An Interview With T.C. Southwell: The Queen’s Blade

 The Queen’s Blade is one of the best fantasy stories I’ve read in the past few years. It’s full of war, greed, killing, and of course romance. A newly appointed queen hopes to end the war forever named The Endless War, but almost everyone seems against it, including her own people. Despite this, she finds allies in her royal adviser, an aloof but notorious assassin, and -against all odds- the oldest prince of her enemy.

Queen Minna is a very headstrong woman, who doesn’t take no for an answer. Did you base her off of anyone in your life?

No, but I had some old-fashioned, meek women in my life when I was growing up, so, if anything, she’s the type of strong woman I wish they had been. It’s a trait I admire, and I’m often the one on the side-lines shouting ‘you go girl!’ whenever a woman sticks up for herself.

In The Queen’s Blade, there was a lot of talk between who was the real killer, the assassin or the client. Which one do you think is responsible?

 

I think the client is the true killer, since he’s the one who wants someone dead. An assassin is merely the means to get the job done efficiently and get away with it, so he’s no more to blame than a weapon. An assassin’s only motivation is to make a living, and the Assassins’ Guild ensures that he never becomes an indiscriminate murderer. Chances are, if there were no assassins to hire, most of the clients would do the killing themselves, although having assassins readily available does make it easier. Without the clients, however, there wouldn’t be any assassins.

Blade isn’t the average hero. He’s not chivalrous, he can be very rude, and has bad habits like heavy drinking. Why did you decide to give him so many flaws?

That’s just how he came to me. My characters create themselves, just as my books seem to write themselves, and I have no say in the matter. I definitely don’t approve of Blade’s drinking or his unchivalrous attitude, although deep down he has a soft heart that he hides very well. I think anyone who’s been through the kinds of traumatic events he has is bound to have difficulties dealing with certain aspects of life, and be a bit bitter and twisted because of it. Besides, simplistic all-good heroes are boring, in my opinion, and unrealistic. All people have flaws, some more than others, and the degree, I think, depends upon how tough they’ve had it. It’s their foibles and flaws that make characters interesting, and Blade’s rudeness is a self-defence mechanism designed to prevent people getting close to him.

The entire story is essentially about an Endless War. How would you end the war?

 

That’s a tough one. An all-out battle would probably put an end to the conflict even if neither side won, simply because then they’d both have a shortage of soldiers. Perhaps inciting unrest amongst the troops could turn them against their rulers, and they might refuse to fight. That’s a long shot, though, since those men need to earn a living. Basically, the only way to end a conflict where both rulers are determined to continue it is either to take away their fighting force or replace the rulers with peaceful ones, but that would have to happen in both countries simultaneously.

Everyone has a type of animal that they resemble and favor more than others. This plays a very important role in each of the characters. How did you come up with this?

It came to me as I wrote the story, but I think we all resemble certain types of animals, and many clichés have sprung up about sharks, dogs, chickens, horses, mules, cats and other beasts. These are all animals with strong characteristics we can identify with, but other, subtler variations exist, such as a sand cat as opposed to a wood cat. They share numerous traits, but sand cats are definitely bolder, being at the top of the food chain, while wood cats are more secretive.

What animal do you think you are most like?

 

A friend once asked me this question, and, after only a little thought I decided that I’m most likely cat-kin, although nothing fearsome, just your average tabby cat. They are my favourite animal, even though I love dogs, horses and all animals. I think this is a good yardstick for deciding what beast you might be; it’s probably the one with which you have the most affinity. Then again, no one wants to be donkey-kin, but if you’re that stubborn, you probably are. I intend to write a sort of guide, rather like a horoscope, listing the traits of the various animal groups, to help people decide what animal kin they might be.

Is the seer, Shamsara, going to have a bigger role in the future?

No, his role will remain pretty much the same, popping up from time to time to throw a spanner in the works or give things a push in the right direction, depending on what’s required. He only intervenes when absolutely necessary and tends to avoid the rest of humanity because otherwise too many people would consult him about the future, thereby changing it.

Blade was enslaved by the Cotti as a child, and was made to do horrible things. That would give him plenty of reason to hate them. Why make him a eunuch?

Firstly, it was to humiliate and denigrate the boys, making them no better than girls in the eyes of the Cotti soldiers. The Cotti set great store in their manhood, so that’s the first thing they want to strip from their enemies. They also thought it would make the boys more submissive and, lastly, it prevented them ever having children with Cotti women if they reached adulthood.

Despite the fact that Blade is a eunuch, Minna says it’s possible for him to love. Do you think that he will eventually fall in love, despite being a eunuch?

 

Although he goes to considerable lengths to deny it, even to himself, Blade does have feelings for Chiana. It’s not being a eunuch that makes it hard for him to love someone; it’s that everyone he’s ever loved has been killed and, in addition to blaming himself for this in a strange way, he doesn’t want to be hurt again. His being impotent adds to the problem because it makes him feel useless as a man and that, plus his profession and the lengths to which he goes to be obnoxious, convinces him that no one could ever love him, so those who claim to must be liars. Being a liar himself, it’s easy for him to believe that other people do it too. I think his feelings for Chiana are going to keep growing and this will become more evident in the next books.

Finally, if you were meeting Blade for the first time, and had heard of his reputation, would you trust him?

 

My first reaction was to shout ‘never!’, but it would depend on the situation. I would definitely trust him not to kill without a client and to succeed when hired to assassinate someone; for those things his reputation is impeccable. Would I trust anything he said? Not for a moment!

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