Lindsay Buroker: Thanks for having me on your blog, Khaalidah! A Sicarius-centric interview sounds fun. I’ll see if I can answer without giving away any spoilers here. Any fantasy-loving readers who stumble across this and haven’t read the books can grab The Emperor’s Edge for free right now. And I hope folks will stop by my official fantasy author blog too.
Khaalidah: Every time I read a scene featuring Sicarius, I get excited. Right now, I am almost halfway through Dark Currents, the second book in the Emperor’s Edge series. Unlike many sequels, this one is proving to be just as interesting and edgy as the first. The crew, Books, Maldynado, Akstyr, Basilard, Sicarius, and Amaranthe are trying to solve a case and hopefully clear their names. I’ll give no spoilers. In Dark Currents we’re getting to know the characters better this time around. The only person whose motivations and interests continue to remain unclear is Sicarius’s. I’ll admit right off that Sicarius is by far my favorite character. Initially I couldn’t put my finger on why, but then I had a recent epiphany and I realized that I like Sicarius because he reminds me of another character that I totally enjoy. Spock.
1. Sicarius’s first appearance wasn’t in Emperor’s Edge, but another of your novels called Encrypted. He was a teen in that story, so I’m guessing he is about twenty or so years older in Emperor’s Edge. Did you know when writing Encrypted that Sicarius would eventually appear in other works?
Chronologically speaking, yes, Sicarius’s first appearance is in Encrypted, but I actually wrote The Emperor’s Edge first. I hadn’t originally intended to use any of the same characters in the two stories, because they were supposed to be stand-alone novels. (At the time, I was thinking that I’d go the traditional publishing route, and conventional wisdom there says not to write in a series, because if you can’t sell the first one, there’s no point in having a second.)
I was about two thirds of the way into Encrypted when I decided to add a messenger from the emperor to further complicate things for the protagonists. Well, I already had this assassin lurking around the empire, and I figured I could make the math work out nicely (Sicarius was young and still a touch impressionable in Encrypted, and that was important in the end).
I’d also, in Emperor’s Edge, given Sicarius a strange, alien knife, and I figured the events in Encrypted would be the perfect way to explain its existence.
I think it ended up being a fun treat for those who read the EE books first and then gave Encrypted a try. Sicarius, despite being more of a villain than a hero, has quite a few fans.
2. Sicarius turns out to be quite a talented man. In Emperor’s Edge, besides proving he is supremely stealthy and deadly, he surprises us by being able to draw well, and he gives some insight as to his education. Did this talent evolve as a plot device or was this a talent you’d given to him from the start?
Actually I teased the plot around to show off his drawing skills. And it’s no coincidence that we see Sespian’s architectural drawings early on. I wanted there to be hints throughout the story, so it didn’t come out of nowhere at the end when Amaranthe took a guess at Sicarius’s relationship to Sespian.
And, yes, he’s a little superhuman. Since we’re going to be talking Star Trek here, he’s meant to be Khan-esque. Of course, it’s a steam-era setting, and there’s nothing exactly like genetic engineering, but Hollowcrest and the old emperor did some selective breeding when they were having Sicarius conceived. And then they trained the heck out of him so he’d be good at everything that could come in useful for an assassin infiltrating other countries.
He’s honestly kind of a Gary Stu character (too perfect), but I don’t think folks have minded, maybe because he’s not the hero. In fact, he’s a force the heroine (Amaranthe) has to figure out how to work with, and ultimately he remains a little unpredictable and dangerous, even to her. (I’m writing the fourth book right now, he’s going to make a choice that gets her in serious trouble.)
3. I’m almost at the half way mark in Dark Currents, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who aren’t completely caught up with the series, but will we ever get the true story behind who Sicarius is, how he grew up, and why he was trained to be an assassin?
More or less (hm, I gave some of that way in the last answer!). I’ve been letting a little more about his past out in each of the books.
I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a story that’s set during his youth, and showing some of what he endured growing up, but it’s hard for me to write stories without humor and dialogue (silly banter between characters, oh, yes!). That’s difficult to do without a lighter character around to balance out Sicarius’s taciturn nature. In Book 4, we’ll meet someone who was involved with one aspect of his training, though, so maybe we’ll get a few more details that way.
4. There is some mention, mostly at the end of Emperor’s Edge and some during Dark Currents that estimate Sicarius’s age, mostly in reference to his relationship with the young emperor. Do we know or will we ever find out exactly how old he is? Also, will we ever learn the details behind his surprising relationship with the emperor?
Yeah, people have to do some math to figure it out, heh. He’s thirty-six, thirty-seven in the EE books.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever give more details about how that relationship came to exist than are on the page in EE2 (Dark Currents), but we’ll get some more on how Sicarius got fired and what exactly happened to the old emperor to cause Sespian to inherit the throne so young.
5. As I’ve already mentioned, Sicarius totally puts me in the mind of Spock from Star Trek TOS, and to a lesser extent Worf from Star Trek TNG and DS9. Mind you, Spock is certainly not a trained killer, as is Sicarius, but there is this literalist intelligence that I think both share. It’s Sicarius’s stoic demeanor that I find attractive in a character because there is always this sense that there is a mystery just beneath the surface. What were your inspirations for Sicarius? Was he a difficult or easy character to draw out?
Sicarius is definitely a logical and controlled guy, but, like Spock, when he slips, you get a glimpse of his humanity and the raw emotion behind that careful façade. He’s intelligent, but he was also indoctrinated to be loyal to the throne and to carry out orders to the letter, so free thinking and creativity weren’t encouraged. That’s where Amaranthe comes in (maybe she’s Captain Kirk to his Spock, though she doesn’t sleep around with green-skinned people…)
As for inspirations, I don’t really remember. Most of the EE crew have been roaming around in my head for ten years or more (for me, it was a long path to getting “serious” about writing and finishing and polishing novel-length adventures), and Sicarius has probably changed the least over the years. He’s one of those rare characters that pop into your head fully formed.
I did love Spock when I was a kid, so maybe there’s some of that in there, and I also had a fascination with ancient Greece at one point and read everything I could find on the Spartans. Sicarius probably came out of that, though obviously there are a lot of uber-soldier type characters out there, too, so I wasn’t doing anything original with him. One choice I did specifically make, that’s perhaps a little different from the norm, was not to have him turn out to be a good guy underneath it all. He’s not a sadist, but he’s never going to develop an altruistic streak either.
Readers might be interested to know that the first novel I wrote with the EE characters had Sicarius as the leader of the group, and Amaranthe didn’t even exist yet in my mind. That was the first story I ran through a workshop, and a couple of readers hated Sicarius. As I’ve said, he really is more of a villain than a hero, so I think it works much better now where he’s not the protagonist and we have a more sympathetic hero (heroine) to guide us through the story. At first, I just added Amaranthe to the group, but things got more interesting when I decided to make her the leader.
6. I know that you are currently working on EE4, which is exciting. How many do you have planned?
I have six books planned, mostly because that’s the number it will take to let every side character have a chance at being a secondary POV character. I plan to wrap up the Forge-as-villain story arc by the end of the sixth and have some sort of resolution with Sespian and Sicarius, and also with Amaranthe and Sicarius.
I haven’t decided if all of the characters are going to make it through to the end, but I hope to leave things open in case I’d like to do more stories in the future. I’ll probably take a break and work on something else after Book 6 though. Some folks have let me know that they’d dearly like a sequel to Encrypted, and I have an urban fantasy series idea percolating in the back of my mind too. I also have a rough draft of a novel with my goblin heroes (middle grade fantasy) that I’d like to get back to at some point.
I obviously need to write faster!
7. Do you have plans to write any stories in which Sicarius is the protagonist?
He’ll be the secondary POV character in Book 6, so that’ll be, at least in part, his story. I’m not quite sure how I’ll write him, but spending time inside his head should be an interesting challenge.
I do have an old short story from Sicarius’s point of view that takes place when Sespian is about five, and I’ve been trying to locate that. I think it’s on a computer that’s defunct at the moment. If I can find it, I might put it out there for folks, if only as a freebie on my website.
8. I noticed on your website a picture of Sicarius drawn by one of your fans. It was pretty good. How does it feel to have fans drawing interpretations of your characters?
It’s very cool. I can’t draw myself, so I love seeing what people come up with. I’ve only been at this a year, but I’ve already had fan art and lots of nice letters from folks, along with a couple of people asking if they could write fan fiction. Someone even made a role-playing-game setting based on the Emperor’s Edge world.
These are the sorts of things I knew happened for traditionally published authors that have been in the biz for years and have a huge fan base. As a self-published author, I wasn’t expecting anything like that, so it’s been a very cool surprise.
9. Lastly, if I may, I’d like to direct this last question to Sicarius himself. What of all the things in the world do you want? Why?
I tried to talk Sicarius into answering this for you, but, alas, I lack Amaranthe’s gifted tongue. His response was simply to stand there and stare at you without a word…
Thanks Lindsay for agreeing to this Sircarius-centric interview. I like that word. This interview has given great insight into the man and your process, not to mention it was just plain fun having you here. Sircarius is by far my favorite character but by no means the only interesting one in the EE series. I hope I can have you back again one day.
Happy reading and happy writing.