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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

August 2020

Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)

Dear readers, tonight with us are two people from a steam-powered London. They are here to tell us about dead-eyed assassins, murderous pirates, wingless flying machines, and perhaps even creatures from beyond this Earth.


Tell us a little about your early life.

Charlie: I was born in at the family estate in Lincolnshire, but we don’t go there very often. We mostly live at our townhouse in Pimlico. I went to Harrow School and Oxford, though they are both beastly insistent on making a chap study.

Gladys: I was born in a one-room shack in Sydney, just downwind of the Chippendale slaughter houses. It was hot – but only in the summer, autumn and winter. The spring floods would cool things down, but.

Charlie: My father is Third Lord of the Admiralty and I my mother is a lady detective. I expect this is why we lived in London so very much.

Gladys: My dad drank himself to death after mum died of consumption. My Auntie Madge looked after me, until I got onto the stage via singing on street corners for coins.

What do you do now?

Gladys: I’m on the stage. I sing, I dance. I was queen of the music halls back in Sydney — not that there was much competition. I came to London to seek my fortune, then found out there’d been a gold rush back home. Could have made a packet, without months in bloody steerage. I worked a while as a conjuror’s assistant – that’s how I got involved in all of this nonsense to begin with.

Charlie: I’m a reporter, now, but I used to do… What do you suppose one would call it?

Gladys: Nothing.

Charlie: Yes, that’s right. Basically nothing.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Charlie: The conjuror Gladys works for vanished. Not vanished into thin air — nothing surprising about a magician vanishing that way. Kidnapped. Gladys was looking for him. And I was hunting for a murderer…

Gladys: As you do…

Charlie: …and we decided to work together to solve our respective crimes.

Gladys: He helped me with money, transport and connections. I helped him by grabbing him by the lapels and pointing him in the direction of clues.

And did these mysteries connect in some way?

Charlie: Indeed. They turned out to involve a conspiracy concerning giant Bats from outer space.

Gladys: Thanks for being the one to say it, Charlie. It sounds less ridiculous when you say it in an Oxford accent.

Charlie: But the Bats were only part of the problem.

Gladys: Their human enemies were a handful, too. Cure worse than the disease, as my Aunty Madge always used to say.

Charlie: She said a rather lot, didn’t she? And not all of it helpful.

Gladys: I reckon you and her would of got along like a house on fire.

Continue reading “Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)”

Anna Belko (of Wrong Place, Right Time, by E.B. Roshan)

Dear readers, tonight we listen in while the protagonist – Anna, a young factory worker – is  having tea with her husband’s aunt, Oxsana. All she wanted was a quiet cup of tea, but an unexpected encounter blooms into new-found love that changes her life.


OXSANA: (sitting down opposite Anna and pouring a cup of tea.) Oh, Anna—I’ve been wanting to do this ever since Boris first told me you were the one for him. I feel that I don’t know you at all, really. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

ANNA: (dipping a cookie into her tea) Well, I was born here in Dor. You knew that, right? I wish I could remember it when it was beautiful.

OXSANA: You don’t remember anything from before the war?

ANNA: My very first memory is of Mama making me lie down in the bathtub and pushing a mattress over the top. Because of the rockets. It was dark, and the tub was icy cold. I was so scared—too scared to cry, even. Ilya and Bogdan and Radoslav hid under their beds, but Mama didn’t trust me to stay put!

OXSANA: She wanted you safe.

ANNA: Of course. (Pours herself more tea.) That makes it sound like I had a horrible childhood, but I didn’t. Our house had a big, beautiful back garden, and my brothers and I were always kicking a football around it, or climbing the apple tree and getting onto the roof of the neighbors’ shed.

OXSANA: Well, I’m sure having so many older brothers made things interesting.

ANNA: (laughing) Oh, yes! I was a tomboy growing up—Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I did have a doll , named Ilona after the great-aunt who gave her to me, but as any girl with only brothers can tell you, all the really fun games don’t involve dolls.

Continue reading “Anna Belko (of Wrong Place, Right Time, by E.B. Roshan)”

Grey (of The Ascension Machine, by Rob Edwards)

Dear readers, tonight we print an in-story interview between two teen superheroes, studying in the Justice Academy, the special school for their kind. We’ll learn about assumed identities, alien races, and friendship.


I’ve been thinking, Grey. After seeing Sunbolt handling those journalists on Bantus, should we, maybe, practice interview techniques?

Hmm? Sorry, Seventhirtyfour, I was light years away. What was that about interviews?

I was just saying I should interview you; I could get extra credits for my superhero journalism course, Choose your Lane 101. Please? We’re still days away from the Academy, I’m bored, you know.

I’m not falling for that, you have a stack of textbooks still to read, and I know how much you love a textbook.

Sigh.

Go on then. Ask me some questions.

Okay, fantastic. Let’s see. You grew up in one of the wealthiest human families in the galaxy. What was that like?

I thought we agreed to pretend I didn’t have money? We definitely said that. Let’s imagine that instead of growing up as a Gravane, I… I don’t know. Just off the top of my head: I ran away from my parents at age eight. I spent the better part of a decade drifting from space station to space station, surviving on my wits, earning money to survive. Legitimately when I could, but less so when I had to.

Can you imagine if that was true? It sounds lonely.

Lonely? That’s not…  I’ve seen the galaxy, met amazing people from dozens of different species and only swindled a relatively small percentage of them. I may not have stayed in one place very long, I guess. Never really formed what you’d call close friendships. Put that against all the places I’ve been to, all the things I’ve learned. You can’t buy an education like that. In this hypothetical backstory.

What about you, Seventhirtyfour? Where did you grow up?

Oh, nothing special really, you know? Once I was let out of the maturation pod, I was posted to Clone Barracks 17 on Brontom Prime and started my five-year boot camp.  Just me and a couple thousand of my closest vat mates. It was a good time, we learned to fight and—wait, I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

Busted.

So, let’s talk about your time at the Justice Academy. What courses are you taking now?

Sure. I’m a Skills student. No Powers of any kind, no super Tech. That means I’m studying to be the best version of me I can be. To, um, fight crime and rescue innocents and the like. Basic superhero defense. Parkour. Grapnel Gun Basics and Maintenance. A couple of Prof Croft’s Criminology and Clue Analysis courses. Gutted I couldn’t get into Superheroics: A History with you, but, clashes, what can you do? I really want to do Rescueology next term, just to find out what it is.

Continue reading “Grey (of The Ascension Machine, by Rob Edwards)”

Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a deaf art student, who was dragged into a trail of murder, revenge and vengeance spanning centuries and countries.


What was it like living in London, then moving to Spain with your Aunt and Uncle?

For some reason, I don’t remember much about living in London. Snippets of events pop up here and there, they just don’t seem real. I remember our house in London. It always felt so cold, impersonal. I felt I had to tip toe around everywhere.

My father had inherited the house from some long lost relative. I think a part of me blocks out a lot of my earlier childhood.

It felt so different when I moved to Spain when I was 10. My aunt had made sure to make her house a home. Everything in their house felt like it had meaning. My bedroom actually felt like a sanctuary, instead of some place just to sleep in.

I missed my mother; however, for the first time, I felt safe, I felt part of a family.

What is your most cherished memory, and how does the bad memory of your father haunt the good ones?

Going to the Art museum with my mum is one of my most cherished moments, I guess one of the only times I can clearly remember from back then.

My nightmares always involve that museum, and would rapidly take me to the night the car crashed. In my nightmare, I clearly remember hearing my mum call for me, and then I see my body falling down the stairs, my father watching from above…

I don’t know if my nightmares cloud my actual memories, I struggle to picture what happened.

Yelling, threats, my fear of my father all felt so real at the time. When I wake, I just don’t know what is real, and what is imagined… Except that Art Museum.

This is a pretty personal question, how does being deaf affect what you are doing now?

Being deaf has both advantages and disadvantages. I don’t hear if someone is behind me, I sense it, I guess. When I was younger, I was terrified something bad would happen, I couldn’t ‘hear’ it coming.

So, I guess I fine-tuned my other senses. Trained myself to sense a change in the way the air flowed around me when someone was close.

The way nature and objects moved, birds suddenly scattering when something or someone disturbs it.

The smell of cologne or perfume, a hint of curry, tobacco or coffee.

Smelling, tasting, seeing small disruptions to create a more detailed picture around me. Learning to understand how to interpret those small changes.

Now, I use that to watch people. Watch how their lips move when they talk, how their feet are positioned, the way they hold their hands, small ticks that indicate to me they are holding back.

I can’t hear the tone of voice, I can’t hear if they’re angry or sad. Instead, I watch their face, learn the intricacies of their expressions.

That gives me the confidence. I don’t have to rely on others, that’s important to me.

Which is why, I guess, I love Art. I was studying Art History at Seville University, taking after my mum, in some ways. The picture holds so much depth; we only need to understand what we are seeing. Like body language, art has many interpretations to one single image; you just need to understand the workings behind it.

Continue reading “Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)”

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