Stephen Deas is joining us today to talk about him novel, The Moonsteel Crown. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Emperor of Aria is dead, and three junior members of a street gang are unwittingly caught up in the ensuing struggle for the throne, in the first epic adventure in a new fantasy world from a master of the genre.
The Emperor of Aria has been murdered, the Empire is in crisis, and Dead Men walk the streets…
But Myla, Fings, and Seth couldn’t care less. They’re too busy just trying to survive in the Sulk-struck city of Varr, committing petty violence and pettier crimes to earn their keep in the Unrulys, a motley gang led by Blackhand.
When the Unrulys are commissioned to steal a mysterious item to order, by an equally mysterious patron, the trio are thrust right into the bitter heart of a struggle for the Crown, where every faction is after what they have.
Forced to lie low in a city on lockdown, they will have to work together if they want to save their skins… and maybe just save the Empire as well.
What’s Stephen’s favorite bit?
Picture the scene: You’ve one of the best cat-burglars in the world. You’re working on a commission for a guy you quietly hate and tend to refer to as That Murdering Bastard, but only when he’s not looking. The boss has sent his best and most trusted lieutenant, Wil, to keep an eye on things, and also Myla, his pet sword-monk, possibly in case Wil isn’t enough to keep Murdering Bastard in check, but more likely because Myla got angry with someone a few days back and decapitated them, and now needs to lie low for a bit.
On the plus side, you were a star. You stole the thing you weren’t supposed to look at and a bunch of other stuff besides, some of which you’re going to keep for yourself and not mention to anyone who might suddenly start asking for a cut. On the minus side, you did the inevitable dumb thing and snuck a peek at the thing you weren’t supposed to look at while you were stealing it, so you know that Murdering Bastard is into some such deeply dodgy shit that it’s probably going to get you all killed. Also, everyone is looking for you. Like, everyone, apparently including some devastatingly powerful sorceress no one thought to mention before you started out on all this. It’s twelve hours since you made good your escape and you’ve already been betrayed once, although on the plus side again, Murdering Bastard was the only one of you who got stabbed and you’re still clinging to a hope that maybe it’ll turn out to be fatal.
Right now, you’re hiding under a bridge in a snowstorm, freezing your nuts off, listening to the now-and-then hoofbeats of mounted soldiers searching for you, knowing perfectly well that you’ve walked into an absolute clusterfuck. You’re not the only one who snuck a peek; although when Myla had a look at what you’d stolen, she took a bunch of precautions you never thought of, which maybe means that it’s actually your fault that the alarm was raised as quickly as it was. Murdering Bastard has worked this out as well, meaning he wants to murder you even more than he already did, just as soon as he stops bleeding.
That’s where you’re at when Myla comes out and says it: just bury everything right here in the snow. Leave it behind, walk away, and don’t look back. And you know what? She probably means it. But then Wil and Murdering Bastard start agreeing with her, except what they want to do is bury it and come back later, when the heat dies down. There’s a part of you that sees the sense in it, because now you know what you’ve stolen, you know perfectly well that this heat is never going away. But deep down, you know the moment you bury something so precious and go your separate ways, all four of you are going to start thinking the same thing: I could go back before the others. I could have it all for myself. Never mind that at least three of you wouldn’t have the first idea how to offload something so priceless, you’re all going to be thinking the same, because that’s what always happens: some daft bugger tries to have it all for themselves.
So there you are, hiding under a bridge in a snowstorm with the entire world hunting for what you stole, with three sword-slingers, angry and confused and scared and bleeding, and it’s down to you to talk them out of doing this dumb thing that’s going to set you all at one another’s throats.
“Goblins,” you say, picking some vague superstition you once heard but can’t remember where. “Goblins live under bridges. There’s probably goblins watching us even now. Right thieving bastards they are, goblins.”
Because that’s the best you can come up with.
My secret favourite bit in The Moonsteel Crown is Fings (the burglar) and his superstitions. In Fings‘ head, maybe goblins really do live under bridges. True, he’s never actually seen one, quite possibly there’s no such thing as goblins, but what if there are? Better safe than sorry, right? This is how Fings lives. While his adopted brother Seth is worrying about the nature of existence, while Myla is worrying about the men sent to hunt her down, Fings is worrying about his personal cosmic karma. It’s in the little rituals he goes through before he does anything. The way he’ll say he can’t steal something from a moon-temple today, obviously, because it’s the wrong day of the week so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. The way he tries to make Myla hold a feather between her teeth when they’re trying to sneak past some guards, because no one ever notices someone with a feather between their teeth. The way he squanders a small fortune on a bag of old bones and pieces of coloured ribbon because someone once told him how a bag of old bones and pieces of coloured ribbon made you invisible to the Dead Men. His superstitions have no bearing how the story unfolds. They’re not even the foundation of Fings as a character. It’s just this thing that he does, a little bit of character colouring-in, an occasional annoyance and frustration to those around him, and made writing him an absolute blast.
Stephen Deas, born in 1968 in Southeast England, is an English fantasy author. He is most famous for his fantasy opus, the Memory of Flames sequence, set in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons.