“They told me you were an asshole, but I thought that might have been an exaggeration. I see it’s not.” Wheeler, SBZ
My apologies to all you Oscar Isaac fans out there. The moment I saw him in Suckerpunch, I knew he was Felix.
Felix Lalonde, le Assassin. Five-time French National Champion, multiple Grand Tour winner, and respected member of the boy’s club of international cycling. He is self-absorbed and selfish, a séducteur. But, he is also broken in much the same way as Loren, betrayed by those who were supposed to care for him. He learned very early in his life that he would have to take what he needed to survive.
Felix became a more complicated character over the course of me writing and rewriting Wheeler. I didn’t want him to be a cardboard antagonist; he didn’t deserve that. I wanted the reader to be conflicted about him, much like Loren. She was drawn to him, inexplicably, as she explains to her cousin, Kevin in a deleted scene from Wheeler, Book 2:
“I was in awe of him at first. I don’t know what it was about him, but I couldn’t stop myself.” She raked her teeth over her bottom lip. “He bought me gifts, clothes, jewelry. He paid my rent. He took me skiing in Tahoe one morning and then we had dinner that night watching the waves of the Pacific. He was the one who taught me about strategy. He showed me how to see the other riders, how to find their weaknesses. And that’s how he found mine.” Loren shook her head. “Kevin, I worshiped him, and he knew it, and he tried to take advantage of that.”
Bob, my friend and alpha reader, has been with me on my journey writing Wheeler since the very beginning – he’s the one I accidentally emailed a draft. My friend also has very strong opinions about Felix, as evidenced by our many discussions about the character.
Bob: The difference between a hero and a villain is not whether they are broken or not, but whether their motives are self-serving or not. A villain takes, and if he does give, it is with the expectation of something in return. Remind us of anyone? Not knowing how [to give] is an excuse … not wanting to learn or not caring to learn is why they are a villain.
Me: He was abused, just like she was. He was dumped on the streets by a mother who didn’t care if he lived or died. He takes what he wants because that’s all he’s known. That’s how he survived.
Bob: What Felix has done to Loren and other women, IMO, makes him unsympathetic, if not evil. Loren might be broken, but she has not hurt others. Some men see a woman as a trophy, something to win and possess.
Then we got around to discussing ways to end the Felix plotline, and Bob was not happy with my desire to redeem the character in some way:
Bob: There is no redeeming, Felix. Please don’t try. Love may conquer all, but this is not love. Stepping in front of a bullet for Loren is in line with what he might do, but that is not redemption in my eyes. Somewhere in his dark little mind, he holds out hope that Loren will love him, but even he knows that that probably will never happen.
My sole intention was to create characters that make the reader feel something, be it love or hate. However, I also want to be sensitive to the current social climate with the many allegations of sexual harassment in the media lately. Make no mistake, what Felix did is inexcusable, and Loren was not responsible for his actions, and neither are the many women and men who have faced harassment and violence in real life.
As a woman, I would have had Felix strung up by his balls and roasted; however, that is not how our legal system works. I did a lot of research utilizing my resources in the US Criminal Court system and the UK Crown Court to come up with a punishment that would most likely happen. Given the unique set of circumstances, the scenario is not satisfactory, in fiction or in real life, but court justice is often unsatisfactory.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, please call the US National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800.656.HOPE (4673).