The swashbuckling adventure genre is a pretty niche market, so I’m always excited to find a fellow swashbuckler writer and Musketeer fan. This time it’s Ted Anthony Roberts, author of several self-published adventure novels including The Adventures of Monsieur de la Donaree, the Musketeer. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions about his writing, the self-publishing industry and his love for The Three Musketeers.
Hi Ted, to start off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.
Ever since I was young, I have dabbled in one art project or another. This started off with drawing pictures − with, preferably, a #2 pencil! Since my teen years were spent during the 1980s, I –like a lot of other teens — was into D&D, and would spend hours of my spare time drawing pictures of dragons or Conan the Barbarian! But, I eventually tried my hand at writing − but not before reading The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.
Reading the novel was a game changer for my life. This interest in the story actually began in about 1978 or 1979, when I was around eight years old. On a school night, mind ye!, I stayed up to nearly 3 o’clock in the morning, because a movie had caught my attention. Naturally, it was The Three Musketeers, starring Gene Kelly as d’Artagnan. I couldn’t get that story out of my mind! Since then, I had seen the movie only one other time before the VCR came into play. And, when I noticed that my favorite movie had been put on VHS, I ended up renting the thing over a dozen times! By the time I was sixteen, I was ready to read the book − which I thought was nothing more than a transcript of the movie. However, I was in for a big surprise! Not only was it not like the movie that I had grown so fond of (except for bits here and there), but I found the novel to be even better.
So, then, after my seventh reading of the novel, and after reading it’s sequel — Twenty Years After, and The Man in the Iron Mask — I felt that I was ready to write my first story. This first, very rough draft (which came out to be only 75 pages of written text onto notebook paper − single sided only!) was the beginning of my first novel: The Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer. Acting out the scenes vividly in my mind, I had finally found a way to put my vast imagination to good use!
After investing into a Typewriter (yes, this was before computers, youngsters!), I finally typed out the thing, and submitted it to a publisher. The lady was very nice, and had gently told me that I needed to expound more, and I needed to work on my sentence structure better. Taking Creative Writing in school, I had learned that it was the first twenty years that would be the hardest on any inspiring writer . . . After writing, re-writing, abandoning, coming back to it, abandoning, re-writing, coming back to it, I finally published Donaree in 2009. Followed a few years later by the second novel that I wrote (that I also had first written when I was sixteen) called Captain Skull, in 2012.
It’s funny because I grew up loving the 1993 Disney Three Musketeers and then later, in college, I finally picked up Dumas’ book. I was also pretty surprised by how majorly different things were. I don’t think most people realize how adult those stories are. They think it’s children’s tales.
We have a lot in common in that we both have a strong love for the classic swashbuckler. What drew you to the genre?
As I’ve already shown my draw to the Musketeers, I had also, through the following years, grown an attraction to other stories in the vast world of swashbuckling. When I began to notice a familiar pattern between movies of the same genre, I would take special notice, then try and find the novels that matched the movies. But, the entire atmosphere and spirit of the old movies was the key factor in what had drawn me. Such life! Such adventure! Such action! Who, with an adventurous imagination, could resist such a showing? I began to get drawn into such subjects as pirates, knights, and Musketeers; with such movies as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Scaramouche, and Ivanhoe; to such swashbuckling authors as Rafael Sabatini, Daniel Defoe, and Robert Louis Stevenson; and into such novels as Cyrano de Bergerac, Kidnapped, and The Mark of Zorro! They all have one thing in common: Swashbuckling!
I’m a bit biased, but that’s a great slew of stories. Sabatini is a personal fav of mine and I grew up wanting to be Zorro so bad. I must’ve dressed as him for Halloween for half my childhood.
Tell us a little about your book The Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer. What’s it about and what can readers expect?
Of my two novels thus far, Donaree seems to be the fan favorite! I myself had actually had more fun writing Captain Skull because of how I get into the human psyche, and of the rights or wrongs of becoming a pirate. But that’s not saying that Donaree wasn’t fun to write also!
What Donaree has and what Captain Skull is missing is a vast sweep of spirited swashbuckling adventure, rather than the intense dramatic moments of my pirate novel. Donaree sweeps you up at the very beginning with a duel! The antagonist — much to the surprise of the hero (and of whom the hero spares) — actually becomes a thorn in the side of Donaree throughout the story: of whom thwarts him at every turn. What had happened is that the Musketeer’s lady love (Madame Charlotte de La Rose) had been abducted by the very man of whom Donaree duels at the start of the story − a certain Comte de Franc. The reason for the duel, obviously, was to try and kill the Musketeer quickly so that he wouldn’t be a problem, to stop the progress of the lady’s abduction. Of course, when Donaree learns of these things, he sets out on an adventure to rescue her, and to bring her back home.
But, his adventure not only leads him on chase to England, but also to the open sea, facing pirates, and eventually to the shores of Spain . . . But, I believe that the Adventures of Donaree confuses a few folks in the lightheartedness of the story, for I had one fan write a review saying that even though she thoroughly enjoyed the story, it was the lightheartedness that led her to believe that it may have been written for a younger audience. What it is, actually, is that it’s written for a ‘family’ audience, and in the same spirit as the old swashbuckling movies of the silver screen − back when films would please anybody of any age.
Therefore, as one can guess, I do not add adult themes or situations into the body of the written text of my novels. It was my intention, and on purpose, that I try to capture the atmosphere of my old-time favorite swash-films − even in Captain Skull. Both novels are available at Amazon and various other online book stores, in both Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook.”
It’s funny because when I first got into fiction writing and was sharing my swashbucklers to folks, I would hear the same thing — a feeling that it was written for kids. One classmate even read one of my short-stories to two boys she was babysitting. But I never write with a particular age in mind, though I would say that Honor Among Thieves is geared more to adults because of the themes.
You’ve also elected to go the self-publishing route. What led you to put out your stories yourself instead of going the traditional agent-publisher way?
Back in 2009, I had actually sent my Donaree manuscript out to a lot of publishers and agents. One publisher, during the process, was surprised at my story, saying that he had never met or spoken to a swashbuckling author before! I could see that the market was low for my chosen genre, and I wasn’t about to make Donaree a vampire!
Even though I could have tried other publishers, I began to back off, thinking that somebody, even if they liked the story, might not appreciate my style of writing (which I write more like folks from the eighteenth and nineteenth century than modern people!), and they may try to change bits of my story! Perhaps I was selfish, like Cyrano, who had said: “Rewrite, my lines? Impossible!” But, I was determined to make things go the way that I wanted them to go, so I just decided to go ahead and do it myself.
I’ve read a book about Musketeer vampires and I’m so glad you didn’t go that route. 🙂
What do you find the hardest part of being a self-published author?
Advertising! Advertising! Advertising! Whose got the time or the money? Ha!
Like me, you’re a huge fan of The Three Musketeers. What is about the book that you love so much?
That’s easy: it’s d’Artagnan’s cool and nonchalant mannerism!
Believe it or not, there is a lot about d’Artagnan’s personality that reminds me so much of myself! Or, much rather, of what and who I’d like to be! But, in fact, I was drawn to the personalities of all four of the Musketeers, even though I am not allowed to love Aramis! (that’s an inside novel joke!) But, like him, I can! Athos is the father figure of the group, and Porthos (whom Dumas had his own father in mind when he invented his personality) is the loveable, but dense, funny guy! Dumas, though (as Robert Louis Stevenson had so eloquently pointed out), is the man who had breathed life into the story and characters. And, what a story! A story, I dare so say (and, yes, this is my biased opinion!) is the greatest swashbuckler of all time!
You’ll get no argument from me there. 🙂
There’s been so many renditions of the Musketeers on TV and film. Which one would be your desert island watch?
It may seem hard to answer, for many talents had been poured into the roles by many gifted actors, but I’d have to say, with a dexterity that’s as quick as d’Artagnan’s sword, that it would have to be the 1948 Technicolor classic, starring Gene Kelly as d’Artagnan, Van Heflin as Athos, Robert Coote as Aramis, Gig Young as Porthos, Lana Turner as Milady, and Vincent Price as Richelieu! . . . But honorary mentions would have to be the Disney film of the early nineties, The Man in the Iron Mask (with an exceptionally talented Gabriel Byrne as an older d’Artagnan), and the newest rendition with an excellent portrayal of a young d’Artagnan by Logan Lerman.
Although historical fiction is a pretty popular genre nowadays, there aren’t a lot of people writing swashbucklers. And it’s funny because the swashbuckler was huge in America for so long. What do you think happened?
Oh, my! What a question!
I actually believe there has been a dramatic decline in the genre since the 1960s. With that in mind, I had created The Swashbuckling Press back in the early 2000s , which is a website that not only houses historical information about the vast genre, but was an attempt to help bring interest and life back into it! Even though there are certain TV shows and movies which try to keep it alive, as much as possible I suppose, the world-wide interest that it once held, is really not there anymore! And, such a shame − it’s so much fun! But, I can’t whine about it too much, for we do have a vast library of movies and books from the past that still keeps it alive on a very high level . . . Its decline, however, may be linked to the lack of proper and higher education, and of the interest of reading in general − which seemed to be on a higher level once upon a time!
That’s an interesting theory.
That would be wonderful! All I can say to that is All for one…
And one for all!
Thanks to Ted for the great interview. Be sure to visit him online at the following links, and give his books a shot!