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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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19th Century

Isabella Brown (of The Sentinel, by Jacqueline Hodder)

Dear readers, tonight we witness something a little different. The protagonist of the novel, Miss Devine, a 19th century governess for small children, is interviewing one of her new charges.


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

Well, I don’t rightly remember England as such. Da brought us out to Australia when I was no higher than Grace is now but I do remember the sea. Oh, Miss Devine, how much that sea threw its cold hard hands around our ship and how the wind wailed! I asked Ma what she thought the wind was saying to me but she shut me up with a knock and told me to take little Robbie down below. She was so scared the sea folk would steal her boy away. I got scared watching the way her eyes lit on him like the sea folk were going to steal him away right then, right out of her hands and she’d have no cause to hold on tight, having lost most of her feelings in the bitter chill.

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

There’s always been too many children for us to have toys, Miss Devine, but we made do. I remember a tree that grew out of the hard ground near the docks in Hobart. Ma used to let me climb it when Da’s boat was due and ‘cause I spent so much time in that tree, I got to know it’s branches and it’s colours and it was sort of like a living thing to me. Now, don’t look at me like that, Miss Devine. I know you think I take a fancy to things that aren’t always what you can see with your eyes but you don’t know what’s out there. I swear that tree breathed. In summer I watched it shed its bark like it was growing through its skin. I picked up the brown curling back and put it near my other collections, somewhere near the house so Da don’t find it when he’s had a lick too much to drink and think it’s rubbish.

What do you do now?

What a funny question, Miss Devine! You know what I do now. Nothing’s the same since we all came to the lighthouse together, you know that. I found something, something I can do. Like, when Mr Johannsson asks me to do the weather observation in the morning, and I know how to judge the swell height and the size and shape of the waves and the names of the clouds that sweep around that piece of land over there – see, Miss Devine, that rocky ledge where the blue sea breaks? The clouds get caught on the trees sometimes and their underneath hangs down, they remind me of Grace’s skirts when she’s been running in the sharp bushes after Roger, and Ma growls at her because she’s ruining more clothes we don’t have. Anyway, I love helping Mr Johannsson and I love it here at The Sentinel.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Oh, there’s been so many, Miss Devine! How about that time when the Madeleine almost foundered and all those poor souls nearly lost their lives? Or the time when the storms hit and we didn’t see the sun for days and Da got so mad with me for helping Mr Johannsson? I thought we were lost then, Miss Devine. But Mr Johannsson, he always comes through for us, don’t he? I wish Da didn’t make me stop seeing him but Mrs Dawson, I know you don’ t trust her, but she’s kind to me and she said she’d talk to Da about me going back to help Mr Johannsson in the weather room.

Continue reading “Isabella Brown (of The Sentinel, by Jacqueline Hodder)”

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)”

Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)

Dear readers, tonight with me is Fitzsimmons Noakes, the modest captain of the airship ‘The Centennial Kestrel’, the fastest Channel-Runner in business I am told. 

We were actually hoping to interview Miss Alice Kittyhawk about her adventures, but she  had pressing obligations in London and sent Captain Noakes in her stead.

Captain Noakes has a peculiar way of speaking which might sound a bit odd to modern ears, and we suspect that this particular interview is NSFW. You have been warned.


No offense, but I was expecting one Miss Alice Kittyhawk… erm… Mister…?

Cap’n Fitzsimmons Noakes, at your service. Alice asked  me to come, said I’d be better at it cause I never shut me sauce-box. Damfino why,  I am more quiet than a nun what took vows of silence, ‘onest Guv, you’ll find me jaws are locked tighter than the creamy thighs of a……

Yes, quite, so you can tell us something about Miss Kittyhawk? How long have you known her?

Since she was a nipper, used to perch on me knee and I’d sing her a ditty or two, didn’t I? Not that dull patriotic rubbish, mind you, proper songs like ‘Ere’s to the Grog and Lily White Thighs. I’ve ‘eard Alice whistling the tunes aboard the Kestrel, proud as a peacock I were, to know I been such a good influence.

By the light of a candle I happened to spy
A pretty young couple together did lie
Said Nelly to John if you’ll pull up my smock
You’ll find a young hen full as good as your…..

I get the gist of the song, thank you. Was this in the village of Rottingdean?

Yarr, Rottingdean in Sussex. I were crewing for Alice’s old man, you see, on The Salty Mew, the fizziest aerocraft on the south coast at the time. ‘Er dad were John ‘Awkeye, you must ‘ave ‘eard of ‘im? Course you ‘ave, everybody ‘as!! Cap’n ‘Awkeye being famous in…..erm…..the business of logistics. Continue reading “Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)”

Midshipman Colyer (of Daedalus and the Deep by Matthew Willis)

Daesalus and The Deep - Matthew WillisDear readers, tonight with us is a cadet officer from Her Majesty’s Ship The Daedalus. He will tell us of his adventures on the seven seas, and in particular about encountering a mysterious sea serpent.

 

Tell us where you grew up. Did you always want to join the navy?

I grew up in Harwich. It’s a Navy town – the Navy’s never far away. From the cottage where I grew up you could see the ships coming and going, and when you went down into the town the forest of masts above the roofs didn’t let you forget either. I suppose I did always want to join. My brother went to the naval college as soon as he could – Father had been a surgeon in the old Conqueror, so his sons were entitled to go – and I always wished I could have gone with him. You wouldn’t have thought there was any chance at all of me going too, but… well, I never actually thought it would happen, but it did.

What are you duties on board, as a midshipman?

My duties? Ha! To get under the feet of the petty officers, to annoy the officers and amuse the hands, or so you’d think. Really, a Mid is there to learn how to be an officer, to make sure we’ve salt enough in the blood, sea legs and know a sheetbend from a sheer-hulk. Half the time we’re used as skivvies and messengers and the other half we’re being sent up the masthead as punishment for something or other.

Continue reading “Midshipman Colyer (of Daedalus and the Deep by Matthew Willis)”

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