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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Urban Fantasy

Silhouette (of The Alex Caine Series, by Alan Baxter)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a gifted martial artist, a non-human, shape-shifting Kin who fights the supernatural elements in our world.


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

Well, not to be evasive, but a lady should never discuss her age. And while I’m really no lady, I’ve been around for more than a few normal human lifespans, me not being human and all. Well, not all human, anyway. So where I grew up is hard to describe. It was rural in a way nowhere really is any more, on the west coast of Scotland. My childhood was one of pastoral bliss, really, with my mother. I never knew my father, but if I ever find him, I plan to kill him. My early years were spent crofting, living with the land, and I had no idea of the greater world out there. I heard talk of the English and how they weren’t our friends, but I was too young to really understand. Too young to care, I suppose. It wasn’t until I hit puberty that what I am became apparent and then my mother sought help. We ended up in London and that’s when Joseph found us, and explained what the Kin are. What I was. In truth, that’s the point at which I really grew up.

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

I never had much as a child, we were dirt poor. But I did have a carved wooden cat and I think that maybe I was so drawn to that toy because of my inner nature. I didn’t know it yet. But every Kin has a preferred shape. Mine turned out to be feline, a kind of panther is the best way to describe what I shift into, and I think somewhere deep inside I knew that. I’ve always had an affinity for cats. There was an old tabby at the croft and when I was only about 5 or 6 years old she had a litter right under the hay in one corner of a small barn. I didn’t tell anyone, just protected her, and watched those kittens grow. So very long ago, but I still miss that cranky old tabby like a lost limb. Not counting my mother, she was the first thing I ever loved. When Albert, a crofter across the valley, heard about my love of cats, he carved me that wooden one and I treasured it, made it smooth and shiny with handling.

Do you still have it?

I do, but I’ll never tell another soul where it is. Actually, that’s not true. Alex knows where it is, because he saw it when I moved down to the south coast with him. He asked about it and I told him what I’ve just told you, then I put it safely away. It’s the only thing from my pre-Kin life and it’s special.

What do you do now?

Well, since we signed up with Armour, every day is a new adventure! That’s not entirely true, of course. I mean, I know you’re really interested to hear about the great Alex Caine, right? He’s all stubborn and not especially talkative, which is why you’re talking to me. But I’m afraid that whether it’s about me or Alex, I can’t tell you much. I shouldn’t even admit that we work for Armour, but you already knew so it seems pointless to deny it. But let’s just say the threats that occasionally rise up, the weird and supernatural stuff that regular police and governments can’t handle, are infrequent but all too real. Alex and I are among many who deal with them, as best we can.

Continue reading “Silhouette (of The Alex Caine Series, by Alan Baxter)”

Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)

Dear readers, tonight we print a psychiatric assessment of the two protagonists from a novel we loved. With their job entailing rescuing the world from other-dimensional horrors on a weekly basis, it’s no wonder they need regular psych evals.


Assessor: What’s your name?

Morag: You don’t know my name?

Assessor: You’ve been through a traumatic incident. We want to assess your mental state. Just give us some details — name, where you’re from — that sort of thing.

Morag: They do this to you, Rod?

Rod: Oh, aye. Every time I go toe to toe with an unspeakable horror from another dimension.

Morag: [huffs] Fine. Morag Murray. I’m from Inverness, Scotland. I moved down to Birmingham at the beginning of this week. A promotion of sorts.

Assessor: Of sorts?

Morag: There were some problems in the Edinburgh office. I pissed off the wrong god. You know how you can sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time?

Assessor: A social faux pas.

Morag: Exactly, except this one involved a shotgun and the face of a demi-god. Both barrels.

Assessor: But you now work in the Birmingham office?

Morag: Correct. Birmingham consular mission to the Venislarn. You’ve got a city full of demons and faceless terrors, all under the surface. We’re just here to keep them happy and tucked out of sight.

Assessor: How has your first week on the job been?

Morag: [considers the state of her clothes] Well, I’m covered head to toe in a thick layer of chocolate. I wasn’t expecting that when I started the week.

Rod: You fight with a god in a chocolate factory, there’s gonna be some chocolate, right?

Morag: I see you survived the night without a delicious chocolate coating.

Rod: One of the first things they taught us in the SAS: how to avoid getting covered in chocolate.

Assessor: Your first week…?

Morag: Let’s see. Is this some sort of test to see if a fight with Zildrohar Cqulu has given me concussion? Er… I pretty much hit the ground running this week. That’s one of my key strengths. I can adapt to new situations quickly.

Rod: You mean you rush in without thinking about things.

Morag: Hey. I’m impulsive. But that can be a good thing.

Rod: Oh, aye. If you hadn’t flung yourself in, we’d never have caught that Kervy Aldo character.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: Right. Kermit Ascot.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: As I said…

Assessor: Who is Kerfin Edsel?

Rod: Curtain Aswad.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal. A god. A little one. A godling.

Rod: A giant vampiric starfish. We chased him halfway across the city. He eats virgins’ hearts and was feeling peckish.

Continue reading “Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)”

Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the mother of the protagonist. She is here to tell us about life behind the Iron Curtain, about spies – and about a magical ring inherited from the famed John Dee, which she passed to her daughter.


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

Well, I was born in Prague, Czechia, between the two World Wars. It was exquisitely beautiful and yet terrifying at the same time. We lived in a grand old flat in Novy Svet, an old quarter of Prague up near the Castle. From an early age I was steeped in a culture of mystery. I used to love wandering around the old quarters of the city, especially the Jewish Quarter, and reading about old legends like the Prague Golem. There always seemed to be an air of unseen reality behind everyday life. A sense of the occult at work. It was sinister, in a way, and yet there was also a lot of laughter in our lives. That must be where I got my anarchic sense of humor! And my nose for the occult at work in public institutions.

What would you say were your defining memories as a child?

I seem to remember we read a lot, went to the theatre, and like most families in that part of the world we had a log cabin in the  forest where we spent weekends and holidays. You have to remember hardly anybody went abroad on vacation in those days.

My favorite memories are of sitting by the log fire at our cabin and reading fairy stories with my grandmother. It seemed idyllic, until  the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Then my whole reality changed forever. I guess that’s the origin of my contradictory personality. And why I became a spy. I witnessed Nazism and then Communism in only a few years. The point of all this, for me, as I say, is to understand the occult aspects of power and institutions.

Even in your life today?

Well, on the face of it I’m now just a retired, respectable grandmother, living in England, where my daughter Sylvia was born, and being a granny to my grandson Rusty. He’s quite a character. Takes after me in many ways! My daughter was pretty angry with me for a long time, on account of my spying career, which took me away from England a lot, but of course I couldn’t tell her about it.

Sometimes people tell me I’m just being paranoid, but I think I know better. It’s hard for me now, though, in a way, having to sit on the sidelines and just watch it all playing out, all over again. This time it isn’t a sudden cataclysmic event. It’s a slow creep. I could see my daughter Sylvia being sucked into this false reality of today and I meant to help her by giving her the ring, but in the end it just made her life more complicated.

So what, then, is this ‘wizard ring’? And what’s playing out all over again?

It was a gift from a dear friend of mine called Stanislav, who found it in Prague and I gave it to my daughter Sylvia. I meant it to enhance her consciousness. It was made in the Prague workshop of the famous English alchemist, John Dee, who lived in Czechia for a few years with his family. I completely underestimated its magic powers, as it turned out. But then perhaps I also underestimated my daughter. Parents often do. What’s playing out all over again? The colonization of our minds with propaganda. Misdirection about what’s really going on. The dark arts of money.

Continue reading “Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)”

Jordan Abbey (of Chaos Wolf, by Sheryl Hayes)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a literature major who – together with her moccha latte – got a bite from a love-sick werewolf. She is here to tell us about hostile alpha pack leaders and stiff-necked vampire elders, about their uneasy coexistence, and how one woman makes an epic mess of the status quo.


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

I grew up and still live in Rancho Robles. It’s a medium-sized city near the Santa Cruz mountains in California. Not as big as San Francisco, but not a small town either. It’s large enough to host a community college — go Fighting Acorns! There are a lot of oak trees, which is how the city got its name. I didn’t think it would be big enough to host both a conclave of vampires and a pack of werewolves.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child?

I still have a stuffed unicorn with a purple mane and a gold horn. Its body is more a gray than white, and there’s a few spots where the fuzzy fabric has matted up. Mom and Dad were a bit embarrassed that I would bring it with me everywhere I went. It was a gift from my grandmother, and I loved it. When I moved out to go to college, and then into Montgomery’s apartment, Uni was the first thing I packed, almost before I grabbed any clothes.

What do you do now?

My official title is Famulus to Montgomery Cooper. A famulus (usually) is  a human servant to a vampire. Exact duties vary from vampire to vampire, but mostly we deal with the daylight errands that can’t be delayed until after sunset, providing blood if a vampire cannot, or chooses not to to hunt, and help maintain that connection to humanity that allows them hide in plain sight. Which for me is a little tricky since I’m learning how to be a werewolf.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

My life-plan didn’t include being bitten by a werewolf.  And it didn’t include being rescued by a vampire.  Now, I’m trying to figure out my place in this new world.

Did I mention that I accidentally insulted the leader of the Black Oak Pack? Because of that, Alpha Shane has declared that unless I can shapeshift at will before the next full moon, he’s going to kill me and my rescuer Montgomery.  Elder Marcus, the leader of the Conclave of Rancho Robles, and Montgomery’s sire, has strong feelings about that.  Not so much about me, but he’d rather not lose another child to a werewolf’s fangs. If I don’t get in touch with my animal side, I’m going to start a war.

Oh, and Rhys, the werewolf who bit me?  He didn’t think that I was a meal.  He’s under the delusion that I’m his mate, even though he didn’t consult me in the matter. He’s killing anyone who he thinks is keeping me from him.  I’ve already lost two old friends and I’m sure my new friends are next on his list.

Continue reading “Jordan Abbey (of Chaos Wolf, by Sheryl Hayes)”

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)”

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)”

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