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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the ancient world. He is here to tell us about his life, from Thracian roots, a childhood in Rhodes, and a slavery in Egypt — as well as about temples, gods, and dark magic.


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

As best I remember, I grew up in a prosperous family on the island of Rhodes, site of the glorious Colossus of Helios. I say ‘as best I remember’, because my memories are fractured, and I am subject to spells of madness.

That is most unfortunate. How did this happen to you?

I fear I have only myself to blame.

My father was a merchant of Rhodes, but my mother hailed from Thrace, the land of witches. When I was a babe, I watched her with her handmaids performing magical rites. Later, when I was older, I would sneak from my bed on nights of the full moon and climb to the roof of the house, where I could spy on her ceremonies. It seems I learned more than was good for me.

How do you mean?

In the last memories I have of Rhodes, I was 19. Spring had come, the Festival of Dionysus. It was my favorite time of year; I played the lyre and was passionate about drama and song.

But that Dionysia was different. I used the witchcraft I had secretly learned from my mother to conjure the god, to help me win a singing contest. I also used his inspiration to compose satiric songs, to humiliate certain rivals—young men who had bullied me on many occasions. My strategy worked too well. The bullies were driven from the feast hall in shame. But the next morning they cornered me on the street and beat me nearly to death, smashing my head on the pavement.

What happened after that is unclear—painful fragments of memory. Eventually, I found myself in a slave yard in Egypt.

Where do you live now?

Now I am a scribe at the Temple of Ptah, in Memphis on the Nile. I translate documents from Egyptian to Greek, as required by King Ptolemy of Alexandria. I am also used as a seer by my master, the High Priest Harnouphis. Continue reading “Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)”

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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)”

Vladimir Taltos (of Jhereg series, by Steven Brust)

Steven Brust - Vlad Taltos (Jhereg) series covers

Dear readers, we are excited and proud to host tonight a character out of one of fantasy’s longest running series! He is a wizard, an assassin, a crime baron, and a foreigner. He climbed his way to the top against all odds, in a society controlled by a different race. We wanted to speak with him since we first read his books. Please welcome Vlad Taltos!


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

I grew up in South Adrilankha, the Easterner’s district. What was it like? It stank, that’s what it was like. You had the slaughterhouses on one side, dead fish smells from the other.  You could sometimes find a witch to help you out when you got sick.  Sometimes you couldn’t.  Then we moved across the River.  That stank too, only in different ways.  Not so much in the nose, except when you got punched there.  It stank because I was short and weaker than everyone else, and some of them didn’t like Easterners much.  You could always find a sorcerer to help you when you were sick, but you couldn’t afford to pay him.  It sucked, okay? Can we talk about something else?

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

My favorite toy was a lepip, which is a piece of iron, usually about as long as my arm from shoulder to wrist, with some leather wrapped around it to reduce bleeding.  My most cherished memory is using it on some asshole of the House of the Orca who was expecting me to just, I don’t know, stand there and get hit.  Those guys aren’t too bright.  But they make these great sounds when you smack them really hard in the kneecap.  Ever done it?  Try it.  If it goes well, come and see me, I might have some work for you.  If it doesn’t go well, that’s your problem.

What do you do now?

There are people trying to kill me.  I thwart them.  I also travel a lot.  Sometimes I meet bandits, highwaymen, you know?  When I do, I rob them.  It’s a living.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Adventure?  You call it an adventure?  I call it people trying to kill me.  Maybe that’s an adventure for you, but–okay, let me explain.  When there’s this vast criminal organization that hates you because you didn’t quite play by their rules, and they want to stick a weapon into you that destroys your soul, that’s not an adventure, that’s just scary.  So, anyway, I thought up a way to maybe get myself out of that uncomfortable situation.  See, I had a plan… Continue reading “Vladimir Taltos (of Jhereg series, by Steven Brust)”

Xander Portmanteau & Lyra Jones (of Cliche, by Allison Rose)

Dear readers, tonight with me are two characters that sprang out of their books to confront their authors. One, a handsome rogue, is the last chauvinist left in the feminist fantasy realm; the other is a space defender, struggling to be a strong female protagonist in books written by a pulp-fiction author.

They are here to tell us about their adventures.


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

Xander: My background is of little importance.

Lyra: *glares*

Xander: Oh, all right.

I was born in the village of Scrubbleypot, a three-day trek from the Landrian capital. My father was a knight in the old king’s royal guard, and died a warrior’s death on the battlefield, leaving behind his wife with child, a farm, and a cow. I was the child, and I had a miserable upbringing. My mother thought little of me because I reminded her of Father. I, in turn, think little of her.

Lyra: I was born on Terra in the year 5740. After years of rigorous training, I was inducted into the prestigious League of Space Defenders, a special force that protects the galaxy from alien threats.  In ’75, I and a team of seven other Space Huntsmen were dispatched to the Jerome Moon Outpost, in preparation of a future civilian colony.  Unfortunately, there was a … devastating incident on the base that left everyone but myself dead.  With our comms destroyed, I had no way to call home and report what had happened; instead, I’ve taken it on myself to identify the culprit and avenge my team.

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

Xander: A great warrior does not require such … intricacies…. Actually, we were too poor to buy toys, and I hadn’t a father to carve gewgaws and baubles from fallen branches as the other lads did. I never did learn to carve my own, but perhaps I shall when I meet a woman worthy of bearing my children.

My most cherished memories are those of solitude. When I’d finish milking the cow and letting it out to pasture, I would run to the untamed forests surrounding our land and listen to the birdsong. It is possible to lose track of time in there, for it is always dark beneath the canopy of trees. Thus ends the cherishable portion of any such memories, for Mother detested when the cow got out from being left unattended.

Lyra: My favorite toys growing up were my model starcruisers and VR headset.  We all got them as space cadets for training simulations, but I figured out how to add a variety of entertaining games to my system….

What do you do now?

Lyra: I may have no contact with the League of Space Defenders, but I’m still a Space Huntress through and through.  I’d dreamed since childhood of going to space, colonizing the moon, and expanding our access to the world as much as I can.  I just hope I’ll make it back to Terra with my findings someday.

Xander: At this time, I am my own master. After a brief juncture in the Landrian army, I took up service as a rogue mercenary.  I serve whomever I please, but unlike many, I am still a man of great honor.  And alas, my heart belongs the fair ruler of Landria, Lady Jen Mondegreen. Continue reading “Xander Portmanteau & Lyra Jones (of Cliche, by Allison Rose)”

Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an agent of the British crown, with a deceptively simple directive: end the magical potions crisis, by any means necessary. He’s here to tell us about how posing as a bodyguard and joining the beguiling potions expert on her continent-hopping expedition led to danger of both life and heart.


Ah, Ainsworth. Welcome. Please sit down.

Sir? It was my understanding that all reports were to be conducted in private. It appears we have an audience.

Indeed. Given the importance of this mission, Parliament has decreed that the information be made available to this carefully selected committee.

I see.

Now, please introduce yourself to these fine people.

Captain Henry Charles MacAlaster Ainsworth, intelligence officer, retired. My current title is that of Civilian Consultant to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. You may also know me as Lord Henry, youngest son of George Ainsworth, Marchese di Murlo. Not that my father’s Italian title puts us anywhere but on the fringes of British aristocracy. His money on the other hand… well, I’m certain you understand.

Tell us a bit more of your background. Your childhood? Your family?

I don’t see how this is especially relevant to my report.

*an awkward pause ensues*

Very well. I grew up traveling often between Italy and England for my father’s business dealings, and Scotland where my mother’s family lives. My father stopped traveling when I was a teenager, and my brothers are happy to remain in Italy growing grapes, but I have never stopped craving travel and adventure. I live in London now, but my occupation takes me all over the world.

Ah, yes. About this occupation of yours. What exactly is a “Civilian Consultant?”

You wish me to be blunt? I’m a spy. What I once did in the army, I now do as a direct agent of the Crown. I sneak into places where I’m not supposed to be to gather intelligence. I’m particularly good at drawing maps from memory and I steal things probably more often than necessary. My sister, Emma, calls it a “disgraceful profession,” but I find it rather suits me.

Continue reading “Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)”

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)”

Garfield Feldman (of Wolves In The Desert, by Timothy Bateson)

Dear readers, tonight we have a mid-week special column, to celebrate the Friday release of the next volume in the Shadows Over Seattle series.

With me is a Gunnery Sergeant from the US Marine Corps — the second character we interview from the series (the first was a lupine – a lycanthrope – which you can meet here).

He is here to tell us about his latest snatch-and-grab mission deep in enemy-held territory — and the surprising things he ran into during it.


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

I don’t really have many clear memories of the places I grew up in, because we moved around a lot.

My father was deployed all over the states, and sometimes even abroad. That meant relocating everytime he got new orders, and I’ll be honest, I hated it. But he carried so much pride in serving his country that I never questioned why he kept reenlisting at the end of each tour of duty.

The bases all looked alike to me as a kid, with only minor changes, but the stories my father told changed everything. He’d tell me about foreign places and the cultures of their people. Unfortunately there were so many stories he couldn’t tell, because he said there were secrets that should never be told.

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

Because I grew up around soldiers, there were guns around the house, and I begged for one of my own for months. I wanted to be like them so badly, and I’d use sticks in my games when I’d pretend to be one of them.

Sometimes my father would join me in these games, and he finally started to teach me how to handle real guns. He told my mom it was for my safety, and so that I’d learn to respect the danger they represented. Honestly though, I have a feeling he secretly hoped that I’d lose the taste for it after a while.

That never happened.

What do you do now?

I signed up for the Marines Officer Candidate School as soon as I was old enough to do so. It drove my mom crazy for weeks worrying about what would happen to me when I shipped out to Parris Island. She didn’t think I had the strength and willpower to get through boot camp, because I dropped out of college to enlist.

Thankfully, I got through with my brains intact, and a thirst to serve. I finally understood what had driven my father to keep reenlisting.

I’ve been in for just over ten years now, and the tensions in the middle-east have taken us to the edge of another world war. Continue reading “Garfield Feldman (of Wolves In The Desert, by Timothy Bateson)”

Alistair Doyle (of The Lost Tayamu, by Ben Cass)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a PE teacher from a small Midwestern town – or at least, that’s what he pretends to be. His past lies in a different, magical, land.

He is here to tell us about his relationship with Jen, and life between worlds.


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

I was born and raised in the Lamtu Valley region of Kiamada, in a fairly quiet part of the valley.  There are plenty of mountains and rivers to explore.  There weren’t a whole lot of other people living there, but I had my twin sister Kira to annoy…err…talk with.

When I joined the Tayamu, I mostly stayed on Bar Truga, the island home of the Tayamu.  THAT place is amazing!  The island is sentient.  Yes, I mean exactly what you think I mean.  Bar Truga is alive and conscious, and has complete dominion over itself.  It can do whatever it likes, even change the weather patterns anywhere on the island.  It knows what we need or want, often before even we ourselves know.  I look forward to going back there, especially when Elowyn sees it for the first time.  Knowing how curious she is, I suspect she will spend a lot of time exploring the island.

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

I didn’t really have any favorite toys, no.  My powers manifested at a fairly young age, so I spent a lot of time playing with Nature.  Most Tayamu get their powers a few years after puberty starts, but I got mine when I was five or six.  I spent a lot of time teaching myself what to do and how to use them, all without even knowing what I was.  If I wasn’t playing with Nature itself, I was out exploring the surrounding area.

As for cherished memories, I would say the visits from my Uncle Orlaf and Aunt Cara.  Cara was my mother’s sister, and the inspiration for my twin sister’s name.  Whenever they’d come visit, they would arrive early enough for Uncle Orlaf to bake muffins.  He used an old family recipe of his, and those things were absolutely delicious!  The smell always woke us up, and we knew it meant our aunt and uncle were there to visit.

What are you going to be doing in the immediate future?

At the moment, I’m focused on helping Jen recover her lost memories.  We need her to remember who she is.  I’m also going to rejoin the Tayamu and try to help free our land from that despotic tyrant.  After a very long time, the Uncrowned Queen of Kiamada has returned home.  The Tayamu have to spread the word, and make sure she is ready and willing to claim her rightful place.  I also have to train Elowyn in the use of her powers.  She’s already stronger than she should be, doing things she shouldn’t be able to yet. Continue reading “Alistair Doyle (of The Lost Tayamu, by Ben Cass)”

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