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Happy Tuesday! And it’s happier than usual, because not only do I have french vanilla roast for breakfast, but today I get to interview Hilary Wagner, debut author of the amazing MG novel NIGHTSHADE CITY.

Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect. Juniper and his maverick band of rebel rats have been plotting ever since the Bloody Coup turned the Catacombs, a once-peaceful democracy, into a brutal dictatorship ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman, Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. When three young orphan rats–brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover–flee the Catacombs in mortal peril and join forces with the rebels, it proves to be the spark that ignites the long-awaited battle to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city–Nightshade City.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy –signed, no less, woo!– of this one, and I have to say, I’ve already read it twice. πŸ™‚ Not since MRS FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH, much longer ago than I want to admit here, have I read a story told from the point of view of a rat (several, actually), and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s dark, it’s creepy, it’s fast-paced, and there are worms, a petty despot, a pair of brave young brothers, and a whole team of rebels ready to save the day. Also, it’s got amazing characters, one hell of a plot, and it’s just beautifully, beautifully written.

And then there are the bad guys. Two, to be precise, and so well done that I decided to pester Hilary with questions about the baddest of them, Billycan, the right hand of the evil king– because, well, I love a good villain. Who doesn’t? She was kind enough to answer these questions instead of running in the opposite direction. πŸ™‚

Welcome, Hilary! So, getting right to it: Billycan is the ultimate rat villain – crazy, cruel, vicious and utterly creepy. Was there any particular thing that inspired you to write this totally great bad guy/rat?

I’ve always loved the bad guys! I suppose in some way they hold a place in my heart, because I feel something horrible must have happened to them had to make them so bad. Weird, I know! I married a good guy though, much to my parent’s relief! πŸ˜‰

Hah! What do you enjoy most about writing villains?

I enjoy the many layers most villains have. What brought them to their wicked ways? What pinnacle events made them so cruel and nasty? I truly don’t know if people (or rats in my case), can be born bad, but I think we all start out with a blank slate. So what did it–horrible parents, parents that spoiled them, no parents at all? Did they witness Β or were they involved in something terrible? Or did they just always have a mean streak?

That’s a great answer: layers are so important in any character, but villains especially! Can you name one of your favorite villains, and what made you love them?

I just love the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She is just as cold as they come, literally! She embodied evil, but also had this undeniable coolness about her–someone you love to hate! She stopped Christmas for goodness sake! πŸ˜‰

She is indeed awesome. What would you say are the essential qualities of a bad guy (or rat, as the case may be)?

Layers, for sure, villains need to have depth. Uniqueness, no one wants to read about the guy with the black hat, cape and mustache, demanding, “You must pay the rent”! History, why are they bad–the fun part about this is a villain’s history can be revealed in more than one book!

What, to you, are the most overdone qualities inΒ villains?

Ha! Not to be repetitive, the black hat, cape, and mustache! I like wicked witches, but nowadays I think you really have to have a singular witch. Even if she has a pointed hat and green skin, she darn well better have a good reason why!

Do you think of Billycan as a completely irredeemable bad guy, or are there good qualities in him?

To be revealed in Book II… πŸ˜‰

Oooooh, a teaser. πŸ™‚ Without getting all spoiler-y, what’s your favorite Nightshade scene with Billycan and why?

Oh, gosh, he has an awfully eerie scene with a young rat, wherein he scares the tar out of her–poor girl! For me, it was extremely creepy and even gave me goose bumps as I wrote it. I always try to think how I’d feel if someone did that to me at that age…not good! πŸ˜‰

Amy, thanks so much for having me! I love talking about villains! It’s so appropriate with Halloween (my favorite holiday) right around the corner!

Hilary, thanks for doing this!

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more. Get it today!

If you’d like to read more great interviews with Hilary, check these links out:

Interview by Jen K. Blom

Interview by Jen Hayley

Interview Shana Silver

Interview by Ilene Wong

Interview by Wendy Cebula

Interview by Dorothy Windsor

Interview by Tracy Martin

Interview by Nikki Smith

Interview by Lisa & Laura Roecker

Interview by Marissa Burt

Interview by Julianne Douglas

Interview by Katie Anderson

Interview by Jill Myles