Sircarius: Behind the Character — An Interview With Lindsay Buroker

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.

  • Miriam

    Thanks for this! I just told my hus­band I have a total crush on Sicar­ius. He’s cool with it. :)

    To me, espe­cially blonde, he’s much more a West­ley / Dread Pirate Roberts fig­ure. Swoon…

  • Cas­san­dra Ferrari

    Awe­some inter­view. I am a tad obsessed with Sicar­ius and this inter­view was very fun. I was glad to hear that he will never become a hero, because that would be too expected, and too out of char­ac­ter for him and take away some of the rea­sons we love him. It is fun to have a vil­lain that is so lovable!

  • J.E. John­son

    Great inter­view! But now it will be even harder to wait for EE4 ;)

  • J.E. John­son

    Won­der­ful inter­view! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wait for EE 4 ;)

    • Mariah kim­ble

      ditto! I can­not wait till the next one comes out.

  • Marta

    I loved read­ing this inter­view and can’t wait for the fourth book to come out. Rather than Peter Weller, I pic­tured Rut­ger Hauer (from Blade Run­ner) as a sort of Sicar­ius figure.

    • Lind­say B

      Thanks for stop­ping by, Marta! It’s fun hear­ing people’s ideas for who the char­ac­ters look like. :)

  • E House

    Thank you both for doing this inter­view; I enjoyed read­ing it. I also enjoyed learn­ing that the 4th book is indeed under way, and plan to enjoy that Sicar­ius POV 6th novel quite a lot, apart from the inevitable last-book sadness.

    By the way, it took me a while to fig­ure out how I pic­tured Sicar­ius in my head, but as soon as I thought of Peter Weller (the guy who played Bucka­roo Ban­zai, Robo­Cop, etc) circa late 1980s, it instantly clicked, and no amount of con­flict­ing text descrip­tion will ever remove that par­tic­u­lar bit of men­tal type-casting from my brain.

    • Khaal­i­dah

      Thanks for read­ing and reply­ing. Wow. Robo­cop? That really takes me back.

      • Lind­say B

        Thanks for stop­ping in, E! Yes, I’m about 60,000 words into Book 4. I’ll wait until I fin­ish the first draft before talk­ing about release dates, but I’m hop­ing for spring some­time. :)

  • Lind­say B

    Thanks for post­ing the inter­view, Khaal­i­dah! Boy, I did ram­ble on a bit there. I hope nobody gets bored. ;)

    • Khaal­i­dah

      Hey Lind­say. If read­ers like Sir­car­ius as much as I do, I doubt they will get bored. This was a fun inter­view and I enjoyed the oppor­tu­nity to get to know Sir­car­ius bet­ter. IMO he is a stun­ning char­ac­ter and his mys­tery keeps me ever intrigued. All of the char­ac­ters, in fact, lend just the right “some­thing” to the EE adven­tures. Thanks so much for agree­ing to be here.

      • Lind­say B

        You’re wel­come. Thanks for hav­ing me!

        You know, this inspired some­one else to send me some Mal­dy­nado ques­tions. That should be a fun inter­view, too, if only because I can be goofy with the answers (unlike Sicar­ius, Mal­dy­nado will be oh-so-pleased to answer directly :P).