Dr. Matthew Scrivens joins us again to facilitate a workshop on serial killers and teach authors how to make their “bad guys” villainously spectacular.
Your novel “Sole Survivor” is about a man who survived a brutal serial killer only to find himself being pursued by another serial killer; how did you come up with this story?
One of my favorite television series at the time was “I Survived.” The show interviewed actual survivors of traumatic events, such as natural disasters or violent crimes. At the end of each episode, the survivor was asked why they thought they survived. It was fascinating to hear what each person said, whether it was because “I fought back” or “because I didn’t fight” or “because I kept watching for my chance to escape.” At some point, I started wondering how these people would respond if they were faced with a similar crisis again. I wondered if they would be overwhelmed and give up or if they would use what they’d learned the first time to survive.
Tell me more about Todd Eldin, the villain in your story.
Todd was an interesting character to create. I heard from many readers who told me how they were deeply conflicted. They’d laugh and say how they were strongly attracted to Todd and yet repulsed both by him and their own desire for him. One reviewer questioned that Todd, being so dominant, would allow someone to top him. What they didn’t grasp is that Todd is a Hedonist—if it feels good, he does it. In fact, his particular form of killing is all about his personal pleasure. As dark as Todd was, he was fun to write because he had no inhibitions. His body was his temple, designed to give him as much pleasure as possible.
Todd certainly is dark. I was surprised how dark the book got towards the end. Was any of this based on real life events?
A good friend of mine, a NYPD detective with 20+ years of service, his first question to me, after reading the novel was, “Did this or something similar really happen to you?” No, a serial killer has never stalked me. Although, I do think I had sex with one, but that’s a whole other story. The events in “Sole Survivor” come from my imagination, which has been twisted by my years of being a Master’s level psychologist working with violence, specifically a handful of clients that were murderers, rapists, and molesters.
So, how do you create terrifying villains?
You have to be willing to look into the darkest recesses of humanity and find logic. Villains don’t see themselves as evil; they know society may find them evil, but that’s not how they see themselves. Come to my workshop, Bad Guys/Good Stories: The psychology of writing great villains. Here we’ll explore and discuss villains and their deliciously despicable ways. Remember, your story is only as good as your villain! (Note: you don’t have to be an author to attend this workshop.)
Dr. Matthew Scrivens discovered the true strength and resilience of the human heart when he provided therapy to murderers, molesters, and rapists in hopes that helping the perpetrators of such crimes might result in fewer victims. Having journeyed the black night of the soul innumerable times with many troubled clients, Dr. Scrivens has developed a familiarity and understanding of the dark side of human psychology. Using what he has learned and experienced, Dr. Scrivens has presented his knowledge as a guest blogger and conference speaker. His best-selling gay erotic thriller Sole Survivor was published in 2012.