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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a hogan (a traditional Navajo dwelling) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. We’re talking to a previously unemployed, pill-popping twenty-one year old who suffered from nightmares and PTSD, whose quest to sort out her life leads her to ancient conflict between the Illuminati and a Luminarian sect with origins to Atlantis.


It sounds as though your childhood was pretty messed up. If it’s not too painful, can you tell us about that?

Up until I was ten, things were pretty normal, at least in so far as a little kid can figure out what normal is. After the cave incident–that happened when I was ten–everything went downhill. My parents blamed my great aunt, each other, and me for what happened. I suffered from terrible anxiety–the doctors called it PTSD. I was put on endless meds and began popping pills like candy. Then my baby brother died in a car crash when my mother was driving me to a psychiatrist appointment, and that caused a whole other round of blame. I really wasn’t close to my parents and only realized later in life that my great aunt, Ooljee, was the only adult I felt comfortable with. I’ve pretty much been on my own since age eighteen and I was just barely getting by. It’s only since I went back to the cave and started my Circle training that everything began to fit into place.

What do you mean, ‘fit into place’?

I returned to this Navajo reservation to ‘confront my demons’ as my psychiatrist recommended, and I went back to the cave. That’s where the opening of my first chakra was supposed to happen when I was ten; that initiation was to start my Candelaria training. When it finally happened at age twenty-one, that’s when I began to embrace my destiny and stopped running away from my life. Things began to fall into place, and as my other chakras were opened, I became progressively more balanced.

What are you up to now?

That’s a good question. Even though I’ve completed my Circle training and am a fully realized Candelaria, I feel like a warrior without a weapon. This great War of the Two Serpents isn’t over. Sure, me and Bryson may have won a little skirmish, but the big plans to establish a New World Order haven’t changed. I should say presumably haven’t changed because we really don’t know how the Illuminati are scheming to accomplish that. So, at this point, I don’t know how to use my gifts, there’s no one to ask, and we don’t know how to fight the bad guys. The good news is that I feel great and genius-boy Bryson will figure out something.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I got to travel to India, Australia, Greece, Egypt, Mexico and Peru on my journey to open all my chakras. I learned things about myself along the way and I managed not to get killed. That’s not to say Li didn’t try. Still, he does have my DNA and he’s got the resources and know-how to misuse that. I also realize that Ooljee must have carried a great burden, feeling responsible for all the problems she caused in my life, but she was just doing what she thought best. It’s funny how your opinion of people can change once you can ‘walk a mile in their moccasins’–that’s a Native American expression Ooljee used to say.

Continue reading “Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do now?

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

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

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

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

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

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

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

Splice (of SPLICE: HIT BIT TECHNOLOGY, by Bill McCormick)

Dear readers, tonight with us is  a criminal mastermind with unlimited resources, cunning, and guile. He’s here to tell us about being a supervillain and cyber-terrorist.


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

I was beaten and abandoned in Omaha when I was ten. My dad, good Christian that he was, gave me fifty bucks before leaving me on a deserted highway in the rain. Omaha wasn’t bad. Nobody paid any attention to a little black kid. The food was boring, but I wouldn’t realize that for several years. Plus, thanks to the changing economy they weren’t prepared for, there were plenty of empty spaces for me to live in. So I had shelter at all times. Even snagged wi-fi for a bit.

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

Toys were never a thing for me. Other kids had them, but my family needed me to do other stuff. Mostly I had to hide the money my mom made turning tricks so the cops couldn’t get it. But, one fun memory, it was so cool when Jimmy Pruitt’s mom posed naked for the cover of a mixtape. Even though you couldn’t see her face we all knew her neck tattoo. Oh, and her cookies. She made amazing cookies. Also, when the churches had fairs in the summer, my mom would turn tricks behind the porta-potties, so that freed me up to ride the rides. My favorite was the Tilt-A-Whirl. I looked forward to summers just for that.

What do you do now?

Well, according to various law enforcement agencies, I’m a supervillain. But, in reality, I’m just the old man’s business partner. I invented a line of tech, called Hit Bit Technology, while being held prisoner by a terrorist in the Middle East. It enhances a person’s natural abilities. I, and one other person, have a fully functional iteration of the tech implanted. We can connect to the internet, anywhere in the world, without requiring any type of computer or mobile device. Plus, we’re able to run as fast Cheetahs, lift twenty times our body weight, and enhance our vision at will. Telescoping, night vision, and a whole bunch more. Of course, all that requires lots of fuel, so we have to make sure to eat thousands of calories after every use.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, we killed a Russian colonel at his home and then rerouted tens of millions of dollars away from his secret accounts into the accounts of our sponsors. Basic day to day stuff. See, my adventures happened when I didn’t plan. That’s how I ended up being tortured while locked in a dungeon in the desert. A lack of planning is how I ended up getting my face turned into blood pudding by two goons in a New York alley. Now, I don’t have adventures, I have successful missions.

Continue reading “Splice (of SPLICE: HIT BIT TECHNOLOGY, by Bill McCormick)”

Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)

Dear readers, tonight with us are two people from a steam-powered London. They are here to tell us about dead-eyed assassins, murderous pirates, wingless flying machines, and perhaps even creatures from beyond this Earth.


Tell us a little about your early life.

Charlie: I was born in at the family estate in Lincolnshire, but we don’t go there very often. We mostly live at our townhouse in Pimlico. I went to Harrow School and Oxford, though they are both beastly insistent on making a chap study.

Gladys: I was born in a one-room shack in Sydney, just downwind of the Chippendale slaughter houses. It was hot – but only in the summer, autumn and winter. The spring floods would cool things down, but.

Charlie: My father is Third Lord of the Admiralty and I my mother is a lady detective. I expect this is why we lived in London so very much.

Gladys: My dad drank himself to death after mum died of consumption. My Auntie Madge looked after me, until I got onto the stage via singing on street corners for coins.

What do you do now?

Gladys: I’m on the stage. I sing, I dance. I was queen of the music halls back in Sydney — not that there was much competition. I came to London to seek my fortune, then found out there’d been a gold rush back home. Could have made a packet, without months in bloody steerage. I worked a while as a conjuror’s assistant – that’s how I got involved in all of this nonsense to begin with.

Charlie: I’m a reporter, now, but I used to do… What do you suppose one would call it?

Gladys: Nothing.

Charlie: Yes, that’s right. Basically nothing.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Charlie: The conjuror Gladys works for vanished. Not vanished into thin air — nothing surprising about a magician vanishing that way. Kidnapped. Gladys was looking for him. And I was hunting for a murderer…

Gladys: As you do…

Charlie: …and we decided to work together to solve our respective crimes.

Gladys: He helped me with money, transport and connections. I helped him by grabbing him by the lapels and pointing him in the direction of clues.

And did these mysteries connect in some way?

Charlie: Indeed. They turned out to involve a conspiracy concerning giant Bats from outer space.

Gladys: Thanks for being the one to say it, Charlie. It sounds less ridiculous when you say it in an Oxford accent.

Charlie: But the Bats were only part of the problem.

Gladys: Their human enemies were a handful, too. Cure worse than the disease, as my Aunty Madge always used to say.

Charlie: She said a rather lot, didn’t she? And not all of it helpful.

Gladys: I reckon you and her would of got along like a house on fire.

Continue reading “Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)”

Anna Belko (of Wrong Place, Right Time, by E.B. Roshan)

Dear readers, tonight we listen in while the protagonist – Anna, a young factory worker – is  having tea with her husband’s aunt, Oxsana. All she wanted was a quiet cup of tea, but an unexpected encounter blooms into new-found love that changes her life.


OXSANA: (sitting down opposite Anna and pouring a cup of tea.) Oh, Anna—I’ve been wanting to do this ever since Boris first told me you were the one for him. I feel that I don’t know you at all, really. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

ANNA: (dipping a cookie into her tea) Well, I was born here in Dor. You knew that, right? I wish I could remember it when it was beautiful.

OXSANA: You don’t remember anything from before the war?

ANNA: My very first memory is of Mama making me lie down in the bathtub and pushing a mattress over the top. Because of the rockets. It was dark, and the tub was icy cold. I was so scared—too scared to cry, even. Ilya and Bogdan and Radoslav hid under their beds, but Mama didn’t trust me to stay put!

OXSANA: She wanted you safe.

ANNA: Of course. (Pours herself more tea.) That makes it sound like I had a horrible childhood, but I didn’t. Our house had a big, beautiful back garden, and my brothers and I were always kicking a football around it, or climbing the apple tree and getting onto the roof of the neighbors’ shed.

OXSANA: Well, I’m sure having so many older brothers made things interesting.

ANNA: (laughing) Oh, yes! I was a tomboy growing up—Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I did have a doll , named Ilona after the great-aunt who gave her to me, but as any girl with only brothers can tell you, all the really fun games don’t involve dolls.

Continue reading “Anna Belko (of Wrong Place, Right Time, by E.B. Roshan)”

Grey (of The Ascension Machine, by Rob Edwards)

Dear readers, tonight we print an in-story interview between two teen superheroes, studying in the Justice Academy, the special school for their kind. We’ll learn about assumed identities, alien races, and friendship.


I’ve been thinking, Grey. After seeing Sunbolt handling those journalists on Bantus, should we, maybe, practice interview techniques?

Hmm? Sorry, Seventhirtyfour, I was light years away. What was that about interviews?

I was just saying I should interview you; I could get extra credits for my superhero journalism course, Choose your Lane 101. Please? We’re still days away from the Academy, I’m bored, you know.

I’m not falling for that, you have a stack of textbooks still to read, and I know how much you love a textbook.

Sigh.

Go on then. Ask me some questions.

Okay, fantastic. Let’s see. You grew up in one of the wealthiest human families in the galaxy. What was that like?

I thought we agreed to pretend I didn’t have money? We definitely said that. Let’s imagine that instead of growing up as a Gravane, I… I don’t know. Just off the top of my head: I ran away from my parents at age eight. I spent the better part of a decade drifting from space station to space station, surviving on my wits, earning money to survive. Legitimately when I could, but less so when I had to.

Can you imagine if that was true? It sounds lonely.

Lonely? That’s not…  I’ve seen the galaxy, met amazing people from dozens of different species and only swindled a relatively small percentage of them. I may not have stayed in one place very long, I guess. Never really formed what you’d call close friendships. Put that against all the places I’ve been to, all the things I’ve learned. You can’t buy an education like that. In this hypothetical backstory.

What about you, Seventhirtyfour? Where did you grow up?

Oh, nothing special really, you know? Once I was let out of the maturation pod, I was posted to Clone Barracks 17 on Brontom Prime and started my five-year boot camp.  Just me and a couple thousand of my closest vat mates. It was a good time, we learned to fight and—wait, I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

Busted.

So, let’s talk about your time at the Justice Academy. What courses are you taking now?

Sure. I’m a Skills student. No Powers of any kind, no super Tech. That means I’m studying to be the best version of me I can be. To, um, fight crime and rescue innocents and the like. Basic superhero defense. Parkour. Grapnel Gun Basics and Maintenance. A couple of Prof Croft’s Criminology and Clue Analysis courses. Gutted I couldn’t get into Superheroics: A History with you, but, clashes, what can you do? I really want to do Rescueology next term, just to find out what it is.

Continue reading “Grey (of The Ascension Machine, by Rob Edwards)”

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)”

Taliesimon Tothrangan (from Shadow of the Overlord, by Kevin Potter)

Dear readers, tonight we print the secret files about the first female Dragoon warrior. We get a peek into the entry exams of two very remarkable young girls.


Highlord, as you requested, I have enclosed all records we could find of the Dragoon, Taliesimon Tothrangan. I am afraid nothing here appears to give any indication of her current whereabouts, but it makes for interesting reading nonetheless. She and her friend were apparently quite the pair, even then.

What follows is a fragmentary copy of the entrance exam transcripts for Taliesimon Tothrangan (age: 9) and Okara Dorgauna (age 7), the first girls to be accepted into the Dragoon Order in recorded history. Although normally these exams are processed singly, in this case it was thought best they interview the pair together. [ink blots obliterate a note following this line, a new note following the blots reads:] To ensure no accusations of wrongdoing came at the dragoon conducting the interview.

Where did the two of you grow up?

O: On the smooth side of your mother’s–

T: Okara! [clears her throat] I grew up on a farm just outside a small village called River’s Edge. My pa raised sheep and grew grapes that he made into wine that we sold in town and, sometimes, we would even go as far as Cuularan!

O: [sighs] okay. I grew up in a village with no name that I know of. It’s very small. When my family lost favor with the dragoons, we became destitute and were forced to take whatever menial jobs were available.

I see. What possessed you to enter the Gauntlet?

T: [laughs] You say this as if girls entering the Gauntlet is unusual.

O: [sniffs]

It is!

O: [scoffs] You see, Taly? I told you they don’t get out much.

T: Not so, Ser. Girls enter every year. It is only that either they never make it through the Gauntlet, or they are “disqualified” in The Combats.

Clearly you do not know what you’re talking about. We are Dragoons. We would never disqualify any entrant who did not earn such.

O: If you say so.

T: So you think, what? That girls are just naturally inferior and so never manage to join? Not ever? What kind of rock have you been living under, exactly?

Enough! We need to address this entrance exam. What were your favorite playthings as children?

T: Well, you see, I used to have this ceramic doll…

O: Be serious, Taly. I think I speak for both of us when I say that for as long as I can remember the only things I ever played with were implements of combat. The sword I fashioned from a broken slat fence was my favorite to practice with.

What do you imagine is in store for you as a new recruit?

O: Honestly? Torment, pain, and unfair treatment.

T: Now who needs to be serious? Training will be hard, I have no illusions about that. I expect we will be pushed harder than any of the male recruits, at least for a while. I don’t see as there will be any way around that. But eventually we will prove ourselves and that’s when I think the real training will begin. I can’t wait to start learning the sword for real.

Continue reading “Taliesimon Tothrangan (from Shadow of the Overlord, by Kevin Potter)”

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)”

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