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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Interview

Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an alcoholic game warden, drawn into a police murder investigation when a dead gangster is found on a farm’s food plot.


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

I grew up in the Holler, a small wooded valley in Kentucky. There’s lots of woods, some small farms, but mostly beat up houses, shacks where most folks live. It’s pretty country, but the people are nearly all poor. And now, even in the year 2029, you think yur takin’ a step back in time when you go to the Holler. You’ll see the cinder block saloon next to a gravel road by thick woods and a couple of country stores with gas pumps out front. You’ll notice fields of tall weeds and scrawny trees with plenty of space between the small houses.

Folks usually have vegetable gardens, sometimes well-tended, but there’s the feelin’ that if you take a few too many steps, you’ll be walking into a dump, yur feet crunching down on crumbling, rusty cans between the tall islands of grass. On the edges of their properties people throw out garbage. There’s general junk, broken glass, and maybe some old furniture. They don’t have garbage pickup in the Holler. You have to drive your trash bags to the dump, but some folks don’t do it all the time. There’s the occasional rusty car or old, smashed pickup with rotten, flat tires, just sitting there on overgrown lawns. Folks often leave their clunkers next to their gravel driveways or off to the side of their houses when their vehicles stop working.

The first thing I remember when I think back to when I was a little kid was the rough wooden floor in the living room, if you could call it that. I had to be careful not to get splinters stuck in my fingers when I played with my plastic, toy soldiers. It was the biggest room in the clapboard house. I slept on the old, worn couch with my face against the back, ‘cuz it usually was still light in the house when I went to sleep. My eyes burned from the tobacco smoke. My little sister slept in a crib in the kitchen, and Mama and Paw slept in the only bedroom.

We didn’t have many close neighbors. Those that lived closest to us ignored us. Most likely that was because of my mama being an immigrant from Naples, Italy. Her accent made her seem even more foreign. She was a Catholic, but Paw was born in the Holler and was a Baptist. Before I was born he was in the Navy working at an airbase in Italy as an airplane mechanic. My parents met in a bar in Naples.

Dad was a drinker and got kicked outta the Navy ‘cuz of it, according to Mama. My guess is he got her pregnant with me. She really didn’t want to move to the Holler, but Paw had inherited an old house and a few acres after his parents died. He got a job fixing cars and trucks. He didn’t make a hell of a lot of money, and there wasn’t much left after he bought his booze. Mama wasn’t innocent, either. She ended up on pills and died of an overdose. Paw’s liver rotted away. They died when I was in my early twenties. Now, fifteen years later, I have a drinkin’ problem. I guess I got a few bad genes from my parents, but that ain’t a good excuse. I’m fightin’ it. It’s tough, but admitting you got a problem is half the battle.

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

I can’t think of a favorite toy, but my favorite thing was a BB gun my Paw gave me. I used to shoot mostly sparrows with it. I even killed a mouse in the shed oncest. After a while though, I felt sorry because I’d killed a bunch of innocent birds. They were gentle, pretty creatures. I had cut their lives short, and I never forgave myself totally for that. I guess that’s why I eventually became a Kentucky game warden.

My favorite memories are from when I was a little older, in middle school. Me and my best friend, Jim Pike, played hooky from school, and fished in the creek.  Later on, in high school Jim wanted to be a psychologist.  Sort of a funny choice for a kid from the Holler, huh? Well, though he got his college degree in psychology, he ended up as the county sheriff. He couldn’t find a psychologist job. But he told me a few times that studying psychology helped him a bunch when he became a peace officer.

What do you do now?

I’m a game warden. Truth be told,  that wasn’t my first choice. I really wanted to write about the animals of the Holler and Kentucky. You know, the deer, the possums, turkeys, fish. To do that, I wanted to be a public affairs officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

When I was a kid in school I read a lot. Maybe that’s ‘cuz most kids ignored me except for Jim Pike. Anyway, there was this old bus that the county converted into a library on wheels. I got books from it. Actually, you won’t believe it, but I can write a lot better than I can talk. But writing about wildlife didn’t work out. There aren’t many people doing that job, so I did the next best thing. I became a game warden. We have to carry a pistol. Technically, we are law enforcement officers. But mostly we deal with poachers and people fishing without a license.

Continue reading “Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)”

Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (of Mon Dieu Cthulhu! by John Houlihan)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a French Hussar from the Napoleonic Wars, who found out that there are worse horrors than facing Wellington in battle. He’s here to tell, in his charmingly French way of speaking, about his adventures.


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

D’Bois is a child of the forest, and was most fortunate to grow up in the Ardennes and even luckier that it was the French rather than the Belgian part, non, or Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (retired) would be a different man entirely!  Mon Dieu, you could not wish for a more idyllic playground, the wooded glades were my play pen, the trees my climbing frame, the birds and the beasts my teachers, and d’Bois learned many of the most important lessons in life underneath that idyllic canopy.

Did you have any cherished childhood memories?

D’Bois was born to be an hussar, a formidable rider, swordsmen, crack shot and lover, although he is equally a most ‘umble and modest man. Yet it was almost before he could walk that he began his lifelong love affair with the cheval—the ‘orse as I believe you Anglais types term them.  D’Bois took to the saddle like he was born there and his père schooled him in the virtues of ‘unting, shooting and swordplay, so he was perfectly prepared for the horse soldier’s life which destiny had chosen for him.

What do you do now?

Alas, d’Bois is long in his dotage now, but the fire still burns, even if it produces more smoke than flame nowadays! Mais, but he is passing the time, in between pursing the delightful if ever elusive widow, by recounting his adventures in Napoleon’s grand armee to a journaliste Anglaise. Normally, these are the most despicable of low life types, who d’Bois would not hesitate to horsewhip on sight. Yet this one seems a decent fellow, enraptured by the many strange occult adventures that befell d’Bois during his time in Napoleon’s armee, as well as being most liberal with the cognac.

Continue reading “Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (of Mon Dieu Cthulhu! by John Houlihan)”

Kit Melbourne (of her eponymous series, by Kater Cheek)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young woman, dragged from her job in a coffee shop into a world of witches and vampires, faeries and enchanted gems. She is here to tell us about her adventures.


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

I grew up in shitty mildewed apartments in New Jersey, several different cities, always in the cheap area of town. My childhood memories are full of yelling and fighting, at first with my mom and dad and then later with my mom and stepdads. I left as soon as I graduated high school and never looked back. The only positive memories I have were of my brother, and of the dojo. Now I live in Seabingen, a medium-sized city in the far Northwestern corner of the U.S.

What do you do now?

I’m the Dayrunner to the Vampire Guild Leader. It’s like an executive assistant, but with a lot more violence and magic. For a long time I was trying to make ends meet by selling the trees and floral arrangements I made, in addition to working at my brother’s coffee shop, but the Vampire Guild pays real money and has good benefits. That will come in handy if I get shot or break my arm again.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

So much has changed since I inherited the jewel from my uncle Fred! Who knew that something as simple as being able to see magic would change my life that much? But it’s saved my life a few times. Learning how to make myself invisible has also saved my life. And being able to make stakes that kill vampire—it’s not supposed to even be possible. If that faerie hadn’t taught me how to do it, I’d probably be dead by now. I think I can credit some of that to the blade that Yseulta gave me.

Continue reading “Kit Melbourne (of her eponymous series, by Kater Cheek)”

Leeth (of The Leeth Dossier series, by L. J. Kendall)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young woman from a near future where magic has returned to the world. She’s here to tell us about life as an experimental subject, growing up at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction, and now working in a [redacted] department of the US Bureau for Internal Development.


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

Are you really sure it’s okay to answer that question? Like, really sure?

Well, okay, I guess.

I grew up in the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction. My, uh, uncle worked there. It was pretty cool. My best friend Faith still lives there – she’s due to have pups any day now. I’m pretty excited about it! I’m gonna visit and help. I had quite a few adventures there with her.  [Giggles]  She almost blew me up, once!

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

Toys?  Well, I had a toy bow and arrow, but I managed to get the rubber cups off the ends, and attached some weights so it still worked. Mostly though I guess I just hunted and stuff. With Faith.

What do you do now?

You’re really sure I’m allowed to answer that?

[Shrugs]  Basically I kill people. But recently I’ve also been allowed to do kind of little bits of actual spying too.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I really don’t think I’m allowed to talk about the stuff right before I joined the Department. Like, seriously not.

But after that, I had practically a whole year of doing nothing except training and learning how to be a kind of assassin-spy. Some parts of that were really neat; others were so dull you wouldn’t believe!  But then Mother decided I didn’t have enough social skills, so I was sent to this acting school.  Girls can be bitches, you know?  Plus I wasn’t allowed to kill anyone, even if they really deserved it.  So that kind of sucked.  But I met my other best friend, Marcie, there.

Um.  It wasn’t our fault the school burned down and stuff.

That kind of didn’t end too well, so I went off on my own for a bit. Especially when Uncle, when Uncle….

Uh, what was I saying? Um, the Department really wanted me back though, so we kind of, came to an arrangement?  Then they all thought I was The Breaker, so we agreed I’d hunt him down myself and prove I wasn’t.

So, yeah.  Basically I kill bad guys.

Continue reading “Leeth (of The Leeth Dossier series, by L. J. Kendall)”

Jaimie Stadler (of All the Beautiful Liars, by Sylvia Petter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man living in a unique kind of prison. Acting against the protagonist, he is here to tell us about his observations of life from his unique perspective.


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

I am Jaimie. I was born in the war years and went to school in Vienna. We lived in a posh district and when the war was over and Vienna cut up into four like the rest of Austria, my family was luckily in the British zone, so they tell me, but I was too young  back then to appreciate that so-called luck.

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

I was an only child and was very curious. I tried to make the family cat step  on a hot plate in the kitchen to see if its pads felt heat. They did. I copped it. Do you say cop if no cops were around? I used to catch flies and pull their wings off. I was not cruel, just curious. What is a fly anyway in the grand scheme of things? I used to  scribble and draw a lot. I studied law, but dropped out. It was not  for me, and so  I took off for Thailand for a few years, to learn English, among other things. That is where I started work for an English-speaking rag there. My English improved, but I could not get rid of my accent. Well, neither could Arnold Schwarzenegger, and look where he went.

What do you do now?

Now I service the Panopticon, a Limbo of sorts, or a last chance for some rare ones just passing through. I am the keeper of lost endings and most people get stuck with me in my archives forever. Many are old and boring. In a way, running this place is my punishment for having snooped into people’s lives as a tabloid hack, or so I am told. But sometimes it can get interesting.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, this one plays a different ballgame, is that not what you say? I, however, must say that my visitor is a bit different to the others who come here that I must admit I am quite happy to quickly “archive”. This one has a mind of her own. She even saw through my hologram, dammit. She answers back. And she drinks my brandy. OK, I do offer her a glass here and there. It cannot always be tea.

Continue reading “Jaimie Stadler (of All the Beautiful Liars, by Sylvia Petter)”

Elias Wilder (of Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the Lord Sorcier of Regency England. Most people find him handsome, strange, and utterly uncouth—but gossip says that he regularly performs three impossible things before breakfast. We’re here to find out the truth.


“Lord Sorcier” is a French title, isn’t it? How does one go about becoming the Lord Sorcier of England?

It wasn’t my choice, thank you very much. The Prince Regent suggested it, for some mad reason. He thought it was fitting, given that I supposedly defeated Napoleon’s Lord Sorcier in an epic magical duel.

…Supposedly?

You should really exercise more scepticism in your daily life. The ton also believes that I do three impossible things before breakfast every morning.

Three impossible things! Who has time for that sort of nonsense? I limit myself to two impossible things per day, at best.

You spent at least some of your life in the workhouses. What were they like?

I see you have indeed been listening to idle gossip. I would be happy to answer your inquiry in lengthy detail—in fact, I have described the hideous conditions of the workhouses to the House of Lords on more than one occasion. I am sure you could find a record of it. Would you like to hear about the lice, the influenza, or the boy who had his hand cut off from gangrene? I could go into the rampant abuse, the lack of food, or the constant, awful smell—

Er, how fascinating! We really must move on, I’m afraid, since we haven’t that much time.

I somehow suspected as much.

And what are the duties of the Lord Sorcier of England?

Primarily, I am told, I am supposed to defend King and country against black magic of all sorts. In practice, there is little black magic to be found, and I must say, I grow tired of noble ladies insisting that their larder has been looted by faeries.

Continue reading “Elias Wilder (of Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater)”

Thal Lesky (of Werewolves in the Renaissance, by Tracy Falbe)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a werewolf, stalking the streets of 16th century Prague. He is here to tell us about witches and sorcerers, and about a world that denies its pagan roots.


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

My youth, or my first life as I like to think of it, is not easily recalled. I have flashes of memory since I emerged from the forest. The potions and spells that gave me the wolf life in the forest wiped away my clear recollection of childhood. Or perhaps the ageless decades that I spent in wolf form gradually consumed memories of my early years.

Now that you know better my troubles, I can say that I came to live with my mother on the outskirts of Prague as a young lad. My mother was a midwife and much disparaged by some quarters of society although relied upon by a trusting clientele. Our life on the fringe of society made me an outcast.

I think that motivated me to seek out my father for he could work the magic that would take me away from the human world. He gave me potion and chanted over me in a secret forest grove.

I became a wolf and lived wild in the forest. Always was I an alpha. I knew mates and sired pups. When the wolves of Central Europe howl, I hear my kin.

All of those years are precious to me. Part of me will always be the beast of the woods.

Do you have any important possessions?

I must admit that my wolf hide is precious to me. When my mother cast the spell of werewolf making, it drew me out of the wolf body and left me as a man. But the magic wolf fur remained at my side. When I recite the spell written on the skin, I become the werewolf.

Aside from my fur that I carry with me always, I do love my two pistols. The first one I won in a game of cards from a Bohemian Captain. His rage at that loss caused much misery for the Gypsies whose company I was keeping at the time, which I regret. My second pistol I obtained from a gunsmith in Prague.

Why did your mother cast a spell that made you a werewolf?

The werewolf spell was her last desperate act before witch hunters caught her. They burned her at the stake, but her magic summoned me to avenge her. Her magic compelled me to do some terrible things, but she had her justice in the end.

The folk now call me the Butcher of Prague for what I did.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’ve reunited with my father, Sarputeen. He gave me shelter after I fled Prague. We’ve decided to make war, such as we can, against an old rival of his. He is a perilous sorcerer named Tekax, who empowered the Ottoman armies.

When Tekax learned that I had returned to the world of men as a werewolf, he wanted to strike a blow against my father. And so Tekax sent assassins to kill me. He worked dark magic to make a creature called a fext. This fext began as a man, a skilled warrior, but now…he cannot be killed.

His body expels bullets and heals. If he is cut, his skin closes and makes the flesh whole again. We hope to defeat him by cutting him into pieces and burning them.

Continue reading “Thal Lesky (of Werewolves in the Renaissance, by Tracy Falbe)”

Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)

Dear readers, we all love to see blood spilled for our entertainment, cheer for the brave gladiators as they fight in the arena. Tonight we have a unique chance to hear from a woman who dedicated her life to this amazing sport, so beloved by our empire’s citizens.


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

Neapolis: A shining city on the coast. Number two city in the empire, or so I like to think. You may have heard of Mt. Vesuvius? That’s our most famous landmark to the northeast of the city. Or perhaps, Pompeii? Yes, we remember it. I’ve even been into the ruins!

 When I was a kid I’d run around with the workers’ children. How I loved racing up and down the hills of Neapolis. The black sand between my toes as we lounged on the beach. Those are some of my happiest memories, even when my father banned me from playing with the ‘chaff’.

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

My wooden swords, without a doubt. Perhaps my carved toy soldiers as well. I loved watching puppet shows as a child, and I would help put them on for my friends using my toys. It was fun to be the center of attention that way. Probably seems a bit selfish of me, but when you’re born into a family with clear expectations of what you should be doing with your future, you feel the need to do anything else. 

What do you do now?

Well at this moment I’m in training to be a gladiator, here at the Ludus Magnus. It’s the greatest gladiator school in Rome and the empire. I’ve wanted to join the fighters in the arena since I was ten, and spent as much time as possible reading about them, watching events in the coliseum, and training with one of my father’s servants. When I turned sixteen, I was told about an arranged marriage to one of my father’s….friends. “All about the business” he said. 

I said “goodbye” a week later. Here I am, in Rome, following my dream. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Being a gladiator isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Incomes are down, attendance is down, and we’re about to be replaced by mechagladiators. The Emperor wants a big fancy spectacle. I mean, honestly, so do I. So do the owners. Everyone wants a spectacle. That’s why you attend the games at the Coliseum in the first place! Humans versus giant mechanical gladiators, with the Emperor, his family, and his brother watching… How can you not want to see this?

Continue reading “Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)”

Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman who speaks to the dead and dates gods out of slavic myths. She’s here to tell us about her unique gifts, about saving the world, and about tea.


Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s pretty hard for zines on this side of the Veil to get interviews. You weren’t born in Ljubljana. Where are you from originally and do you go home often?

It was the accent that gave it away wasn’t it? I’ve never been able to banish that little bit of Southern twang. I grew up in Chattanooga in Tennessee in the American South. Chattanooga isn’t a bad place to be from but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay. I took the first opportunity to leave that was presented and eventually I wound up in Slovenia, in Ljubljana. I can’t really imagine being anywhere else now. Chattanooga isn’t really home anymore, so I don’t visit very often if I can help it. Some ghosts are best left to rest.

Any cherished memories from home?

(Laughs softly) Does leaving count? Aside from that, there’s a lot to be said for growing up next to a river. I’ve always felt a connection to water wherever I go. I think that’s what made me stay in Ljubljana, but I didn’t know until much later that you could step into the same river twice. And that they would both share the same snarky river god.

What do you do now?

Well, when I’m not slinging tea and making fancy sandwiches at the punk rock teahouse I own with my two closest friends, I talk to and for the local dead folk. Well, that and try to keep a couple steps ahead of my ex and his grand plans. Never underestimate the trickery of your average ancient dark deity and, trust me, don’t ever date one and definitely don’t have a kid with them.

You said you talk to and for dead people? You did say dead people right?

 It isn’t a very common “gift,” being a Voice of the Dead. The people who like to keep track of those of us who live behind the Veil thought my mother and my aunt were the last ones as all the other lines of Voices had died out. Then—surprise—it didn’t skip me after all. There’s nothing quite like finding out you’re a freaking “dead whisperer” way past your brooding Chosen One sell-by date. It isn’t like a parlor trick or anything though, it’s a job. Or more accurately, a duty.

Continue reading “Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)”

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