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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

May 2020

Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)

Dear readers, we all love to see blood spilled for our entertainment, cheer for the brave gladiators as they fight in the arena. Tonight we have a unique chance to hear from a woman who dedicated her life to this amazing sport, so beloved by our empire’s citizens.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Neapolis: A shining city on the coast. Number two city in the empire, or so I like to think. You may have heard of Mt. Vesuvius? That’s our most famous landmark to the northeast of the city. Or perhaps, Pompeii? Yes, we remember it. I’ve even been into the ruins!

 When I was a kid I’d run around with the workers’ children. How I loved racing up and down the hills of Neapolis. The black sand between my toes as we lounged on the beach. Those are some of my happiest memories, even when my father banned me from playing with the ‘chaff’.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My wooden swords, without a doubt. Perhaps my carved toy soldiers as well. I loved watching puppet shows as a child, and I would help put them on for my friends using my toys. It was fun to be the center of attention that way. Probably seems a bit selfish of me, but when you’re born into a family with clear expectations of what you should be doing with your future, you feel the need to do anything else. 

What do you do now?

Well at this moment I’m in training to be a gladiator, here at the Ludus Magnus. It’s the greatest gladiator school in Rome and the empire. I’ve wanted to join the fighters in the arena since I was ten, and spent as much time as possible reading about them, watching events in the coliseum, and training with one of my father’s servants. When I turned sixteen, I was told about an arranged marriage to one of my father’s….friends. “All about the business” he said. 

I said “goodbye” a week later. Here I am, in Rome, following my dream. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Being a gladiator isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Incomes are down, attendance is down, and we’re about to be replaced by mechagladiators. The Emperor wants a big fancy spectacle. I mean, honestly, so do I. So do the owners. Everyone wants a spectacle. That’s why you attend the games at the Coliseum in the first place! Humans versus giant mechanical gladiators, with the Emperor, his family, and his brother watching… How can you not want to see this?

Continue reading “Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)”

Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman who speaks to the dead and dates gods out of slavic myths. She’s here to tell us about her unique gifts, about saving the world, and about tea.


Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s pretty hard for zines on this side of the Veil to get interviews. You weren’t born in Ljubljana. Where are you from originally and do you go home often?

It was the accent that gave it away wasn’t it? I’ve never been able to banish that little bit of Southern twang. I grew up in Chattanooga in Tennessee in the American South. Chattanooga isn’t a bad place to be from but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay. I took the first opportunity to leave that was presented and eventually I wound up in Slovenia, in Ljubljana. I can’t really imagine being anywhere else now. Chattanooga isn’t really home anymore, so I don’t visit very often if I can help it. Some ghosts are best left to rest.

Any cherished memories from home?

(Laughs softly) Does leaving count? Aside from that, there’s a lot to be said for growing up next to a river. I’ve always felt a connection to water wherever I go. I think that’s what made me stay in Ljubljana, but I didn’t know until much later that you could step into the same river twice. And that they would both share the same snarky river god.

What do you do now?

Well, when I’m not slinging tea and making fancy sandwiches at the punk rock teahouse I own with my two closest friends, I talk to and for the local dead folk. Well, that and try to keep a couple steps ahead of my ex and his grand plans. Never underestimate the trickery of your average ancient dark deity and, trust me, don’t ever date one and definitely don’t have a kid with them.

You said you talk to and for dead people? You did say dead people right?

 It isn’t a very common “gift,” being a Voice of the Dead. The people who like to keep track of those of us who live behind the Veil thought my mother and my aunt were the last ones as all the other lines of Voices had died out. Then—surprise—it didn’t skip me after all. There’s nothing quite like finding out you’re a freaking “dead whisperer” way past your brooding Chosen One sell-by date. It isn’t like a parlor trick or anything though, it’s a job. Or more accurately, a duty.

Continue reading “Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)”

Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mage, one of those defending the realm. He’s here to tell us about his life, and about his recent role in solving magical murders.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Kalanon but not like it is now.  We’re talking four hundred years ago so a lot has changed.  The gold mines at Sandilar hadn’t been found yet.  Obviously Valda was still the capital city and not much of one at that.  People today don’t get how much effort was put into building this country.  They know about the war but ask them about the years before that and they know nothing. 

I know I have a bit of a reputation as a grumpy old man but, well, appearances aside I AM old.  And not always entirely patient when it comes to fools.  There’s a tiredness that comes with that, no matter how much power you have.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Toys weren’t really a part of my childhood.  You have to understand what’s necessary for someone to become a mage.  It’s not like wanting to be a baker or a soldier when you grow up.  The dedication required is…relentless. Magic has a price and that price is sacrifice.  I prefer not to dwell on it.  Nobody truly understands anyway.

What do you do now?

I’m the magus of Kalanon.  I’ve done more to defend this country than anyone – both during the war and before it.  These days I’ve been tasked to help Sir Brannon Kesh solve a series of unusual and magical crimes.  I suppose I’m a consultant and a guide for him.  A soldier grunt can’t be expected to know about the true mysteries of the world so he needs my guidance.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The Djin shamans are a dangerous lot who work with elementals and death magic.  So when a member of the royal family is murdered in what looks like a Djin ritual…well, it’s either them or the Nilarians, in my view and both of those options are bad!

Continue reading “Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)”

Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the deadliest bounty hunter in the world — also easily overlooked, as she’s only two feet tall. She’s here to tell us about legendary pirates, spoilt potions, and a sleepy little town.


Welcome Miss Griever Blackhand. How are you?

Hello! Thank you for having us. This chair is quite plush. We’re a little bit hungry. We’d very much like to flop around in a pile of leaves, should you happen to have one. Or perhaps some dirty laundry.

Um… Right. Now, you are a ferrelf. A lot of our readers might not be familiar with your species. If you don’t mind me giving them a physical description, you look like a ferret or weasel. Maybe eighteen inches tall with black and white fur. You’re wearing only a purple cape, which is crooked, draped over your arm. Can you give us any other insights into yourself or your people? Perhaps some history or culture.

…That was a lot of questions.

Oh. My apologies. I’ll slow down. Can you tell us a little about ferrelves?

Yes! As a ferrelf, we are more than able to speak on all matters regarding ferrelves.

…Griever?

Yes!

Would you tell us about ferrelves?

We’re a nomadic people, living in tribes throughout the Northern continent. Like elves, we are immortal. But we don’t always get along with them. You know how elves do things like spend five hundred years shaping a tree into a house, then stare at a roaring fire and recall the ancient times of war when their dwarf friend was slain by an ogre, so they planted a seed on the spot and spent five hundred years using that dwarf as fertilizer to make their house. But then they spent so much time reminiscing about their dwarf friend that they forgot trees are made of wood and their entire house burns down? Well, us ferrelves don’t dedicate so much time to such things. All that sitting would make our minds wander, and we’d start thinking about bright things, and how we like bright things. Then we think about how some of the kindling in the fire isn’t burned and we could probably take it out of the fire pit. But then it’s really hot so we throw it away and it hits the wall.

I’m sorry. Are you telling us you burned down some elf’s wood cabin?

…So the main difference between elves and ferrelves is how we regard time. Elf minds are in ages. Ferrelf minds stay in moments. We’re also a lot more carnivorous. We’ve eaten six birds today. Five of them were still in eggs, but we ate them.

Continue reading “Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)”

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