... And the Best Supporting Role is: Hal

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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…Hal
a Supporting Role Character from Feud
by Derek Birks




Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Derek Birks’ novel Feud? Would you like to introduce yourself?
My name’s Hal and I’m in all his books – I’m very popular, I am. I must have been about, I don’t know, fourteen when I first met Ned Elder. He didn’t notice me much at first but I suppose he had more to think about than me. It was his lady, Amelie, who first took me under her wing. Through serving her, I got close to him. 



Helen: what role do you play in the novels?
Me? Oh. I’m always about, never far from Ned Elder. He made me his squire, you see - though I was a low born orphan. He encouraged me with my bow, taught me how to use a sword, taught me to be a man really… So I’m his man: I sleep by him, I stand guard, I watch his back and I fight alongside him. Where he is, I am.

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
I like to think I do what’s right but words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mean little. In the end, I’m loyal to my lord and whatever he says is what I do. Without him, I’ve nothing, I am nothing. 

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her?
Ned Elder? He’s a good lord. He’s been good to me anyway. When he was just a young knight he lost everything you know: his father, brother, lands and home. His two sisters were taken, but he held firm. Even though he took some parlous wounds, he fought on. By God’s teeth, he’s a fierce warrior - fierce with his enemies. But there’s no better man you’d rather follow into battle, and we’ve fought a lot of battles, I can tell you. 

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!
Well, all I’ve said is true enough, but I suppose sometimes – just sometimes, mind you - he tries a bit too hard, takes too much upon himself if you like. In his younger days - well in truth he was not much older than me - Ned could be a dangerous man to be close to. I think he thought that no man could kill him, you see; his body took its share of wounds and many men died around him. 
But you have to take the man all in all, don’t you? Many have been glad to call him lord, for he never took a backward step if any man of his was in trouble. And, no matter what befalls us, no matter how many fall around him, you know that he’ll never give up.  Never. 

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Me? Take the lead? You jest, I hope! I’d never want that. After all, what do I know? My parents were poor tenants! Ned might ask my advice once or twice but I wouldn’t want to take charge, by God no. That’s not for me – I’m damned lucky to be a squire and my lord’s trusted man.

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Least favourite? Now, that’s not easy for we’ve had some hard times, some terrible times. Where would I begin? I’ve seen the worst happen, too many times, things I just can’t bring myself to speak of, for I’d surely weep if I did.
One of the worst was the time that young John Elder – Ned’s son – and me were whipped at Yoredale castle. That was the blackest of days: the little lad took a score of lashes without a word or cry of pain though he was near thrashed to death. Many a grown man wept to see it. But, don’t worry, it was avenged… in time.

Helen: and your most favourite?
I suppose that would be when I found the woman I really care for. She’s funny, but she’s strong, you know, and she keeps my feet on the ground, I can tell you. Being with her is always a joy and my best memory was when the pair of us set out on the road together looking for Lady Eleanor’s boy, Will. 
That young rascal, Will, had run away to London, but he got himself into trouble. We found him – and my girl was so brave that day. We could’ve died on that journey but instead we fell in love. I can’t imagine life without her really.


Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!

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, my books are quite action-orientated so it won’t surprise you that some of those at my Christmas Dinner table might be described as action heroes!

Richard Sharpe has to be the first. Bernard Cornwell’s hero of the French wars is my sort of character. I think he might find a formal occasion rather difficult though, so I’ll sit him next to another no-nonsense action hero, D’Artagnan from Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. Hopefully they’ll tell each other stories and not argue over the turkey!

On Sharpe’s other side, I think he needs a strong woman – and who better than Carina Bruna from Alison Morton’s Inceptio? I think she’ll keep even Sharpe in order!

Now where to seat the other woman is a little problematic. David Ebsworth’s Marianne Tambour can be a bit awkward, a bit fierce even. She comes from a troubled – to say the least – background. I think Carina will be able to cope with her, but who else?
Ah, I have it! C J Sansom’s clever lawyer, Matthew Shardlake – he can talk to anyone!

And who will be the sixth and last guest? I thought about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, or Cornwell’s Uhtred – but I’ve already invited Sharpe – and one miserable sod at the table is enough! So we could do with a bit of light relief really. Who should I choose to lighten the mood? It’s obvious of course: Samwise Gamgee from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings! He’ll surely keep our spirits up if the conversation turns a little dark.


Links for Derek Birks:
Feud on Amazon UK  and on Amazon US


Derek’s latest book, Scars From the Past, can be found here:


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
10th   Anna Belfrage and Luke Graham
13th   Antoine Vanner and Fred Kung 
15th   Derek Birks and Hal 
16th   Carolyn Hughes and Matilda Tyler 

6 comments:

  1. It was lovely to meet Hal - I'd like to have someone as loyal as that watching my back at all times. The dinner party looks like fun - especially with Samwise to lighten things up!

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  2. Hal sounds a perfect companion, loyal and brave.
    Richard Sharpe and D'Artagnan at the same dinner table!
    *knees don't just go weak - they dissolve completely*
    But Carina will keep them in order ;-)

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  3. Ahhh, who doesn't like a rags to riches story! Very compassionate of Ned to take in an orphan. Must admit I am curious about Ned and his back story. How did he lose his parents? I am also intrigued by your friendship with John. Great post.. Rather hooked now with this story....

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  4. I loved how you made Hal so approachable.

    BTW, I have a soft spot in my heart for D’Artagnan, such a wonderful character.

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  5. What a lucky lad to find caring benefactors during those terrible times; but he seems to be giving back tenfold through his loyalty to them. My curiosity is definitely peaked.

    Derek,imagine a party with all our invited guests; fireworks, I wonder?

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