Sebastian de Castell's novel, TRAITOR’S BLADE (July 15, 2014; Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus), has received a fair bit of buzz with his historical setting and metric ton of swashbuckling, with nods to Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I had the chance to ask Sebastien a few questions of the novel and sword fighting in general. Enjoy!
Gef: The Three Musketeers meets Game of Thrones. Not a bad hook. You've got a background in a lot of things, not the least of which is fencing, so was storytelling just a natural progression for you?
Sebastien: I think we’re all storytellers at heart and a lot of our happiness comes from finding our natural medium. For me, it all started when I was about fifteen years-old I read a book by Keith Tailor called "Bard" and decided that was the job for me - you know, traveling, performing, storytelling, and occasionally swinging a sword. Since no one was hiring for the position, I made up for it by doing everything from touring in a rock band to writing books to choreographing sword fights for theatre to...well, you get the idea. Years ago I was in the middle of a fencing match and realized I was writing a story in my head based on the bout (note to fencers: this is a terribly unwise thing to do in the middle of a match.) Later when I'd go jogging I'd still be making up stories in my head. Eventually in 2006 I just sat down and let the story I'd been writing in my head come out. That story became Traitor's Blade.
Gef: Your protagonist is a Greatcoat, kind of a traveling judge, jury, and executioner. Was this an idea you already had in mind for your story or something inspired from your historical research?
Sebastien: I wanted my protagonists to have a role that was a little different from the types of characters we often read about in fantasy novels. I’d once found a passing mention to the twelfth century English justices itinerant. These were judges appointed by the King and sent on year-long circuits of towns and villages where they would hear cases and render verdicts. The idea of the wandering judge appealed to me, so I set out to explore what would happen if these travelling magistrates had to deal with local nobles who might not like their verdicts and might decide it was easier to kill off the judge than pay the fine.
Gef: What's the most common mistake an uninitiated person makes when he/she picks up a sword?
Sebastien: Don’t try to emulate what you’ve seen on TV or in the movies. Instead, start by letting yourself discover the natural flow of the weapon. Sword fighting, at it’s core, is about finding the natural biomechanics of how your body and the sword work together.
Gef: What's the most common mistake an uninitiated writer makes when he/she picks up a pen?
Sebastien: Don’t let anything or anyone discourage you from finishing your first book. Will it be flawed? Almost certainly. But that book, however terrible, will be one of the most wonderful accomplishments of your creative life. It’s also the threshold you must pass through in order to discover your own voice as a writer. It will be worth it. I promise.
Gef: What's the most memorable sword fight you've seen on screen or on the page?
Sebastien; There are a ton of great ones out there. I suppose my favourite remains the Wesley/Inigo fight from the film version of The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin do such an amazing job of capturing the magic and fun of the old Errol Flynn style of fighting (helped, of course, by the amazing choreographer Bob Anderson.) But I’d feel terrible if I didn’t also mention Bill Hobb’s wonderfully gritty and raw fights between d’Hubert and Feraud in The Duellists (which was also Ridley Scott’s first feature film.) The fights in those two films very much reflect the two different styles of choreography - the fantastical and the realistic - that fight directors work with.
Gef: You have four books planned for the series, but do you have any other projects people should look out for writing-wise, or are your renaissance ways pulling you towards new crafts, perhaps?
Sebastien: I've completed the first book in a new series called Spellslinger which is sort of noir-western-fantasy about a down-on-his-luck mage and the blackmailing thief and occasional murderer who is his business partner (and who also happens to be a raccoon.) It's fast-paced and surprisingly dark which makes it great fun to write. I’m also writing a new mystery series that’s a bit of a “ Nancy Drew meets True Detective” thing (weird, I know, but I promise it’ll work).
Gef: Where can folks keep up with your writing and other exploits?
Sebastien: I love hearing from readers and they can find me at www.decastell.com or @decastell on Twitter.
If you would like to buy Traitor's Blade, you can visit Amazon.com and get the hardcover by Jo Fletcher Books.
About Traitor's Blade: With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor's Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.
The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that's exactly what's happening.
Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they'll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor's blade.