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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Adventure

Brandt Talenz (of Wardens of Issalia, by Jeffrey L. Kohanek)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the second son of a king, is a prankster who lacks a sense of purpose, from a kingdom threatened by an enemy nation. Faced by subterfuge, assassinations, and fire-powered weapons, he and his select friends must infiltrate and eliminate this threat before all is lost.


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

I had a complicated childhood. Growing up as a prince living in a castle is not as easy as it sounds. My older brother, Broland, garnered the most attention. Yes, he was the crown prince, but where did that leave me and my twin sister, Cassie? Sure, we had the best education, but I wasn’t too interested. Reading, math, lore—it all came easy to me. Too easy. That’s where the trouble began.

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

While my parents were always supportive, I was not well-loved by the palace servants. Burtles, the head of staff, was often the subject of the pranks Cassie and I used to plan for entertainment. The man remains scarred from the time I replaced his shampoo with pink hair dye. The rest of the staff enjoyed that particular joke, but there were times when they were forced to repair or clean the damage we had rendered.

Despite my antics, things were fine until my sister and I hatched a plan to drug guests at a dinner party. To see every noble in Kantaria hallucinating and delirious was a moment to remember. A duke stripped down to his smallclothes, my brother and a duchess danced on the table, and a man slid across the floor, thinking he was a worm. It was all in good fun until my father treated the lit fireplace as an enemy soldier…

What do you do now?

Our last prank was the final straw. My parents sent me and my sister to Fallbrandt to join a secret organization called ICON. There, we trained to become wardens. My strength with Chaos magic, the skill I had developed with a sword, and my knack for impersonating others made me a natural fit to become an espion. My sister, whose magic outstrips my own, trained as an arcanist.

With parents who are among the strongest magic-users in Issalia, our leaders believed we both had the potential to become even more powerful. Time will tell.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After a few months training, I was sent into the heart of enemy territory to join Quinn, a fellow espion. Within the Kalimar Palace itself, the two of us spied on the enemy, seeking any means to reduce their power before war breaks out between the Empire and the kingdoms of Issalia. Quinn and I executed amazing feats, crippling our enemy and sapping their means to produce fire-powered weapons. Still, the threat of war looms and the Empire possesses fire-powered weapons unlike anything we have ever seen.

What did you first think when Quinn asked you to free the imprisoned king?

I had just arrived in Kalimar when Quinn reported that King Pretencia was imprisoned in the citadel dungeon. My father and the other rulers had assumed the man dead after the Empire captured Kalimar. Finding him alive was one thing. Having to free the man without being caught or killed was another. Still, I couldn’t say no. Not to Quinn.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

How we survived our mission in Corvichi remains difficult to comprehend. The odds were incredibly against us and all seemed lost until I tried the new Rune my sister discovered. The magic it unleashed was incredible.

What is the worst thing about teaming up with Quinn?

Quinn is forever bold, brave, and fearless. I adore all those things about her. However, she is too like me. Combined, we take risks that anyone with sense would avoid. I just hope we survive our next adventure. I could not bear to lose her.

What is the best thing about it?

Every day with Quinn is a fantastic day. She inspires me to be a better person while simultaneously fulfilling my lust for danger and need for adventure.

Tell us a little about your friends.

The wardens are a tight team, consisting of a variety of characters with different skills. Take Quinn’s brother, Everson. He might be physically disabled, but he has the brightest mind of our generation. That’s how he discovered Chaos Conduction and used his discovery to create mechanical legs that enable him to walk.

There are others who support our cause in their own way, such as Puri and Thiron, both of whom are skilled rangers. We also have wildcats, like Curan. What’s a wildcat? Those are warriors trained to fight while empowered by Chaos magic.

You would like my fellow wardens…at least most of them.

Any romantic involvement?

From the very first time she beat me in a fist fight, Quinn captured my heart. I’d follow her to the ends of Issalia if asked, which is quite possibly what comes next if we survive this war.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

I despise Archon Varius, who hates Chaos magic and anyone able to wield it. She and the other Empire leaders wish to execute people like me.

What have I ever done to her?

What does the future hold for you?

With the war soon coming to a head, I hope to survive it. If I do, I will surely remain a warden as long as Quinn is at my side. I suspect our adventures will continue for some time, so long as we don’t end up dead.

Perhaps, one day, we will settle down. For now, I am having too much fun.

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

I now confess something few know—a secret that puts both me and my sister at great risk should our enemies discover the truth.

We can communicate telepathically.

Yes, ICON sees our ability as a tool. Despite this, we choose to comply. Our communication skill has proven critical to the success of numerous missions and might be the difference between victory and defeat at the hands of Empire forces.


Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination. Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses his imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire the dreamer within us all.

You can find Brandt on the pages of the Wardens of Issalia series.

Keep an eye out for mid-week SPFBO interviews! Join us next week to meet a private-eye from Denver, tangling with gangsters and serial killers. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

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Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a retired SEAL who has stumbled on shocking evidence that rogue programmers and Russian mobsters are reprogramming helper androids to take over humanity. He’s here to tell us about his team’s efforts to combat the rise of hive-minded species.


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

I grew up in a small town in the backwoods of Washington State, and my Dad worked for a lumber mill there. He was quite the outdoorsman, and took me hunting and fishing from just about the time I could walk. My mom taught history, and we had conversations around the dinner table about the world outside our little town. She also taught me to be a leader; that it was my responsibility to take care of others when they needed it.

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

My favorite “toys” if you call them that, were my hunting rifles. I was so comfortable in the woods, even as a kid, I would take off for a week just living in a tent and hunting. My mom kept wanting to send out search parties, but Dad said “The kid knows what he’s doing. Let him be.” Sure enough, I’d come home with a nice buck, and we’d keep some of the meat and give the rest to people who needed it.

What do you do now?

I’m a retired Navy SEAL, so after I decided I had “aged out” I looked for the closest thing to that. So, I went to work for Hardwood Security, mainly protecting high-risk targets—like oil company execs in the Middle East and African politicians who were terrorist targets. I’ve gotten in a couple of firefights, but I never ever expected I’d need my SEAL training to figure out how to kill armored killer androids! Continue reading “Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)”

Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)

Joseph Malik - Outworlders banner

Dear readers, tonight with me is a cross-dimensional champion. Taken from Earth to a strange new world, this former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert was tasked to be an adviser to the war council for a magical realm teetering on the edge of collapse.

We wanted to meet Jarrod Torrealday since we first read his book, and finally caught up with him at his castle home in the Wild River Reach at the end of this past autumn, between his two book adventures.

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

I grew up in Connecticut, on an estate called Knightsbridge. Our house was one of these castle homes, with stone turrets and everything. (Laughs) I guess it kind of warped me. My family owns Eastern Technology Bank. We mostly handle hospitals and big tech campuses. We had a few hundred acres of woods that butted up against a huge green belt that went right down to the sea. I was much more into getting into adventures out there than I was ever interested in playing with toys.

What do you do now?

I’m part of an order of knights here in the kingdom of Gateskeep. Our order teaches hand fighting and military science to the troops, but also serves a counterespionage function, as well. We keep an ear to the ground and keep an eye on the fighters in the castles where we train other knights and soldiers. We find spies, and disrupt plots against the crown.

I’m also a Lord Protector of the principality of Falconsrealm, which means that I can be called upon—and have the right—to settle affairs of the crown in personal combat. A lot of the time, here, they’ll settle small wars and grievances with just two guys beating the crap out of each other, sometimes not even to the death. It’s a pre-industrial, mostly feudal society—interlinked fiefdoms of regional lords and magnates operating under privatized rule—but it’s technically possible to take over a castle and lands in a fistfight. Which keeps the afternoons interesting.

It all just goes to prove that we never really know where we’re going to end up, I guess. It’s a good gig.

What do you find most surprising about living here? Compared to Earth?

The number of women in the ranks of the military, especially the knights, and how effective they are. On Earth, we’ve really underrated them. Our brightest military leaders, and some of our toughest knights here, are women. Continue reading “Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)”

Benji Fisher (of Mermaids Are Real, by Bo Wu)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young boy who grew up by the sea. Used to surfing with dolphins and some odd things encountered underwater, he’s come here to tell us about how his life changes following a recruitment speech from an octopus the night before his thirteenth birthday.


What was it like growing up in Beech Mill?

I liked the town much more than the growing up part. It’s hard when you stick out and all everyone else is trying to do is conform. I think no matter where you are in the world, that’s a problem for kids.

Having said that, Beech Mill was a great place to grow up. I was in or on the water whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted. My dad had a boat. What else can you ask for, right?

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

I wasn’t a toy kid. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just gravitated toward the outdoors. A part of me always knew I belonged outdoors and, more specifically, in the water. I just didn’t know how much I really did belong until Octavius showed up and told me about my real home in Sanjowqua.

But, I guess my surfboard could be considered a toy. I had plenty of fun on it. That’s for sure. It was on my surfboard that I had my first run-in with Eeke, Zeeke, and Mai, the dolphins that kept watch over me.

What do you do now?

I’m still thirteen, so no matter what, I get to still be a kid, but now I get to be a merman kid with an ocean full of creatures to play with and unexplored territory, at least for me, that I get to call my home.

I think for the meantime, I’m going to be helping prepare for the next full moon party in a few weeks which, by the way, is the first one Sanjowqua has celebrated in thirteen years. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have my hands full for the foreseeable future.

I’ll spend my free time working on honing my Mystiq powers. I see another visit to my dad’s lair again pretty soon, as well. Continue reading “Benji Fisher (of Mermaids Are Real, by Bo Wu)”

Gwyn the Welshman (of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch we have an 11th century warrior. He’s here to tell us about his amazing journeys through storms and treachery over seas and lands, across England and on the road to far off Rome.

Shield brother and friend to Harald, son of the king, Gwyn the Welshman is always at the atheling’s right hand, ready to defend him and the realm.


You are known as Gwyn the Welshman?

Aye. Gwyn ap Emlyn be my true and rightful name. Gwyn, son of Emlyn, who was my da, a course.

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

My wife, Gudrun would say I never did grow up, wouldn’t she? She can never resist a jab, that one. Got to love her. Well, I’m a Welshman, but you know that. Not that I’ve ever spent much time there. To tell you where I was a lytling, I’ll have to tell you of my father. My da had not the heart for working the land and being a scrapper he kept himself alive long enough to get good with a skeggox––a battleæx, you know. He had no love for the Saxons––the dastards had too many Welsh slaves, though I dare say the sardin’ Danes wasn’t much better. So he offers his battleæx to Sweyn Forkbeard, don’t he? That’s when he gets to know Cnute, son of Forkbeard, as they was fightin’ Edmund Ironsides. Shield brothers they was, and nothin’ counts more between men than killin’ together and keepin’ the other alive.

So Cnute’s handfasted wife was Ælfgifu, English born, from Northantone. And my da takes up with her friend Ylva. And what do you know, both women are expectin’ bearns ’bout the same time.

And the babes were you and Harald Harefoot, son of King Cnute?

Harefoot, ha! He loves that, don’t he? You guessed it. So the story of my growin’ up is all about my friendship with Harald Cnuteson, in’t it? Playin’, scrappin’––Harald and me, we was like two bear cubs.

And Sweyn, Harald’s older brother?

Sweyn the Swine we called him. What a cruel dastard he was. Still is. One time he took after us, Harald and me––can’t remember what for––didn’t need a reason. Harald got away, but Sweyn grabbed me and pushed me into the brambles. After Sweyn had gone, Harald was back to get me out, careful like, wasn’t he? Harald’s got a tender side you don’t usually see. Selia sees it––loves him for it.

And this, of course was before Harthacnute, Harald’s younger brother was born?

Half brother he is. Crafty fox. So Cnute casts Ælfgifu aside and marries King Æthelred’s widow, Emma, didn’t he? To unite the Saxons and the Danes he figures. Harthacnute comes along at the natural time after Cnute and Emma have done the deed a few hundred times––in the first week of the marriage bed, I’m thinkin’. Ha! So Hartha was a bearn when Harald and I were up and runnin’ everywhere. And he was with the Queen while we was with Ælfgifu, Ylva, and some of the other families. Harald didn’t see his father as much as before and that pained him. It was like Cnute had two wives, two families.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, that would be when Yngvarr Skarissen and I set off in search of Harald, wouldn’t it. He’d been held for silver somewhere outside Engla-lond. Word came that he’d returned, landed near Ceaster. Then his friends lost him. Cnute sent us riding north. No that’s not the truth of it. He sent us to find that cur Drefan. We was lookin’ for him and tryin’ to find Harald, with a big swath of Engla-lond to cover. And there was that business with Pearce the Shire Reeve, the sardin’ pig poker, setting me up for Wregan’s murther. Pearce got entangled with the search for Harald as well, all on account of that connivin’…but I can’t tell you ’bout that. Continue reading “Gwyn the Welshman (of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)”

Jael (of Teliko Mageia, by AJ Carbonell)

Dear readers, tonight we bring you an interview from across dimensions. This interview was conducted by a fellow researcher into the nature of magick. He was fortunate enough to run into a fierce warrior, specialist in fire. Read on to find out a world most of us will only see in Japanese manga and role-playing games.


Hello, Jael. I am Melchior from the kingdom of Anithelis. I am currently travelling around the world studying about the history of Magick. I understand that you are resting after a fierce battle, but do you mind answering a few questions for my research?

No worries. I love interviews. I’ll answer everything you have for me.

Can you tell me about growing up in Bristal?

I had a nomad’s life I would say. Well, I only had Frekkis by my side as we traversed through woods, villages, and whatnot. Most of my time growing up was running errands, accepting hunts and requests from clients.

It wasn’t a childhood worth imagining. But hey, it did play a key role in developing my magick further.

Do you have any cherished memories?

Cherished memories? I never had the luxury of time, nor the ability to think of any. The only thing valuable I had with me was this necklace. However, if magick is included in this category then yes, I only had my flames with me. Ha ha ha!

Oh, wait. It isn’t? Meh.

What do you do now?

I’ll let you in a little secret…

Aside from attending interviews such as this one, I am still busy trying to find about my mysterious past. Surprise! You didn’t expect that did you?

Well, it was nowhere near easy, and I was hoping my questions would be answered there. Yes, that’s the queen’s castle. Continue reading “Jael (of Teliko Mageia, by AJ Carbonell)”

Bernard Abbey (of A Footstep Echo, by J.D. Sanderson)

40584848Dear readers, tonight with me is an unwitting time-traveller. Dragged into a series of hops across time by a mute girl, he tries to make sense of her reasons and the mystery behind the fate of humanity.


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

Oh, I’ve spent most of my life in a mid-size city in Western New York. Tough sometimes for an old man like me. Used to be a really nice building, but now half of the tenants probably have criminal records. They’re always harassing people who walk by the main entrance. It’s a damn shame. I used to walk at night with my wife, God rest her soul, and my dog. Wouldn’t do that nowadays!

A few streets over, that’s where you want to live. All these kids came in a few years ago and bought all the empty buildings. Now there’s coffee, food…There’s a British-themed restaurant too! My wife was from Lancashire, not sure if I mentioned it. That’s why we went to London on our honeymoon years back. Anyways, yeah the kids bought up all the property near where the city paper used to be. I worked there until it closed…That’s where we met, Marie and I.  She’d just moved here to the states to be a reporter, and I was a record clerk. Of course, that place closed down years ago. People just don’t like papers anymore, I suppose.

What do you do now?

Well, after Marie passed on and my dog Maverick got off leash and got away, I just mostly kept to myself. I go to that diner over there down the street, have tea and eggs. I work part-time at the library to help pay the bills. Ruth is the Head Librarian. Also my neighbor. Sweet lady, always nice to me after Marie passed.

I put the books back on the shelves and try to help out best I can. I felt more useful in the records office, but I at least get out of the house a few times a week. When I’m home I mostly try to just keep up on my reading. At least, that’s how it all was until she entered the picture… Continue reading “Bernard Abbey (of A Footstep Echo, by J.D. Sanderson)”

Coppélia (of The Girl With Acrylic Eyes, by Greg Krojac)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an android from the early 22nd century.

She is here to tell us about life in the future, about the place of android in human society – from various assistants to sex-bots. She is currently evaluating her purpose in life, and what makes her different from both humans and other androids.


You have an unusual name, Coppélia. Do you know why you were given that name?

I’m named after a character in the ballet Coppélia, a life-size and lifelike mechanical doll. I suppose that’s how some people might describe me, since I’m an android.

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

I didn’t grow up. From what my human friends have told me, I think I would like to have had a childhood, but I was constructed in a laboratory. I don’t think humans would like to grow up in such an environment – there were no toys and nobody to be friends with, just assembly equipment and technicians.

Do you want to be human?

Not really. Why should I? I’m far more durable than any human and my physical abilities outweigh those of humans. My needs are fewer than those of humans – I don’t need oxygen as I don’t breathe, and I don’t need food or water as I draw my power from solar energy. Physically, humans are weaker than I am. I can’t see any advantage in trading in my nano-coated silicon carbide fibre reinforced composite body for an organic one.

What do you do now?

I’ve had lots of jobs. I’ve done everything from working in a bar, to an assistant nurse in a hospital. I’ve worked as a travel guide in foreign countries. I’ve taught in schools and have worked as a sales representative. Basically, I’ve worked anywhere that allows me to interact with humans. My most recent job was as a sexbot. However, I said ‘no’ and ran away. That’s how I met my friend Karen. Continue reading “Coppélia (of The Girl With Acrylic Eyes, by Greg Krojac)”

Shawn Kleiner (of The Blue Bells Chronicles, by Laura Vosika)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the world famous trombonist, Shawn Kleiner. He is here to tell us of his recent trip to Scotland with his girlfriend Amy – and what happened when she stranded him in a Scottish castle tower overnight.


Tell us about your life—back before this whole story started.

At the time, I had it all. Or I thought I did, anyway. I was rich. Well, I still am. More money than I know what to do with—except of course, provide for James—that’s my son, he’s just over a year old now—and make sure he’s well prepared for what’s coming if I can’t stop it.

But look, I’m already thinking ahead. You’re asking about the past. At least, the recent past, not the past I’m talking about. Yeah, before this whole thing started—it seems like centuries ago. I was the featured soloist in this small Midwestern orchestra, and I made them great. Not bragging, just saying how it is.

So we were playing all over the country and all over the world, you know? I was onstage, girls loved me. And I was throwing these great parties and women were throwing themselves at me, I was having a great time and I had this reputation for incredible luck. Until I gambled my trombone away, just before a major concert on our tour in Scotland. I thought I couldn’t lose. And somehow I did. And Conrad was going to have a fit if I didn’t get it back and it just went downhill from there.

I lied to Amy—that’s my girlfriend—or was, it’s hard to say now—to get the trombone back and cover up and one thing and another, we ended up in the half-ruined tower of Glenmirril. I was going to completely win her over with a midnight picnic and instead, she got all pissed and took off, left me there in all this mist. And I woke up—well, I woke up in the wrong century.

You know most people don’t believe that. They know you have a reputation for making up stories. But if we did believe you—what century?

Yeah, well, God’s got a sense of humor, doesn’t He? One time I ever tell the truth is the one time no one will believe me. I woke up in 1314. June, to be exact, about two weeks before the Battle of Bannockburn. Continue reading “Shawn Kleiner (of The Blue Bells Chronicles, by Laura Vosika)”

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