Dear readers, tonight with us is a poet, a man of inconsistent careers and a somewhat vagrant lifestyle. He’s here to tell us about his latest adventure, involving the Idiosyncratic Diaconate, night soil carts, Partannese bandit chieftains, a stylite, a large dog and some over-spiced food.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I’m Tallis Steelyard, Port Naain’s finest living poet. I live and practice my art in Port Naain, the greatest city on the world of Domisa, home of all that is fine and lovely. From time to time I may venture out of the city, both allow those less fortunate than our citizens to enjoy the benefit of high culture, but mainly to avoid my creditors or those who seem to think I have insulted them.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
I am an only child, but I spent much of my childhood on the streets of Port Naain. This is where I think I sharpened my skills of observation and got to know so many people whose careers I have since chronicled.
What do you do now?
As a poet obviously I have very few formal duties. It is merely enough that I remain within the city as an ornament and thing of wonder. Still a chap has to eat and white wine does not buy itself. Thus and so, I have any number of patrons who rely upon me to raise their lives above the humdrum and tedious. Not only do I dedicate my works to patrons, I will hold a private recital in their residence. Indeed I will often organize the whole evening’s entertainment, working hand in glove with my patron. I will discuss the catering arrangements with the patron and her cook, then I will bring in other, lesser poets, painters, acrobats, and even, gods help us, musicians. I can arrange everything from the moment a guest is assisted from their sedan chair to when the patron’s domestic staff finishing cleaning up after the event.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
As a strictly unremunerated temple warden of the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm I do have some duties. It was as I assisted Maljie, the senior temple warden in ensuring that our incumbent wasn’t whisked away from us that I ended up dangling from a hot air balloon high in the mountains.
What did you first think when you first met Maljie?
Maljie is an older lady, (note I did not use the word ‘old’) and thus obviously wise. Personally, after working with her for some time I grew to have a wider appreciation of her talents. Whilst admitting to wise, I think I would have to insist on ‘redoubtable’, ‘cynical’ and ‘cunning.’
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
For somebody who has, inadvertently, had to deal with dark mages, the walking dead, and any number of musicians of dubious morals, I always felt that I was reasonably hardened to whatever the world could throw at me. Yet still, I tend to twitch when somebody says, “The ladies felt you were the perfect person to judge the beauty context.”
What is the worst thing about like as a poet?
Frankly the penury. The long hours, the demeaning comments, the constant petty carping, I can rise above. Honestly I don’t mind doing the occasional morning as a kitchen porter. But it would be nice to achieve a modest prosperity
What is the best thing about it?
In my better moments I’d say it is those occasions when I deliver a poem that I know to be good, and people I respect will come across afterwards, hand me a glass of wine, and say, ‘Tallis, that was fine work.’
In my less charitable moments I still remember fondly the time we dropped two dog fleas down the back of the shirt of that syrupy balladeer ten minutes before he was supposed to perform.
Tell us a little about your friends.
I suppose my two oldest friends are Calina Salin and Lancet Foredecks. We were street children together. Calina is a dancer, she is the one who will die a wealthy woman. Lancet is a performance artist. His last project was to find sponsors for a poem he was going to write, one line at a time, on the buoys that mark the channel into Port Naain. He was going to tune the bells on the buoys so as the tide came in they would play a tune.
Lancet I have had to rescue a number of times, he knows nothing of fear, and very little of self-preservation. Thus when an irritated mobster is going to have him dropped in the sea attached to an anvil, it’s always Tallis who has to talk people out of what even I can see is a reasoned response to immense provocation. As for Calina, I once saw her kick the hat off the head of a tall man who was irritating her.
Any romantic involvement?
I’m a respectably and happily married man. I could wax lyrical on the beauty of my lady wife, Shena, a mud jobber and a lady whose profession pays only slightly better than mine.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
To be honest, genuine villains aren’t a problem. They may be criminals, they made be murdering thugs, or more probably hire them, but they are not, in all candor, the people I hate. After all, many of them have families, aged mothers who dote on them, and are often generous to poets. They are flesh and blood with strong feelings. The people I dislike most are those for whom ‘it is more than my job’s worth.’ People who might well flaunt their conscience, boast of their services to the city, yet would turn a grieving widow out into a winter night ‘because that’s what the regulations say.’
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Well if you’re buying, a glass of white wine please, and we can sit here and just swap anecdotes, tales of things that happened to us. Can you think of a more pleasant way to spend an evening?
What does the future hold for you?
Well there is another book on the way at some point. It’s about something that happened years ago, perhaps a darker tale at times that people expect from me.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
It has to be admitted that I may not be an entirely reliable narrator.
Jim Webster is probably still claiming to be fifty something, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. His tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters. He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels. Admittedly it’s blatantly obvious from his sense of humour, but he is English, living in the North of England, pretty much where the hills come down to the sea.
You can find Tallis Steelyard on the pages of A Fear of Heights, as well as his many other books.
Join us next time to meet an ex-reporter specialising in zombies. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.