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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Fiction

Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a character out of Jane Austen’s novels, who found that life continues beyond her original appearance. She is here to tell us about love and murder during the Regency.


Well, Miss Bennet, you have had an interesting little adventure. As magistrate in these parts, I need to gather a bit more information to write my report. It is not every day that a young woman of your tender years solves a mystery like this, and the murder of a clergyman as well. We were all quite shocked. I have a few questions, if you do not mind. First, I need to know a bit about you. Your home, for example. 

Thank you, sir. Of course I will answer anything you need. My home is a small estate called Longbourn, in Hertfordshire. It has a small village, but the closest town of any size is Meryton, a mile yonder. I suppose it is not so different from many other market towns, and we have a good selection of shops and necessary provisions, as well as a fine set of assembly rooms. We lack for little, and in this modern age (for it is 1811, of course), we can travel to London in the course of half a day.

Your home sounds not out of the usual, but there must be something that has formed you into the person you are. What of your childhood? What has shaped you to be able to solve these horrid crimes?

I cannot imagine myself anything particularly special. Indeed, I grew up thinking myself not special at all. I am the middle of five daughters, after all. I am not pretty like my two older sisters, nor am I spirited and outgoing like the younger two. I would rather read then attend parties, and I have little interest in ribbons and lace or flirting with the officers from the milia regiment. I quite often feel rather invisible!

As a child, I retreated into the comforting words of scripture and sermons. They helped me make sense of the world and shaped my sense of morality. A young woman’s behaviour reflects not only on her, but on all her relations, and must be well regulated.

I also sought refuge in the pianoforte. I begged Papa to allow me to learn, and I had a great desire to become proficient. Perhaps, if I could play the most difficult pieces, people would pay attention to me and laud me.

I know not whether these shaped me, but perhaps they gave me the discipline to examine the clues I found so as to solve the mystery of Mr. Collins’ murder.

What do you propose to do now? Surely solving murders is not an appropriate activity for a gentlewoman of your tender years. Will you return to playing the pianoforte?

Oh no, sir! I can hardly credit it. It was a grand adventure, but you are correct. I am expected to act within my station, and with all propriety.

And yet I find the whole affair was stimulating. I should never wish to see such violent death again, nor do I rejoice in the cause of the investigation, but I have never felt so useful before in my life. I have never felt so needed, so important, so alive. I know I should be pleased to have this experience to remember in the years to come, and yet a part of me hopes that it might not be the last time I can put my meagre skills to work for so useful a purpose.

Very good. I shall make notes of all of this. Now, on to the crux of this interview. Here I must make good notes for my report. What can you tell us about these terrible events?

Oh, sir, I shudder even now to think of it. It started, as you know, when my cousin Mr. Collins was discovered dead in a field near Longbourn. He had been killed with a knife, and that knife turned out to belong to my sister Elizabeth. She had been out on the day Mr. Collins died, and she returned home injured and covered in blood. This, when seen with the evidence of the knife, brought her to the attention of the local authorities, who came to charge her with the death.

Of course, I could not let that happen! Elizabeth could never kill anybody. I knew I had to do whatever I could to save my dear sister. Then there were the missing candlesticks and the lost maid, and I found myself in the middle of a great mystery that needed solving.

Continue reading “Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)”

Isabella Brown (of The Sentinel, by Jacqueline Hodder)

Dear readers, tonight we witness something a little different. The protagonist of the novel, Miss Devine, a 19th century governess for small children, is interviewing one of her new charges.


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

Well, I don’t rightly remember England as such. Da brought us out to Australia when I was no higher than Grace is now but I do remember the sea. Oh, Miss Devine, how much that sea threw its cold hard hands around our ship and how the wind wailed! I asked Ma what she thought the wind was saying to me but she shut me up with a knock and told me to take little Robbie down below. She was so scared the sea folk would steal her boy away. I got scared watching the way her eyes lit on him like the sea folk were going to steal him away right then, right out of her hands and she’d have no cause to hold on tight, having lost most of her feelings in the bitter chill.

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

There’s always been too many children for us to have toys, Miss Devine, but we made do. I remember a tree that grew out of the hard ground near the docks in Hobart. Ma used to let me climb it when Da’s boat was due and ‘cause I spent so much time in that tree, I got to know it’s branches and it’s colours and it was sort of like a living thing to me. Now, don’t look at me like that, Miss Devine. I know you think I take a fancy to things that aren’t always what you can see with your eyes but you don’t know what’s out there. I swear that tree breathed. In summer I watched it shed its bark like it was growing through its skin. I picked up the brown curling back and put it near my other collections, somewhere near the house so Da don’t find it when he’s had a lick too much to drink and think it’s rubbish.

What do you do now?

What a funny question, Miss Devine! You know what I do now. Nothing’s the same since we all came to the lighthouse together, you know that. I found something, something I can do. Like, when Mr Johannsson asks me to do the weather observation in the morning, and I know how to judge the swell height and the size and shape of the waves and the names of the clouds that sweep around that piece of land over there – see, Miss Devine, that rocky ledge where the blue sea breaks? The clouds get caught on the trees sometimes and their underneath hangs down, they remind me of Grace’s skirts when she’s been running in the sharp bushes after Roger, and Ma growls at her because she’s ruining more clothes we don’t have. Anyway, I love helping Mr Johannsson and I love it here at The Sentinel.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Oh, there’s been so many, Miss Devine! How about that time when the Madeleine almost foundered and all those poor souls nearly lost their lives? Or the time when the storms hit and we didn’t see the sun for days and Da got so mad with me for helping Mr Johannsson? I thought we were lost then, Miss Devine. But Mr Johannsson, he always comes through for us, don’t he? I wish Da didn’t make me stop seeing him but Mrs Dawson, I know you don’ t trust her, but she’s kind to me and she said she’d talk to Da about me going back to help Mr Johannsson in the weather room.

Continue reading “Isabella Brown (of The Sentinel, by Jacqueline Hodder)”

Jamuqa (of the Amgalant series, by Bryn Hammond)

Dear readers, tonight we present you with a Mongol chief from the armies of Temujin (whom you might know as Genghis Khan). We witness the chief being questioned by Irle Khan — the king of ghosts.


A deep voice in the gloom. What creature are you?

Jamuqa saw nothing. Nothing was what he had expected. “I’m a Mongol,” he said aloud. “Despite everything. A dead one.” He thought about that. “Dead and proud. Who are you? Irle Khan?”

If you think I am Irle Khan, said the voice, how do you imagine him?

“Oh, as the nursery rhyme tells me.

Throned on black beaver pelts thou suppest, Irle Khan;
The breastbone of a corpse serves thee for platter,
Thy cutlery shriveled fingers, sharpened nails, from a tomb.

Thy great hips girt with thine sword in verdigris,
In iron scales, in ancient braid and epaulet, thou comest stalking,
Thou stretchest forth thy hand to our heroes, to our steeds.

Irle Khan, like a black coal thy countenance glitters,
Like tides in the ocean wave thy waxy black tresses:
Mighty, mighty art thou, lovely art thou, Irle Khan.

Flattery,” said Jamuqa, “obviously, to avert the King of the Dead. But by the end, you were lovely to me.”

My questions begin at the beginning. Answer them, Jamuqa Chief of Jajirat, to see my face.

“Fantastic.”

Exercise your faculties, after your delivery to me. Call up a cherished memory from your childhood. A toy you were attached to?

“If you’re Irle Khan you know I didn’t have a childhood. A toy? My toys were half-sized weapons and my games were soldier’s drill.”

What about that game of knucklebones once on the Tola River’s ice?

“I see. You know the answers already. You mean when I met Temujin.”

Is he the only early memory you like to think of? Talk to me, Jamuqa Chief of Jajirat. I have a list of questions and we go by the rules down here.

“Yes, you have a reputation for inflexibility, but then I was known as a martinet myself. I’ve always been curious to meet you, Irle Khan. I’ll answer your questions.

I grew up in hard years for the Mongols, and my tribe had them hardest. Except for Temujin’s, who lost his tribe. We were both eight years old when I challenged him to knucklebones that day on the frozen Tola. Same day, I took him to see my tree half-burnt by lightning and within the week, we mixed the holy ash in blood out of our thumbs, and drank the drink that made us andas.”

Did you keep that oath of blood brotherhood, the both of you?

“With you to punish oath-renegers? An oath was never so bent and battered as that one between Temujin and me. Yet on the other hand, no oath held so true. You smell out a whiff of a lie, Irle Khan, and you’ll eat a corpse like me for fibs, and the spirit too. Now I challenge you.” He fell silent.

After a moment’s wait the voice went on to its next question. No lie detected, then.

Continue reading “Jamuqa (of the Amgalant series, by Bryn Hammond)”

Anna Di Angelo (of Trillium, by Margaret Lindsay Holton)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a matriarch of a wine-making family from Canada. She is here to tell us about the 250-year history of three families.


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

Hello. My name is Anna Di Angelo and I am in my 80th year now. I am the only daughter of the late Domi and Gloria Di Angelo. I still live in the same 1920s family bungalow near the massive century-old Hartford peach and fruit farm on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.  My grandfather, brothers and nephews have all worked there as farm labourers. The Hartford family have been very good to our family, the Di Angelos, over the generations. Some may think it’s an Old World feudal type of arrangement, but I know better. Without the Hartford’s help, our family would never have rooted and settled here. ….  I cannot read or write so I am sharing these thoughts through dictation, helped by my older brother, Gregorio. … Greg knows that I love plants. I was never allowed to work on the Hartford Farm because, as I was told back then, I was a girl.  People also said, back then, that I was simple or ‘backwards’. Well, yes, I am a girl, but I am not simple. I have just never cared for most nonsense that people think important. I know, as example, that healthy plants in a healthy garden are very important, more important that a shiny new car, or new clothes. I know that healthy growing plants gives us life. Healthy plants only thrive with the right balance of soil, sunshine and water. For most of my life, I have been quite content to tinker in our family’s back garden and grow our large growing family’s vegetables. Over the years, I’ve often helped other local villagers care for their plants and gardens too. They would bring me their sick and dying plants to mend and I would tend to them until they were better. I did make a little bit of pocket change doing that, but mostly people would thank me with a fresh cutting or a new root for my growing garden  … I especially love grapes and have worked very hard at developing a sturdy strain that survives the cold winters of Ontario. They grow all over the trellis in the back garden now.  They grow up the walls and surround the windows too … My vine has even been incorporated into the Hartford estate. Greg had suggested to Mr. Hartford that, if done properly, they could grow my hardy grape to make icewine.  That was the only time I was allowed on the Hartford farm. They needed me to watch over and prune those young shoots, to coax them to give their luscious fall fruit. Greg, my older brother, watched over me, while I watched over that maturing vineyard. Then, a few years after that, the tending was taken over by Greg’s boys, Tony, Charlie – and my bastard boy, Johnny.

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

When Johnny was a baby, Uncle Joe hand-carved a little billy-goat for him out of driftwood. I painted it. When Greg came back from the war, the family believed that I, as a teenager, couldn’t look after Johnny properly. It was decided that Johnny would move over to their house and grow up as the older brother of Greg and Angela’s two sons, Tony and Charlie. I didn’t mind. They were just over the backyard fence. The gate was always open and all the young boys would come over to see their grandparents, and me.

I remember when Charlie first got a job working at the Whistleman Winery in the 1970s: he started to stay in the back bedroom, my parents’ old room, because his hours were so unpredictable. I didn’t mind that either.  I would make up food parcels for him to take to the fields and made sure his clothes were clean, just like I used to do for my brothers, Greg and Attilio, when we were younger. Poor Attilio was killed during the war. Greg never really got over that huge family loss. He always believed it was his fault that Atti died. I doubt that, because Greg has always been a good son, brother and father to his own boys.

Personally, I think war is a horrible and unnatural human disease that kills and maims virile young men. It destroys the living. It destroys Life. What good gardener could possibly approve of that?

What do you do now?

Well, I’m old now. 80 plus. Officially, I am the matriarch of the still growing Di Angelo family, even though I never married. Johnny, my son, did grow strong and healthy in my belly, after I was raped.

I was fifteen at the time, walking home with my wheelbarrow along the lakeshore path, when that unknown man approached me. At first, he was kind, funny and friendly, but then he suddenly grabbed me around my waist and threw me down on the ground. The wheelbarrow tipped over.

When my monthly bleeds stopped, I told my mother I thought I was with child. Turns out I was. There was a lot of confusion, upset and anger at that time. But what could be done? I was pregnant in a Catholic family and the man was unknown.

Continue reading “Anna Di Angelo (of Trillium, by Margaret Lindsay Holton)”

Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a deaf art student, who was dragged into a trail of murder, revenge and vengeance spanning centuries and countries.


What was it like living in London, then moving to Spain with your Aunt and Uncle?

For some reason, I don’t remember much about living in London. Snippets of events pop up here and there, they just don’t seem real. I remember our house in London. It always felt so cold, impersonal. I felt I had to tip toe around everywhere.

My father had inherited the house from some long lost relative. I think a part of me blocks out a lot of my earlier childhood.

It felt so different when I moved to Spain when I was 10. My aunt had made sure to make her house a home. Everything in their house felt like it had meaning. My bedroom actually felt like a sanctuary, instead of some place just to sleep in.

I missed my mother; however, for the first time, I felt safe, I felt part of a family.

What is your most cherished memory, and how does the bad memory of your father haunt the good ones?

Going to the Art museum with my mum is one of my most cherished moments, I guess one of the only times I can clearly remember from back then.

My nightmares always involve that museum, and would rapidly take me to the night the car crashed. In my nightmare, I clearly remember hearing my mum call for me, and then I see my body falling down the stairs, my father watching from above…

I don’t know if my nightmares cloud my actual memories, I struggle to picture what happened.

Yelling, threats, my fear of my father all felt so real at the time. When I wake, I just don’t know what is real, and what is imagined… Except that Art Museum.

This is a pretty personal question, how does being deaf affect what you are doing now?

Being deaf has both advantages and disadvantages. I don’t hear if someone is behind me, I sense it, I guess. When I was younger, I was terrified something bad would happen, I couldn’t ‘hear’ it coming.

So, I guess I fine-tuned my other senses. Trained myself to sense a change in the way the air flowed around me when someone was close.

The way nature and objects moved, birds suddenly scattering when something or someone disturbs it.

The smell of cologne or perfume, a hint of curry, tobacco or coffee.

Smelling, tasting, seeing small disruptions to create a more detailed picture around me. Learning to understand how to interpret those small changes.

Now, I use that to watch people. Watch how their lips move when they talk, how their feet are positioned, the way they hold their hands, small ticks that indicate to me they are holding back.

I can’t hear the tone of voice, I can’t hear if they’re angry or sad. Instead, I watch their face, learn the intricacies of their expressions.

That gives me the confidence. I don’t have to rely on others, that’s important to me.

Which is why, I guess, I love Art. I was studying Art History at Seville University, taking after my mum, in some ways. The picture holds so much depth; we only need to understand what we are seeing. Like body language, art has many interpretations to one single image; you just need to understand the workings behind it.

Continue reading “Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)”

Colin (of Punk Novelette, by Nick Gerrard)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the seventies, here to tell us about growing up and the ethos of Punk.


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

I grew up in the inner city of Birmingham UK, a grim industrial city. In the early seventies working class people were moved out of the city to smaller industrial towns with new homes. We hated these towns, as there was nothing to do but drink and fight. At least the city had football teams, and with the multi-cultural community there was great food and good music. The towns had nothing but factories, pubs and trouble.

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

Not really, my favourite things as a child was spending time with my Granddad in his garage; a den of interesting knick knacks. Going to the football games and on camping trips.

What do you do now?

I’m still in Portugal, still trying to stay off the drink. And writing books and travelling, doing the stuff I love. And most of all spending time with my son…we go to the footy together and hang out.

Continue reading “Colin (of Punk Novelette, by Nick Gerrard)”

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)”

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