Thursday, 13 June 2013

An Interview with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra Series

Part One – Kati and Mikal’s relationship

Question: So, Helena Puumala, what inspired you to come up with Kati of Terra, the character?

Answer: I wanted a feisty young heroine, someone that young women especially (but also people of all ages) could look up to and emulate in some way. But I also wanted her to be someone who had experienced significant difficulties and obstacles in her life, so that the reader could identify with her. I wanted to avoid a victim mentality, but also to make sure that she had realistic character flaws, as we all do. Thus, Kati’s early, foolish marriage, which left her with some cautions and unease about intimate relationships.

Question: Mikal has a somewhat similar backstory, in as much as he too had a failed marriage. Did you plan that, or did the characters just evolve that way?

Answer: It’s a bit of both, actually. Mikal is a few years older than Kati (but only a few), so I wanted him to have at least as much life experience as Kati had, as far as relationships are concerned. I thought that would make him a more appropriate romantic and adventuring partner for Kati.

Question: So that puts Kati and Mikal on a more or less equal footing, in terms of life experience. Generally speaking, you seem to follow that pattern in other aspects of the two characters. For example, Kati has some natural ESP talents, as well as a flair for improvisation, while Mikal has training and experience in law enforcement, and a confident, cool head under pressure. In this respect, the focus on equality, some might say that you are departing from the conventions of the romance genre. Was this your intention?

Answer: I don’t think I consciously set out to do that, but that seems to be the way things worked out. But I am glad that the characters developed that way, as the lack of a power imbalance gives the relationship dimensions that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

Question: Such as?

Answer: Such as, they can have fun together, in a playful, bantering, almost childlike, fashion. But when the time for action comes, they work well together, with leadership passing from one to the other, depending on whose strengths are more appropriate to the situation. Naturally, they don’t always agree on whose strengths are more appropriate to the situation, but the fact that they see themselves as equal partners means that they can negotiate these situations. Also, because I avoided the ultra-powerful, alpha-male stereotype, Mikal became a more well-rounded character that both males and females could relate to.

Question: Since we are on the subject of Kati and Mikal’s relationship, I note that you are generally of the “close the bedroom door” school when it comes to intimate scenes. However, you are not exactly prudish, as the books have several scenes, such as the incidents with wild tribes on the Drowned Planet, that contain sexual content of the bawdy, humorous variety. Do you care to comment?

Answer: Yes, that probably is my way of dealing with the topic. I can’t see myself writing sustained erotic passages. I prefer the lead up to these scenes, the romantic banter, the anticipation and the subsequent emotional bonding. I feel that the reader can fill in the erotic details for herself. As for the bawdy humor, that’s just fun, and gives the reader a break from the books, any books really, taking themselves too seriously. I don’t have particular moral scruples about sex scenes, I just don’t think I could do the subject justice. It’s a difficult one to write well, and without it coming off as a lot of repetitive muscular contractions – not that there’s anything wrong with that! Perhaps if I was in my teens or twenties...

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