The Viper and the Urchin

Available on Amazon

Being Damsport’s most elegant assassin is hard work: there is tailoring to consider, secret identities to maintain, but most importantly, Longinus has to keep his fear of blood hidden or his reputation will be ruined. So when a scrawny urchin girl threatens to expose his phobia unless he teaches her swordsmanship, he has to comply.

It doesn’t take long for sixteen year-old Rory to realise that her new trainer has more eccentricities than she has fleas. But she’ll put up with anything, no matter how frustrating, to become a swordswoman like her childhood hero.

What she’s not prepared for is a copycat assassin who seeks to replace Longinus and who hires her old partner in crime to kill her. Rory and Longinus have to put their differences aside and try to work together if they’re to stop the copycat. But darker forces than they realise are at play, and with time running out, the unlikely duo find themselves the last line of defence against a powerful enemy who seeks to bring Damsport to its knees.

Click here to read the first chapter.

Store links: Amazon US, Amazon UK




Today we are traveling to Hong Kong to interview French fantasy author Celine JeanJean about her new book release, The Viper and the Urchin.

Welcome to the Writers Gambit, Celine.

I love the cover and your blurb, which promise adventure and intrigue.  I have already bought my copy.  The story sounds fun.  I may have to move it up on my reading list.



1. This is your first novel, so tell me about Celine and what made you want to become a writer?

First of all thank you for your kind words about my book!

I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, but I started writing them down when I was fifteen, which was when I realised that I wanted to be a writer. I was a lot wiser at that age than for most of my twenties though, because by the time I went to university I decided that being a writer was a silly pipe dream, and I put all writing aspirations aside to spend several long and miserable years working in finance. I’m now back to where I was at fifteen, except that now I actually am a writer rather than simply aspiring to be one.

As to what made me want to be a writer, the easiest way to articulate it is that I couldn’t be anything else and be completely happy. I’m at my happiest and most fulfilled when I’m telling myself stories, whether in my head or on paper.

2. Where did you get the idea for your story and how long did it take you to write it?

I got the idea of The Viper and the Urchin while reading another book that featured the perfect assassin: an effective killer who always got everything right and figured everything out before everyone else; he was cool, dark, and handsome, seducing every woman that crossed his path… and I was bored stiff reading the story. I set the book aside, wondering, as a writer, what flaw I would add to such a perfect character to make him more interesting to me.

I came up with the idea of an assassin who was afraid of blood, and since I thought it was quite funny, I spent a couple of hours writing a short story which was a condensed version of the start of The Viper and the Urchin.

Once I had decided to turn that into a novel, it took me a couple of months to get a rough draft and then a first draft out. From writing the first words to publication was a year, almost to the day.

3. Do you have a writing routine, or ritual when you write e.g. time of day, or place, or something else?

The only writing ritual I have is that I listen to a single song on loop on my headphones. The best song for getting myself in the zone is Creep by Radiohead – which is a bit weird, I know, but it works, so I don’t question it too much!

Otherwise I generally write in the morning – I’m a real morning person, and by the afternoon I lack the concentration to write well. As long as it’s morning and I have my headphones with Creep playing, I can write pretty much anywhere.



4. Why indie publishing over traditional publishing? And what advice can you give me and other authors just starting out in this new world of publishing?

There are lots of factors to consider when deciding between indie and traditional publishing, but the one that really swung it for me is the positivity associated with indie publishing versus the negativity/rejection that often comes with traditional publishing.

For me traditional publishing meant going hat in hand to agents and publishers, and asking them to please pick me. I thought of all the rejection I’d have to go through, of how disheartening that would be, and of the fact that The Viper and the Urchin would be in limbo for months if not years. And even if I was to get a publishing deal, it wouldn’t come out into the world for at least a good year or two, since most publishers have quite long delays between signing a book and getting it out into the world.

Going indie has allowed me not only be published, but to hold a copy of my first book in my hands – a huge, and incredibly positive milestone for me. Not only that but rather than having my book languish in someone’s inbox, it’s being read by people who are enjoying it. Readers have already left me reviews, and I get to experience the incredible thrill that comes with knowing that my writing has entertained and given joy. So far, it’s been one of the most positive and empowering experiences of my life, and that is what gives indie publishing a big edge over the traditional route.

Yes, going independent is a bit scary and a lot of work, but I think it’s really worth it, especially for a writer at the start of her writing career. I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom with traditional publishing though, far from it. In fact I plan to look into it in the future, once I have enough of a readership behind me to have real weight in contract negotiations.

As far as advice, I’m far too new to be giving it out – but the two things I’d recommend to any writer looking to publish (whether traditional or indie) is to educate yourself and remember that this is a long-term game. As far as education goes, there are lots of free resources out there, like or the Self Publishing Podcast. Those guys give out far better advice than I could.

5. So far… From writing to publishing, what do you find the most difficult or challenging?

The two hardest things for me by far are writing the first draft, and writing the blurb. The first draft is like pulling teeth (I’m all about the rewrites!) and the blurb is an exercise in pulling your hair out. I do worry that the more books I write the less hair and teeth I’ll have, so let’s hope it gets better over time.

Other than that, I’ve found it all relatively smooth (and fun!) sailing!
You just did another interview, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading, here, at Forty, c’est Fantastique!  this blogger had obviously already read your book.  I loved the questions they ask you, which has me excited about reading your book myself.  I am sorry I did not have time to read it before this interview, but I have it on my reading list.  I try to read some fiction every night, since my days are normally spent writing.  That interview definitely intrigued me as a reader.  I loved this quote from your book.  It was so descriptive and intriguing.  I could see it. 

From The Viper and the Urchin:    “Every cat in the Damsport cemetery was voiceless and only appeared at night. Some said they were the spirits of the dead, while others said that they guarded the dead and to touch them meant touching the Other Side.”


I’m very glad to hear that you like that quote – I’m very fond of it myself!



6. Is this book one of a series, or just genre specific e.g. steampunk? Do you have a second book in the works?

The Viper and the Urchin is part of the Bloodless Assassin series – a series of steampunk mysteries that will feature Longinus and Rory as well as a recurring cast of characters. Each book can stand alone though – I don’t like cliffhangers, so I’m making sure each book is a full and complete story.

The second book is being written as we speak – it will be called The Black Orchid. And it’s also steampunk – all the books in the series will be.


7. Who did the cover art on your book? I loved the look of it, but I also love reading steampunk and gothic type stories, and they captured that so well. Nicolas C. Rossi blog just featured you and your book on his site.  He said this about your cover, “It’s like a Renaissance steampunk painting!”   I totally agree.


Well thank you! Ravven ( did the cover, and I think she’s a wonderful artist. I feel so lucky to have found her! I’m actually going to interview her soon on my blog about her process when she creates digital art. She did an amazing job of capturing Damsport (the city the book takes place in.)


8. Who was your favorite character in your book?  The main character, or a sidekick,  or maybe a scene, and why?

That’s such a tough question! I love all my characters, obviously, but Longinus has got to be my favourite. There’s a lot of humour to him: he’s arrogant, he’s pedantic, he takes himself extremely seriously – but of course he’s an assassin who’s afraid of blood which is a bit ridiculous. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with that.

As a side character, Cruikshank is pretty awesome too: I love the idea of a cigar-smoking, muscular female machinist, with a penchant for tawdry romances.

9. How much research did you do, before you started writing? Outlines, or bare minimum information?

For this novel I did a lot less planning and research than normal. I had the two point of view characters, Rory and Longinus, I knew the end, the midpoint, and the antagonist, and then I started writing. That meant I wrote myself into a lot of dead ends that I had to back out of. This was in part because the novel came about as a development on a short story rather than a full story already in my head.

For the sequel I have a much more detailed outline planned.

10.  Any last words for our readers, or anything you would like them to know that we didn’t cover?

I hope you’ll have as much fun reading The Viper and the Urchin as I did writing it! If you like steampunk, and mystery, and humour, then this is definitely the book for you.

And if you do read The Viper and the Urchin, thank you. Writers wouldn’t be anything without readers, so anyone reading my book is a very special thing and it means a lot to me!






Celine Jeanjean is French, grew up in the UK and now lives in Hong Kong. That makes her a tad confused about where she is from. During her time in Asia she’s watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, lost her shoes in Vietnam, and fallen off a bamboo raft in China.

Celine writes stories that feature quirky characters and misfits, and her books are a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and humor.

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

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