When I first started writing mysteries my agent, Don Congdon, wasn't sure I could. "You know," he said. "In mysteries you have to write some people who are not very nice."
"I can do that!" I assured him. But it was harder than I thought. I kept thinking about why the murderer did it, wondering about their miserable childhood etc. I needed to get tough.
Right. The only villain I ever wrote who was totally irredeemable, I found in real life.
Once upon a time, I was doing research in the wilds of Burgundy. I decided to stay the night at a very posh hotel in a small town on the pretext that it had once been a 12th century monastery. It was November and only one other couple were staying there.
This couple sat across the restaurant that night, a man in his 50's and a woman in her 30's. He apparently thought no one spoke English for he was speaking like an MP arguing against a proposal.
He was leaving his wife for his companion and spent the evening reminding her of all he was doing for her and what it would cost him and how grateful she should be. At one point he got all maudlin about his poor little daughter. The woman reponded with the only two words she said all evening.
I looked at that man and knew I had found the perfect egomaniacal monster. His wife was probably glad to be rid of him and his girlfriend would no doubt be a suicidal alchoholic within a year.
A different take on affairs of the heart but, if you write mysteries, there need to be people who aren't very nice.