Today I have the great privilege of sharing with you a conversation I had with Prince Vian a few weeks ago — after I had to track him all over the countryside! My goodness, that was a difficult feat, but I kept missing him and his companions. Vian is a character in J.L. Mbewe’s “The Hidden Dagger” series, and she has just released the second book: Darkened Hope. I read the first book, Secrets Kept last year and just loved it so much. I am so excited to read the next book in this series!
I walk through the golden city set in the midst of a lush, green oasis surrounded by vast desert. The InterFiction Gazette had sent me to Nalu to interview Prince Vian of Badara, but I had been having a devil of a time tracking him down.
At last I had made my way to Bonzapur, where I asked around and discovered that the prince and his companions were staying at the palace and readying themselves to depart on another long journey, if I hurried, I could catch them before they left and ask my questions. I show my press pass at the door and am allowed into the palace and led to the room where Prince Vian awaited.
I take a minute to survey my surroundings.
Sand-colored walls open up onto a terrace that overlook the royal courtyard. The swaying fronds of palm trees shade the brick pathways and gardens. Off in the distance the green of the oasis ends abruptly, giving way to a sea of yellow sand.
Vian is perched on the edge of a stone bench next to a round table. Dates and nuts fill the wooden bowls and a platter of flat breads rests in the center next to a pair of cups and a few smaller bowls of seasoned oil. A pitcher of cool water drawn from the depths of the palace is waiting to be enjoyed.
I scoop up a handful of nuts and pop one in my mouth. “Hello, Prince Vian,” I say, crossing over to plop myself on the stone bench next to him. “You’re a hard man to track down. Do you always venture about the countryside like this?”
“Hardly.” Vian sips from his cup and sets it back down. “Before all this—this thing with Derk and the Sorceress—you might find me hunting the boar back in Badara. But you would never have seen me beyond our borders. My father—King Valdamar has not set foot outside of our kingdom since I was born—so I’ve been told.”
I frown. “Really? Then why have you been traveling all over the countryside?”
“It’s the guardians fault, really.” Vian tears off a chunk of the flat bread and dips it into the seasoned oil. “They were the ones who sent us on this quest, something about some tonic being able to free my people from a curse.” He plops the bread into his mouth.
I write that down and look up. “So you’re on a quest? That’s exciting. Can you tell me a little bit about your traveling companions and how you feel about them? What is it like traveling with these people?”
Vian sits back and sighs. “Ah, what a motley crew we are, aren’t we? Being a prince and all, it’s not every day you’d find me in such company. It’s a rather nice change, really. Let’s see, well, there is Kael—the leader. He is this long-haired elf who is always so serious and moody. He thinks he’s know everything, but you know, after surviving the Inganno Forest and passing through the desert, he’s all right. Never a truer person could be found, if you ask me. One would be considered lucky to call him a friend.
Then there’s Eloith, the fairy captain. He’s nice. Always popping in and flitting about. If it weren’t for him, we’d probably have died back in Zajur.
Then there’s Ayianna. She’s nice and all. Beautiful girl, really. Betrothed to my friend, Desmond. The poor girl has been through a lot, but she has held her own on this journey. A bit conflicted, I’d say. But I can’t say I know why. Although, I think it might have something to do with Desmond. Not to mention this whole quest and the Sorceress and all.
Speaking of Desmond . . . he and I go way back. As prince I was able to influence my father to make him the Councilor of Merchant Affairs. He has such an eye for business. But this journey hasn’t been easy on him. He’s normally quite the charmer and has a way with the ladies, if you know what I mean. Although, now . . . I don’t know. Maybe when this is all over, he’ll return to his usual charming self.
Oh, and I forgot. Tariq will be joining us. He is the nephew of Queen Emani and he will be our guide. I hardly know him, but he seems nice enough, and he has been to the places we need to go. That’s obviously helpful, isn’t it?” Vian smirks and grabs a handful of nuts.
I can’t help but grin, Vian is engaging and pleasant to talk to, if a bit dramatic. “Sounds like a motley crew indeed, but a good group of companions. Can you tell me anything about this journey you are about to leave on? What is your end goal? Why are you personally going on this venture?”
Vian finishes his mouthful of nuts and washes it down with a couple of swallows from his cup. “Well, if Kael has his way we will be leaving within the
Pencil sketch of Prince Vian by the author, JL Mbewe
week. This journey. We came to Bonzapur to find the Dwalu Tonic. You see, the Sorceress has placed my people under a curse, and the guardians think that this tonic will set them free. So, here we are. In Bonzapur. And you know what we found? A riddle. Who speaks in riddles anymore? So now we are off to find a silver pinecone, a root from the largest tree, and the merfolk healing waters. Although, my father would not be happy to hear about this. The guardians assure me this is important and that they would indeed rescue my father in my absence.”
I look up, suddenly alert. “Rescue your father? Why does he need rescuing?”
The prince straightens and leans forward. “Well, haven’t you’ve heard? I’m sure all of Nälu is probably talking about it right now. See, my father’s captain of the guards betrayed him. Threw in his lot with Derk and that Sorceress. That’s how Badara fell without bloodshed that day. And now my father, according to the guardians, languishes away in his own dungeons. Can you believe that?”
I stare at him, then slowly shake my head. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” I fumble with my papers for a minute, but Vian doesn’t seem too terribly broken up about what he just told me, so I decide to continue with my next question. “What would you say is the hardest thing about being the Prince of Badara?”
“The hardest thing? Ha!” Vian rubs the back of his neck. “I . . . uh . . . I don’t know. What’s so hard about being a prince?” He shakes his head and shrugs. “That’s a tricky question. I’m not complaining mind you, but it’s not as easy as some would think. Like finding a few good friends, you know? But to answer your question . . .” He leans back, pressing his fingertips together. “I’d have to say probably, pleasing my father. But you won’t put that in the papers, will you?”
“Well…” I hesitate, “I mean, it’s something my readers will want to know. But I’m sure they’ll understand… and I doubt your father will read it, languishing in the dungeon as he is… do you even get the InterFiction Gazette in Badara?” I race along, never really saying that I WON’T print what he just said. “So, tell me, what concerns you the most about the quest you are about to undertake?
Vian snorts, seeming to forget his request. I’ll make the decision on whether to print it later. “Leaving behind the comforts of civilized life. Do you know how many lovely robes I had to leave behind in the Forest of Inganno? No, not this time. This time, I will be better prepared. And,” Vian shudders, “I’m not too terribly fond of the creepy crawlies. I am not looking forward to our trek through the jungle. Although, Tariq says it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, if we can find the Keyon River.”
“That sounds very unpleasant!” I agree. “Speaking of possessions, what would you say is your most prized possession?”
Vian frowns. “Oh, I don’t know. I was quite fond of my robes and my horse. Oh, and my bed! But this quest has stripped them all from me. Ask me again after all this is over.”
“It sounds like going on adventures and quests isn’t quite as glamorous as the storybooks make it sound! So, how do you feel about your author and your role in this story so far?”
“Author, what’s an author? Ha!” He tilts his head, brushing his red curls out of his eyes. “Well, I would have given me a larger role. I am a prince. Princes should be the center of attention, you know, the lead character. Not some elf who has a stick up his bum. But we’ll see how things play out in the next league of our journey.”
I grin and jot that down, I like to break that fourth wall… some characters are quite aware of who they are and have quite a bouncy relationship with their authors, while others have no idea they are figments of someone’s imagination. Then I look up, “And, finally, I’m sure my readers would be interested to know if there is a young lady in your life? I know that as royalty there is often a great pressure to produce heirs, is there a potential Mrs. Prince Vian and will we learn anything about her in the coming adventure?”
Vian bursts out laughing. “I wish. Maybe you could speak to the author or something. There is no one in Badara and there is certainly not any prospects here, being that the only girl is betrothed to my best friend.” The humor faded from Vian’s face. “But now that you mention it, I wonder if my father has even thought about an heir. He’s been a bit distracted with the Nuja priests and the guardians and all—ever since my mother died. Maybe I need to take matters into my own hands. You know, for the good of the kingdom and all.”
That was a very fun conversation! I love getting to talk to all these interesting characters and hear a little bit more “behind the page” if you will.
This interview was conducted as part of JL Mbewe’s blog tour celebrating the release of Darkened Hope. If you enjoyed this little conversation, please leave a comment below and tell her what intrigues you most about Prince Vian or her books in general! Or just congratulate her on her latest release!
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Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with a wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril. She has two short stories published in The Clockwork Dragon anthology, and four short stories set in the world of Nälu. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award, and its sequel, Darkened Hope is coming May 2016.
Stay up-to-date with all things Nälu and her journey as a writer mama at JLMbewe.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest.
And while you’re at it, there will be a FACEBOOK PARTY on May 21st to continue the celebration of this newest Nalu Adventure!