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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the protagonists of your favourite books

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Ryhalt Galharrow (of Blackwing by Ed McDonald)

Dear readers, tonight we print a magazine interview from the world of Valengrad, where the reporter managed to track down a Captain of the shadowy Blackwings – Ryhalt Galharrow.

All we’ll say, is that we’re glad we weren’t sitting in the interviewer chair this time.


I meet Galharrow on a red-sky day in Valengrad, me on a last-minute effort to grab an interview before heading back to the capital, Galharrow on a rare break from work. He’s been hard to find, harder still to pin down. Slightly glazed, he says that he didn’t have to come far from the office, but he looks like he’s been up most of the night. As I sip at coffee that has been brewing for at least the best part of a day, I can’t imagine an organization with Blackwing’s authority and reputation having an office in this part of the city, or why he’d choose to meet in The Bell. It’s not the worst alehouse that I’ve wandered into, but it’s not far off. Galharrow, to my disappointment looks like he fits in, shirt untucked and stained. He still cuts a daunting figure. He’s six-six, at least three hundred pounds and all of it the kind of weight that doubtless puts fear into the deserters he chases down. I ask if he’d like to share my pot of coffee, but the girl at the bar is already bringing him a bottle of brandy. He holds off questions until he has a drink in hand, by which time the clock is chiming ten. In the morning. The brandy goes down, his hand stops shaking quite so much, and for the first time there’s light in his eyes and a smile on his lips.

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

RG: If you don’t know the story, then I’m not going to go into it in detail and it’s better left that way for everyone. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it was a good place, in a lot of ways. My family had money. A lot of money. I didn’t want for anything. I was always encouraged, which I guess passes for love in some families. There were a lot of expectations. I’m not sure that I ever lived up to any of them.

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

RG: Toys were frowned upon, as a rule. I had the usual things that boys my age get given when they’re expected to serve on the Range as an officer. Practice swords, horses, strategy games. There were a lot of lessons, but I didn’t dislike them. I enjoyed learning, and I was competitive. I had an older brother, and he was always going to inherit the estate, so I tried to better him in other ways.

I don’t find it healthy to hold onto memories and call them good or bad. The days were what they were. Most of them are better left buried.

Me: Can you tell the people back in the capital a little of what you do as a Blackwing captain?

RG: If people are fortunate, they never need to see, or know what Blackwing does, but there are a lot of unfortunates out here on the Range. Not every soldier is good, and not every man is a man. Blackwing is tasked with rooting out the sympathizers that side with the enemy, military deserters, the Cult of the Deep, the Brides that corrupt men’s minds, that kind of thing. If it doesn’t belong here, it’s the captain’s job to find it and neutralize it. Continue reading “Ryhalt Galharrow (of Blackwing by Ed McDonald)”

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Matthew Wansford (of The Order of the White Boar, by Alex Marchant)

Dear readers, tonight with me is boy of twelve years, a merchant’s son who always dreamt of being a knight. His chance came in the summer of 1482, when he joined Richard, Duke of Gloucester – the future King Richard III.

He’s here to tell us about his life at court and the deadly games of the Wars of the Roses.


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

I was born, and lived all my life until last summer, in my father’s house on Stonegate, one of the finest streets of my home town of York. My father may not be one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, but to me, it’s a beautiful house. It even has glass-paned casements that you can open in some of the front windows. If you open the one in our second-floor jetty (where I used to share a room with my brother Peter) and lean out as far as possible, you can just see the topmost tips of the towers of our great Minster – the cathedral of our city. Its bells you can hear resounding through the whole house at all hours of the day and night. Perhaps it seems strange, but that’s one of the things I miss most about being away. That and my family, of course, and my friends from the Minster song school.

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

My most precious memories are of my mother – caring for my sister, brothers and me before… before she died. She was always a loving mother, even when our father was stern and seemed unyielding. When we did anything wrong, she would always talk him round so he was less harsh with his punishment. I think he welcomed that. He is quick to anger – and often regretted his swift actions. She would allow him a way out. His grief at her death after the birth of our little sister was painful to witness.

What do you do now?

Since my disgrace last summer, and my expulsion from the choir school, I have been honoured to serve as a page in the household of His Grace, Duke Richard of Gloucester, brother to our sovereign King Edward IV, at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale. As my father says, I have fallen on my feet. Undeservedly perhaps, given the shame I brought upon my family – and I never thought to have such luck.

I have always dreamed of becoming a knight – ever since I first could read the courtly romances and tales of chivalry in the books my father imports from the Low Countries and France. But I thought it would only ever be a dream – that I would live out my days as a clerk in my father’s business, or at best become a cantor at the Minster like my brother John. Yet now I am on the first step to becoming a knight and warrior like my esteemed master. Continue reading “Matthew Wansford (of The Order of the White Boar, by Alex Marchant)”

Elisheva Miller (of Songs of Earth, by Eugene W. Cundiff)

Dear readers, tonight with me is young woman, a Teller’s apprentice, from the lost colony on Luna.

When the vast and ancient machines that bring rains to the Dust of Luna fail, she – together with a band of fellow travelers – must face a long journey into the forsaken ruins of the Mongers’ abandoned cities, seeking a way to ensure a happy ending for her people.

She is here to tell us about life in the distant future.


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

I was born to New Harlan Camp, one of the five largest Camps. Life was hard, of course, but no harder than it is for anyone born to the Dust. Daddy worked the mines, Mama was the Camp’s senior Yarb-Wife, and my brother,  Enoch, was busy with his apprenticeship to the Engineers’ Union.  I  helped Mama most days, treating sickness and such, until I  neared my seventeenth harvest. That’s  when Jonah came calling and took me on as his apprentice. Reckon I didn’t have too much time for anything but my studies, after that.

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

When I had seen one score and ten harvests, Jonah took me to the Grand Hall. It was the first time I had ever left New Harlan, and I still remember the wonders of it. It was where the Tellers were founded, where the Council of Picard had been held. There were books -so many books! – and carved records, and even great memory-machines scavenged from the cities of the Mongers. That was the day I was given my Teller’s coat and my guitar, the first things I had ever really touched that had been from the Paradise of our Ancestors. I spent two whole harvests there, learning the Ancestor’s tongue, the Old Calendar, and so many other things besides. It was amazing, to have my horizons broadened so far.

What do you do now?

I am the apprentice to Jonah Teller, the Teller of New Harlan. My lessons are mostly complete, though.  Most of my time is spent teaching the youngins of the Camp, helping them learn what they’ll need to know before they join a Union. Continue reading “Elisheva Miller (of Songs of Earth, by Eugene W. Cundiff)”

Katrisha (of Order & Entropy web-series, by K. Quistorff)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an a young mage from the distant occidental land of Avrale – one of the smaller, more secluded nations of the former Empire.

She’s here to give us a unique view of life on her world.


Could you tell us your name?  Seems someone forgot to include it.

Oh, sorry about that.  Probably just Mercu being clever.  He likes to make opportunities for me to introduce myself.  I am Katrisha, daughter of the moonlight and the winter frost, mage of Avrale, and a woman of…a certain faith.  Sorry to be elusive, it’s oddly problematic. I am however a little weary of these games, and you seem like the sort who might appreciate the truth of things, even when hidden in plain sight.

Is that a title?  The bit about moonlight.

Honestly, I’m not sure.  It’s Sylvan in origin, and something my father used to call me when I was very little.  I don’t quite remember the Sylvan phrase for it. ‘Lunka,’ I think might be their word for moonlight, but that’s about all I can remember.  Father would call Kia, ‘daughter of summer glades, and the passing storm.’ Mercu loves to encourage us to use them like titles. Says it sounds properly mystical for young twin mages in training.  Which is a bit silly really, mages don’t generally care for mysticism as a rule. Still, it reminds me of father, so I guess I have my own reasons.

Continue reading “Katrisha (of Order & Entropy web-series, by K. Quistorff)”

Tyir (of The Thousand Scars, by Michael R. Baker)

Dear readers, it took us a while, but we were able to secure a meeting with the legendary necromancer Tyir of Irene. We sit in the chambers of the Jaal of Valare himself, where Tyir called a servant over to bring us iced milk sweetened with honey.

He’s here to tell us about the dark and disturbing forces that shaped him to the necromancer he is today.


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

Hah! What was it like there? Do you really want to know? It was a shitehole. Miles upon miles of poverty, rocks and shite fields where nothing could grow. Irene was the wasteland where the refuse of the world was sent to die. No wonder so many people emigrated north. I was very young when my family joined the latest band of refugees.

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

Toys? Do you really think I had toys as a child? It’s as if you think I had a happy childhood. Most days we lived off crushed acorn paste, which tastes like dying shite, my friend. I do recall making a friend with a rabbit, once. That happy relationship lasted for just a day, before my father chopped it up for our rare meal of meat. It wasn’t the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

So….what do you do, if it’s not being a good-hearted soul?

Please, I’m pretty well known for my kindness. Just ask the Pharos Order, the Quellion family…the two thousand odd Order soldiers I’ve killed during the Sorn Rebellion…the Redure quisling scum…okay. That was meant to be a joke.

You could say I am a sculptor of man. I like studying, you see. There is so much knowledge trapped in the bowels of the underworld, laws that we cannot understand because the only ones who did understand it were dead centuries ago. If only the Order were so willing to accommodate that, but they have less intelligence stuffed into their one brain cell then Horse does when he’s on a good day. I also enjoy cutting up dead bodies and finding out how they work. I’m known as the Peddler of Flesh. If I did not know how bodies work, I would make an even poorer necromancer then I do already. Continue reading “Tyir (of The Thousand Scars, by Michael R. Baker)”

BJ Armstrong (of The One: A Cruise Through the Solar System, by Eric Klein)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man, on his way back from an interplanetary cruise. This journey came as a bit of a shock to this unassuming systems engineer — to say nothing about what actually happened aboard ship.

He’s here to tells about his solar-system wide cruise.


Tell us a little about growing up in the Big Apple. What was it like there?

Well, everyone knows what it is like under the dome, I mean they film the tridees there all the time. Actually, it is a bit funny that as new as most of the city is there are still parts that are really old. For example, when the climate controls are working you would not notice, but in the summer, it frequently breaks down. That is when you notice that there are two hundred and fifty-year-old steam pipes that are still used. You notice when they start to leak, adding humidity to the air. Funny think that there are still companies that use it to power their manufacturing or buildings that use it for heating.

But you asked about growing up in the city. It was nice, when the weather control worked it was always a little warm. Enough so, that the first time I went out of the dome on a class trip some of my classmates were frightened of the small white flakes that were falling. They thought that it was ash from a fire. Boy were they surprised when the teacher explained that it was snow. One of my classmates commented “but it is not zero degrees.” The teacher explained that at ground level it could be as high as two degrees and there could still be snow.

But the best part of growing up in the City was when my grandfather would take me to see the old airplanes and space ships at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. He always dreamed of going up, but was never able to afford the time off from work, or the price of a ticket to go into orbit, and my grandmother got deathly motion sickness. So they could not go to colonize. He would have really loved to go on the cruise with me.

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

Well, as I just mentioned my grandfather used to take me to the Intrepid at least three or four times a year. He would read me stories about space travel and make a special day out of every twentieth of July, he called it Neil Armstrong day in remembrance of when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. Google know that I loved hanging out at their apartment. But they seemed to always have something breaking down or not working. So when I was real young I would help my grandfather fix things, later he would help me. He really liked to work with his hands, but had moved into a supervisory role where they would not let him touch any of the actual tools anymore.

I guess that is how I chose my studies and career.

Oh, what is it that you do?

Me? I’m a SET, a Systems Encyclopedic Troubleshooter. I get called in to diagnose and solve strange or complex computer and systems problems. You see, most people study a topic in depth and have little capabilities in related areas. I studied several areas: programming, AI psychology, basic chip design and repair, and a bunch of stuff that I may never use.

But the combination means I get called in on a variety of different problems that pop-up either in AIs or where AIs and humans interact. This has given me the opportunity to travel around the Earth to many places for work, but until this trip I never left the actual planet. Continue reading “BJ Armstrong (of The One: A Cruise Through the Solar System, by Eric Klein)”

Oliver Muriel (of Lost Names, by AN Mouse)

Dear readers, joining me on the interview couch tonight is Oliver, ‘captain’ of a mercenary team. He’s here to tell us about his recent escape to Syama, why there are quotes around his title, and what it’s like living with professionals when you aren’t one.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What’s the Ves like? Are all the stories true?

Depends on who’s telling them. Let me put it this way; there was a shootout in my apartment block. On my floor. I managed to get back to my apartment because I had sold the guy some scrap tech I had dug up a few weeks beforehand and he remembered me. The whole country is dirty. The buildings, the streets, the money. I mean, we’re in Syama now, and like, it’s bad but it’s not as bad. The worst part for me is that I don’t speak the language, but I’m learning.

You don’t have anything good to say about it? No cherished memories?

My cherished memory is the day we left. No, I’m kidding. The day I met the team. That’s kind of a weird thought, because I knew Ame and Rosa for years, we just weren’t close. And I guess the day I met Hastin wasn’t a very good day. All the time we spent together, though, for sure. Those are good memories.

What do you do now in Syama?

Well I’m not hauling scrap, that’s for sure. I’m a ‘co-coordinator’, which sounds hilarious when I say it out loud. They call me ‘captain’, and I don’t mind, but it’s a little more flattering than I deserve. I take care of the team. Make sure we have a place to sleep, things to eat, that we have a plan. I’m our first aid guy and our therapist. Hope of getting Hastin to a real doctor is pretty slim, eh, but we’re doing our best. Continue reading “Oliver Muriel (of Lost Names, by AN Mouse)”

Tilla (of the Medicus Roman Mysteries series, by Ruth Downie)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the wife of an officer in Hadrian’s legions. We have interviewed her husband before, but we thought it only fair that we give her a voice too.

Born as Darlughdacha of the Corionotatae (really, she’s not quite sure why people prefer ‘Tilla’), on the furthest reaches of the Roman empire. Though married to a Roman officer, she is a healer (and now a Roman citizen) in her own right.

She is here to tell us about life bridging the British and Roman worlds.

This interview celebrates the release of Memento Mori, the 8th volume in the acclaimed Medicus series, which we’re just nuts about.


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

Well, it was NOT “some flea-bitten outpost beyond the last supply depot”, no matter what my husband’s friend might tell you.  One of the things I’ve learned about Romans is that they’re very good at having opinions on things they know nothing about.

Our farm used to overlook a beautiful wide river valley. I say ‘used to’ because there’s hardly a trace of any buildings there now. Sometimes when I listen to our old neighbours complaining about the emperor’s Great Wall across the land, I want to say to them, well at least you’ll never have to worry about the northerners coming in the night to steal your cattle and burn your house down, will you? But I‘ve learned to keep quiet.  Roman soldiers have a nasty habit of setting light to things, too. Which can be very awkward when you’re married to one of them.

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

I try not to think about when I was a child, because then I think about my brothers, and I start to wonder about the men they would have grown into and the girls they would have married and all the nieces and nephews that will never be, and as our Mam used to say, Nobody likes a girl who feels sorry for herself. I used to find that very annoying at the time, but it’s true.

What do you do now?

Ah. Even though I was the one who wanted the baby, I didn’t mean I wanted to have to look after her all day and all night, all the time. Sometimes it’s nice to think about something else. Sometimes it’s nice to get all the way to the end of a conversation without having to stop and wipe up somebody’s dribble or pat them on the bottom. So it’s much better now we have a babyminder.  I can go out and earn some money helping deliver other people’s babies, and when I’m not doing that I’m free to help my husband when he gets himself into trouble. Which he’s quite good at.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

We were asked to rush south to the spa town of Aquae Sulis, because my husband’s best friend was accused of murder. Really I think it was just my husband who was asked, but I guessed he would need some help, and I couldn’t leave the baby behind, so we all went.

What did you first think when you heard that Valens was accused of murdering his wife?

At first I thought, that’s impossible. Then I thought, but Valens was always a useless husband, and then I thought, surely being a useless husband and having opinions on things you know nothing about does not make you kill your wife.  But then my own husband found out more, and we both began to wonder.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

I would like to say it was the terrible thing that happened when my husband went missing, and that was indeed very frightening. But so was being tied up in a shed and lying awake listening to the rats. Of course I didn’t know my husband was going to go missing at the time. Perhaps that’s just as well. Is it possible to die of fright? I don’t want to find out.

What is the worst thing about being married to a doctor?

Usually it would be the people calling on him at strange hours, or the peculiar smells when he boils up medicines, or the disgusting topics of conversation. But the worst thing about being married to this doctor is the constant moving house. I thought things would improve when he left the Army, but we still don’t have a cow or even a vegetable patch.

What is the best thing about it?

I have seen parts of the world none of my own people will ever see. That is how I know that Britannia is best.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

Beer, blue sky (rare and precious in my homeland) and singing songs about the great victories of my ancestors. My husband complains that the songs are very long, but my people have a lot of ancestors. We also had a lot of victories—until the Romans turned up. That is why we keep the memories alive: our children need to know where they come from, and that our land has not always been occupied by men from Rome.

What does the future hold for you?

I’d like to say a cow, a sunny vegetable patch and perhaps another baby. But I expect it will just be more packing and unpacking and getting my husband out of trouble.

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

I could, but once something is written down you never know who will find it and read it. That is why my people only pass on their secrets by word of mouth. So, do you promise not to write anything? Good. Come and sit beside me and I’ll whisper…


Ruth Downie read far too much Jane Austen at University, and ended up with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. She took up writing fiction when she realized that she could make absolutely anything happen using only a piece of paper and a biro.

Her murder mysteries are mostly set in Roman Britain, because she’s fascinated by the idea of her ancestors living in the wild west of someone else’s empire. MEMENTO MORI, her eighth novel about a Roman army medic called Ruso and his British partner Tilla, is published in March 2018.

Join us next week to meet a the captain of a mercenary team. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Gairynzvl (of the Dark Fey trilogy, by Cynthia A. Morgan)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a Fey of the Light, captured at a young age and taken to live amongst the Dark Fey – the Reviled.

He’s here to tell us of his adventures.


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

My life has been dichotic.  I spent my first seven years in the village Hwyndarin with my family and the Fey of the Light. It is a place of simple beauty and communal living, where each villager shares life’s responsibilities and burdens.  I was very young, but remember playing with friends and learning to fly amid the forests, streams and meadows bathed in sunlight.

When I reached 7 ½, I was abducted by the Reviled Fey and spent the next 15 years of my life trying to survive the gloom and shadows of their dark realm, the Uunglarda.  No sunlight warms their barren dominion and the skies are choked with soot and poisonous fumes.  I suffered the Integration; five years of neglect designed to turn childfey into monsters and each day was a torment of hunger, thirst, cold, and abuse.

Gosh, that sounds horrible.  How did you manage to hold onto hope?  Was is a cherished memory, a favourite toy you clung to, a friend?

We had no toys in the Uunglarda, and very few friends, but I was determined not to forget the ones I had and to see them again.  I kept the Light alive any way I could, mostly by repeated prophecies I had already learned and secretly studying others.  Although I had to keep it completely hidden, which was not easy in a place where you are forced to do horrible things every day, as time went on, I formed a few secret alliances with Dark Ones who wanted to escape as much as I did and our mutual dream of freedom kept hope alive.

What do you do now?

Even though I have returned to the Light and live in Hwyndarin once again, I spend much of my time training with an exclusive unit of Fey Guards dedicated to the covert operation of returning into the Uunglarda at undisclosed times to rescue younglings and those Dark Fey who wish to escape.  Continue reading “Gairynzvl (of the Dark Fey trilogy, by Cynthia A. Morgan)”

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