Protagonist voices and motivations make a plot–they provide the engine which drives the story, and what comes next. As a reader, you spend the entire novel rooting for the character, or at the very least, interested in their fate, one way or the other.
To know the protagonist is to know the novel. So I invited a few authors to let their protagonists speak on this page. I already owned a few of these books, but the snippets have made me add the others to my wishlist, too.
So here are a few fascinating reads, based on what their protagonists have to tell us!
MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, in short: Someone comes to the party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket.
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Who ever thought, that I, Nicole Phillips, a chick from the ol’ neighborhood in Hoboken, a receptionist at a Lamborghini dealership, would be able to afford this chic workout get-up? Or spend leisurely mornings taking Pilates and spinning? Or live in this humongous apartment in The Dakota, of all places? Yes, life is great. One day I was girlfriend to Billy Bartosh, head mechanic, and the next day I was head-over-heels with the Preston Phillips, handsome, smart, and richer than a 1,000-calorie banana split. The guy is a money wizard, the real deal, all right. Only problem–Preston’s brooding. He’s not particularly excited about the invitation to his cousin’s birthday party, either. A weekend retreat at a country mansion in Pennsylvania. Three whole days of cocktails, dining, and high-class conversation. I hope I survive, and I hope my marriage survives, too. Funny, a year ago, I’d have thought of this invitation as a party to die for!
SARALYN RICHARD writes award-winning mysteries that shine a spotlight on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature. Her favorite thing about writing is interacting with readers. Visit Saralyn on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.
IN MY HANDS COVER ART, in short: Tomb Raider meets Wonder Woman inspired by South Asian folklore: After the mysterious death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Chandra S. Chengappa is forced to leave small-town Virginia for the jungles of India to find the mythical weapon of a goddess and face the demon hell-bent on destroying her … or she risks losing everything—and everyone—she’s ever loved.
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Forget being normal, I’m cursed. I blame it on Appa, because I know he could see it too… that supernatural, humanoid beast… the rakshasi. That’s the curse of seḷavu—my ability to read dark energies of life around me. Between seḷavu and the chaotic lines that run through my hands, my fate has been sealed. I’m just sixteen, and my future promises only death and destruction. I know what you’re going to say, “Chandra Chengappa, stop being so dramatic!” But this is my reality. Don’t worry, though, there’s a storm brewing inside of me and I’m going to level up and show this she-demon what I’m made of. I’m more than just a girl who can see monsters—after all, the future is in my hands…
SATHYA ACHIA was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, where she grew up devouring books and playing along the pebbly shores of Lake Huron. She writes for YA, MG, and PB readers—her stories inspired by her summers visiting her grandparents in the remote rainforests of Kodagu, India. In addition to her debut YA fantasy-adventure novel, In My Hands, Sathya’s forthcoming short story, The Crane in the Mist, will be published in the anthology, Tales Untold: Mythos from Around the World (R&R Publishing/Nov 2022).
When not spinning stories, Sathya can be found trying a new yoga pose, exploring the great outdoors, or wrapped up in her greatest adventure of all: Motherhood. Learn more about Sathya on her website: sathyaachia.com or find her on IG @sathyaachiawrites or on Twitter @SathyaAchiaAbra
MISFIRE, in short: An anesthesiologist trying to protect patients from catastrophic misfires of their implanted defibrillator is thwarted by the cardiologist inventor. But as the disappearances and deaths mount, she uncovers a plot involving much more than his greed.
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Hi, my name is Kate Downey. I’m an anesthesiologist specializing in obstetrics, human obstetrics. That fact is lost on my great Aunt Irm, though, who thinks I invented healthcare and can cure anyone of anything. The other evening, she called me from bridge club and asked/told me to come right away for a medical emergency. Of course I jumped in the car, but when I arrived, I found the women huddled not around a fallen bridge player, but a bridge player’s dog–a beautiful, exhausted Golden Retriever surrounded by six slimy puppies. I rubbed her soft head and she thumped her tail.
“Acadia did not need you after all,” Aunt Irm said. “But I am sure she is relieved that you are here.”
I could only smile, at nature, at my aunt, at the beauty of the world through her lovely eyes.
TAMMY EULIANO ’s writing is inspired by her day job as a physician, researcher and educator at University of Florida. In addition to numerous short stories, her first medical thriller, “Fatal Intent,” was published by Oceanview in March, 2021. Kathy Reichs called it, “Medical suspense as sharp as it gets.” The sequel, Misfire, comes out January, 2023. Tammy on her website: teuliano.com or find her on IG: @teuliano or on Facebook: Tammy Euliano or on Goodreads: Tammy Euliano
TOWARDS THE LIGHT, in short: What would you do if you were stranded alone in the most unfamiliar place you’d even been?
PROTAGONIST VOICE : This flight to Marrakech has me thinking about other trips I’ve taken with my sister Fay. We don’t have to be off on an exotic vacation to find adventure. She once tried a shortcut to get from my house to an antique store she’d heard about in the mountains. The road turned into a dirt track, narrowed to the point that bushes were scraping the side-view mirrors. We came, finally, to an opening wide enough to turn around. Fay had only to give me that look of hers, and I agreed. “Let’s see where this road goes.” It went to a field of wildflowers overlooking a pond nestled in a hollow. We lunched on Fay’s stash of emergency granola bars and returned home, not with an antique lamp, but with armloads of magnificent flowers.
I wonder what we’ll find in Morocco.
BONNAR SPRING writes eclectic international thrillers. A nomad at heart, she hitchhiked across Europe at sixteen, joined the Peace Corps after college, and trekked to Macchu Picchu for a recent significant birthday. Her award-winning debut, Toward the Light, is set in Guatemala, and the just-released Disappeared takes place in Morocco. Find Bonnar on her website: www.bonnarspring.com or on her Facebook: Bonnar Spring or on Twitter: @gretagarbo42 or on Instagram: @bonnarspring
LIONESS OF PUNJAB, in short: This energetic coming-of-age young adult novel brings us closer to Mai Bhago—a woman revered in the Sikh community and beyond—to imagine her growing to embrace her many roles in a way that was entirely her own and, in the process, becoming a shining inspiration for young women everywhere.
PROTAGONIST VOICE : My name is Bhag Bhari. I am a young Sikh woman living in a tumultuous Hindustan in 1699. You see, the emperor fears we are a threat to his throne, and we are being persecuted for our beliefs. It is Baisakhi, harvest season, and my family has come to meet our revered Guru in Anandpur Sahib. We have just been anointed as true Sikhs. It’s time to return to my small village Jhabal Kalan, but the Khalsa, our Sikh army, remains here. I believe I should be a warrior in this army, and protect my Guru, and community. But it is not part of my dharam, duty, as a woman. Why then does this call to arms seep into my skin, through blood and bone, straight to my heart?
ANITA JARI KHARBANDA is an Indian-American engineer by trade, and a storyteller by heart. She lives in North Texas with her loving husband and two sons. An avid lifelong reader of all kinds of fiction, she revels in seeing her children do the same. The healing power of letters filled with family history inspired Anita to start writing. She now writes the kinds of stories she’s devoured through the years, with one difference. She promised herself she’d write stories about the characters she dreamed of seeing in books growing up, and lift the voices of those who go unheard. You can find Anita Kharbanda on her website: anitakharbanda.com or on Instagram: anita_kharbanda_78 or on Twitter: @jarianita or on Tiktok: @anita_kharbanda_78. You can also find her on Goodreads: Anita Jari Kharband
THE PHOTO THIEF, in short: Drawn into a wealthy family’s long history of madness and murder, a grieving detective faces a choice: overlook a socialite’s death & save his career or risk it all for the chance to hear his dead daughter’s voice again
PROTAGONIST VOICE : A single black-and-white photo can damage a man’s mind if the image is powerful enough. A thousand can shred it beyond repair. That’s what happened to Pap, I suppose—why he simply stopped locking the photo room as if it no longer mattered. The damage to him was done. Mine was about to begin.
I didn’t know that, of course, on that day six years ago when I first entered the photo room. Didn’t know the images held the power to ruin me too , if I failed to answer the questions they posed—mysteries from years before I was born, pictures of grisly crimes still unsolved despite today’s modern methods of investigation. I needed—still need—to quiet their voices. But the questions they ask are difficult ones. I promised one I’d tell her story. I did. So far, no one’s believed me. That’s why I’m telling you. My name is Cassie, and I need you to trust me. Our lives depend on it.
JL DELOZIER is an award-winning thriller, mystery, and short fiction writer and a member of the ITW and Sisters in Crime. Her latest, The Photo Thief, pubs in October.
A retired Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Penn State, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and feline twins. You can find her at Twitter: @jldelozier or Facebook: @jldeloziermd or on Instagram: @jldelozier
THE DOLLHOUSE, in short: How far would you go to change the past?
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Bud, Olivia and I have been trapped in this place for months now. Alfred says we’re Dolls and that’s why he keeps us in his Dollhouse. He makes us recreate pictures from an old photo album. The old pictures aren’t so bad, but I’ve got scars all over my body from making the new ones. He says telling the truth is the only way to right the wrongs from his childhood so he can move on and have the life he deserves. Between the photos and the horrible mind games he plays, I don’t know how much longer we’re going to survive. Olivia says there are only a few pictures left in the album and she won’t tell us what the last one is…
Find Sara Ennis on instagram: @saraenniswrites
People who know her well think some of the details from her real life would make a fascinating story, but SARA ENNIS says the stuff she writes is much more believable and a lot less traumatic. Sara was born in Los Angeles and now lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
THE JOURNAL, in short: What do you do when you lose the only thing that you truly care for?
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Well, I’m here: Phnom Penh. I’ve made it. That’s something at least. As I lie awake in my tiny, box-like room, I can hear the hustle and bustle of the city outside: the dull, conflicting beats of nearby sound systems; the scattered voices, joking and laughing in nearby rooms; the jingle jangle of cutlery and glass; the tempered roar of tuk-tuks and taxis; and the buzz of unlimited fans and partisan air con. And there’s this hum, this indistinguishable hum that rises like smoke out of the city. A noise, a continuous heartbeat, pulsing and flowing, giving life to the place. My mind is too busy to sleep. Everyone else in the hostel seems to know what they’re doing, to find this whole experience normal, but I’m terrified. Charlotte, my sister, would know what to do, she always did. But she’s gone missing and everyone has given up the search – that’s why I’m here. I’m scared to go look, but, honestly, I’m more frightened of something else: what if I don’t find her? What do I do then?
D. STEVENS grew up in Kent, England and, after studying for his Philosophy degree, escaped and travelled the world for two years. Outside of writing, he teaches in a school in London and loves to read books, play the guitar, and talk about existentialism. ‘The Journal’ is his award-winning debut novel. His sophomore novel, ‘The Freeze’, is due out at the end of 2022. Find R. D Stevens on Instagram: @RDStevensauthor or on Twitter: @RDStevensauthor
RECKONING, in short: The time has come for those who perpetrated wrongdoing and suffering on the land of Loretania to face their judgement, but what happens when their prosecutor and the new ruler, Wellesbury, has his reasoning impaired by forces beyond his control?
PROTAGONIST VOICE : Hello, my name’s Samuel Flootenmyer and I’m a guard at the detention centre here in Whitopolis. They’ve changed things up a bit here. In the old days, we never used to see the prisoners. Solitary confinement. Now, the ones who used to be in charge are the ones behind bars. Waiting for a trial . . . yeah, that’s a new one on me. Fascinating, though, because we never used to see the people in power. They kept to themselves, and everyone knew where they stood. This new leader, Wellesbury wants to be one of us, going out and meeting people. I don’t see the need for it. Can’t lie, though, I’ve enjoyed getting to know this lot here, especially Professor Lunkin, the old chief scientist. Brilliant man, kept things running with no hitches. Now there’s things going wrong all the time. The things he’s accused of? I dunno, I’m not here to pass judgement, I’m here to do my job. So I was happy to carry out a special task he wanted me to do in exchange for decent pay.
NICK WILFORD is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now explores the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. His first traditionally published novel, a YA sci-fi adventure entitled The Becalmer, will release from Creative James Media in August 2023. His other books include the Black & White trilogy, a YA dystopian series. Find Nick Wilford on Facebook: Nick Wilford, Speculative Author or on Twitter: @NickPWilford or on TikTok: @nickpwilford
If you’re an author, what character voices do you write in? As a reader, what character voices have you loved?
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