Lindsay Smith talks SEKRETs, villains, and dastardly plots

Spring Bootcamp is still going strong here at YA Buccaneers! Today, I'm badgering my fellow member of League of Antagonists and writing-buddy-at-arms, Lindsay Smith, whose debut novel, SEKRET, published on April 1st in what I guarantee was not at all a sinister April Fools plot.

Lindsay has kindly agreed to answer some of my nefarious -- err, totally normal questions.

So, Lindsay. SEKRET is about a psychic girl, Yulia, who is forced to become a spy for the KGB in Soviet-era Russia. Clearly there are many villainous forces at work, from Yulia's fellow operatives to her superior officers.

Can you talk about some of those villains -- or maybe any characters who seem villainous but are simply misunderstood, incredibly intelligent people downtrodden and outcast by society, who we can't really blame for their degenerate ways? You know, for example.

Confession time, I love villains. Good ones—well-written ones, with proper motivations and nuanced rationales and amazing ability for self-deception. The Imperials in Star Wars. (Or maybe it’s just the uniforms?) Maleficent. Keyser Soze. Magneto. Walternate. And, okay, some totally cheesy ones too, who can’t help but chew the scenery, and have such a BLAST being bad—Moriarty, the Gruber brothers from Die Hard 1 & 3, every James Bond villain ever . . .

You know what I think it is? Villains totally have it together. They’ve got these epic, well-orchestrated plans, they’re real go-getters, and they just love their jobs. Seriously, how can you fault them for that?

Exactly! Now, when it comes to writing your own antagonists, do you have a method for thinking them up? What were some of your inspirations for any of the less-than-angelic characters in your novel?

I spend a lot of time thinking about all my characters’ motivations, their hopes and fears, and what they will and won’t do to achieve them. Because of that, the line’s often pretty thin between the good guys and the bad guys in my stories, which is just the way I like it! One of the moments that really solidified my experience in writing Sekret was when I realized Yulia, my protagonist, and one of the villains desperately wanted to achieve the exact same thing in a situation, only Yulia wasn’t willing to do X for it, and the villain was. That moment was so awesome to me that I had to devote a decent portion of the sequel to unpacking it.

Sounds like the perfect nemesis! Speaking of which, do you have a favorite antagonist of all time (from anything, book, movie, reality, whatever)?

Hmm, what does it say about me that my favorite protagonists in books are the ones who are their own villains? Kiri in Hilary Smith’s Wild Awake has to battle her memories and, most of all, herself to find out what she really wants from her present and future. And in the Gentlemen Bastards (Lies of Locke Lamora, etc), our plucky heroes are incorrigible thieves—they steal too much, and have to worm their way out of all kinds of awful situations by stealing even more.

One villain I recently read and loved was the Gray Man in The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (second book of The Raven Boys). He’s so damn dapper and personable when he hunts down his victims! And such a gentleman, too.

What do you love about a good bad guy (or gal)? (that makes sense, shush!)

A really great villain has charm, wit, cunning, and a killer fashion sense (or a really great uniform).

Can you tell us who your favorite big bad from the SEKRET world is? Don't have to give names if it's a spoiler, but maybe some codename we will only understand once we plunge into the series. It's the KGB, everyone has codenames, right?

There are two main villains in Sekret—the KGB officer who runs the psychic program, and is completely ruthless about trying to spark the Cold War into something more. He’s desperate to see the Soviet Union return to what he saw as its former glory under Stalin, and that kind of zealotry is always dangerous. But I also love the American spy who’s hunting the KGB team—he’s unflappably cheerful as he seems to take insane risks with no regard for the consequences.

Now to the nitty-gritty. Dastardly plots. If you had an army of tigers, unlimited cash flow, and 30 days to take over the world, how would you do it? *takes out a notebook*

Unlimited cash flow and tigers? Crash the global economy in an elaborate price-fixing scheme and institute the new tiger-based world currency. I retain control of all tigers. Anyone who tries to take my tigers gets mauled. Also, lasers, because obviously. And a sweet-ass tiger pelt cloak a la Cruella de Ville that my tiger legion is totally okay with, I mean, it’s not like it’s real, Mom, right? …Right, Mom?

*cue static noises, angry roaring in background* ... That's all for now! Lindsay, thanks for stopping by!

For more about SEKRET and our villainess of the day, check out Lindsay's blog, stalk her on Twitter, or look for SEKRET on Goodreads and on all the usual retail suspects.