Author A.F. Grappin has launched a new series of stories centered around a young man who, through tragedy, is driven into a complex war between the Templars and an order of Assassins. The first book, Assassin’s Victim, details the sad events that lead young Luc Bertrand on his journey. The second story, Assassin’s Rival, finds Luc on the path toward becoming an assassin, detailing his entry into the Order of Release. Grappin was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the series.
nK: Thanks for taking the time, Gus! I really enjoyed the first two installments of the series. I understand that Luc is a character that began in a different series from a different author. Can you provide some details on that for our readers?
AFG: Absolutely! Yeah, Luc isn’t actually mine. I made friends with author John G. Walker a few years ago and started reading his Statford Chronicles series. It’s an urban fantasy about the private detective for the gods. All the gods. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, you name it! Anyway, Luc first appeared in book 1, The Sincerest Form of Flattery. French assassin and club owner, living in Virginia, with a sassy attitude. He spoke to me immediately. He pops in here and there throughout the series (so far, anyway. It’s not over yet.)
Anyway, John contacted me a few years ago because he was wanting to do an anthology of short stories featuring secondary characters in the series. He wanted me to write one about Luc. I jumped at it, and he was floored with my story “Stopper of Thought.” Sadly, the anthology never happened. Then, about a year ago, he asked if I’d be interested in writing Luc’s WHOLE story. A spinoff series. I about lost my mind and immediately accepted. Luc’s my favorite character, so working with John has been great. He says Luc was never meant to be a big part of the Statford Chronicles, but the story I’ve given him has made him want to feature him more in the main series.
nK: It’s a little thing, but Luc’s life is tied pretty significantly with lacrosse. Anything in particular that made you choose that sport?
AFG: Yes, actually. Lacrosse can be pretty brutal. Not like rugby, but I really wanted to point out how much Luc didn’t fit in. When we first meet him, he still hasn’t had his growth spurt yet, so he’s scrawny and, sad to say, not really suited to the sport. But he still loves it, even if he’s not a great player. He is active, though. I wanted to point out the contrasts between who he is as a young teenager and who he eventually becomes. When he’s grown, in the Statford Chronicles, he’s very tall and strong, though not really muscular. He’d be pretty well suited to it as an adult, but he had to leave it behind because of… reasons. I won’t go into it because it gets into spoilers.
That’s the long answer. Short answer is I like the sticks.
nK: Luc is especially sympathetic. He reminded me of another Luke…Skywalker. The original Star Wars that starts with this poor kid out in the middle of nowhere who loses everything in order to become part of the biggest, most epic story in history. Did that comparison come to mind while you were writing?
AFG: If it did, it was subconscious. I like Star Wars, but I’m not so crazy about it that I’d pointedly make that connection. No, I largely let Luc grow organically. If I was influenced, I wasn’t aware of it. I’m more of a Star Trek fan. There might be a little Jean-Luc Picard in him as an adult…
nK: You flesh out a lot of details about Luc’s family. Were they modeled after anyone in particular? Did you have an idea of the family dynamic beforehand or did they sort of write themselves?
AFG: Kind of. I have two siblings myself, so there might be a little of my brother and sister in Henri and Esme, Luc’s younger brother and sister. A little. maybe. The family dynamic actually showed itself a little in that original short story I wrote, but that’s again edging on spoiler territory. The events of that story come into play in the ninth novella. So you’ll just have to wait.
nK: In Assassin’s Rival, Luc really goes through a coming-of-age set of experiences at the school, ranging from nuisances to real life danger. What inspired the character of his rival and those challenges?
AFG: I don’t know that I really had a major inspiration for his main rival, Jeannette. She’s sort of an amalgamation of other rival-type characters I’ve read in other books. There might be a touch of Draco Malfoy in there, hidden. Maybe. I often model characters in part after friends and family, but Jeannette wasn’t anyone in particular. I think I made her too much of a jerk, and if I told anyone she was based on them, it would be an insult!
I tried to make her human. Luc is the antagonist of her story, at least at that point in her life. If I wrote it from her point of view, man, would he be an annoyance of a villain. I just tried to see both sides and make her a normal teenage girl.
nK: The final act of Assassin’s Rival includes a set of “games” against other orders of assassins. How far out have you expanded the world included in this series and how many books do you have planned?
AFG: I’ve expanded it a lot. The whole Assassin’s Guild was barely touched on in John’s books, so he’s given me a lot to play with. The world itself is all within John’s rules, but I have the Guild and the Knights Templar to play with. I came up with the concept of the separate Orders within the Assassin’s Guild. Speaking of, fun fact: the five Orders are based off the Five Stages of Grief. They are killers, after all. Harbingers of death. I’ll let my readers guess which order is which stage, though.
As for how many are planned, it was originally going to be seven novellas, but some talking with John has made me expand it to ten. Mostly, I’m trying to cover the time up through the first seven books of the Statford Chronicles, and I would have had to rush too many years of Luc’s life to do that. Assassin’s Victim takes place in 1990-1991, and novella 10 (It has a title, but I’m not releasing it yet) gets us all the way to 2016. That’s a lot of time to cover.
Expanding to ten will make releasing them much better. Individually, they’re all coming out in ebook, but I will be releasing two volumes of them in paperback (and maybe hardcover if I can.) The first five in volume 1, and the second five in volume 2.
They should all be released by the end of 2019.
nK: What’s next on tap for you? Do you have any upcoming appearances or any projects in the works?
AFG: Oh, man. Don’t get me started. Along with Luc’s stories, I’m working on a trilogy of sci-fi semi-comedies for The Ed Greenwood Group. The first of those should release in December 2018. I signed a contract to have my fantasy courtroom drama, Criminal from Birth, published in the next year. And there are always my personal projects. No official details on what’s next in my personal projects yet, though.
As for appearances, I’ll be at Balticon 51 with my best friend/ brainstorm partner/ podcast cohost Erin, in May. I plan to have copies of my latest fantasy YA novel, Starsigns, with me for sale there. Other than that, no appearances planned.