Dear readers, tonight with us is a grad student from Alaska who found out her family has been keeping secrets about their origins and their purpose. She’s here to talk about magic, love, and saving the world from Chernobog’s demonic beasts.

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

Hey guys! My name’s Verena, but my friends call me Very. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska with my parents and my Grandpa Basil. I always knew we had magic, but never why or how. But a few months ago, a meteor struck the ground in Russia and man, I found out some secrets!

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

Hmm, favorite toys? I guess, being from Alaska, I have to say my pond skates? Maybe I should say something sweet and cute, like my dolls, but honestly, I was a tomboy. I was a bossy kid and I’m still pretty take-charge. I liked to play sports and run around in the woods with the kids that lived nearby.

My cousins, Theo and Julian, would come up and visit in the summer and seriously, summertime in Alaska is like, heaven. We’d camp and hike and mess around with our magic.

There are some great magic wielders in my family, people that can launch lightning bolts or create incredible illusions, or people that can see into the future. But my magic never manifested more than a little—like, I could make sparks. Big deal. Everyone was really nice about it, of course, but it was a definitely sore spot for me.

I threw myself into my sword training instead—my family is really big on martial arts training, sword play, that sort of thing. I figured, if I couldn’t do magic, I’d learn other ways to defend myself. And, I have to tell you, I’m really, really good with my sword. Should I just have said my sword? I like my sword—it’s this 1796 light cavalry saber and seriously, it is SWEET.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but you look like you can keep a secret.

So, the people in my family that can do magic? It turns out that we’re descended from those crazy Roman-Vikings guys, the Varangians. Ever heard of them? A thousand or so years ago, the Byzantine emperor sent a cohort of his Varangian Guards to Rus. And when they got there, they vanished, poof, gone from the history books.

What ACTUALLY happened is that a meteor struck their camp and it opened a portal to another world! Can you believe it? I couldn’t believe it, the first time Grandpa Basil told me the story. In the other world, they learned magic and they battled demons. They built a huge citadel and just tried to survive that really hostile place.

Now, about 100 years ago, my great aunts and uncles were out hunting demons in the countryside and they found another portal back to Earth! They went through and ended up in Russia, which, you know, was not a great place to be at that time. They hid and fled and ended up in Alaska. And they kept their origins a secret. Obviously.

But when that meteor struck in Russia in February, they knew someone would have to go and check it, to make sure none of the demons came through. So, I did! I went with Julian and Theo and we kicked some demon ass, let me tell you.

What did you first think when you found your real magic?

When I found out I was a nightingale? At first, I was mostly relieved. I wasn’t a dud, you know? I had good, STRONG magic. I could whistle the elements! But then I got pretty worried. I was dealing with powerful forces and if I messed up, a lot of people could get hurt. It was hard to find that balance, between learning the magic and staying safe.

We’d never had a nightingale in the family before, so until I found the other Varangians, I was flying blind. It was frustrating and exhilarating both, I’d say.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Seeing a demon, in the flesh, for the first time, was hands-down pretty terrifying. We found a bukavac, which is kind of like a swamp monster, with these crazy legs, and horns, and a really powerful, deafening scream. We had to kill it and it was NOT easy. Theo got hurt. That was … that was really scary. I had a lot of doubts afterward about what I was doing.  It’s not easy to make battle plans when it’s your family on the front lines with you, you know?

Any romantic involvement?

Ugh, I knew you were going to ask that. And look, before I met Owen, I never, ever would have pegged myself as a love-at-first-sight kind of person. But the second I saw him, I just felt this, I don’t know, click or something in my soul. I KNEW he was my other half.

That’s not to say we didn’t have some issues. And I still think what he did when we met the Moon God was reckless and stupid. But, I love him, so I guess I have to let it go. Eventually. Don’t tell him I said that.

What does the future hold for you?

Who can say what the future holds? Now that I know about the demons and the portals, and I’ve figured out my magic, I think my fight will continue. I’ve got Owen, and my cousins, and our new Varangian friends. I think we’re going to kick some demon butt.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

Oh jeez, really? Um. [Whispers] I don’t like beef jerky.

K. Panikian lives in Massachusetts with her partner and three children. Aside from reading and writing, she enjoys golf and snowboarding.

You can find Verena on the pages of the Varangian Descendants series, starting with Verena’s Whistle.

Join us next week to meet the son of the world’s most famous submarine‘s captain. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.