Author Sebastien de Castell on the low demand for Canadian science fiction and fantasy lit

Sebastien de Castell, author of the acclaimed swashbuckling fantasy quartet The Greatcoats and Spellslinger, does not consider himself a part of Canada’s literary scene. Despite being born in Toronto, and currently residing in Vancouver, de Castell believes that his Canadian readers are unaware that he is a Canadian author.

De Castell says that this is based on a “bizarre, uniquely Canadian phenomenon” in which readers believe that Canadian fiction authors only write Canadian books, containing plot lines such as “three kids from Halifax moving to the big city of Toronto.”

De Castell published Traitor’s Blade in 2012, marking the beginning of his career as a fantasy author.

Prior to publishing his first novel, de Castell was working at the Vancouver Film School. After ten years, he decided that he needed a change. “I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I took a few months off. ... I decided I would take a risk on writing.”

De Castell described how his original Canadian publishers, Penguin Random House Canada, were unwilling to launch a proper marketing campaign for his Greatcoat series under the basis that it fell within the fantasy genre.

“I remember when Penguin bought the Canadian rights to the Greatcoats. It was like, for a Canadian author, that's the dream. ... But almost no one goes to work for Penguin because they want to work with fantasy authors. ... So publicity becomes a giant pain in the butt."

It would seem that science fiction and fantasy novels are not only in low demand in Canada, but also regarded with low esteem by Canadian publishing giants. Though aspiring Canadian science fiction and fantasy authors should not be discouraged, de Castell says.

“Don’t think small. Don't think, ‘Oh let's see who the Canadian agents are.’ You don't need a Canadian agent unless they’re a really good agent. ... My agents live in the UK and sometimes they could be anywhere in the world. They still get me the best deals I could hope for. So look outside of Canada. Don't think, ‘Oh I want to get a book deal with a Canadian publisher,’ ... unless it's the best deal.”

In regards to writing, de Castell explains the process in a few simple steps.

“Can you write a good sentence? If you can write a good sentence, can you write a good scene? Once you write a good scene, you write 60 more and you have a novel. That's really all there is. It's always worth doing.”