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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

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)”

Jactatio Dolor (of Add a Cup of Chaos, by Stephanie Barr)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a demon – a denizen of another realm. Rather than the devilish connotation you might have been led to believe, they are peace-seeking beings. He’s here to tell us about magic, cats, dragons, space aliens, and love.


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

Well, I was born on Mundus which would be a lot like Earth except the technology ran on magic and it was full of demons like me. Like most demons with a human parent, my mom kinda just dropped me and left me to my own devices. That was the norm before the Prudens started changing things, but my mom was old school. Or so I guess. Never met her.

But, when I was a kid–barely forty years old–my great great grandmother Hecate found me and told me we were going after  Prudens and her family to another plane, leaving this one to the war with the humans. I didn’t argue since Paul is Prudens’ grandson and my best friend. I half grew up at his house.  Now Orbis, the new plane, was empty and pretty primitive so even the kids had to work hard, try new magic, stuff like that. It’s still kind rural-feeling next to someplace on the Earth but it’s nice to know your neighbors and there’s no smog or anything since we snagged all the renewable ideas the Earth had been working on–no sense not learning from humans even if they’re pugnacious and prone to nuke first and ask questions later–which they did to us. But not the new plane, Orbis, because humans don’t know how to get there.

What’s it like? Well, we use magic sensitive crystalline materials for most things so we can shape buildings and stuff with magic pretty readily and still have something we can imbue with magic. Most of us have a hobby or skill we can use for barter so no one really wants for much.  Most of us grow stuff to eat or have a few animals for milk or meat–or both. It’s a pretty calm relaxed place to live–almost boring if it wasn’t for Beth coming and giving me a chance to show off.  Good thing I’m the best teleporter in the whole demon world so she had no choice but to take me along on her adventures.

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

I don’t remember much about the first decade or so. I was mostly trying not to get eaten by dragonets and unicorns and stuff. I mean, obviously I was a tough demon even as a baby, but young dragons can eat several times their weight in one sitting. My only chance was to try and talk them out of it. Fortunately, if you sweet talk a few female dragons, they’ll help look out for you so some rogue doesn’t decide you’re a snack.

Then Port and Paul stumbled on me, and I never had to worry about how I’d get my next meal or sleeping without a roof over my head. I think Port is the one who told Hecate who came to look after me, but I had to learn how to cook in self-defense. That woman makes a mean potion but her omelettes are twice as deadly.

I don’t remember favorite toys. I don’t think demons have toys like human children. We’re more about making things to suit our interests. You know, tinkering. Now I remember tinkering with lots of stuff that I was proud of, but, once you’ve got it, you kinda move on to the next one. Besides, I didn’t often make something that Dux couldn’t improve on. He’s the best at making cool gadgets especially in conjunction with Paul’s golems.

Good thing I was so damn good at porting or I might have gotten a complex.

As for cherished memories, hanging out with Paul, Dux and Stult, another friend who’s moved away when his mom did. They were a great bunch of fellows, always ready for adventure.  And, since I was the biggest and the oldest, I usually found some for us.

What do you do now?

We still make the odd gizmo, but I scored a sheaf of coordinates in the asteroid belt. Dux fixed up an inflatable station-like thing and a couple space suits. I port ‘em out there and they gather a couple of kings’ ransomes in heavy metals,  and then I port ‘em back. Metals like that are always in demand.

Might give it up now I’m a married man. Hecate knows Dux could port out without me, but I’d be worried someone would lose track of time or something and then they’d be stuck. I better keep helping them.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Now that was a doozy. The demon realm hadn’t been threatened since the human sniffed out Mundus.  And the aliens were canny. Didn’t come gunning for us directly–well, they couldn’t. Didn’t know where we were. So they went after the human world. After all, we’d saved them from the aliens once before, but they didn’t realize how adverse the demons would be to saving the humans. No full scale protection this time, bucko, not after what the humans pulled. For a bit, I thought even Roze and Beth couldn’t convince the demons to help at all–and there’s no way the humans could do it alone–when Beth pulled out the sacrifice of our own to save the humans the first time and damn near got the whole room crying.

Put her money where her mouth was, too, because, when I mentioned I thought I could port to the ship that had a beam that could kill everything on Earth in one blow, maybe sabotage it, she offered to go instead so the demons wouldn’t get on the alien radar.

That’s just hwo Beth rolls. No one goes into danger she won’t face. And she’ll face damn near anything. We went to the alien ship and she was Miss Intrepid. Even when we ran into a baby dragon–a very hungry one.

Continue reading “Jactatio Dolor (of Add a Cup of Chaos, by Stephanie Barr)”

Nathan (of War of Kings and Monsters, by Christopher Keene)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man who decided to act against the monsters from beyond encroaching on his world, and has embarked on a quest to restore the barrier – even as he’s accompanied by one of the monsters.


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

Although not born there, I was raised behind the walls of Terratheist castle. While the outside world was struggling to create a peace treaty with a recently usurped neighboring kingdom and battling each other with the monsters summoned from another realm, since the age of six, I was being taught to summon monsters so I could one day venture into that world myself.

Why did you choose the path you took?

The reason I was taken in and taught the ways of a caller is a mystery to me. Having never been exposed to the dangers outside the castle walls, my first glimpse of the surrounding horrors was when my Master of Pacts summoned a Melkai (the monsters from the other realm) and it attacked me, coming bare inches from killing me. I knew would need my own Melkai to protect me, so I summoned Taiba, my Melkai companion.

What do you do now?

I’m an apprentice caller. My ambition is to become an Advanced Summoner who can summon and command Melkai from the second circle of the Melkairen (the realm of the Melkai). After not summoning another Melkai after Taiba, I naively believed that forcing myself out into the world on the quest I’m sent on was the best way to get the experience to become one. However, the barrier to the Melkairen was weakening and the Melkai without pacts were now roaming the lands, so it probably wasn’t the smartest decision. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

So you know that the souls of the monsters (the Melkai) can be taken from their realm (the Melkairen) and put into objects (pact items) to be summoned from them at a callers behest, right? So, when the barrier between the Melkairen and out world weakens, the Melkai without a pact are freed to terrorize the land. Now only those who can summon Melkai like me can survive outside the castle walls, and a magical relic must be found to reseal the barrier. I have one half of this relic, so naturally I have to find other half before the barrier breaks entirely.

Continue reading “Nathan (of War of Kings and Monsters, by Christopher Keene)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mage, one of those defending the realm. He’s here to tell us about his life, and about his recent role in solving magical murders.


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

I grew up in Kalanon but not like it is now.  We’re talking four hundred years ago so a lot has changed.  The gold mines at Sandilar hadn’t been found yet.  Obviously Valda was still the capital city and not much of one at that.  People today don’t get how much effort was put into building this country.  They know about the war but ask them about the years before that and they know nothing. 

I know I have a bit of a reputation as a grumpy old man but, well, appearances aside I AM old.  And not always entirely patient when it comes to fools.  There’s a tiredness that comes with that, no matter how much power you have.

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

Toys weren’t really a part of my childhood.  You have to understand what’s necessary for someone to become a mage.  It’s not like wanting to be a baker or a soldier when you grow up.  The dedication required is…relentless. Magic has a price and that price is sacrifice.  I prefer not to dwell on it.  Nobody truly understands anyway.

What do you do now?

I’m the magus of Kalanon.  I’ve done more to defend this country than anyone – both during the war and before it.  These days I’ve been tasked to help Sir Brannon Kesh solve a series of unusual and magical crimes.  I suppose I’m a consultant and a guide for him.  A soldier grunt can’t be expected to know about the true mysteries of the world so he needs my guidance.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The Djin shamans are a dangerous lot who work with elementals and death magic.  So when a member of the royal family is murdered in what looks like a Djin ritual…well, it’s either them or the Nilarians, in my view and both of those options are bad!

Continue reading “Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)”

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