Lessons I learned from The French Executioner – and friends!

Lesson One: A man (and a character) reveals himself slowly.

Jean is surrounded by colourful friends and enemies. Haakon, the huge ax-wielding Viking. The Fugger, with his one hand and madness always a reach away. Beck, the girl dressed as a boy. Archbishop Cibo, the classic debauched churchman and villain. These were all easier to write as they were so extreme. Jean – well, I was dealing with an executioner to start with. Many people would not sympathise with his profession. So I wanted to make him very closed off to the world. He lost his wife and child to plague. So he took up a trade he was good at. He’s not in any way a sadist. He does a job. But his vow to Anne Boleyn – to take her six fingered hand at the same time he takes her head and then get rid of the famous relic – begins a journey of redemption. He comes alive again. Hard to show that, fascinating to try.

Lesson Two: Courage is being terrified and still leaping into the darkness.

Jean has to go through so much – battle, enslavement, torture. But faith in his vow keeps him going.

Lesson Three: Love conquers all.

Eventually you have to stop mourning a relationship that is over and open yourself up again to the possibilities of love. Jean does this, and see his love of Beck as a reward for being true to his cause.

Lesson Four: Don’t throw your sword at someone unless your certain you’ll hit him.

Otherwise he has two swords and you have none.

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