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Probably you already supposed that I really liked Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series. As we have to wait another few month for the next book in the series I was searching for other possibilities to go back to the world of the Greatcoats – luckily there are a few possibilities within the web.
After information was running out I just decided to ask the author himself. Perhaps he will reveal something more about himself or the Greatcoats series?
@Sebastien de Castell: Thank you for taking your time to have a chat about you and your Greatcoats.
It’s my pleasure – I’m delighted to be here!
@Sebastien de Castell: Reading through your official biography I learned that you have studied Archaeology. Now you are working as musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor and product strategist. You are married to a librarian and live with her and two cats in Vancouver. Can you tell us something more about yourself?
Despite all the many job titles, at heart I’m a traveller looking for sources of wonder. When I was a young boy, my older sister read to me from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Like many kids, I spent the rest of my childhood in search of Narnia. What is probably less common is that I’ve spent most of my adulthood looking for it, too. I don’t mean seeking out some magical land outside of our own, but rather, finding that same feeling of enchantment that I got from some of those early fantasy novels. Exploring different places and different careers gives me that opportunity to find those things that inspire me, and being a writer gives me a way to share that with other people.
@Sebastien de Castell: Let’s look at the outside of your book. Do you like the cover? In my opinion it is a little bit too bloody.
I love the cover! There are so many fantasy covers that look similar to one another, but the cover of Blutrecht, which was developed in Germany and later became the cover of the U.K. version as well, is very striking. Although the characters in Blutrecht use a lot of humour in their conversations with each other, it’s still a very dark world that they live in.
@Sebastien de Castell: You wrote an article for Graeme’s SFF describing how to choreograph fight scenes. An article that also describes some of your inspirations. Apparently “The Princess Bride” and “The Duellist” played at least a small role. Have these films inspired you to the book? Are there other films or books which played a greater role in the development of “Traitor’s Blade”?
Like most writers I draw inspiration from many different sources. I love the playfulness of the fight scenes in The Princess Bride, but the darker side of Blutrecht owes more to the kind of sensibility of a film like The Duellists by Ridley Scott. I’m often drawn to the style of dialogue that Aaron Sorkin famously developed for his series The West Wing (which is an American political drama and has no elements of fantasy but does have brilliant dialogue between characters.) Sometimes music is a key factor for me in developing scenes. In fact, each of the Greatcoats has a song which connects to their fighting style. When I was working out those scenes I would listen to the songs over and over again to find a kind of rhythm and pacing. There are many different authors who’ve been important influences on me as well, such as Steven Brust who wrote Jhereg and Roger Zelazny who wrote Nine Princes in Amber amongst many other classic novels.
@Sebastien de Castell: That sounds very interesting. Which songs represent the different characters? I myself am especially interested in Falcios song. Do the songs change during the storyline?
Kest’s fight song is a piece of electronic music called Mirando by Ratatat. It matches the unpredictable sinewy rhythm I see in Kest’s sword style. Brasti’s is Cobra Style by the Teddybears (featuring Mad Cobra) – a relentless pop/rap tune that moves faster than most music in the genre. You can imagine Brasti’s drawing, knocking, and firing arrows in the breakdowns.
Falcio’s fight song in book 1 was You Know My Name by Chris Cornell. This was the song used in the opening credits of the James Bond film, Casino Royale. There are striking buildups before the choruses that fit the way I envision Falcio preparing for that singular moment where his attack must be perfect. I also found the lyrical content to mesh well with the darker side of Falcio’s personality.
There are a number of other songs that I listened to while writing key scenes in the story. There’s an article out there somewhere on the music of Traitor’s Blade where I go through all of them.
@Sebastien de Castell: In one of your former interviews I have read itinerant judges inspired you to the greatcoats. What about the Dashini? Are there any historical examples? Are they also represented by a song?
The Dashini harken back to the original Nizari Ismailis who were sometimes referred to as „hashishiyya“ (which means ‚without any explanation‘) and who were one of the first organized groups capable of producing major political change through the killing of powerful figures.
I brought the Dashini into the story because I wanted something for the Greatcoats to have feared. Where the Greatcoats were created, in part, as a counter to the Knights, the Dashini are something different and older – a force that the Greatcoats themselves could never hope to find or bring to justice. When Falcio kills two of them, it’s the first time that a Greatcoat has survived such an encounter and, as you’ll learn in part 2 of Hochverrat, there is a price to pay for such an act.
There’s a song called Baghdad by guitarist Jesse Cook that I played while writing Falcio’s fight with the Dashini.
@Sebastien de Castell: According to your work as fighting choreograph you probably have a lot of the scenes in your mind’s eye. Have you ever thought about a film version? Have you ever reenact some of the scenes, the fighting ones for example?
There a radically different approach required to writing a fight scene for a novel than choreographing one for the theatre or film. The best way to describe it is to say that, for film and theatre, I need to define every single movement and action that takes place, and put all of them in front of the audience. However in a novel, if you describe every action, the pacing becomes terribly slow and the reader is disengaged. So instead, a big part of the process is to give just enough detail so that the reader can imagine the types of moves that might be taking place, and then to focus on the characters’ internal world, letting the reader fill in the spaces between. In that sense, my job is to teach the reader a little bit about sword fighting and then let them choreograph the fight in their own imaginations.
@Sebastien de Castell: Let’s now turn to the question probably most of the people who read “Traitor’s Blade” would like to ask. When will we be able to return to the world of the Greatcoats? In Germany the sequel “Greatcoats Lament” will be published in December. When will the next two books be published? And can you maybe give us a few hints relating to the content?
The second book is indeed due to be published in December – a full six months before English readers will see it! Hochverrat takes the main characters on a darker and more perilous journey than they’ve faced before. Falcio will come to question his idealized memories of King Paelis, Kest will pay the price that comes with wanting to be the greatest swordsman in the world, and Brasti will discover he can no longer get away with simply playing the charming rogue. Valiana, Aline, and the Tailor all take more central roles in the second book than they did in the first, and the clash between their different visions of right and wrong will shake Tristia’s very foundations.
I’m writing book 3 right now and that it involves the return of the missing Greatcoats and the final answer to the question of whether Falcio will be able to complete the mission he believed the King gave him.
While I don’t know the exact publication dates for books 3 and 4, I do want readers of Blutrecht to know that I’m committed to ensuring that each book is a complete story in and of itself. I get frustrated when I read a book that feels like it ends before the story is finished and realize I have to wait months before I can see the next instalment. That’s why I was determined with Blutrecht to end the novel at a point that would give readers a satisfying conclusion rather than simply a cliffhanger, and I’ve worked very hard to do the same with Hochverrat so I very much hope that readers will enjoy it.
@Sebastien de Castell: In Germany the second book is split up into two parts. You said you get frustrated when you read a book that feels like it ends before the story is finished, I guess this is the reason why you write an additional chapter for the book. How did you get the idea for this chapter? Will this chapter also be included in the Canadian version?
When I first learned that the book had to be split into two parts (due to the length – Hochverrat is 50% longer than Blutrecht) I was a little nervous. I never want readers to only get part of a story. So I talked it over with my editor and we agreed that I would write a new closing scene to part 1 and a new opening scene for part 2 in order to make both of them have satisfying structures.
The way I approached it was to remember that what really ‚finishes‘ a book is not answering every question, but in having the main characters realize how they and the world around them have changed throughout the story. In this case, the end of part 1 is the moment where Falcio realizes how the events of the novel have altered Kest, Brasti, Valiana, and himself. He comes to see for the first time that they are all broken in their own ways, and yet they are still the only people he’d want by his side to face the dark days ahead.
I very much hope German readers enjoy the added scenes. As to the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., I don’t know yet whether those publishers will choose to use these added scenes. Every editor is a little different so they might have their own thoughts as to what makes the best experience for their readers.
@Sebastien de Castell: Thank you very much. I hope to read more from you soon.
Thank you! My first priority is always the Greatcoats series because I know there are some wonderful readers out there who are waiting for the rest of the series. In between those books I have several other novels in development, and I’m hopeful that my other fantasy series, Spellslinger, which is a kind of Western fantasy tale about an outcast magician and his rather unusual sidekick, will be available for readers soon.
Although I don’t speak German (and am thus incredibly grateful to have the remarkable Andreas Decker who also translated the Wheel of Time series as the translator for the Greatcoats) I am always happy to hear from readers who enjoy the books. You can find me at www.decastell.com or on Twitter at @decastell.