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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

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)”

Benjamin Salazar, Esq. (of Monster City, by Kevin Wright)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an interview held at a coffee shop with a homeless, disbarred lawyer, living on the streets of a city filled with monsters. Here’s here to tell us about the problems he faces, from drugs to werewolves.


-I’m here with Benjamin Salazar, Esq.

Mister Salazar, could you please tell us a little about where you grew up. Paint a picture. What was it like there?

Well. I grew up in the old mill city of Colton Falls, Massachusetts during the 1960’s, and what I erroneously believed, at the time, was the Golden Age of recreational drug abuse.

Little did I know my childhood experimentation with heroin and horse tranquilizers would pale in comparison to the shit the kids are pushing up their arms today.

-Ah…?

I know, I know. You see it, too. Jesus.

These kids today. Am I right?

Practically have drugs handed to them. Have everything handed to them. Don’t even have to work for it, that’s the problem. Have it prescribed by their doc or delivered by some kid named Tad who drives an Acura and lives in an old Victorian on Main Street in uptown USA.

The good shit, too. The hard shit. Synthetics straight out of China. Fentanyl. Carfentanyl. Pure. Uncut.

Man oh man…

And when they inevitably OD?

Jesus, everyone’s packing Narcan these days. Everyone. They’re literally giving it away. (Salazar digs into his briefcase and slaps a fistful of blister packs of Narcan on the table.)

See…?

But me? My day?

I had to trudge uphill through sleet and rain to score my overdose. Both ways. Into rough neighborhoods. Lawrence. Lowell. Downtown Colton Falls.

Black kids beat me up. Hispanic. White. Vietnamese. Everyone.

Jesus, even Jewish kids beat me up. My own people. And do you know how many Jews live in the Merrimack Valley?

-Uh … no. (The waitress brings us our coffees.)

About five. Really. Counting me. And they all beat me up.

Every. Single. One.

I mean, they’d take turns. Crazy, right? And one of them was my first cousin.

And … she was a girl.

-Okay, that’s … kind of sad, I guess. Maybe we should just move on. I notice you have esquire appended to your name.

Appended—?!

 Just what the hell are you getting at? (Salazar rips his glasses off.)

-It means ‘attached.’ I think.

Oh. Well. (He fixes his tie and sits back down.) Sorry about that.

Yeah. Yeah. I used to be a lawyer. A trial lawyer. Damn good one, too. That’s why I had the ‘esquire,’ ahem, appended … to my name.

Now though? I just keep it there cause I’m used to it and, truth be told, I’m a bit of a douche bag.

-A what? Oh. Never mind. Uh … so you retired from practicing law?

Retired? With the fat 401k and vacation home in the Berkshires? (Salazar takes a sip of coffee, waves a hand.)

Naw. I wish.

I was disbarred, y’see?

It’s that same old story. Perjury. Kickbacks. Abusing power. Clients. Drugs. Attempted murder.

-Wow. What a … a colorful career.

Career? Hell no, that was just my first trial.

During the opening statements.

Man, I’d gobbled down a fist full of magic mushrooms this dirty old hippy traded me for a ’63 Impala. I thought my hair was on fire!

Continue reading “Benjamin Salazar, Esq. (of Monster City, by Kevin Wright)”

Fergus of Weirdell (of A Ritual of Bone, by Lee C Conley)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a support-cast character, who seems to have taken the place of the scheduled protagonist!

He’s here to tell us about his world, where forgotten Dead Sagas talk about the rise of the dead and the coming of great evil.


You are not quite the person I was expecting.

‘Not what you were expecting, eh? Expecting Arnulf, or the famous Bjorn perhaps? I read some of what that scholar wrote. True, there are others who play the bigger part in his Saga. That scholar… Conley, what does he know anyway? If you ask me, he wrote about the wrong man for our part in it all. So I’m here. I am Fergus, lord of Weirdell. You’re best off speaking to me. I can’t say I know some of the others he wrote of, but Arnulf, his man Hafgan, the lot of them now… a bunch of grim, stoic bastards – You’d get better conversation out of that old hound of his. Ha! If you want the real story, sit, listen to Fergus. We’ll have a drink and I’ll tell ya true.’

Okay, fine. If you don’t mind I’ll start at the beginning. So, Lord Fergus, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up. What was it like there?

‘Where did I grow up? Well, you must know who I am? No. Ha! Eymsford, lad. In my father’s halls at Eymsford. What! You’ve not heard of Eymsford? New to these shores, eh? Well, Eymsford is the seat of the high lord in the Old Lands of Arnar – my father, Lord Angus – he answers only to the king. So, Eymsford, a great place, and very old. A place of warriors. It was we who held the borders in the wars of forging, we who bore the brunt of old Cydor so our brothers could forge a new realm. It’s all in the old Sagas, you should hear it sometime.’

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

‘Do whores count? Ha! Aye, I remember when I was a lad. With my father being the man he is, I had a good childhood, better than most. I remember my first time on his ship, the spray and wind battering my face. I remember the feasts, the melees, basking in the valour and renown of some of Arnar’s finest warriors – it was a good way to learn honour. My most cherished possession though… I remember my first sword, the real thing, the steel, you never forget. But I always loved my first wooden sword. The old bastard had us training from the cradle with the Master-at-Arms. It’s how I met Arnulf in fact. We’ve been as close as brothers since we were young. Training hard with him and the other noble lads, good times, bashing up that sour bastard.’

What do you do now?

‘Well, now I’m the lord of Weirdell. I am lord and law-giver of the town, one of my father’s bannermen, perhaps one day I’ll take my seat in his stead.’

What can you tell us about your part in this Dead Saga I’ve been hearing about?

‘Well, let me tell you this. Times have grown dark of late. It’s grim news whenever you hear it. So you want to know about the passes – I take it you wouldn’t be asking if you hadn’t heard rumour of the deeds written in the Saga. For our part, it’s true, lad. It’s all true. I saw it with my own eyes.’

Continue reading “Fergus of Weirdell (of A Ritual of Bone, by Lee C Conley)”

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