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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

Perry Caduca (of The Gifts Of Life, by Oliver Smuhar)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with a young man for an IT job — covering such aspects as his ability to teleport, evil armies, and beasts made of smoke.


PERRY: [Crud, am I nervous! I can do this! It’s just a job interview. IT, I know… I know computers! Yeah. I can do this. I marched into the room, my chest heaved, but I was a champion. The manger eyed me down with half a groan.]

MANAGER: Perry! Grab a seat please.

PERRY: Yeah. Cool, cool, cool. No whackers…

MANGER: Shall we begin?

PERRY: Yeah, sure… Oh, dad! How long is this going to take? Cause mum said that you were gonna hire me… and she’s a prophet, so… I’ll just keep my mouth shut. Am hungry though.

MANAGER QUINTEN: Perry, this is an interview, not dinner—

PERRY: But!

QUINTEN: First question! Tell me a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

PERRY: Why do you need to know that? You literally raised me.

QUINTEN: Answer the question!

PERRY: Fine! I grew up in a house with a patio and a cow. And I’m not talking about you dad!

QUINTEN: More detail please!

PERRY: Okay… I grew up in the white city of Oberon a continent on the planet Euphoria.

QUINTEN: Tone it down a little.

PERRY: Anything else?… When I was three my best friend Faith moved next door and when I was younger than that, I met the Princess, Zia. I was blest with the white crest of the wolf, the same as my father and his before him. Its white brand has been on my right wrist since before I could remember. I’ve had a pretty weird childhood being that my mum is the prophet of Kelton Whide. Oh, and that’s the name of the white city by the way. Uh, but I am fortunate! I have great friends like Dally and two sisters I’m very close with. I’m glad Teala came into my life when I was around seven. And I’m safe, under the floral. I’ve always been safe under the Kelton Guard and inside the farmland of the white city! Oh, and Baily, our servant makes pretty great hot chocolates!

QUINTEN: Good. Next question. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

PERRY: What does that have to do with—

QUINTEN: Stop whining!

PERRY: Uh, I guess. I—I shouldn’t really mention it. Especially in front of you. But, Dally. We’d play with that crappy footy his dad bought. You remember Peter, don’t you? Nice guy. Too bad he had to leave after using his powers. It was my fault. But he didn’t have to end up in that trunk, you know?

QUINTEN: Trunk? Perry, I’ve told you countless times. Peter left after breaking taboo using his powers when the beacon was not on.

PERRY: I know. It’s just, your stick was bloody that night… Oh, maybe I was just seeing things. I didn’t like that toy!

QUINTEN: Don’t you mention my staff! It’s a not a toy.

PERRY: Can we move on please?

QUINTEN: Of course… What do you do now?

PERRY: I go to school. I just started year 10. It’s good, my grades aren’t as bad as last year! I only use my powers every Ascension Day, during the ceremony. Lucky Tea gets to be Flower Carrier this year!

QUINTEN: Oh, I didn’t mention. I’m talking with Lord Kelton to get you up as Age Representative this year!

PERRY: You what?…

QUINTEN: We’ll talk about it at home. Can you elaborate on your powers?

PERRY: Dad you—I know, I know. Answer the question… Um I can teleport. Mum says I can walk through walls as well. Said I’ll lose my sense of feelings one day. Eh, funny lady, isn’t she? But, yeah. I can do the same as you, White Wolf!

Continue reading “Perry Caduca (of The Gifts Of Life, by Oliver Smuhar)”

Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)

Dear readers, tonight we print a psychiatric assessment of the two protagonists from a novel we loved. With their job entailing rescuing the world from other-dimensional horrors on a weekly basis, it’s no wonder they need regular psych evals.


Assessor: What’s your name?

Morag: You don’t know my name?

Assessor: You’ve been through a traumatic incident. We want to assess your mental state. Just give us some details — name, where you’re from — that sort of thing.

Morag: They do this to you, Rod?

Rod: Oh, aye. Every time I go toe to toe with an unspeakable horror from another dimension.

Morag: [huffs] Fine. Morag Murray. I’m from Inverness, Scotland. I moved down to Birmingham at the beginning of this week. A promotion of sorts.

Assessor: Of sorts?

Morag: There were some problems in the Edinburgh office. I pissed off the wrong god. You know how you can sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time?

Assessor: A social faux pas.

Morag: Exactly, except this one involved a shotgun and the face of a demi-god. Both barrels.

Assessor: But you now work in the Birmingham office?

Morag: Correct. Birmingham consular mission to the Venislarn. You’ve got a city full of demons and faceless terrors, all under the surface. We’re just here to keep them happy and tucked out of sight.

Assessor: How has your first week on the job been?

Morag: [considers the state of her clothes] Well, I’m covered head to toe in a thick layer of chocolate. I wasn’t expecting that when I started the week.

Rod: You fight with a god in a chocolate factory, there’s gonna be some chocolate, right?

Morag: I see you survived the night without a delicious chocolate coating.

Rod: One of the first things they taught us in the SAS: how to avoid getting covered in chocolate.

Assessor: Your first week…?

Morag: Let’s see. Is this some sort of test to see if a fight with Zildrohar Cqulu has given me concussion? Er… I pretty much hit the ground running this week. That’s one of my key strengths. I can adapt to new situations quickly.

Rod: You mean you rush in without thinking about things.

Morag: Hey. I’m impulsive. But that can be a good thing.

Rod: Oh, aye. If you hadn’t flung yourself in, we’d never have caught that Kervy Aldo character.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: Right. Kermit Ascot.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: As I said…

Assessor: Who is Kerfin Edsel?

Rod: Curtain Aswad.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal. A god. A little one. A godling.

Rod: A giant vampiric starfish. We chased him halfway across the city. He eats virgins’ hearts and was feeling peckish.

Continue reading “Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)”

Jordan Abbey (of Chaos Wolf, by Sheryl Hayes)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a literature major who – together with her moccha latte – got a bite from a love-sick werewolf. She is here to tell us about hostile alpha pack leaders and stiff-necked vampire elders, about their uneasy coexistence, and how one woman makes an epic mess of the status quo.


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

I grew up and still live in Rancho Robles. It’s a medium-sized city near the Santa Cruz mountains in California. Not as big as San Francisco, but not a small town either. It’s large enough to host a community college — go Fighting Acorns! There are a lot of oak trees, which is how the city got its name. I didn’t think it would be big enough to host both a conclave of vampires and a pack of werewolves.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child?

I still have a stuffed unicorn with a purple mane and a gold horn. Its body is more a gray than white, and there’s a few spots where the fuzzy fabric has matted up. Mom and Dad were a bit embarrassed that I would bring it with me everywhere I went. It was a gift from my grandmother, and I loved it. When I moved out to go to college, and then into Montgomery’s apartment, Uni was the first thing I packed, almost before I grabbed any clothes.

What do you do now?

My official title is Famulus to Montgomery Cooper. A famulus (usually) is  a human servant to a vampire. Exact duties vary from vampire to vampire, but mostly we deal with the daylight errands that can’t be delayed until after sunset, providing blood if a vampire cannot, or chooses not to to hunt, and help maintain that connection to humanity that allows them hide in plain sight. Which for me is a little tricky since I’m learning how to be a werewolf.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

My life-plan didn’t include being bitten by a werewolf.  And it didn’t include being rescued by a vampire.  Now, I’m trying to figure out my place in this new world.

Did I mention that I accidentally insulted the leader of the Black Oak Pack? Because of that, Alpha Shane has declared that unless I can shapeshift at will before the next full moon, he’s going to kill me and my rescuer Montgomery.  Elder Marcus, the leader of the Conclave of Rancho Robles, and Montgomery’s sire, has strong feelings about that.  Not so much about me, but he’d rather not lose another child to a werewolf’s fangs. If I don’t get in touch with my animal side, I’m going to start a war.

Oh, and Rhys, the werewolf who bit me?  He didn’t think that I was a meal.  He’s under the delusion that I’m his mate, even though he didn’t consult me in the matter. He’s killing anyone who he thinks is keeping me from him.  I’ve already lost two old friends and I’m sure my new friends are next on his list.

Continue reading “Jordan Abbey (of Chaos Wolf, by Sheryl Hayes)”

Simarovien Zulavi (of A Change of Rules – The Missing Shield series, by LL Thomsen)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the Knights Commander of the West and 2nd Sword of King Kaimar the 3rd of Ostravah. He’s here to tell us about a forgotten war, a world of nine realms, old betrayal, broken magic, new perils and a friendship worth dying for.


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

My family has retained their seat of power in Zanzier since before the Chaos War.  I am a noble. 

The only son of the ruling house, I was schooled as befit my standing to inherit the province mantle.  I will not bore you with the details.  My father had wealth and power – I knew this would be mine, though that day came sooner than expected. 

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

Memories… I recall how Old Town stank of poverty and filth even when I was a child – yet despite the destitution, rot and ignorant peasants, it still held a strange fascination.  Other memories are less favorable and yet they persist.  Like the river-stench of brackish saltwater that blankets much of the lower city even on a good day…

I suppose you could say early youth was neither good nor bad.  Yet it was better than the peasant nobles’ because of my birthright.  Toys, I don’t remember, but I do recall stealing my father’s dagger to go exploring in the dungeons beneath the two towers.  It’s was wet and dank even then, but back then the rats were still there.  It was following them that I learnt the secret of the underground warren and found the lake of fire and the cavern that I later used to hold the two Hyatt monsters that were lent to me by an ally.  Back then, I felt obliged to strive for perfection; there are things in my ancestry that scream to be set right but no one else seemingly willing to acknowledge this, I was driven.

And were your parents proud?

(Shrugs) My mother was a… disappointment.  My father was a fool: a slave to his flecking urges and his string of unsuitable women, meanwhile neglecting to guide my ‘worldly’ sister so that she all but forgot what was expected – as though we had no standards nor concerns for Zanzierian traditions.

I do not regret his demise – he had his time and squandered it.  I inherited young and made sure my sister did her duty.

Her duty?

Ah, I see. (Smirks with a touch of disapproval) Please tell me you are not one of those liberal Etruians!

Well, no matter.  I’d urge you to study more history and less of the modern manuscripts. New thoughts lead to immoral ideas, right from how to deal with criminals, to the ways we allow society to spiral out of control.  You are aware, surely, that we must now tolerate female soldiers, commanders, yes knights even? 

The fifteen provinces are united so I abide the general law, but Zanzier is not Etruia, and it’s certainly not the realm of Ostravah.  We adhere to values of a purer age.  Our Women represent the honor of our name and family, but in the home, not in leathers and armor on a battle field.  Any true-born Zanzierian woman should conduct herself in a manner that does not tarnish nor shame a house, and a lady of noble birth especially. My sister was under the impression that she might marry whomsoever she pleased.  It was not her fault, but my father’s.  I forgave her and she is happier now.  She has a great house, a new name and a husband learned in the traditions of Zanzier.  That is enough.

Continue reading “Simarovien Zulavi (of A Change of Rules – The Missing Shield series, by LL Thomsen)”

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)”

Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the chief’s daughter, a fierce warrior but now threatened by the prospect of a brother as heir. Before all that, though, she must overcome the odds threatening to drag her clan into inescapable darkness.


Lidan? Hello, Lidan? Excuse me, I wanted to ask you a few questions about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Wait, what? Who said that?

What are you doing behind that tree? I wouldn’t stand there if I were you. If the meat ants don’t get you, a snake will. Seriously, get out of there—just looking at you is giving me the shivers.

Now, what were you saying? Where did I grow up? Well, here—my clan’s range. We’re south of the Malapa. People in the north call them the Ice Towers, and they call our place the South Lands, but we don’t see much of them down here.

It’s a bit dry and dead this time of year. Cold as well, so you’re going to need more than that on once the sun goes down. Probably a good thing you’re not here in the wet season though. Rain for days, bugs bigger than your hands and heat that will choke the air from your throat. You’ll be right if you get inside the walls before dark, though. There are things in the shadows you won’t want to meet.

Ah, right. Noted. Maybe a lighter topic then. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I don’t… I don’t know that I did. I wanted a horse more than anything. My people ride. We range. It’s what we do, but my mam never wanted that for me. She always said it was too dangerous—certainly too dangerous for the daari’s first daughter and heir. She said it was beneath me, but I never saw it like that. Not ever.

Thing she never understood was that I can’t be my father’s heir if I don’t lead my people, and I can’t do that from the ground! The other clans won’t ever accept a woman as a clan leader if she can’t show them her strength in battle as well as her care for her people. But Mam got her way. It was her decision, according to the Law. But then things changed. For everyone…

What’s changed? Something tells me this isn’t a good thing.

The world outside the walls of Hummel used to be full of promise, of adventure just beyond my grasp, until they weren’t. We knew who our enemies were, and they were far off, chewing at the borders but never fierce enough to truly bite through. Until they weren’t. We used to trust our weapons to keep us safe. They made us strong, because there wasn’t anything stronger. We know that’s not true anymore.

I used to think my place in all of it was set too. That’s what Mam always said. If I did as I was told, I would have everything I’d ever wanted. That was a lie. She couldn’t control the world any more than she could turn the sun in the sky, or wave away a storm. By the ancestors, she’s tried! She’s still trying, and I don’t know if I can stop her. I don’t know if… I’m not sure it’s enough.

Continue reading “Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)”

Val Arques Caelan (of The 19th Bladesman, by S.J. Hartland)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a bladesman – a master swordsman. He’s here to tell us about a life of training young men bonded to the ancient gods to fight and die in a malign, centuries-old war against the inhuman followers of a fallen ghoul god.


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

They call me lord of the Mountains, lord of the grim, forbidding fortress of Vraymorg which stands as sentinel to the great gorge and the dead cities beyond. But the Lord of Vraymorg is just a name I took when a queen banished me to this dismal outpost of the kingdom of Telor.

In truth, I was born many centuries ago in the sun-drenched lands of the Isles. Once an Isles man, always an Isles man, they say. Though I can hardly remember who I was then, before my life, my position, my wife and son, were all stolen from me.

Now, I am a captive of miserable duty, a captive of my past. I cannot escape it, nor the shameful secret that festers like a wound within.

Did you have any cherished memories?

I grew up under the shadow of defeat, when Telor had been conquered by a sorcerer-king who took the name “Mazart,” or overlord. Even so, life was good. I wed a woman I had been betrothed to since birth. Odd though it sounds, I was content. Until my reputation as a bladesman reached the Mazart. He invited me to compete in the prestigious Contest of Swords. I was nineteen. My life, that life, ended at nineteen.

What do you do now?

My duty is to train young men chosen by the ancient gods to fight and die in a malign, centuries-old war against the inhuman followers of a fallen ghoul god. I can’t afford to care about these young warriors, especially Kaell, the 19th bladesman bonded to the gods. For love means loss.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

In the latest book, The Last Seer King, I’m a prisoner in the Icelands, outmatched in a dangerous game with a clever, but cold and ruthless sorceress. The only way I can get to Kaell is to reveal to her a secret that will destroy me. But I’m running out of time. With my unique blood, the rulers of the Icelands intend to auction me to the highest bidder.

Continue reading “Val Arques Caelan (of The 19th Bladesman, by S.J. Hartland)”

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)”

Chandrian Smythe (of Books & Bone, by Victoria Corva)

Dear readers, tonight we speak with an historian freshly returned from a frankly astounding field study. He is here to tell us a little about his findings and a little bit about himself. Some parts have been redacted for our safety.


We’ve read that you’ve achieved the station of Third Rank Historian at the Grand University at the young age of nineteen! Did you come from a family of scholars?

The youngest ever to achieve that rank, don’t forget! I’m not one to cry my own news, as they say, but I did make history by attaining such a high level of scholarship so young — even though my role is to study history!

[summarised for brevity: he goes on for some time about the difficulty of being so intelligent and underappreciated before we steer him back to the question.]

Ah, yes! I was just about to get to that. Though it may seem hard to believe, I wasn’t raised in a very scholarly home. As the third child of a lowly house seventh removed from the throne — we’re distantly descended from common knights, you see, though my mother likes me to keep that hushed up — I was faced with much hardship. Often excluded from events of import as my older sister or older sibling would get the invitations before I. Always the recipient of hand-me-down clothes, if you’ll believe it, so often the Antherian silk would be fraying at the seams! Always of the least import, and the Regent hardly knows who I am.

But! And I’m jolly proud of this — I turned my misfortune into an advantage. I threw myself into my education, though my tutors were barely adequate and had a reputation for serving merchant families, if you’ll believe it. It quickly became clear that I had a gift for research and the kind of passion for history that money can’t buy. So mother sent the Grand University a modest donation and within a few months I was accepted into the University on full scholarship!

I consider this a testament to the rewards of hard work and scholarly fervour — even the humblest among us can make history! When you think about all I’ve been through —

Moving on — did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Well, I suppose you’ll consider this twee, but when I was six I read about the bodies preserved in peat under the Elakkat marsh and I went out into the grounds with my little silver bucket and trowel to exhume a body myself.

Of course, I didn’t find anything — our grounds span a modest 260 acres and nobody of interest has ever been buried there — but my tutors were so enamoured of my behaviour that they implored my mother to have a sandpit dug for me.

They used to hide little dolls for me in there which I would have to dig up ever so carefully so as not to damage them. I like to think that’s where my passion for the history of burial rites first began.

[Interviewer’s Note: we were written by one Usther the Acolyte and threatened with black magic should we reveal Mr Smythe’s current whereabouts. Parts of the rest of the interview are therefore redacted for our own safety.]

Where have your studies taken you?

Why, very far indeed! It must be said that for years I wasn’t cleared for field work — jealousy is an ugly thing among scholars — but showing the same resolve and self-starting mindset that got me into the Grand University in the first place, I took matters into my own hands!

This took me all the way to [redacted] — and yes, it may be hard to believe that a secret community of [redacted] exists — on the bones of [redacted] no less! Truthfully, I hadn’t intended to leave it for some time, but when word reached me of your journalistic prowess, I simply had to meet you and have you tell my story.

Continue reading “Chandrian Smythe (of Books & Bone, by Victoria Corva)”

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