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7 December 2016

... And the Best Supporting Role is: Coenred

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Supporting Role Characters
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We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Coenred.
a Supporting Role Character from The Serpent Sword
by Matthew Harffy

Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Matthew Harffy’s Bernicia Chronicles series. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Coenred: Well met. I do indeed play my own part in the tales that begin with The Serpent Sword. But whilst it is fair to say that much of the saga follows the exploits of my warrior friend, Beobrand, I am not a man of war. I now reside on the Holy Island of Lindisfarena, where I do my best to follow the word of our Lord and to obey the orders of Abbot Aidan.

Helen: what role do you play in the novels? 
Coenred: I found Beobrand when he was sorely wounded after a great battle. I nursed him back to health and we have been firm friends ever since. I have saved his life more than once, and he mine. We are very different in temperament, and I often disagree with Beobrand’s quests for vengeance. We are told by Jesu that whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. It is not easy for any man to live by this, but Beobrand is a thegn now. A sword warrior, who has killed many men. And he will never turn his cheek to his enemy. I see much sadness in Beobrand, and I wish I could make him see that he could find peace if only he would listen to the words of the Christ. Alas, I fear his ears are deaf to God’s voice.

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
Coenred: No man is without sin, but I strive to do good. When surrounded by so much hatred and conflict it is not easy, but I have never lifted a weapon against another of God’s children. I am not proud to speak of this, but I did once strike a man with my fist, but brother Gothfraidh told me I could not be held responsible for my actions then. I was brought before the king himself then. I remember all the eyes of the great men gathered in the hall staring at me. It was terrible… But let us talk of other things.

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he and tell us a little bit about him?
Coenred: Beobrand is now sung of by the scops in the mead halls. He came from Cantware far to the south. He was nothing more than a son of a ceorl then; a farm boy. But he is tall and strong and when he took up shield, spear and seax, he found that he was gifted in death-dealing. He has served many lords with honour and his sword is feared by all foemen of Northumbria. He is a thegn now, with land and a warband of his own. He is my friend and I pray for him daily. Sorrow and grief hang over him like a cloud, and he has had more than a normal man’s share of adversity. But Beobrand is no normal man.

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!
Coenred: I love him like the older brother I never had, and I believe he looks upon me with fondness. But I have seen him wielding his great sword, Hrunting. I have stood by and watched as he has cut down his enemies as a farmer scythes barley. The battle-lust comes upon him at such times and I am not ashamed to say that he frightens me then.

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Coenred: What a strange question! We each have our place in the world. Mine is not to be a hero, standing in shieldwalls, feeding the wolves and ravens. But I am of course the lead part in my own tale, and I have done many things in my life and I am still young. I have witnessed a great gift-giving in the hall of Bebbanburg, scribed a treaty between Mercia and Northumbria, attended a royal wedding in Wessex, and visited the Isle of Hii far to the north and west. I have done all these things and more. Perhaps one day I will travel all the way to the Holy city of Roma. Only the Lord can say what life has in store for me.

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Coenred: I prefer not to speak of it. I try not to even think of it, but the dark memories sometimes return to me in my dreams. It was shortly after meeting Beobrand. He had yet to recover from his wounds when some Waelisc warriors came to the settlement where I lived. The people fled into the forest. I ran and hid with Beobrand inside a great hollow tree. I can recall the scent of the wood and leaf mould even now. When we returned to the village, we found my sister, Tata, had not run quickly enough…

I loved her so much, and now I can only seem to see her as we found her then…

No, I will speak of this no more.

Helen: and your most favourite?
I remember helping King Oswald hand out gifts to his thegns and warriors after the battle of Hefenfelth. I was terrified to be standing there before so many great men, but it was a happy time. A time of feasting and laughter. Beobrand had helped bring victory to the king and so he was rewarded. I often remember how he smiled then, with his woman, the beautiful Sunniva, at his side.

Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!
Coenred: It has been my pleasure. Now, I do believe I am late for Vespers. Gothfraidh does go on so, if I am not there on time.

Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be? 
Well, if it is for dinner, I suppose I should choose three of each gender, to balance the seating arrangements. I would invite the following characters, who I think would provide us with a great amount of entertainment. For the men I would invite Captain Augustus McCrae from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Druss from David Gemmell’s Legend and Sir Richard Francis Burton from Philip Jose Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go (I know he was a real person, but he is one of the main characters in Farmer’s classic science fiction Riverworld series). As for the ladies, I would invite Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Arc (hey, you said fictional, you didn’t say from books!) and Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Gus McCrae is an incorrigible flirt and would spend the evening bragging to the ladies. I think he’d end up taking Marion home with him, or they’d both get so drunk they would have to stay in a spare bedroom. Druss and Sir Richard would regale each other with accounts of their adventures – what an amazing conversation that would be, both legends in their lifetimes due to their prowess in battle amongst other things. I’m not sure Druss, the axe-wielding champion of the Drenai Tales would approve of Burton and all of his escapades, but I think he would be open minded enough to find respect for the great swordsman, linguist, translator, explorer and writer.

Hermione and Rey would hit it off, I think. Both are powerful, strong young women who are not afraid to stand up and fight for what is right. And I would love to be able to grill Rey on her past and find out once and for all who her parents might be…although it is very possible that she would not be able to help me there.

Author info:
Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first of the series, The Serpent Sword, was published by Aria/Head of Zeus on 1st June 2016. The sequel, The Cross and The Curse was released on 1st August 2016. Book three, Blood and Blade, is due for publication in December 2016.

Book info and links:
The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.
Killer of Kings and Kin of Cain are available for pre-order on Amazon and all good online bookstores.
Contact links:

Come back tomorrow to meet the next Supporting Role Character 

Here's the full list of authors and their characters  - links will be added as each character makes his or her entrance

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio 
9th     Regina Jeffers and Viscount Stafford 
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham 
11th   Christoph Fischer and the Countess 
12th   Pauline Barclay and Zilda Gilespie 
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung 
14th   Annie Whitehead and Queen Alfreda 
15th   Derek Birks and Hal 
16th   Carolyn Hughes and Matilda Tyler 
17th   Helen Hollick and Claude de la Rue 


  1. I can feel a reader's Angst coming upon me; the fear of missing any of these great characters. Coenred in The Bernicia Chronicles sounds like such a wonderful supporting role: a really Good Guy. How refreshing not to have a villain. (Love the cover designs of the series, by the way).

    1. Thanks for dropping by Inge. I loved reading about Vergil yesterday and Coenred is a real change from your bad boy pirate! He isn't without grit though, and he might surprise you if you read the novels. :-) I love the covers too!

  2. I flinched when we got to Coenred's memories about that day his sister didn't run fast enough; I remember it clearly from when I read that scene in the book and I'm not surprised it haunts him still. It's nice to be reacquainted with Coenred :)

    1. It is a harrowing scene that will always haunt Coenred... The Serpent Sword is full of these defining moments that forge the characters of both Beobrand and the supporting cast.

  3. One of the great things about this series of posts is finding out a little more about the character behind the hero - or heroine. Coenred is a classic example because of the contrast he provides with Beobrand. Good stories, like most of life, are about light and shade and the relationship between these two demonstrates that well.

    1. Yes, it is important to have that light and shade in stories. Seventh century Britain is a pretty dark place, so it is imperative to have some characters that remain in the light!

  4. Good morning Inge (or is it Good Evening - late night for you?) I agree, these things do tend to get a little compulsive - especially when such fantastic guests are lined up!

  5. Great to see Matthew and his excellently drawn characters here. I'm a big fan.

  6. A truly supporting supporting role, if you get my gist. I love the insight afforded into both Beobrand and Coenrad in the above. Dear Coenrad must be a truly important person in Beobrand's life - but I wonder, does he also act the conscience at times?

    1. Whenever they are together, I think Coenred finds himself taking on that role, yes!

  7. Great interview! I just love Coenrad. :-)

    1. Thanks, Samantha. He's a bit of softie, which the girls love. :-)

  8. Now Coenrad sounds like the sort of monk England needed more of rather than those scurrilous monks who bring the role into such disrepute. I think I may have to get better acquainted with him in the not too distant future.
    And, like Anna, I wonder if Coenrad might act as Beobrand's conscience.

    1. "Scurrilous." What a wonderful word, Loretta. With English being my second language (and as a lover of poetry and opera), I am always on the lookout for those sonorous sounds to bring melody into our writing.
      Matthew's Coenred certainly sounds like a must-meet character.

    2. Coenred isn't scurrilous at all. However, he does have a bit of a run-in with a rather scurrilous monk in the second book in the series, The Cross and the Curse.

  9. Nice to meet you Coenred, you have had some interesting experiences.

  10. Well, as far as protagonists go, in my latest book in the Bellême series, which I'm about to publish, I have two protagonists. Can you have two? I guess I can because I wrote them in. Being an author/puppet master I can do anything!
    Never mind sex and blood lust, I also use my books to air my views on Englisc and Northmen historical characters and events, especially of the eleventh and twelfth centuries where the truth it seems gets somewhat muzzy. The question is, what is the truth or should we say, better to use the word, data as data can be either true or false. Here the writer has to submerge him or herself into a tremendous amount of research in the hope of finding the truth or at least have a better idea of what the truth could possibly be... but I enjoy researching into history anyhow so it's no big deal. Which leads me on to say, Harold, that is Earl Harold of Wessex, who was voted to be King by an extra-ordinarily large Witan made up of sixty or more Englisc lords over and above other claimants.
    The question comes back to us, did Duke William of Northmandig have a rightful claim on the throne of Englaland? Of course, William being a bastard, bars him from any such claim, no matter how much Edward loved him!!! Even taking into account of William's blood line linking him to Queen Emma, as it turns out it was very thin indeed. There were stronger claimants than William, such as King Harald Sigurdsson (Hardrada) he had a blood line to Canute and of course we have the strongest of all, the twelve year-old, Edgar the Ætheling grandson of King Edmund (Ironside) of the royal house of Wessex. I could go on for hours like this, thereby putting every person reading this to sleep!!!... God forbid.
    Somebody recently claimed a bloodline to the bastard William.... has anyone claimed a bloodline to Harold or at least to Cerdic of the royal house of Wessex?

  11. I would be interested to know why you chose the Holy Island for your book. I have used it also in one of my books. Did you specifically choose it for the legends surrounding it? Was your setting also a character? Such is often true for it changes the hero's actions.

    1. Hi Regina,

      Sorry I didn't see you message until today! I didn't really choose Holy Island. I used to live in Northumberland, so had an interest in the area, and when I started writing about the area during the seventh century, I discovered all the wealth of history at the time that I had been oblivious to. I knew Lindisfarne (Holy Island) had a rich Christian history, of course, but it just so happened that my stories take place in the years when the first monks are founding the monastery on the island, so it becomes an important place in both the kingdom of Northumbria and my books.


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