contents // books and zines + music + kar kulture + art and design + photography + DIY + civil disobedience + assorted madness

Thursday, January 12, 2017

INTERVIEW: with Mary Patterson Thornburg, Author of The Kura

INTERVIEW: with Mary Patterson Thornburg, Author of The Kura
Genre: science/fantasy/adventure/romance/coming-of-age

Six years ago, when she was twelve, Alyssha Dodson was transported by accident to another world – a world much like her own, but just undergoing its industrial revolution amidst a whirlwind of social change. She found a home there, the brother she thought she'd lost forever, and a boy who loved her, who will in these six years have become a young man, as she's become a woman. For all these years she's been torn between her loyalty and love for her widowed father, the promise she made to him that she'd stay in his world, and her longing for that other place.

Now, on her eighteenth birthday, a hit-and-run victim found dying on a Granville street says her name and gives a policeman a strange object that can only mean trouble and danger for her brother and her friends. Alyssha has no choice but to go back.

When she gets there, she finds changes she'd never expected…


What inspired you to write this book?

This is going to be a two-part answer, because my inspiration for The Kura actually came in two steps. The first step was a dream I had early one morning – an unusual one, because it was like a scene from a movie or video I was watching. A little girl woke up, heard noises and shouts from the room next to hers, and ran in to find her father being beaten up by two strange men. He yelled at her to get away, and she ducked back into her bedroom, opened the window, climbed down a fire escape to the street, and ran toward the river, where she hid under a bridge. That was all, but I saw it very clearly – the little girl was my husband's niece (this was you, Wendy!) and her father was a friend I'd been in school with. That is, they looked like these people, but I knew they were fictional characters, and the dream scene was so compelling that I knew I'd have to discover their story and write it.

The second part of the inspiration came while I was writing the little girl's story. I finished it and self-published it, but I wasn't satisfied – I'm working on a revision now, actually. Even then, though, the story ends when the girl, Alyssha, is only twelve, and I knew there was more. That's because the place where she'd hidden, under that bridge, had taken her into another world, an alternate Earth, and there she'd spent three crucial months of self-discovery before she had to return. She'd been able to see her own world from a different vantage point, and she'd met people she couldn't forget– especially a boy her own age, named Kardl. I knew she'd go back, and I wanted to go with her.

Do you have a favorite character, or in what ways do any of the characters represent you?

A favorite character? Ha! That feels like asking a mother which is her favorite child. They're all my favorites, and I suppose they're all a little bit a part of me, like a mother's children. But they're all very real to me, very different, and I love them all equally, even the ones who end up on the dark side.

One who especially fascinates me, though, is Lady Vinh Ke Saar, the old village kura (wise woman – a combination teacher, physician, and spiritual advisor). I named her after a teacher I had, many years ago, Sarah Vinke, and she's sort of like Mrs. Vinke, but in overdrive. She's vain, arrogant, sly, secretive, and sharp-tongued. She's the teacher you always hoped wouldn't call on you in class, because if she did and you didn't have an intelligent answer she'd make you pay. Underneath all that, she has a good, kind heart, which she does her best to hide. And every now and then she says something so wise that I can't believe I actually wrote it – it's something I didn't know I knew, and I really think I must be channelling Mrs. Vinke.

What surprises did you come across when writing the book?

Lady Vinh Ke Saar surprises me all the time, as I've just said. But the real surprise in this book was something I'm almost ashamed to admit. See, The Kura is a love story, but it's also an adventure story and a kind of mystery, and all three plots are tangled together. Quite early, it becomes obvious that there's at least one character who's working against the others – someone they trust, who is fooling them, who may succeed in making it all, even the love story, fall apart. I thought I knew who it was. But, as it turned out, I was very wrong!

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead characters?

This is a tough one. I know who I'd like to play some of the minor characters, the older people in the book: Morgan Freeman for Ru Mardo, the old alilaman who's spent his life breeding these magnificent animals in a secret valley in the high northern range; Michael Dorn (who played Worf in the Star Trek series) as Kala and Shan's father and Kardl's uncle – I even named him Lon Dorn as a little hint to the casting director. Of course Helen Mirren as Vinh Ke Saar, because she can do absolutely anything. But the main characters? I know how they look, but I don't know any actors who'd be perfect. I know these parts would make them big stars, but I guess I'll have to leave this up to the film producers!

Anything you would like to say about writing? Encouraging words for potential writers?

Yes: If you're a real writer, if you have a story – or many stories – to tell, you know it, and you won't let anything stop you. So learn your craft. Read, read, read! Read some more. Read the best writers, new and old, and pay attention to how they do what they do. Learn how sentences are put together, and paragraphs, and whole stories. Practice, practice, practice! Write in every moment you can spare. Keep a journal, and write your ideas down before they get away from you. Know that you'll get better the more you practice. Have faith and confidence in yourself. And know that the real reward isn't fame and money, it's producing a story that comes alive, that you can be proud of and that someone else, even if it's just one person, will read and fall in love with.

Author Bio

Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California, grew up in Washington State, moved to Montana when she was 18, and spent many years in Indiana, where she studied and then taught at Ball State University.

Her dream was always to write fantasy stories and novels, but she didn't get started until she and her husband moved back to Montana in 1998. When she'd finished her first story and it was published, she took off running and never looked back. She's had stories in Cicada, Zahir, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, among other places. Two of her short stories earned honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (2006, 2008), and "Niam's Tale," in the July/August 2010 Cicada, won the SCBWI 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate. Her first fantasy/romance/adventure novel, A Glimmer of Guile, was published by Uncial Press in 2014. Her second book for Uncial, The Kura, came out in April, 2015. An Uncial Novel Byte, "Ghosts," was released October 14, 2016, and a second Novel Byte, "Battle Royal," is scheduled for release in January, 2017. Both "Ghosts" and "Battle Royal" are set in the Kura universe.


Twitter: @MaryPThornburg


Now the group was close enough for people to see the alilalu for what they were, and she heard murmurs all around, along with gleeful shouts from children. To eyes accustomed to seeing riders on chialau, the Wind Beasts seemed to dwarf the men mounted on them, except for one rider near the right end of the line who appeared to be a giant. Alyssha edged forward to see if she could make out some details.

Which one was the prince? Surely he would be dressed a bit more grandly than his companions, but in fact they all seemed to be wearing the same costume, long, flowing cloaks and big soft hats. The dramatic uniform looked suspiciously like something the Kardl she remembered might have dreamed up. But all were alike, and the men's faces were still indistinguishable. Most seemed to be neither very light nor very dark in complexion. Kardl could be almost any of them.

Suddenly the big man on the right gave his alila a kick with both heels, and the creature broke into a gallop. The other riders scrambled forward, but the first alila, a jet-black stallion, was too swift for them to catch up to it, and it thundered toward the crowd as people around Alyssha gasped and moved back.

A few yards away, the rider reined his alila in, swung down from its back, and hit the ground running. He was a huge, powerfully built young man running full tilt, his black cloak whipping out behind him.

He was making a beeline for Alyssha. Instinctively, she took a step back, startled and uncomprehending. But he closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds, and suddenly she found herself caught in a bear-like embrace, lifted off her feet and spun around in circles. Astonished, she began to fight, kicking and pounding, and heard a version of her father's voice coming out of her mouth: "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"

The other riders, who'd caught up with him at last, reined in their nervous mounts and stared in consternation. Without letting go, the man stopped revolving and laughed delightedly.

"Alyssha! It's me!" he said. "Don't you recognize me? It's Kardl!" He reached up and whipped the strange hat off his head, to reveal a shock of copper hair as bright as the Duchess's flame-bush in Granville. It had not dimmed perceptibly in nearly seven years.

And of course it was Kardl. Those years disappeared from Alyssha's consciousness in an instant, as did the crowd around them, her prim speech of welcome, Shan – especially Shan – and everything else in both universes but the two of them. She flung her arms around Kardl and kissed him so hard that he staggered backward. Recovering his balance, he returned the kiss with enthusiasm. After a little while Alyssha came back to her senses, at least to a sense of the interested crowd, which would definitely have something to talk about if this greeting were to progress much further.

Horrified, she managed to pull away from him. In a low voice, she said the first thing that entered her head: "For God's sake, Kardl, stop! Put me down! Kardl, I'm going to be married in ten days!"