Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Character Interview with Harric Dimoore (The Jack of Souls)

We’re thrilled to be talking to Harric Dimoore, from Stephen Merlino’s The Jack of Souls. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Pimp That Character!

Thank you for your interview, Harric.  How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I turn nineteen in a couple days. But then, that’s all I get. I’m dead. My mother cursed me to die on my nineteenth birthday.

I’m not trying to get sympathy, but since you asked, I thought you should know.

What do I do for a living? Normally, I tell people I’m exactly what I appear to be: a gentleman bastard, earning his coin playing cards and running a modest trade supplying pioneers passing through on their way to the Free Lands.


Since I’m dead tomorrow, it hardly matters who knows the truth. The truth is I was trained from birth to be a courtier spy in Her Majesty’s service. Why am I here, you ask, and not in court? Long story. Suffice it to say, I refused the service, and won a death curse for my pains. That doesn’t mean I don’t love the Queen. I do. She’s the only reason bastards like me are free in Arkendia and not slaves. She freed us, and I’d give my life for her. I refused to go to court because…Well, let’s just say I had some differences of opinion with my master on the best way to serve Her Majesty.

Enough of that. The long and short of it is that instead of serving in court as I was raised to do, I’m a frontier gambler, con artist, trickster, and rogue.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

Aren’t you listening? Obviously, someone put you up to that question. Was it Rudy? He’s a cob. But back to your question. What would I do with one day to live? Apparently the first thing I’ll do is grant an interview to someone with wool in their ears. After that, I’ll fight like hell to break my curse.

Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?

My handsome good looks and winning smile, of course! Kidding. Not really.

It bothers me that the only picture you have of me is the one from the cover of The Jack of Souls. Jakub Rozalski was the painter, and I’ll grant he’s unbelievably talented, but I object to his choice of scenes. The night before that scene I’d been jumped no less than three times and fought for my life against fists and swords and sorcery. I look it, too. Why couldn’t he show me at the card table, hair combed, fat roll of ragleaf between my teeth, leaning back in my chair as I cast a sly smile at the viewer over stack of coins in the foreground?

Whatever. If I look wretched and ready to topple over that cliff, that’s why.

What would I love the most about you?

My humility.

What is your most treasured possession?

As a kid, it was my favorite card from the tarot poker deck: The Jack of Souls. When I was nine or ten, someone gave me a particularly fine, hand-painted Jack, and I pinned him on the wall above my bed. He was my hero. I wanted to be the Jack—sly, mysterious, magical, powerful. I imagined I’d be him when I grew up. Now that I’m a man, I think I came out about right. See the resemblance?

Since I’ll be dead tomorrow, it won’t matter if I reveal my most treasured possession as a man: it is a small, glossy, utterly lightless stone, about the size of an egg, but perfectly round like a miniature Black Moon. If it were discovered on me, I’d hang. I stole it from a dead witch.

Who is your best friend?

The lady Caris.

Why am I smiling? I smile because she is surely my dearest friend. I also smile because I’m sure the word “lady” conjured to your mind the image of a petite, gowned beauty seated on a cushion with a cat in her lap.

Caris hasn’t worn a gown for many years. More recently, she’s worn armor hard as granite and ridden hard upon a warhorse rather than sat with a kitten in her lap. That’s not to say she isn’t fair. She is, in her way.

But Caris is what we call “horse-touched.” No one really knows what causes the condition, but everyone recognizes it: Caris is bigger and stronger than most men, and she gets along better with horses than with people. Uncanny with horses, really. Useless among people, unless you get her alone. Alone, she’s kinder and more true-hearted than anyone I’ve ever met.

I willed her this card, The Maid of Blades, to bring her luck finding a knight who will squire her. It kind of looks like her.

I’m opening up your cabinet.  What foods do I see?

Hey! How the black moon did you know there was a hidden cabinet in that wall? Did my mother send you?

Look, I don’t know who you are, but you knew damned well there isn’t food in this cabinet; that’s where I keep my tools. And no, those aren’t cookbooks, they’re recipes for poisons, and that isn’t cutlery, they’re my lock picks.

Look, this is none of your business. Keep your hands clear. I’m closing the cabinet.

Do you like to cook?  If so, what is your favorite thing to cook?

Ah. Glad you asked. I do cook. I cook poisons, intoxicants, perfumes of certain affect. My favorite is a poison called amity. When complete, it is undetectable but for a faint coffee scent, which is why it’s an admirable additive to that beverage.

I see you glance at the cup you finished during this interview. You are a clever one. Sadly, not as clever as I. The toxin is now well into your body. But not to worry. I’m not a murderer. Amity’s effect is quite gentle. After I’m gone tomorrow, you’ll wake on this couch without the faintest memory how you got here. Indeed, you won’t recall much of this conversation.

Did I say I’d let you share all these secrets? Alas. I lied. Though I’m about to die and it hardly matters now who knows these things, I’ve lived a life of secrecy, and it seems old habits die hard.

That was a big yawn. You should probably lay back now, to prevent knocking your head. The sleep comes on fast.

Tut! Dispense with that hurt look. Consider this:  you but lay back to sleep, while I go to face my curse and either break it or die. We can agree yours is the lesser grievance.

It was a pleasure speaking with you. Farewell, fair stranger.

Sweet dreams.

— H

About the Author

Stephen C. Merlino lives in Seattle, WA, where he writes, plays, and teaches high school English. He lives with the world's most talented and desirable woman, two fabulous children, and three attack chickens.

Growing up in Seattle drove Stephen indoors for eight months of the year. Before the age of video games, that meant he read a lot. At the age of eleven he discovered the stories of J.R.R. Tolkein and fell in love with fantasy.

Summers and rare sunny days he spent with friends in wooded ravines or on the beaches of Puget Sound, building worlds in the sand, and fighting orcs and wizards with driftwood swords.

About the time a fifth reading of The Lord of the Rings failed to deliver the old magic, Stephen attended the University of Washington and fell in love with Chaucer and Shakespeare and all things English. Sadly, the closest he got to England back then was The Unicorn Pub on University Way, which wasn't even run by an Englishman: it was run by a Scot named Angus. Still, he studied there, and as he sampled Angus's weird ales, and devoured the Unicorn's steak & kidney pie (with real offal!), he developed a passion for Scotland, too.

In college, he fell in love with writing, and when a kindly professor said of a story he'd written, "You should get that published!" Stephen took the encouragement literally, and spent the next years trying. The story remains unpublished, but the quest to develop it introduced Stephen to the world of agents (the story ultimately had two), and taught him much of craft and the value of what Jay Lake would call, "psychotic persistence."

Add to that his abiding love of nerds--those who, as Sarah Vowel defines it, "go too far and care too much about a subject"--and you have Stephen Merlino in a nutshell.

Stephen is the 2014 PNWA winner for Fantasy.

He is also the 2014 SWW winner for Fantasy.

His novel, The Jack of Souls is in its fourth month in the top ten on Amazon’s Children’s Fantasy Sword & Sorcery Best Seller list, and among the top three in Coming-of-Age.
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About the Book:

An outcast rogue named Harric must break a curse laid on his fate or die by his nineteenth birthday. 
As his dead-day approaches, nightmares from the spirit world stalk him and tear at his sanity; sorcery eats at his soul.
To survive, he’ll need more than his usual tricks. He’ll need help—and a lot of it—but on the kingdom’s lawless frontier, his only allies are other outcasts. One of these outcasts is Caris, a mysterious, horse-whispering runaway, intent upon becoming the Queen’s first female knight. The other is Sir Willard—ex-immortal, ex-champion, now addicted to pain-killing herbs and banished from the court.
With their help, Harric might keep his curse at bay. But for how long?
And both companions bring perils and secrets of their own: Caris bears the scars of a troubled past that still hunts her; Willard is at war with the Old Ones, an order of insane immortal knights who once enslaved the kingdom. The Old Ones have returned to murder Willard and seize the throne from his queen. Willard is both on the run from them, and on one final, desperate quest to save her. 
Together, Harric and his companions must overcome fanatical armies, murderous sorcerers, and powerful supernatural foes.
Alone, Harric must face the temptation of a forbidden magic that could break his curse, but cost him the only woman he’s ever loved.

A tale of magic, mischief, and the triumph of tricksters.

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