Swords and Spells and Squirrel Cats - Sebastien de Castell talks to Forbidden Planet

18 May 2018

Sebastien de Castell is the author of the highly successful Greatcoats series, and of the YA Fantasy novel, Spellslinger. And we got to talk to him about the brand new novels in the series!

Q: The Spellslinger books are described as YA fantasy – was this something that you set out to write or did the story finding its voice for itself?

The first book I wrote in the series was actually the fifth when Kellen's already been an outlaw for a couple of years. It was my agent who slapped me upside the head and asked why I was skipping over Kellen's origins. Who knew agents could be so smart?

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Kellen, the main character, without straying too far into spoilers? What journey does he undertake?

He's the reverse Harry Potter. Instead of suddenly discovering he's got tons of magic and a grand destiny ahead of him, Kellen comes from a culture where magic is everything and his own is fading away. Oh, and he's cursed.

Q: You’re already known for your Greatcoats series. Did you find YA a challenge, after writing lots of glorious treachery?

Spellslinger is filled with glorious treachery. Who experiences more treachery than teenagers? As smaller children we're told if you behave well, good things will happen. As adults be kind of trudge along, often accepting that life isn't fair. It's as teenagers that we first discover the raw unfairness of our world.

Q: Has there ever been a time when you’ve thought about writing something other than genre fiction?

Not so far. There are so many genres to explore that I feel like I've got miles and miles to go before I want to leave that path.

Q: Do you think that genre boundaries are coming down? Is it more acceptable, these days, to blur the defining lines?

No, I think don't think genre boundaries have weakened – they've just become much more rigid in a different way. It's no longer the marketing categories of “sci-fi” or “fantasy” on the shelves that define our sense of genre, but a set of ideological expectations we impose on literature – of precisely how we interpret that story to be a reflection of our own social and political framework. That's why I think it's important for writers to subvert the desires of readers who want books to fit neatly into one ideological perspective or another.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser – and how far do you stray from your own planning, or are you ruthlessly organised?

The technical term for my writing approach is “bumbling idiot”. I've never written two books following the same process. Sometimes I have dozes of outlines, sometimes I just plunge blindly into the text. I've even had large charts and graphs. I'm a mess.

Q: What do you do to relax? We hear a rumour about sword fighting...

The cornerstones of my life are storytelling, travel, romance, and adventure. So my wife and I travel quite a bit, I pick up a sword occasionally, I try new things I'm not qualified to do. Also, YouTube. Lots of YouTube.

Q: And finally, we just have to know… what’s a talking squirrel cat?!

Take a really big flying squirrel, give it sharp claws and the personality of a thief, a blackmailer, and most likely a murderer. Don't mess with squirrel cats, my friends. It never ends well.

Thank you for stopping to chat to us!