With my third novel in my Annals of Alasia trilogy hopefully ready to publish by the beginning of May, I decided to conduct a series of “interviews” with my characters.  This one is the second.  Enjoy!
Lantil has invited me into his home, a wooden cottage in a small village nestled in the foothills of the Impassable Mountains, for this interview.  The view through the window shows row upon row of coffee bushes spreading across the slope.  His wife serves us coffee in battered tin mugs, and we sit on rough-hewn wooden furniture around the fireplace while I pull out my list of questions.

How would you describe yourself?
He shrugs.  “I’m a hard-working man.  I know how to take care of coffee, and I like a good strong mug of it to start the day.”  He takes a sip of his.  “I love my wife and children, and I think our friends would say I’m a good neighbor.”

What are your hobbies?
“I like to hunt.  Lots of animals move down here to the foothills when it starts getting really cold up on the higher slopes.  We get plenty of deer in these parts, especially; in fact, they’re a worse problem for our garden than the Mountain Folk.  Sometimes my neighbor and I will take our bows and sit out at night watching for them.  My wife makes a real good venison stew, and we smoke the rest of the meat to eat in the winter.”

Do you prefer cities or the countryside? Warm weather or cold?
He scratches his head.  “I’ve never been to a big city like Sazellia before.  I think I’d like it, though.  I always enjoy the trips to town when we go sell our coffee.  Mountain life is good too, but it has its disadvantages.”  A troubled expression crosses his face.  “Mountain Folk being one of the main ones, of course, but we sometimes get wolves or bears around here too, then there’s the fact that the nearest town where we can buy supplies is nearly a day’s ride away.  And I like warm weather a lot better.  Winters are pretty severe up in the mountains.  Of course this is just the foothills, but we still get snow every now and then, and the wind blowing off the peaks gets colder than anything you can imagine.  Besides, when the weather gets cold, the Mountain Folk move to lower elevations.”  He shudders.  “We do all we can to keep out of their way, but we can’t stop them from coming to us.”

What is the one sentence you would never say?
“I’d never say to those Mountain Folk, ‘Come help yourself to my garden vegetables or fruit without paying for them.’  But they’re always trying to.”

What makes you angry?
“Being robbed.”  He scowls.  “My family and I put a lot of work into our gardening.  Thank goodness the Mountain Folk don’t care for coffee, since that’s our livelihood.  But we have a little kitchen plot with vegetables and fruit trees that my wife and daughters care for while I’m tending the coffee bushes.  We rely on that to get us through the winter, but those thieving Mountain Folk try to take whatever they can get their hands on.”

What do you hope to accomplish?  What keeps you from achieving your goal?
“I hope to continue to provide for my family and save up for my daughters’ futures.  I have four beautiful young girls, and the oldest will be getting married next year.  My wife and I hope to help her and her husband get a good start on a little farm of their own, and put some money away for the others as well.  Our second daughter wants to live in the city someday, which won’t be easy to arrange, but we’re going to try to set up some sort of apprenticeship for her.”
Did you ever have a pet?  Describe it.
“We have a couple of cats that keep the mice at bay in the storage sheds.  And now we have a flock of goats.”  His face grows troubled.  “They’re not really ours, and it makes me nervous every time I think of their real owners coming back for them.  But they provide so much milk that we’ve been able to share with the whole village, and all our neighbors take turns helping to care for them.  It’s been wonderful having milk for the children every day, and cream for the coffee.”  He takes another sip from his cup.
“Who are their real owners?” I question.
“Well – they’re Mountain Folk.  After what happened here last autumn, I figured the least I could do was take care of their goats until they came back for them, but they never did.  I keep thinking that someday they will, and I’m afraid they’ll be angry with me for keeping them so long.  But I’m ready to give them back any day they ask, really.” 

Have you ever killed anyone?
He stares at me.  “How did you know?  We all promised not ever to tell anyone outside the village.  I mean, I don’t know if the law really applies when it comes to Mountain Folk, but just in case, we didn’t want the authorities to get word.  After all, it was an accident.  I never meant to shoot the girl.  You don’t know what it’s like having those savages charge at you with their spears brandished; and I have my family to protect, not to mention our home and crops.”  His voice is anguished now.  “But she was somebody’s daughter, and the sight of her lying there – I mean, I don’t know what I would have done if it had been one of my girls who –”  He breaks off and turns away with a shudder, biting his lip.  “It was the worst moment of my life.  I was just trying to scare them away, but then there she was coming at me, and I panicked.”  He sighs.  “Such a horrible memory.  I wish every day that I could somehow go back in time and change what happened.  I should have just let them take my apples.  Of course, then they’d only get bolder and come and steal from us all the more.  Still, that would be better than having her death on my conscience.”
Click here to find out about Prince of Malorn, the third book in the Annals of Alasia, and read more interviews with the characters in it.

Click here to read my interviews with characters from my book In the Enemy’s Service.

With my third novel in my Annals of Alasia trilogy ready to publish by the middle of May, I decided to conduct a series of “interviews” with my characters.  This one is the first!  I stepped into the setting of the book so I could have conversations with about ten of my main characters.  Enjoy!


I have arranged to meet Ernth by a certain stream in the foothills of the Impassable Mountains.  When I arrive, he is spearfishing from the bank, a pile of three or four fish on the grass behind him.  A bay horse grazes nearby.  He joins me on a log and I pull out my list of questions.
Do you prefer cities or the countryside? Warm weather or cold?
Ernth adjusts the belt of his deerskin tunic.  “The countryside, of course.  Who wouldn’t like it here?  I hate cities.  And I prefer warm weather, because the colder it is, the lower in the foothills my family has to travel, and that means we encounter more Lowlanders.”
How would you most like to spend a day off?
“I’d like to go off riding with my cousin.”  He glances at the horse grazing a few yards away.  I love to ride, but there isn’t much time for that most days.  We could hunt deer or race our horses across the slopes.”
What object would you save if your home was on fire?
“You mean my tent?  Well, if I didn’t have it on already, I’d save my jacket that I made from snowcat skin.  Oh, and my necklace with the snowcat teeth.”
What is the one sentence you would never say?
He considers.  “I can’t wait to go to the Lowlands!”  His voice is scornful.
What makes you angry?
“When Lowlanders cheat us or take advantage of us because we don’t understand their ways.”  Ernth frowns and pokes at the ground with his spear.  “It happens almost every time we interact with them.”
What’s your favorite food?
“I love roast goat!  It’s all the more special because we usually only have it to celebrate something important, like when someone in the family gets Accepted.”
What do you think of Lowlander food?
He makes a face.  “It’s disgusting.  Well, most of it.  They have an orange vegetable that isn’t bad, and sometimes they serve something fruity after the meal; I like that.  But the only really good thing about meals in the Lowlands is coffee.  It’s an ugly-looking black liquid that you have to mix with lots of white stuff – it looks like goat milk but it’s not the same – and then you dump in lots of sweet powder.  After that it’s delicious.  It’s the only thing about Lowland life that’s better than what we have here in the mountains.”
Did you ever have a pet?  Describe it.
“Well, my family keeps goats, of course, for their milk and meat.  And there’s my horse.”  He smiles in the horse’s direction.  “Her name is Hungry, and she’s as close to me as a family member.  I struggled through the Rite of Acceptance and nearly died to get her, but it was worth it.”  As though she understands, the horse ambles closer and nuzzles him, and Ernth reaches up to stroke her neck.  It’s obvious the two of them share a special bond.
What did you have for breakfast?
“Lumjum cakes with berries, and of course goat milk.”
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
He chuckles.  “I suppose that would be Korram tumbling over the edge of a waterfall with a snowcat in his arms.  Of course, since I was almost directly underneath, I wasn’t exactly laughing at the time.  But it turned out all right, and that’s how we both got our jackets and necklaces.”
Have you ever been in love? How did that work out?
Ernth scowls, and when he finally answers, his voice is low.  “It was almost two years ago.  Her name was Jenth.  She was murdered by Lowlanders.  Why do you think I hate them so much?”  He looks away, but when he finally meets my gaze again, he sighs.  “Actually, we found out not long ago that it was an accident, a misunderstanding.  The man who did it said he was sorry and gave us gifts of food, and my whole family has agreed to go back to his village to trade whenever we’re in the area.  I suppose that’s a good thing.”  He fiddles with the shaft of his spear.  “But how am I supposed to change the way I’ve felt about them for so long?”
How many siblings do you have? Are they older or younger?
“I have one older sister, Charr.  She’s married and has two young children.  Her husband Thont is a good friend of mine.”
What were some things you liked to do when you were a child?
Ernth smiles.  “My cousins and friends and I used to pretend we were on the Rite of Acceptance.  We would make up situations for each other, like, ‘You haven’t eaten in two days, you just found a patch of berries, and there’s a hungry bear between you and them.  What do you do?’  Then we’d act out the situation and try to impress each other with how we’d solve the problem.  Sometimes it turned into a contest to see who could come up with the funniest solution.”
Of what are you proudest?
“That’s easy.  Of succeeding in the Rite of Acceptance and earning my horse.”
Have you ever killed anyone?
“No.  But supposedly we might have to when we all go to the Lowlands in this army of Korram’s.”
Do you have any scars you would be willing to show me?
Ernth pulls up the sleeve of his tunic to reveal a faint mark running straight across the side of his right shoulder.  “I got this the day Jenth was killed.  One of the Lowlander’s arrows grazed me as we were trying to get away.”  He pulls up his other sleeve, and he grins as he shows me his next scar.  “And this is my horse mark.”  Sure enough, the mark – which appears to be a burn – is shaped roughly like a horse.  “It’s the proof that I’ve been Accepted.  The best pain I ever felt!”
What do you hope to accomplish?  What keeps you from achieving your goal?
“I just want to live out my life here in the mountains with everything the same as it’s always been.  I don’t dream of anything more than that.”  He sighs.  “But ever since Korram showed up with his complicated plans and his need for an army, nothing’s been the same.  And now that I owe him a life debt, I have to go down with him to the Lowlands until I can fulfill it.  But as soon as I can, I’m coming back home to the mountains, and then I hope I’ll never have to leave again.”

Click here to find out about Prince of Malorn, the third book in the Annals of Alasia, and read more interviews with the characters in it.


This is an interview with the character Lasden, a lieutenant in the Malornian army in my novel In the Enemy’s Service.  For an explanation of why I’m interviewing my characters, click here.

Lieutenant Lasden and I sit down in the empty conference room in the Alasian palace where he has agreed to meet with me. As I face him across the table, I notice he looks weary – not just the weariness that comes after a long day, though that’s there too, but the weariness that comes from discouragement, perhaps depression. His eyes are dull.

1. Do you like your job? Why or why not?

He doesn’t look at me. “I’m a soldier. I follow orders. What does it matter what I like or dislike?”

I wait for him to elaborate, and finally, reluctantly, he goes on. “No, I don’t like my job. Not anymore. Not since being a Malornian soldier came to mean invading a peaceful kingdom and slaughtering civilians.”

2. Do you have any friends? Significant others?

“I’ve got friends in my company, but no one I’m all that close to, especially lately.” He shrugs. “We don’t see eye to eye about the Invasion.”

3. What is your idea of success?

Lasden chuckles humorlessly. “If you’d asked me a month ago, I would have said defeating an enemy with minimal casualties on our side. But that’s pretty much what we’ve done in Alasia, and I can’t feel proud of it.”

4. What do you hate?

He stares, unseeing, out the window, where rain beats against the pane. “What we’ve become. What I’ve become. Oh, I’m a good soldier. I’ve always put everything I’ve had into this job. But I feel like a failure as a human being.”

5. What do you do in your spare time?

Lasden shrugs again. “Haven’t had much spare time since we came to Alasia. Before, I’d usually play cards or dice with my friends. Swap stories in a tavern or around a campfire. You know. On my days off when I was stationed in Sazellia, I liked to go out riding, or just sit down with a good book. Histories, especially.

6. What did you have for breakfast?

He frowns, trying to remember. “I think they served eggs with bacon this morning. Not bad, but the coffee isn’t as good here. I miss Malornian coffee.”

7. Did you ever have a pet? Describe it?

“My family has always kept horses. I think I learned to ride before I could walk.”

I look up from my list of questions, puzzled. “Then I’m surprised you’re in the infantry, not the cavalry.”

“I didn’t exactly have much choice.” Lasden looks away. “My father’s a colonel in the infantry.” His tone of voice makes it clear that further questions along that line would not be welcome, so I go back to my list.

8. Do you believe in luck? Why?

“No. I believe in skill. In my experience, soldiers who rely on luck don’t last long.”

9. What is your favorite scent? Why?

He considers this. “Wood smoke, I suppose. Especially if we’re sitting round a campfire roasting a rabbit we’ve finally had time to trap after days of field rations, on our way back home at the end of a successful campaign.”

10. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen?

Lasden thinks this over. “I saw a family of Mountain Folk up close once. Usually they stay up in the higher slopes of the Impassables, but in the winter they come down low where it’s warmer, and every now and then you see them camped in the foothills. My company was on our way
to the Western Wilderness, and we came across a group of them them trading for supplies in a little village near the Grenn. There were maybe five adults and twice that many children, all dressed in animal skins, most carrying spears. They looked just as savage as people say they are: shaggy hair, shifty eyes, and all. And it’s true, they do smell like the goats they keep. But something about how tenderly they treated their horses made me wonder if they might be a little more civilized than everyone thinks.”

11. What is the most frightening thing that has ever happened to you?

“I don’t know. I’ve had a lot of close calls since I’ve been with the army.” Lasden hesitates. “But usually, when you’re fighting for your life, things happen too fast for you to really feel much until afterwards. Really, I suppose I haven’t been as frightened out on the battlefield as I used to be sometimes at home, when I was a boy. When I did something to make my father angry.” He looks away again, and I can tell by the way his lips tighten that he wishes he hadn’t said that. Abruptly, he pushes back his chair and rises to his feet. “I have to go. I’ve got to make my rounds before the workers turn in for the night. Excuse me.” He strides to the door and leaves the room without a backward glance.

Click here to read my other character interviews.