Hello! My name is Katelina, and welcome to Weekend Character Interviews. Using state of the art-mumbo-jumbo author magic, Jo has temporarily bent the laws of fictional space and time to allow various literary universes to converge long enough for me to ask different characters a few questions. Since I spend a lot of time in the Amaranthine series quizzing vampires on what they’re doing, where they’re going and why, Jo thought I would be the perfect interviewer.
Today we are interviewing Shuki from M.A. McRae’s novel Not a Man
Shuki: My name is Shuki Bolkiah and I live in a remote part of Arabia. I am an educated man, though when my story begins, it would have seemed so unlikely. Then I was just a child, not long taken from the slums by a rich and powerful man. Hassenal Daoud had a very powerful influence on my life. If not for Master Hassenal, I may never have learned to read and write, I would certainly never have been to England or anywhere else. It is quite likely that I would not have survived until adulthood. Children die in Elbarada, of starvation and of disease. My family lived in the worst of the slums, an area where the infant mortality rate was almost 90%.
On the other hand, if I had not met Master Hassenal, assuming I did survive, I would have been truly a man. The name of my book is called ‘Not a Man.’ I was just ten, and he changed me. I never forgave him for that, and yet I did not hate him. He was my protector. He thought he loved me. He changed my life.
K: Wow! That sounds pretty complex! So what kind of a book would you say this is?
S: My author has called my story a ‘Coming of Age.’ That is what it is. When I was young, I felt such a sense of inferiority. I stayed puny when the other boys grew strong and hard. Men wanted me, when they never would have thought of wanting the others. My face stayed pretty instead of turning into the face of a true man. My body is hairless, my face beardless. It took a long time for me to accept my differences, and to know that I am just as worthy as any other person, even if not a man in the full sense of the world.
K: That’s an important lesson that a lot of people could use. I’d guess learning that was your biggest challenge, or is there a bigger one?
S: After I was attacked at Oxford, the biggest challenge I faced was just to survive. It seemed then that there was nowhere I could live and be safe. That was before I found my dear friends, my wives. That day, if I had not forgotten my rifle, then there would have been no more story. I would have ended it then. Elei would have been broken-hearted, I know that now, but at the time, I had not yet understood how truly he loved me. I loved him as well, but for me, it took time for that love to grow. I think it’s different for me than it is for true men, who can by blinded by lust and call it love.
K: So you and Elei are involved in a romance?
S: I do not understand ‘romance.’ I have come to very much love my partner, Elei, but it was not like that in the beginning. It was just that I thought that just maybe I could survive if Elei kept me close. Elei is strong and brave and intelligent and he holds me close at night. Elei is my love.
K: Yeah. That’s romance right there. Sounds like Elei is a wonderful man! But, on the flip side, do you have any enemies in the book?
S: There was one who seemed to me as if he represented all my enemies. His name was Moran. He wanted to buy me as a slave, but by then I had my wives and children to look after and to live for. Instead of waiting for him to act, I removed the threat. I killed him. When I was ten, few men wanted me, but as I grew, it seemed that almost every man wanted me. Always, I had to guard myself. Always I had to be aware of my surroundings. I was prey and still am. Men are my nemesis – whole men that is, not like me, a eunuch.
K: A eunuch? Um, not to get too personal, but… well… how did that happen? If you don’t mind telling us?
S: There was an operation.
K: Oh. I guess that’s probably the answer to my next question, “What event most shaped your life”?
S: Most people would assume that it was that operation that made me as I am. It is true that I would have been different in personality as well as in body if that had not happened. But what had the most effect on me was when I thought so deeply of my prospects after that meeting with Dr. Stewart McKenzie. He explained to me just what they had done, and what it made me. There was no way of going back. That wicked operation could never be undone. What choice did I have? If I had left Master Hassenal, I would have tried to survive by thievery and begging, just another of the horde of street urchins that live in Elbarada. Few survive long. So I had to accept what was done; I had to live with it, and I had to make the most of every opportunity I was given. And so I have done ever since.
K: It sounds like you had a very hard life. What else did you have to do to survive? I heard a… um… rumor that you and a Mr. Horie… well… that you received money in exchange for certain “favors”, shall we say….
S: It is true. It was when I had left my master, and was living alone in England. I quite deliberately went to a place where rich men gather, and I offered a night with me in return for a very large amount of money. I wanted to go to University, and I needed money. Remember that at heart, even now, I am just a slum boy, surviving the best way that I can. From the ages of ten to fifteen, I shared the bed of a rich man in order to have food, shelter and safety. For me, it was the obvious thing to do.
K: Weren’t you scared?
S: Very nervous. I didn’t think he would hurt me, but I don’t like sex and never will. But then he held me all night. I think it’s the best thing in the world to be held like that, all night. I came to have a very deep regard for Mr. Horie.
K: Were there others besides him?
S: That paid for it, do you mean? No. There were never any others. When Mr. Horie died, that was the finish. I never took money for sex again.
K: We’re getting low on time, but I have a couple more questions, if you don’t mind. If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?
S: I would explain that sometimes things happen, and the only choice you have is to accept it and learn to make a life anyway. Make the most of what you have. There is no point yearning for what you cannot have.
K: Wow, that’s a very profound comment! What is the thing that you want the most in the world?
S: The one thing that I want? I think that I already have all that I want. I have four wonderful women to be my friends and companions and I have two children to dote on. They are not of my blood. It makes no difference. Veiha and Tarik are my children. And I have Elei. What more could I want? I do not yearn for what I lost when I was ten. One does not miss what one has never had.
K: Well I’m glad to hear that it all works out so well! That rarely happens in the books I’m involved in. Your author must be nicer than mine. And speaking of authors, if you could say one thing to yours, what would it be?
S: No idea. It would be like saying something to some almighty god – authors do exactly what they choose to do. Just as long as the ending is happy, we poor characters cannot ask for more than that.
K: Shhhh! Don’t let my author hear that or she’ll be trying to get rid of us again for “characters who cooperate”!
Jo: What? Did I just hear the sound of a good, respectful character? You should be more like this fine example of…
K: *groans* too late.
And with that we’re out of time! You can find Shuki in M.A. McRae’s novel Not a Man available at Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/169513
And a special thank you to M.A. McRae for playing along!
If you’re an author and would like your character(s) to be interviewed by me, then check out this very cool page that has all the details: