She may not own a mobile phone and when asked what the ‘S’ stands for in her name, she tells me Hope (a movie reference I loved). This young inventive Australian writer C.S. Pacat has completed a remarkable collection of three outstanding books known as Captive Prince Trilogy. Self motivated to self publish an online series, it was soon aquired by conglomerate book publishers Penguin and released to critical and commercial acclaim. The books are of a fantasy adventure genre with romance, high drama and serious adventure. Based in Melbourne, her journey and views on the evolving nature of writing is as interesting as the fantastic world she has created.
With the final part Kings Rising now released, we talked about her love of the written word amongst other things. I found C.S to be humble and complimentary at my obvious admiration and to the many fans of her work.
SAB – So is this it, the finish of the widely popular Captive Prince Trilogy or is there another edition coming?
CSP – I like stories with endings or feel finished although I will be doing a few short stories here and there – three that will come out this year are in the Captive Prince world. As for books, I think Kings Rising is the last one but never say never. If an idea came that gave justice to the characters, I would absolutely write it. Just because I want to spend more time with these characters which I do, making the story longer doesn’t mean it’s better.
SAB – The character names in your trilogy are unique, did you make them up?
CSP – Many of the names came out of research drawn from old France. I chased up a lot of the ancient census reports from Paris 1400s. So that’s why those that sound classically French still feel they have a twist on them. The others come from Greek phonetics to come up with new names.
SAB – I feel that the names take you into the character as well as the way you write, tricky and involving.
CSP – As an Australian, my pronunciation isn’t always precise either so readers should definitely come up with their own pronunciation within their mind not to be influenced by me (laughs).
SAB – How do you look at your trilogy to be different or set apart from many other fantasy genre stories?
CSP – That’s a good question. The nature of how they are written as you already suggested. Captive Prince (Book 1) started life as an online serial which then attracted viral attention before being picked up by Penguin publishing at the end of which is now Prince’s Gambit (Book 2) of the trilogy. When you write pseudonymously as I did, you’re allowed a kind of creative freedom that you don’t get when people are watching you. As soon as pressures are attached to your work, they do change things. Everyone who reads online writings understands the unconstrained way of expression. I know when Captive Prince got picked up commercially, there was a lot of positive talk around it saying this is new, or what is this. I think it’s been published as a different genre in every country so far – it’s been published in not fitting in a general mould. The other thing is I came into fantasy craving things I was not often finding such as high octane escapism, romance or adventure. Well it was there but not always befitting. I am also really into homo erotica or sexuality or power games and interactions. That kind of intense homo erotic subject is not always found in that genre so I explored that.
SAB – Would you suggest to first time or struggling authors to self-publish?
CSP – Ummm (pause), yes and no. Depends on the situation of what you’re doing. I’m a huge advocate for self publishing, for me and the book I was writing it was only that avenue that got it to be published. When you write something new, it has zero appeal to a publisher or at best question mark. Publishers will make decisions this will sell or we know that is popular. If they have seen nothing like it before, it seems risky and less likely to be picked up. It does not mean it won’t connect to audiences, there are falsehoods to what is suggested people will like or be popular. We see on the rare occasions that these diverse stories become huge when word of mouth hits. I am just glad there is another avenue for people to tell their stories that haven’t been told in the commercially public landscape. Advantages of self publishing means you can produce the whole work yourself but it’s not like the music industry that the more independently you do something the cooler you are, the more independently you do something the more artistic suspicion your book comes under, an unfortunate bias. There are plenty of mainstream authors who are self publishing as a first choice because they prefer to do it that way.
SAB – My favourite is Prince’s Gambit, which was the hardest to write. Was the complete story in your mind to start?
CSP – As a big planner, everything was planned in advance. I knew it all, even the last scene in the last book was in place as I wrote Book 1. The hardest was Kings Rising (Book 3), my first trilogy so my first encounter that the finale was far more technically demanding than 1 or 2. Structural demands to a trilogy arc tying it all together. As i was writing, it occurred to me this is why trilogies can choke on the 3rd novel, a huge challenge. It was the book I wrote all at once not in serial format and under the guidance of Penguin. They are world class editorial.
SAB – Do you think every author needs a brilliant effective chapter one?
CSP – One way of putting it is that chapter one has much pressure on them. They have to do things that are clear, obvious, hook the reader and promise something of narrative traction. The first chapter has to be in communication with the rest of the novel, in some ways it needs to be in communication with the final chapter. My friends who are writers will say that the first chapter is the one they go back to with the most amount of effort.
SAB – Where do you write, office or a special place?
CSP – I set up an office but found I could not write in it at all. i just can’t write anywhere where I have access to internet. Learning my weaknesses helped, leaving the house 10am every day, go to a cafe or library then write for a day. Finding a nice friendly cafe that will let me nurse a coffee for eight hours is good. In the evening I’ll find a bar. As a second to that, it’s the same reason I do not own a mobile phone, it’s a distraction i don’t need.
SAB – Do you own a typewriter?
CSP – No but mum had one when I was a kid. I have dim memories writing up school assignments on it. I’m too much of a ditherer, I could not commit to the ink on the first go around (laughs).
SAB – Have you had any enquiries to turn this into a series of films?
CSP – They need to call me! Call me HBO. I’m up for it.
SAB – All three books have received fantastic reviews. How does that make you feel?
CSP – It’s been a fantastic year, surreal. When I first wrote Captive Prince, I had no idea it may be published or had the commercial reception it has had. Dreamlike but feels wonderful. My readers are an enthusiastic community. I am privileged I’ve had this whole experience.
Shane A. Bassett