Hi Cassie! How are you? Can I ask you what do you think about Sebastian? How did you get the inspiration for this character? I always wondered if you liked him as a character or not Thank you so much, love you!
I got the inspiration for Sebastian while reading a book about child murderers. Not people who murder children, but children who murder. The book mused on the idea of children as essentially amoral in that morals and values develop over time, but I was more interested in the ideas it posed about some people simply being born without a moral compass at all: without the ability to know right from wrong. That they just didn’t have it. And what did that mean for them: what do you do with a twelve or even sixteen year old who doesn’t know what good or bad is, and never will? What are morals and conscience: are they ingrained, socially taught? Etc.
So Sebastian developed as a character with no sense of right or wrong, no conscience and no morals. He never had them and he never would. Because it’s a fantasy series, I used the metaphor of demon blood: that it had erased his ability to make moral choices.
People often ask if I like a character or not. Sometimes I do in the sense that I’d want to hang out with them, but I would not want to hang out with Sebastian. However I found him interesting and therefore enjoyable to write: unless you’re writing didactic moral fiction, you enjoy characters for what they tell you about people, not really in the sense to which you find them morally upright or morally lacking. Sebastian was interesting because he couldn’t tell right from wrong; he wanted to be loved, but didn’t know how to deserve love or give it. He was jealous that his father loved Jace and not him, but lacked the ability to understand why. He wasn’t bad because of a bad experience or a bad childhood – I thought that would have been trite and overdone, and not really true to the inspiration for the character. He just had this terrifying blank space where for most people, conscience lies.
It was a dark and sometimes frightening experience, writing Sebastian. It sometimes felt like getting very close to a vast cold empty space. So did I like him? I think he’s an effective villain, and the story would suffer without him. I think I learned from him about evil and about goodness. I think in the end in the end I mourned along with the characters for the Sebastian that never existed, the one who didn’t have demon blood and could have been someone good. I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley, but one of the the points of stories is to take you safely down those dark alleys of the heart and soul, the ones that are too dangerous and frightening and heartbreaking to explore in real life.