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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Fiction

Jaimie Stadler (of All the Beautiful Liars, by Sylvia Petter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man living in a unique kind of prison. Acting against the protagonist, he is here to tell us about his observations of life from his unique perspective.


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

I am Jaimie. I was born in the war years and went to school in Vienna. We lived in a posh district and when the war was over and Vienna cut up into four like the rest of Austria, my family was luckily in the British zone, so they tell me, but I was too young  back then to appreciate that so-called luck.

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

I was an only child and was very curious. I tried to make the family cat step  on a hot plate in the kitchen to see if its pads felt heat. They did. I copped it. Do you say cop if no cops were around? I used to catch flies and pull their wings off. I was not cruel, just curious. What is a fly anyway in the grand scheme of things? I used to  scribble and draw a lot. I studied law, but dropped out. It was not  for me, and so  I took off for Thailand for a few years, to learn English, among other things. That is where I started work for an English-speaking rag there. My English improved, but I could not get rid of my accent. Well, neither could Arnold Schwarzenegger, and look where he went.

What do you do now?

Now I service the Panopticon, a Limbo of sorts, or a last chance for some rare ones just passing through. I am the keeper of lost endings and most people get stuck with me in my archives forever. Many are old and boring. In a way, running this place is my punishment for having snooped into people’s lives as a tabloid hack, or so I am told. But sometimes it can get interesting.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, this one plays a different ballgame, is that not what you say? I, however, must say that my visitor is a bit different to the others who come here that I must admit I am quite happy to quickly “archive”. This one has a mind of her own. She even saw through my hologram, dammit. She answers back. And she drinks my brandy. OK, I do offer her a glass here and there. It cannot always be tea.

Continue reading “Jaimie Stadler (of All the Beautiful Liars, by Sylvia Petter)”

Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)

Dear readers, tonight we interview the half-brother of the protagonist Harald, from a series we visited before. Our guest is the heir to the throne, concerned about the future of his land and the choices of his brothers.


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

I was born in Engla-lond in the early years of my father’s reign, back when Cnute was consolidating his power, playing the sarding earls off each other, and swiving his new wife, Emma, my mother, the widow of Æthelred, the old Saxon king. My father was young then, more Viking chieftain than king. Cruel dastard then, same as now, but shrewd. I’d say my mother is an even match for him—clever, and just as ambitious. Emma got Cnute to promise that their offspring would inherit the throne, not his sons Sweyn and Harald—those stinking curs. So, they had my sister, Cunigard and me. They’re grooming her to marry the next Holy Roman Emperor and I am heir to the throne—a role I am more than willing, and well qualified to play.

So, my childhood was in Engla-lond until Father decides when I am eight years old, to send me to Danmark as future bloody king, under a council led by that nithing, Jarl Ulf. I was just a game piece on Cnutes’ game board, meant to rally the Danes so they’d defend against attacks from Nordvegr and Sverige. Didn’t quite work out that way. Jarl Ulf tried to get the Danish provinces to accept me as king outright, not under Cnute. Stupid Ulf. I think he was half elf-shot. Did nothing to push back the invaders from Scandinavia. My father had to sail from Engla-lond with a fleet. First thing Cnute did after establishing his hold on Nordvegr was kill Jarl Ulf and make it clear to me I was King of Danmark, within his northern empire.

I returned to Engla-lond whenever I was summoned and always chose to stay as long as I could. There are worse things than being young, a blessed gift to women, and heir to the throne. And there is always plenty to drink at my father’s court.

How are your relationships with your half-brothers?

Fine. I hardly see them. Sweyn’s a cruel arseling, but I know what he wants—a throne. I relate well to Sweyn. I understand him. As long as we both don’t claim the same throne, we’ll get along fine.

And Harald?

Harald has more chance of being named a saint than wear a crown. Has no stomach for ruling. And he’s an arrogant turd. He and that slut-wife of his, Selia. Harald says he has no use for the throne. Lying backstabber. We’ve had our run-ins. Beat each other half to death this one time. I was only accepting his wife’s offer to fill her where she’s empty. You know how you can tell some women are ready for you—the way they look at you? Guess it was an act, because she fought like a wild beast. Harald pulled me off her and we fought barehanded. I could have taken him, too, if our father hadn’t stopped us. There will come another time, when I’m ready.

Continue reading “Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)”

Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the child of a holocaust survivor. She is here to tell us about life in both the USA and Israel, and about how horrible things that should have been buried in the past refuse to stay dead.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who grew up in America. My identity became meshed into hers as I was deeply affected by her experiences, some of which are manifested in The Masada Faktor. Eventually I became Mother’s caregiver until her death.

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

Favorite toys? That would imply that I had fun as a child? Hmmm. I remember toy guns being my favorites to play with. I fought Nazis with my little brother in war games.

What do you do now?

I follow my gut looking for clues to a mystery that Mother left me with. A mystery with deadly consequences for Israel. I live with past, present, and future adventures that seem to control me in an odd way. I am a writer in the book.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The mystery of The Masada Faktor had taken me to Israel. The case was left for me after Mother’s death and not only is it a hard trail, certain personal issues have arisen that are forcing me to look inside myself. Was I really affected by Mother’s experiences in World War II? Why is it up to me to save Israel? What did I do to deserve this? Well, I am a Jewess and I have a responsibility to fulfill. So I accepted that and got on with it.

Continue reading “Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)”

Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a Roman nobleman, scion to the patrician Valerii Messallae family. Living in the times of the emperor Tiberius, he was privy to some of the most interesting events of the early Caesars, from a unique behind-the-scenes view. He’s here to tell us about his life and his times.


Tell us a little about your family and early life.

Gods! How much time have we got here?

I was born in Rome, where the family’s been a fixture practically ever since Romulus ploughed his first furrow eight hundred years back. Father Marcus Valerius Messalla Messalinus (yeah, all four of them; we Roman aristos don’t skimp when it comes to names), mother Vipsania (just the one name this time. Women have it easy). Paternal grandfather another Marcus Valerius Corvinus. That last is relevant. More about Grampa Marcus later.

Mother and Dad were different as chalk and cheese, which was one reason why they divorced around the time of my fourteenth birthday, just after the old Emperor Augustus popped his clogs. Became a god. Whatever. No coincidence there, mind, and not the only reason. As you might guess from her name, Mother was the daughter of Vipsanius Agrippa, the old guy’s erstwhile deputy and hoped-for successor, so contracted marriages at our end of the social scale being what they are it had been a pretty shrewd move originally on Dad’s part, politically speaking. And Dad was nothing if not political. Only it bombed. Agrippa pegged out not long afterwards, and by the time Augustus died (was promoted) where the succession – and political power – was concerned the only game in town was Tiberius, aka the Wart, son of his wife Livia by an earlier marriage (are you following all this? Questions later). No coincidence there, either, far from it. Believe me, I know; as things turned out, sussing out the details of that little bit of political engineering on the bitch’s part nearly had me in an urn before I hit twenty.

Anyway…

Okay, you know how things go for a kid with my background, from their mid-teens on. It’s pretty much standard, and mapped out from day one: a couple of years’ featherbedding with a legion so’s you’ll know, when the time comes, exactly how to beat the hell out of the poor buggers beyond the frontiers who are benighted enough to want to keep it that way, or stupid enough, if they’re inside them, to want out; followed by a strictly-regulated move up the political ladder ending in a consulship and the parking of your well-upholstered middle-aged bum on one of the benches in the senate and a lifelong place on the political gravy train. That, of course, was what Dad – being Dad – had planned for me originally. Only – equally of course, and fortunately – it didn’t work out that way. Thanks, primarily, to Grampa Marcus.

Oh, sure, he’d come up through the system himself. In spades. Unlike Dad, though, he was no political arse-licker: believe me – and again I know what I’m talking about here, having had personal experience of three of the buggers so far, plus Bitch Livia, who counts as an honorary fourth – it takes guts to tell a ruling emperor to take a hike. Which seemingly, on one memorable occasion, he did. Even as a know-nothing kid I had a lot of time for Grampa Marcus.

He had a lot of time for me, too, fortunately; surprisingly so, considering that, not to put too fine a point on it, I was an over-bred, snotty-nosed, spoilt brat, but there you are, that was Grampa Marcus for you. I can see now in retrospect (he died when I was eight) that we had a lot in common, character-wise, and he must’ve seen the same. Whatever his reasons were (although I have a sneaking suspicion they included a less-than-perfect liking for how Dad was turning out) he left me enough in his will – property and cash – to make me financially independent when I came of age. Which meant that when at fifteen I told Dad in no uncertain terms where he could stick his plans for my future the threat of being disinherited wasn’t something I needed to worry about.

Not that at fifteen I wasn’t still essentially an over-bred spoilt brat, mind (at least I’d got past the snotty-nosed stage). But then that’s par for the course: what upper-class Roman fifteen-year-old isn’t?

Enough about family. That side of it, anyway. And at least me and Dad made it up in the end, before he died, with allowances made on both sides. I’m really glad about that. You don’t want bad blood in a family, you really don’t.

So how did you get into sleuthing?

That was Perilla’s doing. My wife. Or she is now, at least, and has been for – gods! – the past twenty-five years. Her stepfather was Ovidius Naso, the poet exiled by Augustus and never pardoned. Grampa Marcus had been his principal patron, which meant that when Ovid died and Perilla wanted his bones brought back for burial she gave me the job of arranging it. Not Dad as his eldest son and head of the family, mark you; me. Which, it turned out, was my Uncle Cotta’s doing: elbow-in-the-ribs, nudge-nudge wink-wink stuff, which was typical Cotta. A nice enough guy in his opportunistic, duplicitous way, and he meant well, but the bugger almost got me killed.  Like I said, I was just an over-bred spoilt kid of nineteen at the time, party-party, smashed out of my skull for thirty days in the month. But that was a lady you couldn’t say no to – think Amazon minus the battle-axe but with added attitude – so I didn’t. And that was how it started.

She’s not as bad as she sounds, mind, Perilla. Or not really. Not when you get to know her.

Continue reading “Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)”

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

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

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


You are known as Gwyn the Welshman?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Sweyn, Harald’s older brother?

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

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

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

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

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

Lucia Atella (of Prelude to Fate, by Rosie Chapel)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a woman from a the far reaches in the provinces of the Roman Empire, from a time of relative peace. She is here to tell us about how her peaceful life as a weaver and healer suddenly changed 

Editor note: it’s always great to have authors come back here to introduce new characters and new worlds. You can meet Rosie’s previous protagonist – Hannah of Hannah’s Heirloom trilogy – here.


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

My name is Lucia, I grew up, and still live, in a small town called Emerita Augusta in Lusitania… that’s in Hispania, if you’re not sure. Most people have never heard of it. Hmmm… it’s a lovely town and is all I know; I have never travelled far beyond the walls. If you have coin, there is always plenty to do. There are numerous thermopolia and popinae – although the latter can get a bit rowdy, so you need to have a care – and an eclectic collection of shops. We are lucky to have a theatre; it is the most incredible venue where they have all manner of entertainment. I love the plays, they are wonderful, and some make you laugh until you fall off the seat. Oh, and the amphitheatre, although I would rather not talk about that if you don’t mind, it holds bad memories for me.

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

Before my father died, he took us out, occasionally, for a picnic by the Anas – that’s the river on the outskirts of town… well one of them. I was very young, I was only maybe seven summers when he died, but I remember him carrying me on his shoulders and we would sing all the way to the river. My mother tried to hush him… father could not hold a tune… but she still laughed and sang along with us, so I do not think she minded. Goodness, I had forgotten those days, thank you, if you had not asked the question, that would have been lost to memory.

What is this ‘toy’ of which you speak? I am sorry; the word is unfamiliar to me.

What do you do now?

I am unsure how it all happened, but I seem to be very busy. I weave cloth; usually simple pieces such as mats or wall hangings, but I also make wraps, and tunics and, now I have a bigger loom, I can even make togas or cloaks if people are prepared to wait a little while. I paint, usually decorative tiles and such like, and occasionally I am asked to do a portrait. Two or three times a week, more if an animal is injured or sick, I visit the bestiariorum, that’s where the animals used in gladiatorial games are housed. I… err… well… I suppose I am a healer of sorts. Continue reading “Lucia Atella (of Prelude to Fate, by Rosie Chapel)”

Nick Cisco (of Father Divine’s Bikes, by Steve Bassett)

38730511Dear readers, tonight with me is a police lieutenant from 1945 Newark, New Jersey. He’s here to tell us of the dark underbelly of a city that boomed during World War II but finds itself unable to cope with the peace that brings joblessness, despair and crime.


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

I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. The sole child of first generation Italian immigrants, Angelo and Angelica Cisco. My father was a stevedore working the Port Newark docks, having turned his back on the easy money offered by an Italian mafia that began to strangle the city.

Like most immigrants’ kids, I got to know the city’s streets, empty lots and back alleys very well. They were our playground.

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

I love the street sports, stickball and stoopball were my favorites. And they were cheap, we could all come up with the loose change needed for pink high-bouncers which were really the inner lining of tennis balls. You could find broom handles anywhere. I had a strong left arm and could really wing a bouncer off a stoop. I hardly ever lost a stoopball game.

What do you do now?

I’m a newly minted homicide detective moving over from the burglary detail during a shake-up of the police department by Mayor Vincent Murphy. I’m a cop, not by choice, but by circumstances including my marriage to Constance Margotta. This killed any chance to pursue the career I really wanted, art critic or curator. Continue reading “Nick Cisco (of Father Divine’s Bikes, by Steve Bassett)”

Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis (of Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, by Jennifer C Wilson)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the ghost of the trusted lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots. She is here to tell us of royal life in in sixteenth century Scotland.


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

Ah, Scotland. We were a mobile household, but that’s what life was like in sixteenth century Scotland. I was one of seven, so they were lively times. That’s the thing about a good castle; what’s designed to protect and defend in times of siege and attack is great fun for children, left unsupervised by busy and worried parents. We ran riot. You ask about a favourite toy, but really, I wasn’t that keen on playing with toys; I preferred to lose myself in my thoughts, or play with my brothers and sisters. We practiced our courtly behaviour, making sure we were ready to take our places in society. You grew up fast in those days, especially when your brother was stepfather to the King of Scotland; we were practically royalty.

What do you do now?

It’s ironic, really, now, to be the trusted lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, after what happened between her father and I. Happily, she believes that I never truly tried to kill him, and I was certainly never a witch. Queen Mary, she understands how times were, and is glad to have somebody by her side who can truly support her, with an empathy as to what she went through herself.

My days are largely my own, especially when the Queen is not in town. I don’t accompany her out of town, although I hope if she ever goes on a progress, that I would be able to attend her. When she is in town, I greet her each morning, we agree her itinerary for the day, and whether she needs any support from myself or Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, her right-hand-man these days. He’s such a good man; we make quite the team.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Her Grace Queen Mary’s latest visit. She comes every year, at least once, usually during August, so she can enjoy what the festival has to offer. This year has been, interesting. She cares about her court, truly, but this year, the problems have been closer to home, what with her father’s mood lowering so badly, and then, well, other matters. We have all had to pull together, the ghosts of the Royal Mile. But then, that’s what we are good at. Whether it’s consoling the poor lad down in the tunnels, or keeping Greyfriar’s Bobby out of trouble, we know our roles, and we carry them out. Even the Covenanters know their place, once they are reminded of it.

And don’t forget the haunting. There’s nothing like a good haunting to lift the mood around here. They make it easy for us, with all the ghost tours; we can have our pick of victims, either the guides or the guided, depending on how we feel. Continue reading “Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis (of Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, by Jennifer C Wilson)”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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