WHEN BLOOD LIES is the 17th in your Sebastian St. Cyr series. What keeps this character inspiring for you?
Sebastian St. Cyr is such a complex, dynamic character: he’s clever and passionate and honorable, although he’s also willing to step over a few lines when necessary. I find that if I’m away from Sebastian and Hero and the others for too long, I miss them and get impatient to start the next book. A part of that is probably because there is an important personal story arc that runs through this series, plus several overarching mysteries that make this series unusual, and I suspect help keep it fresh for me. Before I started the series I had only written standalones. It’s fascinating for me as an author to be given the opportunity to follow a set of characters through years of their lives, exploring the ways they grow and change because of various life events and experiences. And of course, the period is fascinating. We tend to think of the Regency in terms of balls and carriages and duels at dawn, but there was so much more to it than that. This was the age of Napoleon and Goethe, Byron and Wordsworth, Turner and Gericault, Beethoven, and Haydn. It was a time of tremendous change, and change is always both stressful to a society and fascinating to explore.
This book is set in 1815. Why this time period? Do you think you would write in any other time period?
I’ve written in many different time periods. I have a contemporary thriller series written under the name C. S. Graham; as C. S. Harris I’ve also written a coming-of-age novel set in Civil War-torn Louisiana (Good Time Coming) and a WWII novella (Siren’s Call); and as Candice Proctor I’ve written seven historical romances set everywhere from Medieval France and Colonial Australia to the Victorian-era South Seas. I chose Regency England for my mystery series because I have a PhD in European history, with 1750-1850 as my area of specialization; as Candice Proctor I’ve actually written a nonfiction history book, Women, Equality, and the French Revolution, that explores certain aspects of the intellectual history of the period.
How much research goes into a book like this?
Despite that PhD in history (and the year I spent living in Paris researching my nonfiction book on the French Revolution and Napoleonic era), I did a surprising amount of research for When Blood Lies. Much of the story revolves around the escape of Napoleon from Elba, so I needed to nail down a lot of particulars I didn’t know exactly where Napoleon was each day; exactly when news of various events reached the French government in Paris; exactly when that information was released to the general public. Weaving all that in with the murder investigation and Sebastian’s personal story was complicated!
The first part of the description for this book sounds highly dramatic and gothic. Do those elements generally appeal to you as a storyteller?
Well, I don’t write the cover copy for the books. But this installment in the series is rather critical in that Sebastian goes to Paris in search of his mother and the answers to some pretty serious questions. These are questions that have been haunting him for years, so when he finds his mother dying, the victim of murder, it adds a poignant twist to what comes next.
For readers who may be new to this series, how would you describe the dynamic between Sebastian and Hero?
I think the key to the relationship between Hero and Sebastian is the tremendous respect they have for each other. They respect each other’s intelligence and judgment, they love each other desperately, and they lust after each other too, of course, because they are still young. Hero is a strong, fiercely intelligent woman living in an age and society that sees women as weak and stupid and treats them basically as children. Because of that, she never intended to marry, but in Sebastian she has found someone who sees her as an equal—and treats her as one.
Because this case involves Sebastian St. Cyr’s mother, and this is so personal for him, how is a story like this different to write than any other in this series?
Because this series contains an important personal story arc, I am always careful to make sure that a reader new to the series can pick up any of the books out of order and still understand what’s going on. That was especially true of this book, made particularly delicate since I had to make sure my American readers could also understand what was going on historically. I think I succeeded!
If you could recommend only one of your books to a reader unfamiliar with your work, which would you pick? And why?
Someone once said that asking an author to pick her favorite book is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. All the books in the series can be read as standalones, including WHEN BLOOD LIES. But if someone wanted to start with something different, I’d probably recommend beginning with the first, WHAT ANGELS FEAR, and following the personal story arc of Sebastian and the other characters from there.
A few authors I’ve interviewed in the past have told me that the kind of book they enjoy writing is not the same kind of book they enjoy reading. What do you like to read? Favorite books? Authors?
I read fairly widely, although I’ll confess, I’m not fond of Sci Fi or fantasy, and I don’t like horror at all. My favorite books are often the ones I read in my formative years because they’re the ones who inevitably had the greatest influence on me—classics by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, and Georgette Heyer. In terms of contemporary authors, I particularly value James Lee Burke, Martin Cruz Smith, and John Connolly (although he can get so dark that I have to be in the right frame of mind to read him). I also am a huge, longtime fan of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, and during the first year of the pandemic I read at least a dozen of Rosamund Pilcher’s books. It all depends on my mood. But if I like reading a certain kind of book, I’ll inevitably want to write one some day. I do have a reputation for genre hopping!
What are you currently working on?
I am just finishing up the 18th Sebastian St. Cyr book. This one is set three months after WHEN BLOOD LIES. And I’m starting to give some thought to the 19th.
Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery #17
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has spent years unraveling his family’s tragic history. But the secrets of his past will come to light in this gripping new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of What the Devil Knows.
March, 1815. The Bourbon King Louis XVIII has been restored to the throne of France, Napoleon is in exile on the isle of Elba, and Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and his wife, Hero, have traveled to Paris in hopes of tracing his long-lost mother, Sophie, the errant Countess of Hendon. But his search ends in tragedy when he comes upon the dying Countess in the wasteland at the tip of the Île de la Cité. Stabbed—apparently with a stiletto—and thrown from the bastions of the island’s ancient stone bridge, Sophie dies without naming her murderer.
Sophie had been living in Paris under an assumed name as the mistress of Maréchal Alexandre McClellan, the scion of a noble Scottish Jacobite family that took refuge in France after the Forty-Five Rebellion. Once one of Napoleon’s most trusted and successful generals, McClellan has now sworn allegiance to the Bourbons and is serving in the delegation negotiating on behalf of France at the Congress of Vienna. It doesn’t take Sebastian long to realize that the French authorities have no interest in involving themselves in the murder of a notorious Englishwoman at such a delicate time. And so, grieving and shattered by his mother’s death, Sebastian takes it upon himself to hunt down her killer. But what he learns will not only shock him but could upend a hard-won world peace.
Suspense Historical | Mystery Historical [Berkley, On Sale: April 5, 2022, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780593102695 / eISBN: 9780593102701]
Lush historical setting and tightly complex mystery are a delight!
Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham, is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series written under the name C.S. Harris, the new C.S. Graham thriller series co-written with Steven Harris, and seven historical romances. She is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of the French Revolution. Her books are available worldwide and have been translated into over twenty different languages. Candice graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Classics before going on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in history. A former academic, she has taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University in Texas. She also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson's Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. Most recently, she spent many years as a partner in an international business consulting firm. The daughter of a career Air Force officer and university professor, Proctor loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad. She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, her two daughters, and an ever-expanding number of cats.
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