S.J. Hartland - Duty and Love Collide in a Powerful Epic Fantasy
S.J. Hartland is an emerging epic fantasy writer from Australia. She is a journalist and fencer who calls the Darling Downs, Queensland, home. The 19th Bladesman is the first in a new epic fantasy series and as our Author of the Day, she tells us all about this novel.
Please give us a short introduction to what the 19th Bladesman is about.
The 19th Bladesman is about a young warrior bonded to ancient gods. He knows he’ll die young in what has been a centuries-old malign conflict against a bloodthirsty god. Kaell, though, yearns for more than duty. He wants the man who raised him to be proud of him. But Kaell’s lord, Val Arques, has a shameful secret and even he can’t save the young bladesman from the dark fate that awaits him.
The story is written from different POVs. Why did you take this approach?
I love the way it allows you to really get into the head of the character.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a state-ranked fencer – or was. I love swordplay. I love the feel of the blade, the way it sounds, the precision, the skill it takes to deliver a beat attack or a disengage. I had the most amazing Russian coach. When I was younger, fencing was my life in Sydney. You can fence at a different club every night and at least two clubs on Saturdays.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
Azenor Caelan does her own thing. I wrote her chapters in one weekend and didn’t really revise them. They seemed to come from nowhere.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
I found Kaell the hardest to write. Heath was the easiest; I tapped into my sarcastic side. The problem was if I had to go to dinner or somewhere after writing Heath, I had to snap out of Heath’s head or my words tended to stay a little too sharp and cynical!
The 19th Bladesman is the first in a series. How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
The Last Seer King picks up straight after The 19th Bladesman. There is another key point of view character introduced, a Varee battle captain called Dannon who I’m really fond of. The third in the series, The Sword Brotherhood, picks up straight after the events of The Last Seer King. Roaran Caelan becomes a point of view character.
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve a clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
Writing for me is what the psychologists, I think, call “flow”. You can lose yourself for days. I suppose The 19th Bladesman provided a surprising insight about fatherhood. Someone asked recently, why didn’t I write about motherhood. But my brother, sister and I were raised by my father and I have a strong sense of what it means to be a good father – if that makes sense.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Ha! Maybe fence a bit less and write a bit more.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I fit writing in around work. I’m a journalist on the Darling Downs. I try to grab a few hours after work each night and then more on weekends for writing. For ages I didn’t have internet at home and I got heaps done. I’ve got internet now though and all the distractions are there!!
What are you working on right now? The Last Seer King is on track for a late May release. I just went through the copyeditor’s notes and it will be proofread soon.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you? I love talking characters and hearing from readers. Love it! My email is [email protected] and I’m on Facebook a lot, though I’m a bit of an introvert and it’s taking time to build up the page! My website is www.sjhartland.com.