Today I am interviewing Sebastien de Castell, author of the new fantasy novel, Spellslinger, first book in the Spellslinger series. Some readers might know him from the swashbuckling fantasy series, The Greatcoats.
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DJ: Hi Sebastien! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Sebastien de Castell: I’m one of those terribly confused individuals who reads a book as a teenager and then tries to pattern his life around an unfeasible profession. In my case, when I was fifteen I read a book called BARD by Keith Tailor and decided I wanted a life of music, adventure, swordfighting, and storytelling. Over the years that ambition translated into a string of odd careers from being a full-time musician, a fencer and fight choreographer, and, of course, a novelist.
DJ: What is Spellslinger about?
Sebastien: Spellslinger is a series about magic and what price we’re willing to pay to have it. The books are full of wondrous spells and mysterious playing cards, but they’re also about the forms of magic that are available to all of us. Music can be a kind of magic, as can dance, or even human decency . Oh, and there’s a talking squirrel cat whose favourite pastimes are thievery and blackmail.
DJ: What were some of your influences Spellslinger and the series?
Sebastien: Oddly, in many ways SPELLSLINGER was driven not so much by influences as a desire to look at the other side of many of the fantasy novels I loved years ago. The Harry Potter series is terrific, for example, but I wanted to explore what it’s like to not be the chosen one – to in fact discover you’re the weakest of your people and your family, and to have to go out in search of other ways to make yourself special. That’s true of so many of the books that influenced me when I was a teenager. I loved the stories, but I knew I wasn’t the chosen one, so the question became: what do I do now? I was fortunate to have people in my life who – instead of assuring me that I was special – suggested I go out and find ways to make myself unique.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Sebastien: Kellen’s a trickster at heart, so even though he’s desperate for the kind of real magic his people value, the instinct that helps him survive is the one that makes him something of a con artist.
Ferius Parfax is one of the wandering Argosi – an order of gamblers and card players with no powers of their own, and yet Ferius refuses to back down from anyone, and insists on living her life joyfully, no matter how dark the world around her.
Reichis is a thief, a blackmailer, and almost certainly a murderer. He’s also a squirrel cat, which only makes those traits worse. He adamantly refuses to be any mage’s familiar, but for the right price, he’s willing to become Kellen’s business partner for a while.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Spellslinger series like?
Sebastien: Spellslinger is set in an odd kind of western-influenced magical nation. The Jan’Tep see themselves as the most refined and dignified culture on the continent, with their unique system of magic and their glittering oases at the centre of their cities. Just like in the cultures in which all of us grew up, however, there’s always a darker side, and that’s what Kellen has to uncover in Spellslinger.
DJ: Tell us about your magic system!
Sebastien: Each book has Kellen travelling to a new part of the continent, and thus discovering the unique magic systems of each culture. In the first book in the series, we deal with Kellen’s own people’s esoteric tradition: The Jan’Tep system of magic. At the core is the oasis and the seven fundamental esoteric forces: iron, ember, breath, blood, silk, sand, and shadow. Initiates are banded with metallic ink tattoos around their forearms which over time they learn to “spark” – which is to channel the essential magics through themselves. A typical mage might spark two of them, for example, ember and iron, to become a warmge. Or their talents might lie in silk and iron, to become chaincasters. Sparking three or more bands makes you a big deal. Kellen’s annoying sister Shalla, however, has already sparked four bands by the time she’s thirteen. At the beginning of Spellslinger, with kellen about to undertake his mage’s trials, he’s sparked exactly zero bands. You’ll have to read the first chapters to find out how he survives his first mage’s duel.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Spellslinger?
Sebastien: Writing Ferius Parfax always fascinates me. She’s got no magic, no spells, and yet she’s utterly unwilling to back down from anyone. The Argosi are almost like reverse-Jedi. Instead of having this magical “Force” to let them enact their will on the world, they have to use their wits, their cunning, and talents that any of us could develop if we chose to. I like that Ferius constantly forces Kellen to question all his assumptions about himself, his people, and the world around him.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Sebastien: How much they wish they had a squirrel cat.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Spellslinger series? Spellslinger is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Sebastien: There are six books in the series, and each one deals with magic and adventure, but also with the problem of coming into adulthood and the uncomfortable truths we encounter along the way. I think in some ways what I most want people to take away from Spellslinger is the sense that it’s okay to be confused, to be unsure of oneself, and that the paths that people lay out for you are almost never the ones you should take.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Spellslinger that you can share with us?
Sebastien: There’s one from the sequel, Shadowblack, that i’ve always kind of liked:
“It’s called the Way of Water, Dexan. You tried to kill me, so now I get to keep your hat.”
Then again, it’s hard to compete with Reichis the squirrel cat’s first line in Spellslinger: “All right, you hairless skinbag sons of bitches. Which one of you wants it first?”
DJ: Now that Spellslinger is released, what is next for you?
Sebastien: The first four books in the Spellslinger series are all written and raring to go, so they’ll come out in North America once a month starting in July. I’m editing the fifth book now and wrapping up the outline on the final book in the series. I’ve been inundated with requests for more Greatcoats books (after all, who doesn’t need a little swashbuckling in their lives?) and I’m under contract for several more fantasy novels. It’s going to be a busy few years . . .
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: bit.ly/decastell
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Spellslinger the Spellslinger sextet that we haven’t talked about yet?
Sebastien: I know people get nervous about starting a new series sometimes because they don’t want to wait years for the sequel. With Spellslinger, the good news is that there are six books in the series and they’re all coming out within a short span of time from each other, so you won’t have to wait years for the series to complete.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Sebastien: Just that I’m always happy to hear from fans of the series. It took me decades to have the courage to write to one of my favourite authors, and I always wish I’d done so sooner. I’m easy to reach at decastell.com/contact
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Spellslinger is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo| Publisher
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A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.
Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is fading.
Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything – even his own life – in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.
One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.
The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.
About the Author:
Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way.
Sebastien is the author of the acclaimed swashbuckling fantasy series, The Greatcoats. His debut novel, Traitor’s Blade, was shortlisted for both the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy and the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.
You can reach him at www.decastell.mystagingwebsite.com