If you’re anything like me, you have a devil of a time coming up with convincing bad guys. My writing-craft bookshelf is lined with books devoted to designing despicable antagonists. But none of them has explored and explained an archetype as thoroughly to me as Dr. Kerwin Swint’s new guide to “king whisperers,” men and women throughout history who have exercised great influence over powerful leaders.
This book examines ten types of king whisperers—their origins, motivations, and modus operandi—giving us multiple historical examples of each type so that we have optimum insight into their character and their secret effects on their separate worlds.
Having this kind of reference to turn to makes developing an antagonist (or even a protagonist) with these qualities as true to life as possible. It’s as if someone else has already done all my research for me, and all I have to do to come up with a “schemer” or a “spy” or someone “truly evil” is to open to the pertinent chapter and out he leaps off the page, straight into my manuscript.
Thanks to luck and a bit of fortunate timing, I managed to land a spot on Dr. Swint’s blog tour. So I decided to take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his reactions to researching these figures and any advice he might have for including them in a story.
ME: What gave you the idea to research/write this book? Why king whisperers?
KS: I’ve always been intrigued by political advisers behind the scenes, both in the modern world and also through history. At first I thought about writing a book called something like “Evil Geniuses,” about political consultants and advisers. I’ve had the thought for awhile, but a few years ago I focused the concept on one individual, who I thought was a significant but under-covered story. So I wrote “Dark Genius” about Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News. Then I returned to the theme of “political power players through history.” I think it says something about human nature and about how power is used and misused. I really think we can learn a lot from it.
ME: If you had to pick one type of king whisperer to play a complex antagonist in a novel, which would you pick?
KS: That’s a great question! It would be easy to say Stalin, Cardinal Richelieu, or Rasputin, but I think a more interesting character would be a lesser known person such as Jan Pieterszoon Cohen of the Dutch East India Company or Haman from the Old Testament’s Book of Esther.
ME: If you had one piece of advice for finishing a manuscript, what would it be?
KS: Set deadlines for yourself; make a schedule and try to adhere to it. I usually keep a calendar marked with goals and self-imposed chapter deadlines.
ME: If you had one piece of advice to offer a novelist for creating a realistic/authentic villain within the king-whisperer archetype, what would it be?
KS: Real life is often much stranger than fiction and often more cruel. In way, Torquemada of the Inquisition was more devious and calculating than Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs.
ME: Who would you say is more dangerous, the person on the throne or the person behind the throne?
KS: Definitely the person behind the throne, because he/she is not publicly accountable.
ME: Of all the king whisperers you profiled for your book, did any of them give you nightmares? Did any inspire you? If so, which ones?
KS: Nightmares? I found the killers, like Stalin, Himmler, and Torquemada to be chilling; and some of the torture and executions from the dark ages and medieval times made me squirm. Inspiring? Theodora of Byzantium, K. Kamaraj of India, and Sakamoto Ryoma of Japan all had something the world needs more of.
Thanks again, Dr. Swint, for your insights, and for writing this handy reference in the first place. I’m looking forward to your next revealing volume of character creation—er, I mean, historical archetype.
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
The next word for the book give-away is OUR. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Kerwin Swint Group to discuss the King Whisperers (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, and his previous works.
Book Trailers for the King Whisperers: