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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Urban Fantasy

Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a smuggler from a world where magic and technology interact freely. She is here to tell us about living in the shadows of the underworld, about high-rise conspiracies, and about the times humans still ruled the world.


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

Crescent City’s been called paradise on Earth, as you well know, with Mage-grown skyscrapers that climb for miles, all connected by breathtaking, nature-encrusted skywalks. But that’s not exactly where I grew up. Throw yourself over the edge of any one of those buildings and eventually you’ll end up in Low-Town, a red stain on darkened streets, if you don’t smash into one of the countless sun-blotting skywalks first. Low-Town, a place of perpetual darkness, if not for the neon glow of a million signs, will slit your throat just to watch you bleed out. It’s a hard place to grow up, but I’d rather be forged in Low-Town than pampered in paradise with the rest of the sheep.   

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

Favorite toy? Not so much. Cherished possession? Yeah, my retractable palm blade. You see, Black Leaves, one of the more ruthless gangs, get off by preying on helpless girls. They would often loiter outside the orphanage, waiting for one or two of us to head to the store. Their mutilated victims almost always ended up dead or wishing they were. I can’t tell you how many times that old piece of steel saved my life.

What do you do for a living?

Dealing in Magical Technologies (Tech) is one of the more lucrative businesses on the planet. However, as all Tech is required by order of the Administration to be licensed, and all licenses are traceable, it falls to me to find buyers willing to pay for the anonymity unlicensed Tech affords them. Does that make me a Tech smuggler? Sure. Could it get me killed? Sure. But they gotta catch me first.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Breaking about six separate border laws, I bypassed security and portaled up to the world above for what was supposed to be an easy score. Have I mentioned how much I hate going topside? Well, I do—a lot. It rarely goes well, but the payoff is almost always worth it. Fleeing the authorities in Low-Town is a simple thing, given the intense overpopulation and cramped spaces, but up there, where the corporations create laws and machinations to subjugate the weak, the Aquilae have a much easier time of snuffing out crime and either arresting or executing criminals right there on the spot, especially some illegal Townie no one would miss.

A society contact from up there got word to me that a low-level engineer for Corporate Technologies (CorTex) found out that he was about to get the axe, and decided to be proactive by squirrelling away several pieces of high-end Tech before they could let him go. The plan was simple; meet the engineer, inspect the stolen Tech, offer him half of whatever he was hoping to get, secure the Tech, and get my happy-ass back to Low-Town. Well, like every other arrogant topsider, he screwed me over. An entire squadron of Aquilae were waiting when I got there. Overkill, if you ask me. Even one Aquilae is usually more than enough to contend with a Prime Mage, let alone some Townie smuggler like me. It’s a rare thing to catch me off guard, though, and so I unloaded everything I had on ‘em and was barely able to slip through a portal. The only reason I’m still alive at all was because I was wearing a Prime Infernal Ring. Watching half a dozen Administration enforcers turned into so much ash was almost worth all the Tech I had to use up just to save my own neck. To this day, I still don’t know who sold me out, but I never heard from that contact again. Is that what you meant by adventure? For me, it was just another day at the office.

Continue reading “Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)”
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Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)

Dear readers, tonight we print a police interview, together with the detective’s notes and observations about the interviewee — a young woman, who claims the disappearance of her autistic sister is due to magic and time-travel.


From the closed files relating to the Ms. Orlova’s house fire and the disappearance of Sasha Orlov: Transcript of Alex Orlov interview with Hillsborough police department’s Detective Hendle. (Additional observations were added after the interview by Officer Tony Davids.)

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov appears young for her age. She is very thin, but it is hard to tell just how thin—she is hiding underneath a gray sweatshirt with a UC Berkeley logo that is several sizes too big on her. She has shoulder-length dirty blond hair, which looks unwashed and unbrushed. The girl’s overall appearance is a bit bedraggled. Given what her family is going through, I suppose it’s understandable.

Detective: Tell us, Alex, a little about your sister. How you grew up? What was it like?

Alex: As you know, this is a very difficult question to answer.

Notes & Observations: As she talks, Ms. Orlov continuously fidgets with the extra-long sleeves of her sweatshirt, picking at the unraveling fabric at the hem. She is obviously very upset. She avoids meeting the eyes of the detective and other officers in the room.

Detective: You mean so soon after your twin’s…we know it must be very difficult—

Alex: No, it’s not what I mean. And it’s not even like Sasha died recently. It’s been almost three decades now.

Detective: But you are only nineteen…

Alex: Right.

Detective: Can you explain what you mean, please?

Alex: I guess I should start at the beginning…or as much of the beginning as it’s really possible given…well, given that time is not really linear for my sister and me. We were born at the turn of the century.

Detective: 2000?

Alex: Does it really matter?

Notes & Observations: I’m noting this as a classic avoidance behavior. I assume Ms. Orlov is lying to us. She is not a very practiced liar.

Alex: Sasha, as I’m sure you know, was…is…was severely autistic. Of course when we were babies, I didn’t know that. So we played together like other sisters, I guess. Only it was different. I usually ran around and got into all sorts of mischief, but Sasha toyed with things that were right next to her—a rocks, a pinch of sand, a flower petal, a spoon, her toes. Basically, whatever was within her reach. She wasn’t really into baby toys. She didn’t like clothes much either.

Detective: You were just babies.

Alex: Exactly.

Detective: Please go on.

Alex: We were born in Brooklyn, New York. But when Sasha was formally diagnosed, we moved out to California. There are more resources for kids like Sasha out here. And Aunt Nana was out here and she helped the family a lot in the beginning. Nana helped us buy a home and helped with finding Dad a job out here… Nana babysat us. But she was…

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov’s face flashes every time she mentions her great aunt—Ms. Nadezhda Orlova. “Aunt Nana” or “Nana,” as the girl refers to her. Note the variation of the family name spelling—something to do with Russian language.

Continue reading “Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)”

Paul Moore (of Hell Of A Deal, by Mark Huntley-James)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a Master of the Dark Arts, a demonic broker who runs a shop supplying witches. He’s here to tell us about fighting through life, death, demons and trying to survive a first date.


Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there?

Sorry? An interview? Right now? Are you insane?  Haven’t you noticed those damned demons have dragged Barrowhurst into hell and Mickey-F****ing-Twitch is about to kill me. And this bloke here needs a doctor and you’re trapped in hell as well, so there’s no point in an interview.

Bugger off. Come back if I survive this. Then you can interview me all you like.

Several books later…

Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there? And why are you waist-deep in that hole? And what is that awful smell?

You again… Whatever. Just give me a hand out of here when I get to the edge. Sorry about the smell. It’s what happens when a demon goes bathing in pig slurry.

What was the question again?

Barrowhurst…

Barrowhurst was kind of quiet when I was a kid, no bloody demons. Really, nothing much ever happened here. I’d have probably just taken over the family hardware business when I grew up, but Mickey, my best friend at school showed me magic. Yeah, the same Mickey-F****ing-Twitch who put people in the arena to fight to the death so the winner got to kill me. That Mickey. He was alright when we were kids. He showed me cool things.

So, yeah. I learned about magic. I used to go out to Abbey Wood when I was a bit older, and turn trees into stone. Or rabbits into stone. I got really good at turning things into stone and Mickey showed me other magic, and I got really  interested.

My parents never knew. I mean, even when you’re nine or ten, it’s not something you necessarily mention to your parents. I might have told them about it when I was older but they died in a freakish accident when I was eighteen.

What sort of freakish accident?

It was an early deal I cut with a demon. I got a few things wrong, and well, Mum and Dad were out and…

Can we talk about something else?

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

All my best toys were stuff left over in the shop. I built robots and spaceships and just anything, really. Dad would keep bits of scrap, or stuff that was broken, and I could play with anything in that pile. When I was about six I tried to make a car. I mean, it was really simple, just a box with wheels, but I couldn’t make the wheels turn right. Dad went all through the scrap boxes with me to find something to make it right. Looking back, I think he might have cheated and got something out of the shop to make it work, but that didn’t matter.

I think my best pal Mickey was a bit jealous of that car, but he did show me a neat bit of magic to make it go on its own. Pity I couldn’t show that to Dad.

What do you do now?

I’m standing in a pit of demonically contaminated pig poop. What does it look like I do? I clean up other people’s mess. Come on. Just give me a bloody hand.

Thanks.

Don’t worry. It washes off eventually. Or after eternity.

Anyway, I used to run a magic shop as a front for brokering demonic deals – like getting you the girl of your dreams, or the perfect face lift, but at a sensible price that doesn’t include your soul. I dealt with the demons so you didn’t have to. Since the demons dragged Barrowhurst into their realm, and then I mostly got it back out, and I have one trapped inside me, I’m out of business. Being the dungeon to the demon Nyka doesn’t pay well. Doesn’t pay at all, as it happens.

I should have stayed with selling screws and silicone sealant after all.

Continue reading “Paul Moore (of Hell Of A Deal, by Mark Huntley-James)”

Det. Celeste Hackstraw (of Ghostkiller, by Marc Vun Kannon)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a police homicide detective, who assisted the world’s original medium and ghost hunter in unravelling a very strange case.


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

Are you sure you don’t want to ask about John? He’s much more interesting than I am. Two childhoods, for example. He was originally born centuries ago, somewhere in Europe, raised by a sorcerer and left to make his own way when he was about fifteen. His second childhood is coming along much better. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do. I can’t give him a normal life but I can give him that.

Anything left over from that first childhood? No cherished mementos?

Every memory I have of him, every day, is a cherished memory. I can’t have children of my own, so John is a blessing. And a bit of a trial, I must admit. His birthright makes life…complicated, so my best days and my worst days are often the same ones. He has a complete set of grimoires from his foster father, the greatest sorcerer in the world. I can’t wait until he manages to decode those. And that sword he used as a Ghostkiller, the one that John left sticking out of the street? I have nightmares about that sword, you know. It’s gonna come back, I’m sure of it. It’s going to come back and stick itself in John’s hand and say ‘use me’, that’s what it always does. What happens after that? No idea. That’s when I wake up.

For most people parenthood is simpler.

I’m a mother, raising a son who has already changed the world once and will again. Fortunately, thanks to the circumstances that gave me that son in the first place, I have a lot of high-powered help. The head of the Wizard’s Union, for example, and the local representative for the Medium’s Guild. And Colonel Saxe on speed dial. John may not have power yet but we’ve been teaching him how to handle it when he does.

Continue reading “Det. Celeste Hackstraw (of Ghostkiller, by Marc Vun Kannon)”

Lady Gwenhwyfar (of A Cup of Blood, by Troy A. Hill)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview carried in an alchemist’s shop, in an alternate history where the Arthurian legends are real.


The woman strode into my shop, head and back erect. Dressed in light green woolen dress of an early medieval cut. The sleeves and neck were embroidered with the swirling points of Celtic patterns of olde. I waved her to a chair.

“Toss your cloak on the rail, milady,” I said, giving the cauldron a final stir and taste before I raised it another notch above the coals and left it to simmer.

The woman’s cloak was a dark forest green, embroidered with the Celtic Tree of Life symbol. The cloak seemed to shimmer and dance. That’s when I realized the fabric was of the finest wool I had seen, and the design was not embroidered but woven as part of the cloth.

My guest seated herself, still formal. Almost regal. Her blue-grey eyes sparkled in the dim light of the shop. Her silver-gold hair danced with reflected colors from our surroundings.

“May I offer you a potion, or spell after your travels? Your home in Penllyn is far is it?”

“Tea would be preferred,” she said. “But whatever you have about is appreciated. No, Penllyn isn’t far when one have magical means to travel.”

I busied myself getting the water poured and the leaves steeping. I passed her a cup a few moments later.

“Diolch,” she said. “Thank you in my native tongue.”

“Do you take anything with your tea?”

“This is perfectly fine, and appreciated,” Lady Gwen said. “I understand you’d like to learn more about me and my story. Please.” She waved a hand in invitation.

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

My early years were in my father’s kingdom, north of the Humber River, though on the west side of our island, in what you would know as Strathclyde, part of Britain. This would have been in the period of time you refer to as the Dark Ages.

What do you do now?

I am first disciple to The Lady, Goddess of Sovereignty of Britannia.

Goddess of Sovereignty?

She rewards the leaders of the land, giving them sovereignty over the people and land, as long as they fulfill the mission of protecting those lands and the people. The goddess is the land, and Britannia is her. The goddess’ concern is that her people thrive and prosper.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The goddess sent me to find her second disciple. This woman would become the new champion of the land. When I found Maria dead, along with the corpse of two Witch Hunters, I couldn’t understand why the goddess needed her, that creature she was, to be the new champion of Britain–

The new champion of Britannia? You mean like King Arthur

My former husband was…

Continue reading “Lady Gwenhwyfar (of A Cup of Blood, by Troy A. Hill)”

Beatrice Taylor (of Guild of Tokens, by Jon Auerbach)

Dear readers. tonight with me is a master alchemist. She is mentoring another young woman, and is here to tell us about college quest games and telepathic apples.


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

It was terrible. Next question.

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

Cherished memories? The few moments when I wasn’t hiding in fear from my mother’s drunken boyfriend.

What do you do now?

If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I run a successful tutoring business, but in reality, I’m a full-time alchemist/quester.

You do know what the Quest Board is, right?

Umm, no.

Ugh, fine.

The Quest Board is a message board buried in the bowels of the Internet where people post real-life Quests to complete in exchange for tokens. Get enough tokens, and you level up. The purpose? To dig up and grind out the last traces of magic left in the world for the upper crust. Most Questers spend their entire lives scrounging up enough tokens to earn a couple of bronze tokens, which they pass on to their children so that they can repeat the same thing.

But not me. I discovered the truth early on. So I forged my own path. I learnt the secrets of alchemy and magic, and made coin doing it.

My alchemic buffs range from low-level Adderrall substitutes that I sell to college students to the actual full-strength version that will make you so focused on your task that you’ll probably forget to eat for several days. Or one that will make you feel like you’ve just had the best nap of your life even if you’ve logged three all-nighters in a row.

I’m sorry, but what’s a buff?

It’s what I call my alchemic gummies. They give you a boost when you eat one, depending on what type. There’s strength, vitality, focus, and speed, plus some other ones that I can’t quite reveal just yet.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m a seasoned solo Quester but the Council’s Raids require a partner. So far, I’ve had a bad string of luck with my trainees. They either don’t respect me or become obsessed with me or try to kill me. Sometimes all three. It was a stroke of luck that I stumbled upon my newest trainee, Jen Jacobs, after she succeeded in fetching a particular batch of apples that when eaten, allow you to read someone’s mind.

Continue reading “Beatrice Taylor (of Guild of Tokens, by Jon Auerbach)”

Mrs. Mirskaya (of the Paternus trilogy, by Dyrk Ashton)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is an old slavic goddess from a world where gods and monsters, the heroes and villains of ancient lore, are real.

She is here to tell us about the rise of the gods and the coming war.


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

Why do you bother me with these silly questions, durak? I am busy and war is coming. No time for nonsense from crazy person. Now you are kidding. You are crying? All right, bezumets, I answer quickly.

My father is Father, all you need to know. My mother was Phoberomys pattersoni. Much like muskrat or beaver, but much bigger. Don’t give me that face, I peel it off your head. That is better. I was born in what is today called Orinoco River Valley, in country now named by the watoto—humans—Venezuela. I have been everywhere in world. Several worlds. I have lived in many places. After last Great War with Asura I lived in lands later called Russia. People knew my Truename, Mokosh, and worshipped me as goddess of weather, water, and protection. Yes I am goddess. Do I not look like goddess?

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

Toys?! I played with sticks and fish when I was young. I ate them. And I threw them at Father. Was fun.

I have enjoyed looking after brat child Fiona Megan Patterson and spending time with her uncle, Edgar. Do not tell them I said that, or I show you lightning from sky to your backside.

What do you do now?

I am answering idiot questions from beshenyy mal’chik! (Mutters again) I am sure u tebia ochen malenki hui

We are on invisible island, Kumari Kandam, to prepare for war. There are many Firstborn here, but not enough. We will probably lose. Mac Gallus plays terrible music. Fiona trains to be Valkyrie. Zeke has made himself stone clubfoot by accident and set his hand on fire. Stupid boy, but sweet. I am happy to have Leshy here now, someone to talk to from old country.

Continue reading “Mrs. Mirskaya (of the Paternus trilogy, by Dyrk Ashton)”

Molly Blue (of A Bagful of Dragon, by Sakina Murdock)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a psychic, battling the forces of darkness. She is crucial to the protagonist’s quest, as she channels messages from the latter’s granddad.


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

Grew up, eh? Bit of a long while since then y’know, why’d you want to know that?

Just a way for your fans to get to know you better, nothing suspicious.

Ooh, I’ve got fans? Why didn’t you say? Grew up on a council estate in Seacroft, Leeds, nothing too exciting. Just your usual school of hard truths and worse prospects. Passed a couple of CSEs, got married, had kids, that kind of thing. Never been out of work. Never. Always worked. Mum’s normal, dad passed away – still see him from time to time – pretty normal upbringing, really.

So what wasn’t ‘normal’? How’d you become a psychic guide fighting dark forces for fun?

Now look here, sunshine, get your facts straight. I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but you can’t just go around saying things like that. For starters, I’m not a guide for anyone. If I made money out of it, you’d call me a medium, but that’s just a posh way of saying I see dead people. All the time. There’s a few here right now. Know him, do you? Flat cap, smell of cigarette smoke? Your uncle? Granddad?

So you’re not a guide?

I just get given a lot of messages for the living. I don’t generally pass ’em on. Folks don’t really want to know. They want to know their loved ones went to heaven, not that they’re hanging around waiting for the next incarnation. He’s saying he hopes you’re happy now. Acrimonious relationship, was it? Flat cap guy?

Continue reading “Molly Blue (of A Bagful of Dragon, by Sakina Murdock)”

Reeni Dutta (of Klone’s Stronghold, by Joyce Reynolds-Ward)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a teacher, but not a regular school teacher, She specialises in teaching cryptid children. She’s here to tell us about the supernatural world and the mysterious Stronghold in the remote Oregon mountains.


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

I grew up in Tualatin, Oregon. I didn’t do much outside of my home because my parents kept me very isolated. If I wasn’t studying, in church, or in school…I really didn’t have much to do outside of those things. I was a good girl and did what my parents and Pastor Ananda wanted, mainly because I had seen demons and dragons as well as woods elementals and was frightened of them for a while.

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

My parents were second-generation Indian immigrants who converted to Pentecostalism along with my uncle Jayanesh, as part of a splinter church under the direction of Pastor Ananda. Ananda had a ministry converting halfling humans who were part-supernatural to his brand of Christianity and “exorcising” their supernatural abilities to make themselves appear human. My parents were really strict and I didn’t get to date or do much until I went to college. Otherwise, I studied, went to church, and…well, that was it. In high school I was a teacher assistant in a self-contained special education classroom and that got me hooked on working with special needs children.

What do you do now?

Now I teach cryptid construct children in an isolated Eastern Oregon community. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun too, because these kids want to learn. It’s just finding what works to help them learn. I don’t know everything about what it means for them to be cryptid constructs—only that they’re part Sasquatch—but give enough time and I will.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, since I now know for sure that my ex-husband Karl isn’t just stalking me, but is a blood elemental, I’m really, really invested in making sure that this position pays off. I mean, 40k for six months’ work, and Karl’s supposed to be leaving me alone! I think that’s great. Now if only my uncle and Pastor Ananda don’t find out where I am….

Continue reading “Reeni Dutta (of Klone’s Stronghold, by Joyce Reynolds-Ward)”

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