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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

April 2021

John Conquer (of Conquer, by Edward M. Erdelac)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a P.I. from 1976 Harlem — the cat you call when your hair stands up, a supernatural brother like no other.


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

I was born in New Orleans but came to New York with my parents when I was seven. We stayed with my Uncle Silas till he passed. I was raised on West 115th in the Foster Projects in Harlem. They call ‘em the MLK Projects now. It was cool growing up. We had the big playground, monkey bars, ball courts…good old PS 170. When my daddy died and my mama got run down by a taxi, I stayed with Consolation Underwood in East Harlem. She was a bookie for King Solomon Keyes, and an Ifa priestess – an Ìyánífá. She taught me divination with the opon Ifa, had me memorize the 256 odu, while other kids were doin’ times tables. Said ‘cause I was born with a caul I ought to learn, maybe become a babalawo some day. She was Mama to just about every orphan in Harlem at one time or another. Always some kid coming or going in her kitchen. Me and her niece, little Phaedra Williams were the ones who stayed the longest. I used to walk Phaedra over to the pool at Marcus Garvey Park in the summer, stand under the monkey bars to catch her if she slipped. That was before ‘Nam.

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

We couldn’t afford much in the way of toys. Played outside most of the time. One of my favorite memories is of sittin’ up late with my Daddy and my Uncle Silas beatin’ on these handmade mahogany Rada drums he had. My uncle taught me to beat the rhythm on the Boula when I was six. My mama would dance till the sweat made her arms shine in the dark.

What do you do now?

I’m a private investigator now, got an office on 33 St. Marks Place. I run down stray husbands and wives mostly, but sometimes folks call me when the hair on the back of their neck stands up, you dig? I got a reputation around town after I took down a rakshasi one night at the Empire Roller Disco in Brooklyn. Brought it in a lot of weird business. Weirder by the day, sometimes I think. Lucky I inherited a library from my godfather, Fish Marmelstein. He used to own a supply company, Brother Hoodoo. My daddy was his top salesman. Anyway, it’s got most everything I need. I got books on Vodoun, Hoodoo, Kabbalah, Hermeticism…you name it. And if I don’t have it, I know where to find it.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I wouldn’t call it an adventure. Adventures are supposed to be enjoyable, right? Where do I start? It’s been an eventful year. I took down a clique of vampires in the Harlem Hospital morgue, helped out my Uncle Silas’…..I don’t know what you call Verbena Mechant, a partner? Husband? Wife? Hell, you call her whatever she wants to be called. I learned that the hard way. Anyway, Auntie Verbena had a boo-hag causin’ problems with her girls in Crown Heights. Let’s see….there was that time Lou Lazzeroni found Genie Jones shrunk and floating in a lava lamp and called me in….there was that thing eatin’ graffiti taggers in the subway. Then there was that other thing running rampant at the Vatican…sorry, that’s what Pope used to call the apartment building where he housed his girls….ugh…sorry, Pope’s the pimp whose ghost haunts my car….eh, that’s a long story. I don’t wanna get into that mess. Let’s see….my last ‘adventure’….finding the dude who shot Preacher dead with an arrow in front of Hekima Books. Preacher, that was Benny Galarza, one of my oldest friends. We started the 167th Street Black Enchanters back in ’69 when we got outta Vietnam see….him and me and Black Adam. It had to do with a butchered gorilla carcass the cops found laying in an intersection in the Bronx. I just got out of the hospital from all that. It was a bad scene. Nearly got my black ass pitched off a roof.

Continue reading “John Conquer (of Conquer, by Edward M. Erdelac)”

Neela Blydes (of Red Blood, by Kaitlyn Legaspi)

Dear readers, tonight we get inside the mind of a seventeen year old girl, forced to participate in a deadly tournament – all to possess the Queen of Hearts card, the ticket to ruling her domain.


            Why is it so dark? I thought. I-I can’t open my eyes… I feel so light… Am I floating? Where am I? Who am I?

            “Neela,” a gentle voice answered, echoing within my mind.“Your name is Neela,”

            Neela… Neela Blydes.

            “Good. You remember your name.” the voice said. “Neela, I’m going to help you get your memories back, okay? A few questions should do it.”

            O-Okay.

            “Don’t be scared. I won’t be telling anyone what you tell me. I promise.”

            Then ask away.

            “Alright,” the voice paused, as if thinking, “do you remember where you grew up? What was it like?”

            Where I grew up… I wracked my brain for an answer. I grew up in two places.

            “Two?”

            Yes, I said. Up until I was five, I lived in a meadow area near the border of the Queen of Hearts Domain with my parents and older brother. My brother and I always played outside, and our father always gave us lessons on the wildlife in the meadows and forest.

            “What about the second place?”

            The slums… I spent the rest of my childhood growing up in a small clinic with my brother in the slums of the Queen of Hearts Domain. It was a dangerous place. Around every corner was a fight, and I had to go through some of my own in order to survive.

            “Man… What made you want to live there?”

            I didn’t want to. Never wanted to. I lived there because it was the only place I could go after people killed my parents and burned down my home.

            “Okay, we won’t venture further in that direction. Let’s go a different route,” the voice said hurriedly. “How about this? Any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?”

            No toys, but, the corners of my lips tugged up into a small smile, memories, yes.

            “What’s one?”

            My father always brought home flowers for my mother at the end of every week. The way they made her smile… was angelic.

            “That’s sweet,” the voice laughed a bit. “Neela, do you mind if I ask questions about the present?”

            Go ahead. I’ll answer them the best I can.

            “If you’re not able to, that’s completely fine,” the voice assured me. “Do you remember anything about what you’re doing now?”

            No. Do you?

            “…A bit.”

            Can you give me a hint?

            “Well… people love watching you fight in the ring.”

            My head pulsed. An image of dirt and a cheering crowd filling the stands of an indoor arena flashed in my mind. I’m fighting in a tournament for the title of Card Holder of the Queen of Hearts Domain.

            “That’s right. Do you remember what’s happened recently?”

            The first half of the solo rounds are over, I’ve met the leader of the rogues, and Jacen… my brother… he’s… the blood…

            “I guess you do remember,” the voice interrupted. “Let’s go into another direction, alright?”

            O-okay.

            “Do you remember how you felt about entering the tournament?”

            You mean when I was forced to enter? I scoffed. I didn’t want to enter and be part of the slaughter that’s the tournament. Then… I realized if I won and became Card Holder, I could change how it’s all handled. I still hate it, but I view it as an opportunity now.

Continue reading “Neela Blydes (of Red Blood, by Kaitlyn Legaspi)”

Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)

Dear reader, tonight with us is a prisoner from the far future, one who claims his imprisonment is for good deeds.


It’s very unusual for a person so young to be in such a high-security prison. What did you do?

Never one to be subtle, are you? I suppose all interviewers always cut to the chase. There was a famine crisis in the neutral world of Livina, and the Council refused to give aid, despite it being in their constitution to always offer such help.

We decided to teach them a lesson. So we hijacked their cargo ship carrying supplies to the latest ball for the dignitaries and sent them to Livina instead.

The people got their food, but I was careless and ended up arrested. With the mounting charges to my name, I was thrown in jail for misconduct, hijacking, and thievery.

You’ve been in trouble with the Council before?

Many times, I’m afraid. I would have thought my actions would be enough to change their minds, but alas, they remain as stubborn as ever.

What brought you into the world of crime?

Crime? I would hardly say the things I do are criminal. I admit some of my methods are more… erring on the grey area of the law, but they function well. I only have one purpose, which is to help end the suffering of the innocent in any way I can.

What inspired you to help others?

My home planet, Anguini, is a neutral world. So I suppose I am fortunate I grew up on a planet with relatively unbiased approaches to the galactic political proceedings. Some years ago, before I was born, our planet was ripped apart by civil war.

The High Council stepped in and sent their most elite peacekeeping forces, the Star Corps, to settle the matter. After a few years of a bitter struggle, they finally did, and they helped us recover and flourish as a planet.

I very clearly remember one Star Corps member, then retired, came to our school to talk about the conflict. It was difficult for her to talk about, but she did regardless. I couldn’t help but admire her.

I asked her why she’d risked her life for people she didn’t even know. She said, “The Star Corps is about helping everyone, in any way we can, because it’s the right thing to do, and it makes the galaxy a better place.”

Their selfless assistance for my people inspired me to do the same.

Continue reading “Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)”

Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a character out of Jane Austen’s novels, who found that life continues beyond her original appearance. She is here to tell us about love and murder during the Regency.


Well, Miss Bennet, you have had an interesting little adventure. As magistrate in these parts, I need to gather a bit more information to write my report. It is not every day that a young woman of your tender years solves a mystery like this, and the murder of a clergyman as well. We were all quite shocked. I have a few questions, if you do not mind. First, I need to know a bit about you. Your home, for example. 

Thank you, sir. Of course I will answer anything you need. My home is a small estate called Longbourn, in Hertfordshire. It has a small village, but the closest town of any size is Meryton, a mile yonder. I suppose it is not so different from many other market towns, and we have a good selection of shops and necessary provisions, as well as a fine set of assembly rooms. We lack for little, and in this modern age (for it is 1811, of course), we can travel to London in the course of half a day.

Your home sounds not out of the usual, but there must be something that has formed you into the person you are. What of your childhood? What has shaped you to be able to solve these horrid crimes?

I cannot imagine myself anything particularly special. Indeed, I grew up thinking myself not special at all. I am the middle of five daughters, after all. I am not pretty like my two older sisters, nor am I spirited and outgoing like the younger two. I would rather read then attend parties, and I have little interest in ribbons and lace or flirting with the officers from the milia regiment. I quite often feel rather invisible!

As a child, I retreated into the comforting words of scripture and sermons. They helped me make sense of the world and shaped my sense of morality. A young woman’s behaviour reflects not only on her, but on all her relations, and must be well regulated.

I also sought refuge in the pianoforte. I begged Papa to allow me to learn, and I had a great desire to become proficient. Perhaps, if I could play the most difficult pieces, people would pay attention to me and laud me.

I know not whether these shaped me, but perhaps they gave me the discipline to examine the clues I found so as to solve the mystery of Mr. Collins’ murder.

What do you propose to do now? Surely solving murders is not an appropriate activity for a gentlewoman of your tender years. Will you return to playing the pianoforte?

Oh no, sir! I can hardly credit it. It was a grand adventure, but you are correct. I am expected to act within my station, and with all propriety.

And yet I find the whole affair was stimulating. I should never wish to see such violent death again, nor do I rejoice in the cause of the investigation, but I have never felt so useful before in my life. I have never felt so needed, so important, so alive. I know I should be pleased to have this experience to remember in the years to come, and yet a part of me hopes that it might not be the last time I can put my meagre skills to work for so useful a purpose.

Very good. I shall make notes of all of this. Now, on to the crux of this interview. Here I must make good notes for my report. What can you tell us about these terrible events?

Oh, sir, I shudder even now to think of it. It started, as you know, when my cousin Mr. Collins was discovered dead in a field near Longbourn. He had been killed with a knife, and that knife turned out to belong to my sister Elizabeth. She had been out on the day Mr. Collins died, and she returned home injured and covered in blood. This, when seen with the evidence of the knife, brought her to the attention of the local authorities, who came to charge her with the death.

Of course, I could not let that happen! Elizabeth could never kill anybody. I knew I had to do whatever I could to save my dear sister. Then there were the missing candlesticks and the lost maid, and I found myself in the middle of a great mystery that needed solving.

Continue reading “Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)”

The protagonist (of Merchant Magician, by John Champaign)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man known by many — usually unflattering — nicknames. He’s here to tell us about trading mystical goods and services, about meeting mermaids in San Francisco, Midwestern leprechauns, Icelandic dwarves and the girl of his dreams, who happens to be a cultist.


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

I was born right here in the U.S.  I had friends who would tease me and call our house a mansion, but it wasn’t really.  No servants or anything like that.  We’d traveled for vacations, which was always fun, and helped prepare me for all the travelling I ended up doing.  My dad was always getting my sister and me ready to work for the family business.  Looking back, I’d say I really “grew up” during my adventures after my 23rd birthday, which is where the book I wrote begins.

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

I always loved Transformers.  I had a vintage “Soundwave”, he was the one that turned from a robot into a microcassette recorder and had the cassettes that also transformed!  When I was eight, some nymphs who my dad was doing business with gave me a magic sword, but my parents took it away from me when they caught me cutting a boulder in two in our backyard.  I was angry at the time, but they were totally right – that was no toy for an eight year old to be playing with.  It’s like in that old Christmas Story movie when everyone is telling him he’s going shoot out his eye.  “You’re going to chop off your own leg, kid” is what I’d say to an eight year old with a magic sword today.

What do you do now?

Busy setting up deals and trying to build my business.  My expectation was that running my own shop would give me tons of freedom, but it’s just been putting out one fire after another.  Just arranging the fair dealing guidelines with the demons has been almost impossible.  Things with the dwarves have been going smoothly, but it’s obviously very time consuming.  Financing the vampire hunters has probably been the easiest project, but smoothing over the strong personalities is a bit of a pain in the ass.  I haven’t been having nightmares about the mermaids since we started dealing with one another over Zoom, so that’s been a big improvement with them.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I saved reality as we know it and no one gives me the slightest bit of credit for it.  I wasn’t expecting parades or anything, but my father was more proud about the deal with the dwarves.  Your blog has been the first press I’ve gotten!  No other interviews!!!  It’s as bad as people ignoring information about the supernatural, except even supernatural beings themselves act awkward and change the subject whenever I bring up saving reality.

My big advice to anyone on a quest to save reality is:  Do it.  If reality needs saving, you gotta do it.  But don’t expect any accolades at the end.

Continue reading “The protagonist (of Merchant Magician, by John Champaign)”

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