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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Adventure

Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a hogan (a traditional Navajo dwelling) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. We’re talking to a previously unemployed, pill-popping twenty-one year old who suffered from nightmares and PTSD, whose quest to sort out her life leads her to ancient conflict between the Illuminati and a Luminarian sect with origins to Atlantis.


It sounds as though your childhood was pretty messed up. If it’s not too painful, can you tell us about that?

Up until I was ten, things were pretty normal, at least in so far as a little kid can figure out what normal is. After the cave incident–that happened when I was ten–everything went downhill. My parents blamed my great aunt, each other, and me for what happened. I suffered from terrible anxiety–the doctors called it PTSD. I was put on endless meds and began popping pills like candy. Then my baby brother died in a car crash when my mother was driving me to a psychiatrist appointment, and that caused a whole other round of blame. I really wasn’t close to my parents and only realized later in life that my great aunt, Ooljee, was the only adult I felt comfortable with. I’ve pretty much been on my own since age eighteen and I was just barely getting by. It’s only since I went back to the cave and started my Circle training that everything began to fit into place.

What do you mean, ‘fit into place’?

I returned to this Navajo reservation to ‘confront my demons’ as my psychiatrist recommended, and I went back to the cave. That’s where the opening of my first chakra was supposed to happen when I was ten; that initiation was to start my Candelaria training. When it finally happened at age twenty-one, that’s when I began to embrace my destiny and stopped running away from my life. Things began to fall into place, and as my other chakras were opened, I became progressively more balanced.

What are you up to now?

That’s a good question. Even though I’ve completed my Circle training and am a fully realized Candelaria, I feel like a warrior without a weapon. This great War of the Two Serpents isn’t over. Sure, me and Bryson may have won a little skirmish, but the big plans to establish a New World Order haven’t changed. I should say presumably haven’t changed because we really don’t know how the Illuminati are scheming to accomplish that. So, at this point, I don’t know how to use my gifts, there’s no one to ask, and we don’t know how to fight the bad guys. The good news is that I feel great and genius-boy Bryson will figure out something.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I got to travel to India, Australia, Greece, Egypt, Mexico and Peru on my journey to open all my chakras. I learned things about myself along the way and I managed not to get killed. That’s not to say Li didn’t try. Still, he does have my DNA and he’s got the resources and know-how to misuse that. I also realize that Ooljee must have carried a great burden, feeling responsible for all the problems she caused in my life, but she was just doing what she thought best. It’s funny how your opinion of people can change once you can ‘walk a mile in their moccasins’–that’s a Native American expression Ooljee used to say.

Continue reading “Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)”

Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the deadliest bounty hunter in the world — also easily overlooked, as she’s only two feet tall. She’s here to tell us about legendary pirates, spoilt potions, and a sleepy little town.


Welcome Miss Griever Blackhand. How are you?

Hello! Thank you for having us. This chair is quite plush. We’re a little bit hungry. We’d very much like to flop around in a pile of leaves, should you happen to have one. Or perhaps some dirty laundry.

Um… Right. Now, you are a ferrelf. A lot of our readers might not be familiar with your species. If you don’t mind me giving them a physical description, you look like a ferret or weasel. Maybe eighteen inches tall with black and white fur. You’re wearing only a purple cape, which is crooked, draped over your arm. Can you give us any other insights into yourself or your people? Perhaps some history or culture.

…That was a lot of questions.

Oh. My apologies. I’ll slow down. Can you tell us a little about ferrelves?

Yes! As a ferrelf, we are more than able to speak on all matters regarding ferrelves.

…Griever?

Yes!

Would you tell us about ferrelves?

We’re a nomadic people, living in tribes throughout the Northern continent. Like elves, we are immortal. But we don’t always get along with them. You know how elves do things like spend five hundred years shaping a tree into a house, then stare at a roaring fire and recall the ancient times of war when their dwarf friend was slain by an ogre, so they planted a seed on the spot and spent five hundred years using that dwarf as fertilizer to make their house. But then they spent so much time reminiscing about their dwarf friend that they forgot trees are made of wood and their entire house burns down? Well, us ferrelves don’t dedicate so much time to such things. All that sitting would make our minds wander, and we’d start thinking about bright things, and how we like bright things. Then we think about how some of the kindling in the fire isn’t burned and we could probably take it out of the fire pit. But then it’s really hot so we throw it away and it hits the wall.

I’m sorry. Are you telling us you burned down some elf’s wood cabin?

…So the main difference between elves and ferrelves is how we regard time. Elf minds are in ages. Ferrelf minds stay in moments. We’re also a lot more carnivorous. We’ve eaten six birds today. Five of them were still in eggs, but we ate them.

Continue reading “Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)”

Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)

Dear readers, tonight we interview the half-brother of the protagonist Harald, from a series we visited before. Our guest is the heir to the throne, concerned about the future of his land and the choices of his brothers.


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

I was born in Engla-lond in the early years of my father’s reign, back when Cnute was consolidating his power, playing the sarding earls off each other, and swiving his new wife, Emma, my mother, the widow of Æthelred, the old Saxon king. My father was young then, more Viking chieftain than king. Cruel dastard then, same as now, but shrewd. I’d say my mother is an even match for him—clever, and just as ambitious. Emma got Cnute to promise that their offspring would inherit the throne, not his sons Sweyn and Harald—those stinking curs. So, they had my sister, Cunigard and me. They’re grooming her to marry the next Holy Roman Emperor and I am heir to the throne—a role I am more than willing, and well qualified to play.

So, my childhood was in Engla-lond until Father decides when I am eight years old, to send me to Danmark as future bloody king, under a council led by that nithing, Jarl Ulf. I was just a game piece on Cnutes’ game board, meant to rally the Danes so they’d defend against attacks from Nordvegr and Sverige. Didn’t quite work out that way. Jarl Ulf tried to get the Danish provinces to accept me as king outright, not under Cnute. Stupid Ulf. I think he was half elf-shot. Did nothing to push back the invaders from Scandinavia. My father had to sail from Engla-lond with a fleet. First thing Cnute did after establishing his hold on Nordvegr was kill Jarl Ulf and make it clear to me I was King of Danmark, within his northern empire.

I returned to Engla-lond whenever I was summoned and always chose to stay as long as I could. There are worse things than being young, a blessed gift to women, and heir to the throne. And there is always plenty to drink at my father’s court.

How are your relationships with your half-brothers?

Fine. I hardly see them. Sweyn’s a cruel arseling, but I know what he wants—a throne. I relate well to Sweyn. I understand him. As long as we both don’t claim the same throne, we’ll get along fine.

And Harald?

Harald has more chance of being named a saint than wear a crown. Has no stomach for ruling. And he’s an arrogant turd. He and that slut-wife of his, Selia. Harald says he has no use for the throne. Lying backstabber. We’ve had our run-ins. Beat each other half to death this one time. I was only accepting his wife’s offer to fill her where she’s empty. You know how you can tell some women are ready for you—the way they look at you? Guess it was an act, because she fought like a wild beast. Harald pulled me off her and we fought barehanded. I could have taken him, too, if our father hadn’t stopped us. There will come another time, when I’m ready.

Continue reading “Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)”

Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a stag, the cook and aide to the Sphinx. He’s here to tell us about his adventures on board an airship, about pirates and protagonists.


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

My memories are a little vague on this point, but I recall a glade in a birch forest. We grazed on sweet clover while the sun warmed our backs. The air seemed absolutely dazzling after the dark of the woods. I remember my mother cleaning my ears, licking my snout.

I suppose I was like any other white-tailed fawn: curious, skittish, always hungry.

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

Point in fact, I was someone else’s toy—their pet, they would’ve said. After my mother was murdered, the hunting party found me. One of them was a nobleman in the ringdom of Mundy Crete in the Tower of Babel. He thought I would make a fine gift for his daughter. I suppose she loved me for a time, but then my rack came in, and I grew too big to keep indoors. I believe I ruined several rugs. The lord put me in a pen outside. It was his private skyport—a quiet and very lonely place. They stopped feeding me after a while. I started attracting the attention of vultures. But before the buzzards could dine, the Sphinx found me. She brought me back—back to her home and back to life. She built this mechanical body for me. She taught me to speak and live as a man. I’ve been with her ever since.

What do you do now?

I’m the Sphinx’s Secretary. Among other duties, I manage her home. There are more than six hundred rooms, and that’s not counting the Bottomless Library, which as you might imagine is rather large. I take care of the guests when there are any, though visitors are increasingly rare. The Sphinx, you understand, is semi-retired. She still tinkers, still keeps an eye on things, but she threw her last gala decades ago. Now, our guests are mostly pirates: unlikable sorts who serve a practical purpose. Not a one of them appreciates the difference between a chiffon cake and a pound cake, I can tell you. I could serve them the gateau of the gods, and they’d just dunk it in rum and cram it in.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not exactly what you would call an adventurer. In fact, I hadn’t left the house in years until quite recently when the Sphinx requested that I help to crew the State of Art, a well-equipped airship that includes a ballroom, a conservatory, a dining room, and—I’m pleased to say—a very adequate kitchen. I have been informed that kitchens aboard ships are traditionally called ‘galleys.’ I’ve been learning other bits of aeronautical slang. For example, did you know that airmen call a five-course meal ‘grub?’ I certainly did not. I thought grubs were white wiggly things found under logs in the forest, but no, grub is the profiterole that I spent six hours in the kitchen preparing.

Also, there’s a baby on board, which while not exactly an adventure, is something of an ongoing crisis. Captain Winters, Mister Iren, Miss Voleta, and the pilot all like to leave me with the diapers and the darling little dribbler while they go off gallivanting through the Tower! They always come back in such a state. Their coats are ripped; their trousers are stained; they have blood on their collars and powder burns on their sleeves. You want adventure? Try keeping those four clothed and presentable! I should just start putting them in potato sacks whenever they leave the ship.

Continue reading “Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)”

Silhouette (of The Alex Caine Series, by Alan Baxter)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a gifted martial artist, a non-human, shape-shifting Kin who fights the supernatural elements in our world.


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

Well, not to be evasive, but a lady should never discuss her age. And while I’m really no lady, I’ve been around for more than a few normal human lifespans, me not being human and all. Well, not all human, anyway. So where I grew up is hard to describe. It was rural in a way nowhere really is any more, on the west coast of Scotland. My childhood was one of pastoral bliss, really, with my mother. I never knew my father, but if I ever find him, I plan to kill him. My early years were spent crofting, living with the land, and I had no idea of the greater world out there. I heard talk of the English and how they weren’t our friends, but I was too young to really understand. Too young to care, I suppose. It wasn’t until I hit puberty that what I am became apparent and then my mother sought help. We ended up in London and that’s when Joseph found us, and explained what the Kin are. What I was. In truth, that’s the point at which I really grew up.

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

I never had much as a child, we were dirt poor. But I did have a carved wooden cat and I think that maybe I was so drawn to that toy because of my inner nature. I didn’t know it yet. But every Kin has a preferred shape. Mine turned out to be feline, a kind of panther is the best way to describe what I shift into, and I think somewhere deep inside I knew that. I’ve always had an affinity for cats. There was an old tabby at the croft and when I was only about 5 or 6 years old she had a litter right under the hay in one corner of a small barn. I didn’t tell anyone, just protected her, and watched those kittens grow. So very long ago, but I still miss that cranky old tabby like a lost limb. Not counting my mother, she was the first thing I ever loved. When Albert, a crofter across the valley, heard about my love of cats, he carved me that wooden one and I treasured it, made it smooth and shiny with handling.

Do you still have it?

I do, but I’ll never tell another soul where it is. Actually, that’s not true. Alex knows where it is, because he saw it when I moved down to the south coast with him. He asked about it and I told him what I’ve just told you, then I put it safely away. It’s the only thing from my pre-Kin life and it’s special.

What do you do now?

Well, since we signed up with Armour, every day is a new adventure! That’s not entirely true, of course. I mean, I know you’re really interested to hear about the great Alex Caine, right? He’s all stubborn and not especially talkative, which is why you’re talking to me. But I’m afraid that whether it’s about me or Alex, I can’t tell you much. I shouldn’t even admit that we work for Armour, but you already knew so it seems pointless to deny it. But let’s just say the threats that occasionally rise up, the weird and supernatural stuff that regular police and governments can’t handle, are infrequent but all too real. Alex and I are among many who deal with them, as best we can.

Continue reading “Silhouette (of The Alex Caine Series, by Alan Baxter)”

Arubah Arruroe (of Galaxy Pirates, by Tamuna Tsertsvadze)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the emperor of the galaxy pirates. He is here to tell us about a future where reptiloid aliens have enslaved Earth, and about the bureaucracy of running an empire.


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

I grew up on a ship, obviously. Back in those times, there was just one spaceship at our disposal – the very original Shark Tooth, crafted by my grandparents. My uncle was the captain, managing a crew of pirates from across the galaxies. Mother was treated like a princess since my uncle was very fond of her. Naturally, he adored me too. He even made up a nickname for me – ‘Aya’. Sounds weird, eh? Nay, for the Herminoids such as my uncle and mom, it is a usual thing – they double the first syllable of a person’s name and there you have it, a fresh cuddly nickname! Like, take a usual human name, ‘John’. For Herminoids it’d be ‘Jojo’_ Yeah, I guess it didn’t come out as neat… whatever.

But I figure you humans want to know more about my human father? Well, as long as he stuck beside my mom he was fine. Uncle didn’t really fancy him around, to be honest. Humans were considered weaklings by all the alien races, and my uncle was definitely not an exception. From that very moment, I decided to make sure no one would ever dare call me a ‘weakling’, even if I was half-human from father’s side. To be fair, humans aren’t weaklings at all. My father is one of the strongest people I know. Strength is not only muscles – that’s a fact.

Any cherished memories?

Memories… Aye, I remember everything from the second I was born. I’ve a lot of cherished memories. Family and friends are my treasure. All the time I’ve spent with them, is treasured time. The way papá would read me Hispanish books and tell human tales… I used to close my eyes in order not to read my father’s thoughts, and would instead let my own imagination run loose. Damn, so many adventures, and all that while lying in a dark cabin, not sticking my nose out! If you humans possess any magical powers, the broad imagination should definitely be one.

What do you do now?

There’s been a long time since I’ve taken my life in my own two hands. I see to it that all of my plans are thoroughly executed. I am the Galaxy Pirate Emperor. I’ve got a whole empire under my rule. That’s a lot of work, be sure of it. There are many planets under our jurisdiction across the Seven Universes. As I want to be a benevolent ruler I have to consider every citizen’s opinions and feelings. That’s not all – constant disputes in my own crew and fleet, over trivial matters… Some are such fools they can’t even follow a single damn rule! Nay, management is certainly not something I’m fond of. If I weren’t a godly being I’d immediately resign from this tiresome post, trust me. But when there’s no one else to take up the role of a saviour, what can I do?

What can you tell us about your latest adventure across the galaxies?

Every day is an adventure, especially to such free-spirited people as I. But I’ll tell you of the most important one – it was the conquest of a maiden’s heart. Her name is Violet. She is a human like you guys. I adore her – her very essence elevates my crimson spirit. Aye, nothing can be better than an adventure of a passionate heart!

Continue reading “Arubah Arruroe (of Galaxy Pirates, by Tamuna Tsertsvadze)”

Larkh Savaldor (of Keys of the Origin, by Melissa A. Joy)

Dear readers, to night with me is the son of an admiral who grew up amongst pirates. He’s here to tell us about being thrown together with a law-abiding righteous citizen, into a struggle to bring the world back into a state of balance from the precipice of madness and desolation brought on by a renegade sorceress hell bent on reviving the greatest threat of all.


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

I was born an’ raised in Saldour, the largest port city in Faltainyr Demura an’ the home of the navy. My father was an admiral an’ his father a shipwright after an accident an’ illness early in his career that forced him to retire from working at sea. Later, my entire family was murdered; I spent the rest of my childhood among pirates.

Did you have any favourite things to do as a child? Any cherished memories?

Liri an’ I used to play together on the meadows surroundin’  the noble estates around Saldour. I was also rather fond of sneakin’ into my mother’s secret library.

What do you do now?

I’m a pirate; an’ a captain at that, though it’s a bit of a long story how that happened. Ask me later over a drink of Tourenco Dark rum.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Which one? There’ve been quite a few of them lately. There’s the one about the “unrequited love” of an obsessed an’ extremely stubborn elite mercenary? Or perhaps the explosive reunion between myself an’ a friend of my late father? There’s also the one involving a dubious encounter with a leviathan…  Oh, the best one has to be how Zehn an’ myself turned out to be tools of the gods… Wait, all of that’s connected isn’t it? It’s a little past noon; how long’ve you got?

Continue reading “Larkh Savaldor (of Keys of the Origin, by Melissa A. Joy)”

Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)

Dear readers, tonight we bring you an interview with a priest more interested in his various businesses, from taverns and gaming houses. He’s a man who came back from fighting one war to find another at his doorstep, living in a grim and dark city.


The Royal Steward Samuel Lan Dekanov to one Mr Tomas Piety, of Ellinburg:

 You’re obviously not a Dannsburg man, Mr Piety. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, perhaps, and what it was like there?

My name is Tomas Piety. I was born in Ellinburg, and I lived my whole life there save for the war years. My father was a bricklayer, and I grew up in the alleys of the Stink with my little brother Jochan at my side. The Stink’s a poor place, down by the tanneries and the river, and working folk stick together there. Da was a working man, when he was sober enough to work, and Ma died when I had barely six years to me. I’d like to say “times were hard but we were happy”, but that would be a lie. We weren’t happy, Jochan and me, not with what went on in that house of a night.

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

We had no money for toys when I was a lad, but I’ve got a cherished memory alright. That one night, that night I made it right between Da and me for what he had done to me, and what he had started to do to little Jochan. That was the night my cold devil woke, and spoke to me. That was the night I became The Devil Tomas Piety and no mistake. If I were you, my friend, I’d change the fucking subject. Right now.

Right, well. Ahem. Moving on – what do you do now?

I’m a businessman, and I’m a priest. The army made me that, but I’m not exactly what you might call godly. I own a number of businesses in Ellinburg. Various interests that bring in a substantial income. I own inns and taverns and gaming houses, and I have an interest in a number of…  vassal businesses, as you might say, such as factories and tanneries and forges. Those I don’t own, as such, but they pay me a consideration for protection and respect

Mr Piety, that makes you sound like some sort of gangster!

I’m a fucking businessman. You listen to me now. There’s a way that respect works in Ellinburg, and I don’t think that you understand what that is. I’m a prince on my streets. I collect taxes, aye, and I see that they’re paid, but in return for that I look after my people. No one goes hungry on Pious Men streets, not anymore they don’t, and no one robs or steals from my people either. Not more than once, anyway. Anyone tries it, me and my brother go and show them how unwise that was, and they don’t do it again. There was a time a woman couldn’t walk down those streets alone at night, and I put a stop to that too. Those who are sick and can’t afford a doctor are treated at my expense. It’s a closed system, to be sure, and participation isn’t optional, but once everyone understands that it works well enough. It’s just business, do you understand me?

Continue reading “Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)”

Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a man back from a decade of exile. He’s here to tell us about a world of death, corruption, shady deals and dirty deeds — just like old times — and of the Skyway Men that set him up.


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

I was born on the skyland of Hassan but I can’t remember much about that because, when I was five years old, my parents sold me to the Skyway Men and I moved to Girindult. I guess they needed to money but I don’t know for sure.

Girindult is a tiny skyland that’s been part of the Last Chance Archipelago for fifty years or more, moving between Rookery Reef, High Plain and Wind Haven. It’s known for metalworking. Up top is foundries and smithies and silversmiths and what-not. It’s hot. It stinks. It’s noisy. There’s smoke and acid and a constant clatter. Endless, deafening clatter. It keeps away the tourists, I suppose, which means the real purpose of the skyland is easier to hide. Down below, in the tunnels, it the main training center for the skyway men. With all the noise above the tourists couldn’t hear the gunshots and the screams even if they were paid to.

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

Favourite toy? The skyway men teach recruits to make their own weapons for some reason; I was quite fond of the first throwing knife I made. I lost that when an older boy fell off the side of the skyland with it still stuck in his throat.

What do you do now?

I screwed up a mission. I mean, it wasn’t my fault. I was young and had too many people telling me what to do and I couldn’t please everyone. But I took the blame and they shipped me off to rot on Whiparill, an insignificant farming skyland where, funnily enough, I ended up doing metalwork. I guess the training paid off after all. I waited ten years before they finally came looking for me for another mission.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I really wasn’t expecting to be given another job. I thought if the Skyway Men ever came looking for me it would be to make sure they wouldn’t have to worry about me ever again. But when I got the chance to get back in I was not going to screw it up. It seemed to be a pretty simple job. Break into a laboratory, steal an experimental crystal-machine and post it to the local Operations Manager. Of course, if it had been simple I wouldn’t be here.

Continue reading “Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)”

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