Today in a series of replies to FAQ (frequently asked questions) sent to me by fans (and sometimes not so much), I answer the question: “Who is Villainessa Tittel?“
I’m going to answer this question in two parts: First, the obvious – who is Villainessa Tittel as a character in the story “Dead Man’s Hammer” – and then I’ll tell you all about the unlucky individual I based the character on!
Villainessa Tittel, as readers are introduced to her in the third book of the Quantum Series, is not a nice person. She’s a deadly assassin – one of the very best, most lethal and talented – and sought after in the field. In the story, readers should be left in no doubt at all that she’s a villain. As a character, she only appears in this one book, and as such, there’s very little time for her to display or develop any redeeming qualities (not that she has any – ouch!!)! The following excerpt from the book should provide a little insight!
[Villainessa Tittel was a professional name, one that belonged to a hired killer, an assassin by trade. The woman it belonged to was the most fearsome hit-ma – er, hit-woman – at the top of the list of contacts on the rolodex of every crime family, mafia organization and gang between Ahghinos and Zarathustra. Unsurprisingly, that name also featured on the contact lists of at least three secretive Terran government agencies, including the CIA. Otherwise, it wasn’t heard much by ordinary folk – who perhaps only joked (or dreamed) about settling various scores with a hit-man, but lacked either the cash or the courage – or both to seek her out. At any rate, it sounded a good deal more impressive and scary than Ms. Smith.
Having come from a well-respected, law-abiding family (whose name certainly was not Tittel) this came as something as a shock to her parents. After all, they’d done their best to provide her with a life of relative comfort, and tried to instill a sense of right and wrong, and morality into her. Vil was no dummy however, so it didn’t take – and from an early age, she realized that in order to be the best at her chosen career, she would have to keep it quiet, and just make the best of all the opportunities life afforded her.
After a brief childhood – which ended shortly just after she’d done with toddling – the very serious young woman set her sights on her future career, and set about learning everything she needed to know in order to get there. This explains in part why she took the most diverse subjects school had to offer – even the elective ones. She excelled in the arts (especially the martial ones) and subjects like history (famous deaths) and biology (vivisection and the vulnerabilities of the human body). She cultivated an inordinate fascination with death, the causes of death, and the rewards that could come to the one who happened to be holding the ice pick at exactly the right moment.
From her early teens, Villainessa studied several martial arts, learned traditional activities like shooting, hunting, archery and bow-hunting from her uncles, and at school – fencing and chess, as well as newer sports such as paintball and lasersoft. She never made any friends as a child, that is, unless she spotted someone she thought she could learn something from. School bullies who made the mistake of trying their luck with her, had a tendency to vanish abruptly from school and just quietly resurface in hospital with broken bits and the kind of amnesia inspired by the knowledge that she could have done far worse.
Villainessa’s parents – who were ordinary, mild folks – became concerned. Not that they’d failed to notice their daughter’s morbid fascination with death, mass-murderers, assassins and serial killers – they had – it was just that it seemed to make her so happy… and well, she frightened them a little. They weren’t the only ones who were, because the school principal called them a few times to ask some awkward questions about her home life and mental health, but after the brief chat Vil had with him in the privacy of his office, he resigned the next day and went to work for an aunt at her shoe factory.
At age eighteen, after eviscerating the best high school and extra-curricular education her parents could buy, young Vil left home and sought out the underworld. She hadn’t very far to look. After just a few years, the hungry Vil met a string of successively more skilled hired killers in the employ of various criminal gangs and syndicates, and climbed the ladder voraciously. By the age of 23, she’d learned all that was possible from assassins who had (until then at least) been considered the best in the business, and eagerly moved up the rankings herself!
Even Vil herself didn’t know why she’d turned to cleaning as an occupation, she just fell in love with the idea at an early age – like some kids do with the notion of becoming an astronaut or a doctor or a fairy, or Superman – except she never moved on from that like the others did. She killed because she liked it. It was the only thing that made her actually feel anything, like she was alive – that, and the fact that every time her score went up, so did her bank account! Part of her sometimes thought it was because she really enjoyed endings more than beginnings? Whatever! It didn’t matter – and anyway, she didn’t need to know a mark’s entire pedigree or life story, or to have some kind of facetious moral justification just to collect her fee. Nor did she ever let pity or empathy stand in her way – not that she even understood what those vestigial words even meant!
Vil had never read much except to further her career or to research her next mark, but – unsurprisingly, whenever Vil did read – on those rare occasions when she read for pleasure – her books were always dog-eared from the back. She was one of those rare individuals who never needed anyone, unless her target-sight was empty and needed filling.
Incidentally, her last name, “Tittel” was Latin for a very small thing, like the dot on an ‘i’ for instance – or in her case, something even smaller – her conscience. Vil had no qualms about killing and truly thought of it as her calling in life! Guilt or innocence were for the paying client to decide! Yes, Villainessa Tittel enjoyed her work – a lot, and getting paid for it was a plus! She loved to wear black leather outfits and stilettos. Her nails were always immaculately painted and manicured, not to mention tipped with titanium – which made them particularly deadly at close range! Although she’d mastered all sorts of weapons, her nails were her trademark – which she often laughingly thought of as ‘the final cut’!
Vil’s hair and make-up were always sublime and perfect. She was very pretty – at least in terms of the flesh that covered the bones on her face – but as most poets will tell you, beauty can be quite deceiving. The same poets who might have written about Helen of Troy as “the face that launched a thousand ships”, would probably write about Villainessa Tittel as the bitch that flayed all the crew, set them on fire, and sank them.] – “Dead Man’s Hammer“
The Backstory – A Poison Pen
Now that the first part’s done with, let’s move on to the less obvious part of the question – who is the character Villainessa Tittel based on or inspired by? As writers, we tend to write our fears, our loves and our pain into our stories – if people wrong us or hurt us in real life, writers tend to get our revenge by writing about those people – or more to the point, creating characters in their image. It’s a coping mechanism, and also a healing one. For me, it was a way to find much-needed closure.
The person I modelled the character of Villainessa Tittel on, was once a dear friend – and an unrequited love whom – for 5 years or longer – I’d placed on a pedestal and almost worshiped as a goddess. Like me she was transgender, and a good deal younger than me. When I began my transition in 2000 at the age of 27, I sought out others like me who shared similar interests, and of course someone I could learn from in the clothing and make-up department. When I met her in 2001, she seemed to fulfill all these requirements – and more!
Like the character Villainessa Tittel, she was physically small, petite, somewhat curvaceous, dark-haired and ravishingly beautiful. From her I learned dress-sense, make-up skills and hair technique. In return I showered her with affection and gifts, and helped her to advance her own transition by connecting her with the right gatekeepers. There however, any comparisons ended, since Villainessa Tittel isn’t transgender in the story – and the character also didn’t inherit any of the humanity of the original. In the real world, I’d fallen in love with the person I would later model the villainous assassin of “Dead Man’s Hammer” on!
My feelings were not fully reciprocated, or probably even welcome, and over a number of years of lonely, rocky friendship in which something romantic lingered and was often implied between us, but tantalizingly nothing ever happened, I pined away like a pathetic love-sick puppy – and one that went to enormous lengths to please, pander to and cater for her happiness and every whim and desire. She in turn, welcomed all I had to offer, but stopped ever-short of opening up to me.
It always seemed fine for me to be near to her in every way, to be a partner in all things and aspects – except in the ways which truly mattered to me. Looking back – as I rarely do anymore these days, I know I was a fool – for many reasons, but chiefly for allowing myself to feel so much for someone who didn’t want me, and for giving myself so wholly to such a person who only seemed to care about herself.
In 2005, she tired of my affections and abruptly shut me out as only a spiteful Leo could. I was gutted. It was worse than just losing a friend or partner to death, I thought, because it wasn’t just her I’d lost – but her whole family as well: people I’d socialized with, grown to know and accepted as part of my own family. I was completely outcast – a pathetic soul who writhed in emotional agony and wrote miserable (yet very good) poetry about love, betrayal and a hundred other theatrical tortures. I cried myself to sleep, I dreamed broken dreams, and I cried myself awake. I was a mess – and not even a very hot one.
Looking back at the whole thing now, I’m disgusted by how weak and vulnerable I was, how trusting and so willing to hand over my heart to someone undeserving, and feel it’s a pity I had to go through such a torturous experience to become the stronger, slightly wiser person I am today. At the time though, I turned to the only thing I could to keep myself sane – my writing. In 2005, in the depths of my grief, I started writing a book that quickly became three books: “Black Sunrise”, “The Time Saving Agency” and “Dead Man’s Hammer”. I based and built the character of Villainessa Tittel around her, and although the real person had never had any kind of military or martial arts training, in the story, she was a devastating villain, an opponent more than a match for the heroine – Cindy-Mei Winter, to handle!
It’s fair and accurate to say that while I am the same person I’ve always been in terms of individual identity – I am also not the same person I was back then. Maybe I’m not much wiser, but I’m definitely less foolish – and a lot more jaded, cynical and distrustful of people. Without a doubt, the experience changed me and although my life went on – it did so in ways and directions I never expected it to! Today the character of Villainessa Tittel serves as a reminder to me of my own folly – and also the shady, unwholesome nature of some people in life who tend to take all they can get, all that’s offered to them, and when they’ve had their fill have the audacity to show you their backs and walk away telling people half-truths about why you’re not included in their lives anymore.
Since that time, I’ve grown up some more and moved on. I moved on to bigger and better things. I’m very happy now in fact, and not to be deliberately nasty, much happier than I think I would’ve been in any perceived relationship with her.
At the end of this tragic little tale, more than twelve years since I last saw her, all Villainessa Tittel is to me is a rough patch on the highway of my life – a particularly rocky stretch of road through a breathtakingly beautiful bit of countryside – full of potholes, a couple of dead cows, a 300 car pile-up, a fuel-tanker explosion and a blazing 20 car train-wreck thrown in just for emphasis. And I’ve already passed through it – and left it far behind.
May we all be that lucky.
Until next time,
Where can you get “Dead Man’s Hammer“? Right here!
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I hope this answers this question to your satisfaction!
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.