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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

November 2022

Sarge (of Underground Planet, by Cindy Tomamichel)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a female mercenary taking on the odd, risky jobs across the galaxy. She is here to tell us about a planet wide labyrinth of mining tunnels, metal processing, acid waste levels, where abandoned cities are thriving with a genetically engineered ecosystem of predators, prey, and mutant humans.


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

Geez, I haven’t thought about that hellhole since I left. I grew up in an orphanage on a slum planet. There’s a lot of bad places to live in the universe, and I was lucky enough to born on one of the worst. Mind you, they are good recruiting grounds for the Academy. I was fast and homicidal as a young girl, and it was my ticket off planet before I ended up in a whorehouse. Woulda made more money there than the military, I reckon. But I’m kinda choosy.

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

The cook at the orphanage – Ella – she taught me to cook and knocked off a few of the rough edges. Most kids there couldn’t read, so I got lucky with Ella. She was a bit tight lipped about her past, but I learned to read from old weapons manuals, so some sort of past she was probably hiding from. She gave me my first weapon  – a knife that I could hide in my sleeve. Saved me more times than I can count.

What do you do now?

I left the Academy to look after Johanna. She needed me, poor little thing. Abandoned on a planet and trying to feed other kids on scraps from bins and avoid the slaver gangs. She’s done me proud – we run a tight ship as a small mercenary team with Daisy and Jasmine and Jock. We’ve made some money and had some fun raiding the military. Can’t ask for more than that.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, it was no picnic, that’s for sure. Our last job was for Chagar, a mutant human. He’s a good bloke, even if things on his planet tried to eat me! We helped him look for some old treasure, and lordy, we had the richest man in the universe – McAllister – and his team of thugs on our tails the whole way.

And the planet! A maze of critters that want to eat you, acid levels, shark filled lakes, and don’t get me started on rockfalls. Or mention ladders. Nice people, but seriously, I don’t know how they survive, or how Chagar expected us to survive and protect him. It was a hell of an adventure.

Continue reading “Sarge (of Underground Planet, by Cindy Tomamichel)”

Rogan (of Forward Banners, Jamie Powell-McCrae)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a recently ascended prince, here to talk leading his people against ruthless invaders to his kingdom.


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

I’m Rogan, Prince of Blythinia – the central kingdom of Elyria, and younger brother to Rodar.  We both reside at the capital, Blythia, the seat of power of our late father.  It is a pleasant place: a sprawling city atop a hill, that sits both overlooking the upper lake of the River Slow Water and nestled beneath the first marches of the Spine mountains that separate the kingdoms of men from the north and the distant elurons.  Blythia is both rugged yet beautiful, modern yet old.  I’ve spent all my life there, apart from following our father to neighbouring Courlan to visit the Rennes, his – and now our – great allies.  Other than that I spent my three years at the Citadel like all of my rank and birth, learning the ways of war, courtly affairs and scholarly, educated strands.

You mentioned your father; what happened there?

He passed away nearly a year ago.  Unfortunately, I would be lying if I said I was stricken about it.  He and I never saw eye to eye.  Rodar was his favourite son, the very image of him in fact: cock-sure, confident, a talented soldier.  He decided to take Rodar with him to Sacaria during the troubles with the Avonners, whilst I was due to be married off to some merchant’s daughter.  Rodar would rebuke me for saying, but I think things have turned out for the better, despite King Jaime being perhaps the best military leader we need against this invasion plaguing Elyria.

What will you do now in light of your father’s passing and this invasion?

My brother and I will share rule and forego the expected passing of power to the eldest son.  Rodar’s a capable military man and will be able to lead our forces against this new threat.  I have confidence in him, and so too do the generals.  We have mustered all our strength and marched south to meet this invading force of ‘Bronzemen’ as they are commonly called.  The pride of Blythinia has ridden out: the White Lancers, the Retinars, our personal Blue Cloaks.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I suppose it would have to be ascending Retinars’ Rock, the lower peaks of the Spine that tower over Blythia.  It’s the final hurdle to pass into the ranks of the Retinars, one of our elite cavalry orders where any man can join despite his birth or heritage.  There upon that frozen precipice I carved my name into the rock amongst the hundreds who had surpassed me.

And a more recent affair would be the recent peace that was forged with Avon.  It wasn’t all my success, but I played a significant part, and I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that it was my words at the end when our treaty was looking to fail that saved it.  I think it was a great achievement nonetheless; we couldn’t march to war without securing our western border.

Continue reading “Rogan (of Forward Banners, Jamie Powell-McCrae)”

Charles and Jake Dawson (of The Heights of Valor, by David Tindell)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a Special Forces soldier — together with his distant ancestor. They are here to talk about combat and the bonds of men, and how the Army changed in over a century.


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

CHARLES DAWSON: I was born in Platteville, Wisconsin, in 1876. My father, Jeremiah, became an attorney after his service for the Union Army in the Rebellion. As a center of lead mining activity in that part of the state, Platteville is a bustling town with much to offer a young man, including a Normal School and a Mining School. Much of my childhood was spent with Father, hiking and riding among the ridges and coulees, hunting rabbit and deer and fishing the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.

JAKE DAWSON: Man, I can’t believe I’m in the same room with my ancestor, the guy who wrote the journal that I’ve been reading. You really fought for Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba?

CHARLES: I believe this mysterious gentleman addressing us asked you a question. Are all 21st century young men so impertinent?

JAKE: Well, hell, are all 19th century young men wearing starched collars like that one? No wonder you’re sitting there, stiff as a board. Relax, Gramps! This is about the coolest thing ever, us being together like this. (To the interviewer.) Okay, I was born in 1990, and grew up in Minocqua, up in northern Wisconsin, where my mom and I moved after she and my dad divorced. He was a congressman, then a college professor. We didn’t get along for a long time, way different political views, but things have been turning around, I think. But anyway, in Minocqua we lived on a lake, so I did my share of fishing and hunting, too. You grow up in small-town Wisconsin, or out in the country, that’s what you do. My Uncle John—he’s my great-uncle, actually, Grampa Dennis’ brother—taught me to hunt and fish. When I was fourteen, we were out on the lake and I got a musky, a big one, about forty pounds.

CHARLES: Indeed? I’ve heard of the musky. On the Mississippi, it was catfish for us, and bluegills. Perhaps trout in some of the streams. My father and I brought in a thirty-pound cat one day.

JAKE: Hey, that’s a nice fish. Got a picture of it?

CHARLES: A what?

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

CHARLES: My sister Margaret and I often played jacks, and at school it was hopscotch, and of course we played baseball. My favorite player was Hoss Radbourn, the great pitcher for the Beaneaters.

JAKE: Beaneaters? That’s a minor-league team, right?

CHARLES (indignantly): Of course not. They played in the National League, and at the time of my service in Cuba, they were in the midst of a strong season.

JAKE: Well, baseball’s fun, but I don’t know about this Beaneaters outfit. My team’s the Milwaukee Brewers. Growing up, my sport was wrestling. State champion my junior year at Lakeland Union High, then repeated my senior year, then off to Madison, All-American there before I left for the Army. My best memory? I’d have to say it’s a tie, between winning my second state title and getting a gift from Angie Egan a couple nights after I got back from State in Madison. (He gives Charles a wink.)

CHARLES: A gift? (He frowns, then smiles.) Oh, yes. I, uh, received such a gift myself, upon my return from Cuba. Her name was Leona. Would you like to see a carte de vesite of her?

JAKE: What’s that? (He is handed a sepia-toned piece of cardboard.) Oh, you mean “a picture.” Hey, she’s pretty good-looking, although that dress doesn’t do much for her. (He produces a cell phone, taps three buttons, and shows it to Charles.) This isn’t Angie, but it’s Sam, my wife, who’s even better-looking than Angie, and that’s saying something.

CHARLES: What a remarkable device. How does it—good Lord, she has hardly a stitch of clothing on!

JAKE (laughing): It’s called a bikini, Gramps!

Gentlemen, please! What do you do now?

JAKE: First Lieutenant, United States Army, 5th Special Forces Group.

CHARLES: My service was in the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. After my discharge, I returned to my studies at the University of Wisconsin. Upon graduation, I shall enter the School of Law, and then join my father’s firm in Platteville.

JAKE (yawning): That sounds exciting.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

CHARLES (sitting up proudly): With my father’s blessing, and his assistance, I joined the Rough Riders, and served under Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba, helping to free the people from their Spanish oppressors.

JAKE: Hey, I always wanted to ask you something. You guys deployed into a combat zone with what, three weeks of training? Just three weeks?

CHARLES: That was all the time we had, yes.

JAKE (shaking his head): Hell, it’s a miracle any of you made it home alive.

CHARLES: Indeed? What kind of training did you receive, might I ask?

JAKE: Hey, in our Army, you don’t get close to a deployment till you’ve been in for about a year. There’s a lot to learn. And if you’re in SF, like I am, or the 75th Rangers, like I was before SF, well, we’re talking six more months to a year before you go downrange.

CHARLES: My word…

JAKE (shrugging): Well, tell you what, Gramps, in my time we aren’t exactly going up against a bunch of Spanish draftees, that’s for damn sure.

Continue reading “Charles and Jake Dawson (of The Heights of Valor, by David Tindell)”

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