to decide I ought to write the book myself. I wanted the info, the info I had shared was really popular, and there was a distinct lack of books on the topic out there. It almost felt like the universe was pointing it’s big fat phosphorescent ET finger at me and saying “OI, you there, write the book already.”
Did you do any research before starting the book or did you find yourself researching certain sections as you wrote it?
A bit of both.
I conducted a survey of writers because I wanted to make sure that the book answered as many writer problems as possible. I also wanted to know what people liked and didn’t like in non-fiction books so that it was both as helpful as it could be and visually appealing. I’d done some research on villains anyway when I wrote my original posts and when I was trying to teach myself to write better. But I did need to do more. Some I did before I started drafting to help structure the book. But, like fictional stories can changes as you write, so too did 13 Steps and I found I needed more info as I progressed.
Describe your writing process. What was the most difficult part?
Oddly, this one was totally different to Keepers (my fiction story), and I think that’s because 13 Steps is non-fiction. I’m still trying to pin down my writing process, and I suspect because I’m still learning so much and it’s still evolving it probably won’t settle until book 3 or 4.
For 13 Steps, the most important part was the structure – the contents page/outline must have been torn apart and redone about eight times. Unlike a story, the structure of non-fiction is what pulls the reader through the journey. If you’re writing a memoir, then usually the story is told chronologically. But for information based or problem-solving based books, that’s not the case. You have to start basic and build layer upon layer of increasingly complex knowledge.
I guess it must be similar to when you taught kids? (Editor note: erm…)
The biggest change to my process in this book was about a quarter of the way through. I got Dragon dictation for Christmas, and I decided I had to try and dictate the rest of the book using it. It took some getting used to, and I’m not there yet, but I wrote, edited and re-edited after beta feedback the entire book in less than four months. Which I 100% put down to the speed and pace of dragon… given Keepers has taken me almost three years and still isn’t quite finished!!
My process went something like this:
- First Draft: *blood, sweat, and swearing,*
- Edit/proof: *tantrums, swearing, moaning more sweat*
- Hand to beta readers: *wait impatiently and chew nails,*
- Edit /proof again using their feedback: *more moaning, swearing and wine*
- Hand to editor: *wait even less patiently, drink more wine, moan a LOT about impending admin*
- Make final changes: *be surprised at how fast that went and for once, don’t moan*
- 109238590235847089345 tons of admin: *extreme Olympic levels of moaning, obscene amounts of coffee consumed and award winning moaning*
What did you edit out of the book?
For once, not a lot. Usually writing a book has involved countless edits and re-writes. I guess because this was non-fiction and knowledge/fact based, there was less room for error caused by me making shit up and creating inconsistent plot lines.
I tweaked out some of the cruder jokes under advice from beta readers! And also toned down some of the more outrageous parts to make sure it was accessible to a wider audience.
How do you balance your time between being a working mother and wife, Blogger’s Bash organiser and writer?
LOL, I don’t. I am perpetually behind. I don’t rest or take nights off. I drink frankly violent amounts of coffee. I don’t sleep. I don’t take a lunch break at work, I take my laptop and write on my lunch breaks. I don’t take care of myself, and I have no social life. There is no magic panacea sadly.
I guess it comes down to sacrifice, a lot of focusing on the task at hand rather than being distracted by social media, more sacrifice and a work hard and fast style. I think the other factor is accepting that sometimes good enough, is good enough. Striving for perfection is poisonous, and it’s something I have to constantly fight. If I made everything as good as I wanted I’d never finish anything.
Oh, and no TV.
Tell me something you’re good at (that isn’t writing).
- Being socially awkward?!
- Buying outrageously expensive shoes with red soles.
- Eating chocolate!
- Decorating cakes – I made 120 cupcakes for my wedding and also a three-tiered Japanese inspired wedding cake!
- Being the token weirdo/lesbian/culturally diverse person
- Being highly organised
- Stressing and getting overwhelmed haha!
What is your biggest advice for anyone who wants to write, be it a book, a blog or a course?
I think there’s different advice for different types of writing. If you want to do it for fun and the love of it, then I’d say not to allow the admin revolved around blogging take away the joy of it. But if you want to make a career of it, then you need to first make a habit. Lot’s of people say write every day, but I don’t think that’s necessary as long as you have a good routine and write regularly. The second thing is to be prepared to make sacrifices, and the third is to think big. A book isn’t just a book. It’s a product you can iterate and evolve into other things to make money. Think long term and make a plan.
What is it about the villain in a story that inspires you so much?
I adore anti-heroes, there’s something about an anti-hero as an underdog that’s super relatable.
Aren’t we all just underdogs? Underdogs to the super successful and famous, or to the queen bee in school? Or the skinny bint with big tits in the office. (no offence to skinny bints with big tits, I’m just bitter about being distinctly short, chunky and with average boobs) The point is, don’t we all suffer from self-doubt deep down? Who hasn’t wanted to shove a fork in their bosses eye for being a patronising ****? Just me? Awkward.
I’m digressing. Anti-heroes (and villains) get to go all out on the eye-forking. Anti-heroes more than villains, get to fulfill the dark side of our desires while still sticking to a moral line. They get to smother their faces in cake and then eat it. Heroes are boring. A utopian ideal of what humanity should be, not what we really are.
I much prefer a darker character you can relate to, besides it’s way more fun to write the naughty guy :p
What are the things that potential writers and readers will gain from your book?
Loads. But then I would say that!
The book is structured as a step by step guide to help writers build their perfect villain from the ground up. There are summaries and a couple of thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter, although if you like that kind of style, there will be a workbook coming very shortly. If you want to hear about that, you can sign up here.
I’ve got a history of studying psychology, so there’s some character psychology in there that will be useful for all characters, not just villains. Lastly, I ought to have put an ‘explicit lyrics’ label on it,*shrugs*. What can I say? My blog tagline is: Book Business and Bad Words, so expect some acerbic wit, sarcasm and a sprinkling of naughty words.
What will you get at the end?
A whole heap of tools, ticks, and steps to create a kick-ass villain for any story.
Get 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains today by clicking on the image below! Then, simply click your device logo or regular bookstore logo and it will take you to the right place to buy the book!
And here’s the extra-special super-duper bit. If you sign up to Sacha’s mailing list you will receive a free cheat sheet and a short email course (made available within the next eight weeks) and access to a Facebook support group. You can sign up for Sacha’s mailing list here
Sacha Black has five obsessions: words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement and breaking the rules. She writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing must old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.
You can find Sacha in various places around the online world.
What about you guys? Have you got any questions for Sacha?