Character of the Month: June: Virgil Valvayne

Virgil Valvayne is, without doubt, the vampire arch-villain of The Breathing Ghosts. His elder brother Edgar may be cruel and reptilian-cold, but his cruelty and detachment stems from a painful childhood spent recuperating from long bouts of illness, leaving his mortal self frail, wheezing, aching, sickly and- most dangerous of all – embittered. Virgil may share a few undesirable traits with his brother, but all in all he is a different kettle of fish- ambitious, handsome, stylish, and at times charming and persuasive, where Edgar is skinny, pale and aloof.

Virgil’s main currency is manipulation and coercion, and his schemes have more than one victim. His twin sister, Violet- to whom he bears a strong physical resemblance and a deep emotional connection, for they both feel pain at the same time- is at once his puppet and his single weakness. He pulls her strings to ensure that she remains in his control, but ultimately she has to remain within his control because he cannot truly survive or function without her. His personality is entirely shadowed within hers, to the extent that both vampire twins often say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, and even mimic each other’s language.

Where poor Violet remains easily manipulated, however, Virgil has an iron resolve and a mind full of nasty verbal games that wound those around him like shrapnel. In introducing Virgil as the villain, I wanted to explore what would happen if I created a character that- instead of having any real magical power or physical difference- instead exerted their power through words, icy intellect and threats. Even though he is a vampire, we as the reader rarely see Virgil feed on a human, or even kill- yet he remains a malevolent presence through his impact on Violet.  Clever, clever Virgil cossets his twin and bestows on her compliment after compliment- praising her beauty, her ethereal charm, and showering with luxurious gifts. Yet at the same time, he keeps her a prisoner- ‘for her own safety’- in Valvayne Manor- as cold and sterile as Virgil himself- and makes her afraid of the outside world. They live in a 1920s-styled cocoon where Virgil is the ultimate king and conqueror- but can he ever truly conquer his twin’s spirit? As the novel progresses, we see that he wants to break Violet completely- but why?  Does he desire her subservience as a result of jealousy, or does he just desire her, his ‘beloved’ sister, as a result of his own weird and warped desires? Wherever Virgil lurks, mystery dogs his footsteps, and as The Breathing Ghosts reaches it’s bloody conclusion, he leaves more than a few questions unanswered…

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