Tuesday, April 7, 2020

C.S. Harris Interview - Who Speaks for the Damned

Photo Content from C.S. Harris

Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Grahamis the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of more than two dozen novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series written under the name C.S. Harris, the C.S. Graham thriller series co-written with Steven Harris, and seven historical romances. She is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution. Her books are available worldwide and have been translated into over twenty languages.

A former academic with a PhD in European history, Candice also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson's Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. She loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad, living in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, and an ever-expanding number of cats.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
To be honest, I don’t know if I ever felt as if I had a creative dream or calling to fulfill. As a child, I planned to become an artist, but somewhere in my teens I realized I could never be another Michelangelo or Tintoretto, so I gave it up (it’s kinda weird when I look back on it). I wrote my first novel just for fun in my early twenties (it was awful) and enjoyed it so much that I kept the idea in the back of my head as something I’d like to do “later.” When I finally got around to trying it again in my thirties, it didn’t occur to me to let the knowledge that I could never be another Shakespeare stop me. It was something I wanted to do because I enjoyed it, but I never consciously saw it as satisfying a drive to create the same way as, say, designing a garden or crafting a necklace is. The mind is a strange thing!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It’s both humbling and frankly still surprising whenever someone tells me how much they enjoy my books. That’s really the most rewarding part of it all.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently gearing up to write book #17 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series (no title yet). This one will be different as Sebastian goes to Paris in search of his mother, so I’m very excited about that. Also, I have a novella coming out this September in an anthology called The Deadly Hours that I’ve written in conjunction with three other authors. It’s the story of a cursed watch and the havoc it wreaks down through history. My story is set in World War II and involves a descendant of Jude Lowe, a character Sebastian St. Cyr encountered in When Falcons Fall.

Your Favorite Quotes from WHO SPEAKS FOR THE DAMNED

This scene involves a half-Chinese child named Ji, who is on the run from the killers Sebastian is chasing. Desperate for money, he goes into a pawnshop to try to sell Nicholas Hayes’s watch.

“Help ye there, lad?” said the wizened man behind the counter when Ji hesitated to approach him. “If yer here jist t’ drool or if yer thinkin’ about meybe tryin’ to lift somethin’, ye can jist turn around and git.” 

The old man reminded Ji of the ancient, withered peasant who used to sell chicken feet in the market in Canton. He was short and skeletally thin, his skin gray and wrinkled like old parchment, the whites of his lashless eyes yellow. He had that old man smell, and his shop reeked of dust and decay and damp. 

Taking a step forward, Ji laid the watch on the counter and said, “What will you give me for this, sir?” 

The old man looked at the watch, then at Ji. “Where the hell did ye get that, yer lordship?” 

“Canton,” said Ji. The “lordship” reference made no sense at all. 

“Oh, ye did, did ye? And where might that be?”

“In the east.” Too late, Ji suspected that burst of honesty about Canton was a mistake.

“Ho. Sure it ain’t in the west?”

“No, sir. It’s in the east,” said Ji, not understanding the implications of the man’s question.

“Who’d ye steal the watch from, then?”

“I did not steal it.”

“Sure ye didn’t.” The man picked up the watch and held it to his ear to listen to the tick.

“It runs perfectly fine,” said Ji, watching him.

The old man’s lips pulled back into a nearly toothless grin. “Oh, it does, does it? Perfectly fine. Not real good, mind ye, but perfectly fine, ye say?” 

Ji had the sense that they were holding two entirely different conversations, and the old man was the only one who understood both. 

He said, “I’ll give ye a shilling for it.” 

Ji stared at him. “But it’s worth at least ten pounds! I know because I priced comparable items in the shops before I came here.” 

“So ye priced comparable items, did ye? Well, it may be worth ten pounds in a shop, new. But it ain’t new, now, is it? For all I know, it could stop runnin’ in an hour, or whoever ye lifted if off could walk in here this afternoon and claim it. And then I’d be out me shilling, now, wouldn’t I?” 

“I did not steal this watch.” 

“Sure ye didn’t, lad.” The man set the watch on the counter. “A shilling is me offer. Take it or leave it.” 

“Five shillings,” said Ji, who had spent many a morning in the market watching Pema barter with everyone from fishmongers and butchers to greengrocers. 

The old man snorted. “Two.”

“Two and a half—and the bamboo flute there by the fans. If it plays.” 

The old man turned to stare at the instrument with an expression that told Ji he’d forgotten it was even there. “That?” 

“Does it play?” 

He extricated the flute from the jumble of other items and handed it to Ji. “You tell me.” 

The dizi was old and worn, the scarlet silk thread wrapping the bamboo dark with age, the tassel bedraggled. But it had once been a fine instrument; the protective ferrules were of jade, and Ji couldn’t help but wonder what it was doing here, in this wretched dolly shop so far from China. 

The child was afraid the dimo might be cracked or even missing. But when Ji sounded a tentative note, it hummed pure and true. At first Ji played with a soft‐breath attack, and the tone was peaceful, floating. Then the child quickened, and the flute responded, the sound becoming sprightly and ethereal. For a moment, Ji was lost in the music, lost in a sound that spoke of plum blossoms and nightingales and trickling water—the sounds of home. Then an awareness of time and place returned, and Ji lowered the flute. 

“I . . .” Ji drew a breath. “It still plays.” 

The old man was staring at Ji with a stillness that the child could not read, for the people in this land were too strange, their ways too different. 

Then he cleared his throat and reached to close his hand around the watch. “Right then. Two and a half shillings and the flute. It’s a deal.” 

  • 1. Nicholas Hayes, the victim in Who Speaks for the Damned, was the youngest son of an earl, just like Sebastian St. Cyr. And like Sebastian, Hayes once found himself accused of murder—except that Hayes was convicted and transported to Botany Bay. So Sebastian sees what could have been his own life in what happened to Hayes, and that gives an added twist to his drive to solve this murder. 
  • 2. Nicholas Hayes was said to have died years ago as a convict in Botany Bay. So how can he still be alive? And what was he doing back in England?
  • 3. In this book, Hero’s article on the poor of London focuses on the street musicians, most of whom were either blind or foreign-born.
  • 4. I was having a hideous time coming up with a title for this book. Then one day Charles Gramlich, a writer-friend of mine, was throwing out random lines of poetry on Facebook and wrote, “Who speaks for the restless and the damned?” and I thought, That’s it! Thank you, Charles.
  • 5. The missing child in this book is Buddhist, so that meant I had to research Buddhist beliefs about death. I discovered they vary. A lot.
  • 6. This book is set during the Allied Sovereigns’ visit to London in June 1814. I could not believe the whirlwind of activities scheduled for them. They must have been exhausted, and some of them weren’t young. 
  • 7. I ended up doing a lot of reading on the Canton System used by China to control its trade with the West. It’s fascinating!
  • 8.There were a number of sailors from India in London in the nineteenth century. Because there were no laws against interracial marriage, biracial children were not as uncommon as some might think.
  • 9. Nicholas Hayes is found dead in a “tea garden.” Enormously popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, tea gardens were a place where city dwellers could go to breathe fresh air, walk the garden paths, eat, drink, socialize, and listen to music. They sound lovely!
  • 10. I doubt I’d have lasted long as a pauper in Regency London. I don’t know how they did it.
The main character in this series is Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, the only surviving son and heir of the Earl of Hendon—or at least when the series begins, Sebastian thinks he is Hendon’s son. A former Army captain still struggling to come to terms with some of the things he did in the war, Sebastian turns to hunting down murderers as a way of atonement. His position as a member of the aristocracy gives him an entré into places like gentlemen’s clubs and Almack’s that would be off limits to someone like a Bow Street Runner. And his background as a military man means he can believably venture down to the docks at night or into the darkest slums and still come out alive.

Sebastian’s wife, Hero, just happens to be the daughter of his worst enemy, the powerful, Machiavellian L0rd Jarvis. She is independent-minded, whip smart, and tall—very tall. And because she’s her father’s daughter, she’s also not the least bit hesitant to shoot someone if it’s called for. 

I started writing fiction with the serious aim of getting published when I married an international businessman, which meant leaving my tenure-track university position (I was a history professor). It took me ten years (although in that period I also moved continents three times, had two babies, and published a nonfiction book on the French Revolution!). I started out writing historical romances and frankly could have used a writers group. I kept rewriting the same two manuscripts over and over rather than accepting the fact that the story ideas were flawed and moving on to something new. I finally started a book set in colonial New South Wales, joined my local South Australian romance writers group, and after what felt like forever landed a three-book contract. I walked around with a huge grin on my face for about two months. Talk about a dream come true!

I write my books entirely by hand. I started out that way when my children were little, but transitioned to composing at the computer when the younger one started school. Then Hurricane Katrina wrecked our house in 2005, turning us into nomads for eleven months. I didn’t have a place to set up my computer and hate laptops, so I wrote Why Mermaids Sing almost entirely by hand. I discovered I loved the process. They’ve actually found that the tactile stimulation of holding a pen increases creativity, so it’s not just my imagination. I type up each scene once it’s written, then print it out for editing. I find I’m also more critical when I edit on paper rather than on a screen. Yes, it’s more time consuming, but it works for me and I think my stories are better because of it.

Sebastian St. Cyr investigates the mysterious life and death of a nobleman accused of murder in this enthralling new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....

It's June 1814, and the royal families of Austria, Russia, and the German states have gathered in London at the Prince Regent's invitation to celebrate the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of monarchical control throughout Europe. But the festive atmosphere is marred one warm summer evening by the brutal murder of a disgraced British nobleman long thought dead.

Eighteen years before, Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaford, was accused of killing a beautiful young French émigré and transported to Botany Bay for life. Even before his conviction, Hayes had been disowned by his father. Few in London were surprised when they heard the ne'er-do-well had died in New South Wales in 1799. But those reports were obviously wrong. Recently Hayes returned to London with a mysterious young boy in tow--a child who vanishes shortly after Nicholas's body is discovered.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is drawn into the investigation by his valet, Jules Calhoun. With Calhoun's help, Sebastian begins to piece together the shattered life of the late Earl's ill-fated youngest son. Why did Nicholas risk his life and freedom by returning to England? And why did he bring the now-missing young boy with him? Several nervous Londoners had reason to fear that Nicholas Hayes had returned to kill them. One of them might have decided to kill him first.

You can purchase Who Speaks for the Damned at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you C.S. HARRIS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris. 


  1. Don't take too many vacations but I think I would have to say the year I took my 13 yr old son to Disneyworld in Florida for a week in December. we had a great time together.

  2. "Which is the best vacation you’ve ever had in your life?" Hmm, I guess I'd like to take a cruise....

  3. Due to a last- minute flight snafu, my husband and I ended up with a week off work but stuck at home. We learned so much about the hiking and parks near us. I recommend it. Cheap as heck