7 Things You Might Not Know About Me

castle ruins
At some ruins my friends and I stumbled upon just outside Pisa.

I’m doing an unofficial blog hop with my friend, Jennifer Loizeaux, based on a Facebook meme. So without further ado, here are seven random facts about me that you’ve always wanted to know. Or something.

  1. All through high school and college, I hosted Harry Potter birthday parties. Not Harry Potter themed parties for my birthday. Actual birthday parties for our favorite Boy Who Lived, every July 31. We’d make butterbeer and cockroach clusters, have scavenger hunts and triwizard tournaments, and play all sorts of games. I made a version of Clue, complete with moving staircases; my brother invented two pretty awesome card games.
  2. By age 5, I was reading the American Girl chapter books. By age 9, I was reading James Michener’s Chesapeake. Now, at age 27, I’m basically camped out at the young adult bookshelves.
  3. In ninth grade, I won first place at the science fair for the biology division. My project was trying to figure out if you could determine a horse’s genetics for coat color by looking at their offspring. Turns out you can, sometimes, but usually not.
  4. I have five copies of Hamlet. The original, a modern adaptation novel, a manga, a graphic novel, and the David Tennant/Patrick Stewart film adaptation. What can I say? I love him. (Oh, and I wrote a monologue for Ophelia in my college Shakespeare class. Maybe I can dig up a copy…) Edit: I stand corrected, I also have a choose your own adventure Hamlet. So six copies, then.
  5. For the past few years I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Titanic. I’ve been reading books, watching documentaries, listening to music that the infamous band would have played. National Geographic in DC had an exhibit when I worked just down the street, but it couldn’t compare with the Franklin Institute’s exhibit in Philadelphia. I even have a book planned that will take place on the Titanic. Get excited.
  6. I’ve loved archery since my first lesson in Girl Scouts. I joined the archery club at UVA (which sort of exploded in membership with the Hunger Games). I have a traditional longbow — and I mean traditional. There’s no shelf to rest the arrow, no bead on the string to consistently nock the arrow. It’s basically the best.
  7. I have a dream series, since I don’t know what else to call it, where I’m back in high school trying to find my classes and remember my homework and all that nonsense. It doesn’t repeat, I just dip back in a few days or weeks later. I haven’t been to my French class since the beginning of the school year, and I’m failing, so I’ve just been avoiding it every day by going to the library. I’m pretty sure I have a major calculus project due soon, so I’ll probably start avoiding that class as well.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The Smiling Villain

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“That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” — Hamlet

I’ve always had a soft spot for the smiling villains. The ones who are charming and funny and everyone’s best friend — everyone except the hero of course. It’s one thing to fight the Big Bad that is universally declared True Evil, but it’s a completely different war when faced with the smiling villains.

Claudius is, of course, a perfect example. He was probably a charmer before murdering his brother (unlike Lion King’s Scar), so the court’s attitude toward him probably didn’t change. He did manage to win over Gertrude fairly quickly though. Hamlet is the only one in the entire court to find him suspicious, and voicing his displeasure makes him seem like a resentful, spoiled brat who hates his uncle/step-father on principle. Which only gets worse when he pretends to go mad. Nobody believes him except his best friend Horatio, and even that’s tenuous at best.

Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet faces a similar problem with Duke Roger, a powerful sorcerer and cousin to the prince. Everyone loves Roger. They trust him, confide in him, rely on him to protect his extended family. And because everyone implicitly trusts him, Alanna can’t reveal her suspicions to the prince. With only two allies who believe her, she has to stand up to Roger without attracting attention, without drawing the anger of her friends at court.

In both cases, the hero has to fight sneakily. You can’t draw swords with the Big Bad when everyone else thinks they’re the Big Good. The heroes have virtually no support in opposing the villain. If they let their suspicions slip they’re in danger of being attacked by people who should be allies.

And that conflict is amazing.

I haven’t created a smiling villain yet for my upcoming series, but I think it would be great fun to play with. Now to find a good fit…

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.