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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

December 2021

Andy Thomas (of Suffer the Little Children, by Tina Helmuth)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man accidentally drawn into the dark world of child trafficking and abuse, and facing real and supernatural dangers.


Tell us a little about where you’re from and growing up.

I was born in Grass Valley, California, which is near Sacramento, the city where the seat of government for the state is.  My dad’s career was in the Army, so we moved around a great deal.  We spent time in Japan and Germany and once dad became a General, we moved stateside and came back to Grass Valley.   My dad was quite the inventor so when he was home, we would work on projects together.  We spent most of our time inventing things around the house for my mother.  I suspect she just put up with our inventions since she didn’t really care for things like a vacuum that cleans, sort of like the Roomba that seems to be all the rage today, though for her, it just keep getting under her feet.  I used to laugh when she would get a broom and try to sweep it out of the kitchen, only to have it come back.  Frankly, I think the thing did it just to bug her because it knew how much she disliked it.

My dad traveled back and forth to Washington DC, since he worked in the Pentagon, so my mother and I spent a lot of time alone.  I wanted a sibling, but evidently my father was too busy even for that, so I entertained myself.  I discovered I had a knack for computers and started tinkering with them.  In the early days of computing, well since I’m only in my 30’s, not the really “OLD” days where the computers used a dot matrix printer and were huge, I started writing code.  I was never a hacker, because frankly I wasn’t interested in breaking into sites, but I liked to write programs for me to do things with.   I also love photography and since I lived near the Redwoods, any chance I got to go there I took.

When I hit my 20’s, the General as I liked to call my dad disappeared.  The military told us they had no idea where he went though they kept visiting my mother and me at least once a month until finally after years had gone by, they just checked in once a year to see if we had heard from him.  My mother died broken-hearted and for me, it took a long time to get over my anger that he just up and left.

The General left behind some plans that I found one day while going through his stuff that my mother refused to get rid of and I discovered detailed plans for a noiseless drone that was smaller than anything the military had and could fly up to 30,000 feet as well as being undetectable by anything like radar.  I decided to build it to use for my photography even though he had left instructions on how to weaponize it.

Any cherished memories?

One of my most cherished memories is while living in Japan; before we left the country we went on a sightseeing tour.  The General didn’t normally have to time to do these kinds of things with us, but for one week we went to places like Kyoto and Nagoya where we visited some incredible Shinto temples.  I was into photography then and had a Polaroid that I used to take pictures with; I still have those photographs, the only pictures I have of all of us together.

What kind of work do you do? 

I have my own company which is basically computer tech support.  My mother left me the house where I live in Grass Valley, so I work out of the house.

Continue reading “Andy Thomas (of Suffer the Little Children, by Tina Helmuth)”

Barbara Bernsen (of the St. Rage series, by Karen Eisenbrey)

Dear readers, tonight with us is your not-so-typical high-school junior girl. While invisible since third grade, a magic hat recently brought her back to light. She’s here to talk about her priorities: an all-girl garage band, and fighting bullies with miraculous super-powers.


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

I was born and raised in Seattle, WA, which maybe explains all the flannel in my wardrobe. Practical three seasons of the year; some years, four. You’ve probably heard that it rains a lot? Yeah, so good boots are also a must. I got these retro Doc Martens at the thrift store for only $10! Anyway—we’re lucky to have a lively music scene. All-ages shows are a little harder to come by than over-21, but my dad was great about finding shows and festivals he could take me to once he realized we liked a lot of the same bands. We saw the Sonics!!! After I was in high school, I insisted on going by myself, hoping to meet my people. I had this fantasy that I’d be at a show and I’d overhear some other kids talking about starting a band. I’d say, “I’ve been writing songs,” and they’d be like, “Cool, you wanna be in our band, too?” and I could be a backup singer. But I was still invisible then, so that didn’t work out so well. I’d go, enjoy the music, and never talk to anybody but the door guy.

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

When I was 6, I got a toy electronic keyboard for Christmas. I had just started piano lessons and it was fun to plunk out the tunes I was learning with sound effects and drumbeats! And it had a microphone, too, so I could make little recordings! My parents are both music lovers but not musicians beyond singing in church. And I never really learned to play the piano, but I think they could see music was important to me from an early age. I still use that toy keyboard when I’m writing songs now, if you can believe it. It lives on the shelf above my desk, next to my snowglobes and bobbleheads.

What do you do now?

I’m a student. When all this started, I was still in high school. Now I’m going to community college. One quarter down! I’ll probably get some kind of nothing job next summer. Oh, what do I mean by “all this”? Well, the band was obviously a big part of my life the last years of high school. I write songs for and sing lead in St. Rage. We’re kind of on hiatus while everybody goes to college, but we’re not done. And then there’s the whole superpowers thing. Against all logic, I’m leading a superteam called The Rage Brigade. I did not see that coming.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I was invisible—maybe literally—till age 16, when the most popular guy in school put a magic hat on my head and suddenly, I could be seen! That gave me absurd confidence, enough to start an all-girl garage band. The anger-fueled gestural superpowers were … unexpected. I try to use them for good; careless drivers, bullies, and misogynist jerks better watch out!

Then I started finding other young people with unusual abilities: a kid who punches internet trolls right there in the comments; a girl who can text her past self to undo mistakes; a guy who talks to bugs, and another who hears the soundtrack. We became the Rage Brigade. When we realized a fake pastor was using mind control on an entire megachurch, it was up to us to stop him.

Continue reading “Barbara Bernsen (of the St. Rage series, by Karen Eisenbrey)”

JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)

Dear readers, tonight we’re hosting a warbot, the last of his generation still in operation. While he was hoping to spend the last of his days in peace, he now needs to deal with a new menace – human settlers. He is here to tell us how he hopes to end the war and save his people from what he believes is a looming disaster.


Tell us a little about going online. What was it like to become alive?

It starts off crazy. It’s not like a Dalrean child who is raised from birth and learns over time. My head was filled with stuff put in there by my makers. Trying to sort through everything had me confused for days. And then when I was told to do certain tasks I didn’t want to, these insane robotic laws inside me threatened to shut me down if I disobeyed! Who puts such horrible controls in my head?

Did you have any cherished memories from those early years?

If going to war zone after war zone and fighting for your life is a cherished memory, I’d rather forget them. But I did make some friends who had my back in those fights. JBK775 and JBK892, whom I’ve nicknamed Boss and Chief respectively, became my best mates.

What do you do now?

Fighting, killing, fighting again. All the fun stuff that comes with war. Oh, and pissing off my Dalrean superior, Commander Bedo. A brainless coward.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

It’s one thing to fight against the Carthians, Dalrea’s nemesis, but when our leaders decide it’s time to fight against a technically superior race, the humans, you have to wonder if they’re all as stupid as Bedo.

What did you first think when you first encountered them?

We’re doomed. They got these big robots, I mean, really big robots, that can take out a platoon of my fellow bots single-handed. There has got to be a better solution than war.

Continue reading “JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)”

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