The Bio

SDC - ShirtSebastien 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 contact him here.

FAQ

I’m a Canadian writer of swashbuckling fantasy novels, though if you’d asked me that question two years ago you’d have received a different answer and two years from now you might get a different one still. I love to travel—both literally and figuratively—and that’s led to frequent changes in my career. Aside from writing novels, I still perform as a musician and take on the odd speaking gig.
My name is Sebastien de Castell. Really. I know it sounds like a made-up fantasy author name, but it really is my name.
Saint’s Blood, book 3 in the Greatcoats swashbuckling fantasy series, comes out April 7th in the UK and then June 7th worldwide.
I love weird detectives—the ones that are defective to the core but somehow use their flaws to make themselves brilliant investigators. I’m working on a mystery novel with a character I really enjoy and I’m hoping will come to life sometime in the next two years. I wrote a thriller/horror with a friend of mine a couple of years ago and we’re debating whether to give it another draft. Alas, both our writing schedules are pretty full right now.
The publishing rights are sold separately to each region, so, in effect, it’s a different publisher in every country. Each of those publishers have their own schedules and times they think their books will do best in the market. Alas, I have no control over this process!
Audiobook rights rest with my publishers. However if you want to encourage them to produce an audiobook, they’re very responsive to the requests coming from fans. Go to the contact page and you’ll see how to contact the appropriate publisher.
There are four books in the Greatcoats series: Traitor’s Blade, Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne. There are plans for a second series set in the same world but it will feature a younger and less experienced trio of travelling magistrates.
There are six books planned in the Spellslinger series. The first one is released in 2017.
I’ve found that this really amounts to two very different questions:

1. How do I get published?

I’m a bit unrepresentative of the current publishing climate in that I got very lucky and had a relatively easy time of it. I had made the decision that, one way or another, Traitor’s Blade was going to be published. If I hadn’t been able to get a good agent and a publishing deal, I would have found another route to putting it out into the world. But that came from having the absolute confidence that I’d written the very best book I could and that it was a book that other readers like myself would enjoy.

2. How do I write the best book I can?

My best advice is this: fearlessly write the book you most want to read.

There’s nothing revolutionary in that sentence, though I want to draw your attention to the word, ‘fearlessly‘.

When I first signed my book deal I asked my editors on both continents (Quercus and Penguin) why they’d decided to buy Traitor’s Blade. Both talked about loving ‘the voice’ of the book. I mention this because it’s not something that comes up very often in books on craft or even at writing conferences. Usually the conversations are all about characters and plot, and yet, I get the sense that publishers and readers alike are really looking for fresh voices—narrative styles that are resonant but feel distinct from the rest of the pack. I, of course, had no clue about ‘voice’ at the time, but I notice now as a reader how I’m drawn to some voices and not to others.

A second point to consider is that for a publisher (including yourself when you self-publish) to be able to get readers’ attention, there needs to be something clear and strong in the premise. For example, think of a book like The Martian by Andy Weir. The premise is absolutely fabulous—a mission to Mars goes wrong and one astronaut is accidentally left behind. You instantly want to know what’s going to happen to him, how he’ll survive and whether he’ll ever get home. Note that I haven’t said anything about the character or even the plot—just the premise.

So while almost every craft book I encounter is talking about plot and character, a strong voice and an engaging premise seem to be two things that are vital to grab people’s attention right now.

So how do you get a strong voice and premise? That’s where the ‘fearlessly’ part comes in: if you love romance novels with vampires and elves, write the most romantic novel with the most vampirey-vampires and elvish-elves you can. Turn off the voices that tell you to hold back, to try and sound ‘pro’, to avoid clichés. No one gives a damn about those things while they’re crying their eyes out over how beautiful the first kiss is between your vampire and your elf. Shoot the moon in that first draft and the hell with the voices of what is or isn’t cool. Write the book you most want to read without fear or shame and you have a chance at making something truly great.