Talking with the remarkable Louis Sauvain about his fantasy series The College of Sorcerers Series. Thaddeus of Beewicke is the first in this trilogy of epic fantasy you won’t want to miss. I had the pleasure of chatting with the author about his past, present, and future writing. Visitors, I invite you to check out my review of Book-1 and I would love your comments.
Louis thank you for joining me today. Let’s provide a bit of background for readers of how you got to this point, and then discuss your future plans.
I am honored to feature you today. Was retirement the single event that launched your writing career?
Yes. Absolutely. I had a lifetime of thoughts and ideas bubbling around and about. Now I have the time to attend to them, and out they popped.
I know you have a background in healthcare, but did you scribble thoughts during that time?
Yes, I did. I first conceived the series ‘way back in ’75 but didn’t get around to putting pen to paper until some 25 years later. Then, I would find that ideas would appear in my head at the oddest times — while driving to and from the Hospital, for instance. I learned quickly that if I didn’t pull over and write them down right at the time, they’d vanish by the time I got to where I was going.
The three books in this trilogy are planned and in the works. Would you be kind enough to summarize books 2 and 3 to tease readers without giving everything away.
Of course. In Book I we meet our protagonists and see how they are each recruited for the school. In Book 2, we follow them along as they form their group of 4, begin their studies, learn their place in the hierarchy, and start to actually practice Sorcery. It is only then that they discover there’s something going on at the College that just isn’t ‘right’. Finally, in Book 3, our lads, working with their various partners, are able to overcome awesomely dark Evil, and triumph — but, naturally, at great cost.
Louis your English teacher sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear. Do you ever dislike the suggestions provided by your muse?
No. I am her humble servant and devotee. Never one to argue with a Muse. Often when I sit down at the keyboard, I say to myself, ‘OK, Calliope, just where are you taking me today?’
Your portrayal of the three boys coming of age in Thaddeus of Beewicke have significantly different backgrounds. Do these characters have elements from real people in your life? And is one of them your favorite.
Yes, some do. So, while the boys are drawn from various bits and pieces picked up here and there, the 4 girls, I have to admit red-facedly, are definitely modeled on old girlfriends from school. Hmm. Of the whole group, I guess I favor Anders more — he sounds pretty familiar to me.
I fell head over heels with the sage mule of Asullus. How did you develop this character and will he continue in the series? (I seriously want a stuffed animal like this I can talk to)
You know, I’ve found that Asullus is just about everybody’s favorite character. Some readers have wondered if he’s based on the donkey in the Shrek series but, actually, my inspiration for him was from the old ’40’s ‘Francis the Talking Mule’ movies with Donald O’Connor. When I first started writing him, I asked myself, if, when you were growing up and could have a companion to help you through all the stuff you have to go through, what better guide and confessor than a verbal and sentient mule? After all, a dog is (usually) is too small to ride and a cat — well… At the same time, a horse might be too big, plus, when’s a back country lad going to have the means to have a horse?
The entire series is scheduled to occur over a span of nine books. Old Asullus, alas, takes his final bow in the last volume. One evening, a few years back, when I was writing this part, I found I had a hard time completing it. It’s very difficult to type if you can’t see the keyboard.
A stuffed mule is a great idea (in plush?)! We’ve thought of having a Beewicke Honey and, maybe, a Purberry Wine, as well.
Sir, a Plush Asullus, of course. You definitely have me at the honey and wine. You are going to have fun.
The cover of this book is frightening, complex, intriguing, and compelling. Who developed this cover for you?
The original cover was first created by Michael Yuen-Killick, Rainy Dog Studio, and, later, amended and put in final form by Rebecca Finkel, F + P Graphic Design.
Who is your target reader?
Older Young Adult, I think. Is that a real term?
We’ll need to get a pole as I think of myself as an old young adult. hummmm
The flavor of the Dark Ages is reflected in the cities and towns, transportation modes, and food. Did you spend a great of time on research for this part of your world building?
Yes, that’s correct. I tried to read a lot about the Time as well as a number of the original works to try to get it right. Another resource that helped, I believe, was playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons back in the day.
Do you possess a level of belief in magic that helps you write so convincingly?
Ah. Well, cerebrally, of course, it’s all nonsense. But further down on the spinal column, I hold out hope…
Was writing about sorcerers easier than the witches?
That was a question decided early on. ‘Wizards’ (and, therefore, ‘Warlocks’ and Witches’) were already taken and ‘Magicians’ didn’t seem quite as serious as we needed for the books, so ‘Sorcerers’ was chosen. The term sounded a little more primeval and elemental and that seemed good. Plus, a favorite bit was always ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ in Disney’s ‘Fantasia.’ The only problem with the term, however, is how to correctly render it in the feminine plural — a mouthful!
Share with readers your writing process please.
As alluded to earlier, on the days when things are right, I sit down at the keyboard and off I go. I see where I want to end up and the words just come tumbling out. But, like I’ve heard others say, there are days when it’s hard to even write one’s address. I have no idea how or why this happens, plus, it’s probably different for each person.
This volume is massive as well as outstanding. How long did it take you to complete?
I first put pen to paper ~ 1998. I have two older sisters who are editors, so I would write a chapter and send it off to each of them. They would suggest corrections and return them. I would incorporate most and move ahead. So, the process took about a year to year and a half, I think. There then occurred a long, circuitous route to the current submission and final publication, but here we are! Initially, I wanted to make what happens in the first three books into one huge volume, but someone advised that 1500-page books are, generally, unwieldy (though Robert Jordan didn’t seem to think so…). So, I split the first work into three. They’re each still long, but in my experience, readers of epic fantasy seem to like to dive in and spend a goodly amount of time with the characters and the adventure.
Did you leverage a variety of beta readers to gain feedback?
Actually, the route I took — not entirely by my own choice — was through a series of editors; perhaps a total of 6-7 different folks over time. It was an interesting process as every editor, in my limited experience, approaches their editing in their own individual way. Each person has elements they favor and those they don’t — some things are critical, others, unimportant. It is a fascinating process and you learn a lot as you go along!
What are your hopes for this series in the near and long term?
I love to tell stories and I would hope readers would find enjoyment in them. I would be glad, of course, for any financial return. And, of course, there’s always Hollywood. Let’s see, who would best play the mule?
One of the reasons I was so excited to chat with is because of the quality of your writing and ability to weave a unique story? What is top of mind when you tell a story, pleasing your readers, your muse or yourself?
Probably trying to arrange the words and phrasing to tell a story in such a way that the reader likes it. I really get high on that.
What formats are your books available in today and maybe in the near future?
Pretty much the traditional — paperback, hardback and e-book. Hopefully, in the near future, an audiobook will also be available for those who might prefer this format.
Do you read your book reviews? And how seriously do you take the comments?
Yes, absolutely. The positive reviews always surprise a bit (they really liked it?!), but bring on a real rush. The negative ones sting somewhat but I try to see if there’s something there to learn or whether or not I’m just dealing with a grumpy grumpus.
What sort of groups are you involved with and why?
No real groups currently, but I am new-come to social media, and still trying to learn the ropes. (Very few groups existed back in the late Cretaceous era, which I originally call home…)
Some suggest this is either a very young picture of me or, perhaps, one taken of my younger brother…
Most authors I come across are readers, does this apply to you? If yes, do you have a favorite genre to read?
I’ve read somewhat over the years — a favorite pursuit. Aside from assigned texts, pretty much Epic Fantasy, with Sci-Fi a close second. Escape! (Pina Coladas ok, too)
You are asked to speak at a luncheon of authors (living or not). You are seated with two of your favorite authors, who are they and what would you like to ask each of them? What would be the title of your speech at this event?
Unfortunately, the authors I would ask — Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke — are no longer with us. And the second tier, where I would include Robert Jordan, Roger Zelazny and, also, David Eddings (whose writing was good, but whose behavior was not), is also gone away. But if any of them were present, I would just ask them to speak about the process of their lives, what led them to where they ended up and what they thought of that. A title for such an event might be, ‘The Importance of the Quest in an Author’s Life’, or something like that.
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(And if he is doing a signing anywhere near you, hotfoot it over and chat with him. You won’t regret it and, I suspect, he’ll sign your book.)