Mary Patterson Thornburg makes a return visit to Journeys with Jana. She's here with an interview with one of her favorite characters from her novel The Kura. Please welcome Mary Patterson Thornburg!
Character interview – "Pei Kala" (a secondary character in The Kura), interviewed by the book's author
Thornburg: Good morning! I'm so glad you agreed to this interview – please, sit down. Will you have a cup of tea?
Pei Kala: I'd love some tea, thank you! This'll be fun. I've never been interviewed before.
T: Well, don't be nervous. You'll do fine. To begin with, I'm not sure how to address you. Would "Madam MP" be correct, or would you prefer "Lady Pei"?
PK: (Laughs) Oh, please, just "Kala." My husband's the Member of Parliament, not me. And if you make this formal I'll be tongue-tied!
T: All right – Kala it is, then. Now, our readers would like to know something about your childhood, where you grew up.
PK: I was born with Stone Village – one of the traveling villages in the west of Bandor. My brother, Shan, and I are twins, and our mother died when we were babies, in an accident. Our father was a lot older than her, and he'd been head of the village council for a long time. But we grew up just like all the village children, except Shan didn't take special training in any of the crafts. He knew he was going to be a kura – a physician – from when he was only about seven, so he studied with our kura. We both went to regular school with her. And we both took out 'lanu flocks to graze, of course, starting about that age.
T: Were you trained in a craft?
PK: Not a craft, but in planting and harvesting. I've always loved plants and flowers. It was lucky, because now I'm doing a lot of gardening for my clients around the city. And for us, too – my husband and me – and for some of our friends.
T: How did you and your husband meet? Did you know each other as children?
PK: Oh, no. Actually, Bela Ru is from your world here – Underland we call it – although I tend to forget that most of the time, and I think he does too. We met seven years ago, two years before the Bandor revolution, when he was seventeen and I was almost sixteen. His sister, Alyssha, was already my friend, and she introduced us. We declared our bond – got married, I mean – a half-year later, at the Midwinter festival. We stayed with the village then until Bela Ru rejoined the Magh Ladar, and after the revolution we moved to the city. Bela Ru helped write the new constitution, and he was elected to Parliament the year after that.
T: So, let me see… that means he was elected when he was just twenty years old? That's quite unusual, isn't it?
PK: He was the youngest MP, yes. But several members were in their twenties, and now there are two younger than Bela Ru. We're a young country. We need new ideas, and the courage and passion and commitment – and, yes, the energy, of young people. We are all learning how to make our country work.
T: Kala, if you could have a wish come true – a personal wish – what would it be?
PK: (with a mischievous smile) You are the author, and you're granting me a wish? May I have two wishes, then?
T: Well… we'll see.
PK: Oké, here are my wishes. First, I wish for my dear friend Alyssha, and my dear brother Shan, to be happy. Together… or not. But both happy. And second, I wish for a baby. Bela Ru and I so want to have a baby.
Blurb, The Kura:
Six years ago, two men chased Alyssha Dodson into a dark room under a bridge in her Indiana city, and she found herself in another universe. After three months she came back. She promised her father she'd stay in his world. But what she'd left behind was a place she couldn't forget, dreams she couldn't escape. And a piece of her heart.
Now, when a man dies in a hit-and-run accident, leaving her a strange, double-faced coin and a message she doesn't understand, she'll have to break that promise.
Alyssha wasn't tired, but it seemed like a good place to stop for a few minutes. She left the road and sat down in a patch of shade. Taking out an orange, she peeled it carefully and ate it, stuffing the peel back into her pack. Her fingers were sticky now and she was thirsty, but she wanted a drink from this stream, not from her bottle of Granville water. She walked into the grove, toward the sound of the stream.
The breeze shifted and she caught a whiff of something foul – a dead animal, and not a small one. A wave of nausea struck her. At the same time she felt the hair on the nape of her neck prickle, and the star stone, under her tunic, touched her with a sinister thrill. It was this, nothing else, that made her walk toward the stench.
Even before she saw it, she guessed what sort of dead animal it would be. She scanned the ground and soon spotted what she'd feared. The body was sprawled between two of the larger willows, partly hidden by a tangle of undergrowth. Insects buzzed over it; the grass around it trembled. Wishing she'd not stopped here at all, she moved closer, until she had no doubt that she was looking at a dead human being.
The body was clothed in stained fabric. Although she couldn't be sure, she thought it was a man. A large stone rested on his upper chest and another lay beside him. The face, she saw with relief, was turned away from her. His head lay toward the east, his face turned to the south. Suddenly Alyssha remembered something the old kura, Vinh Ke Saar, had said: South is the direction of deceit. Her amulet burned against her skin. Had the stone killed him, crushed him? It was large enough for that. How long ago? How long did it take to reduce a human body to this? More than a few days, she thought.
Suddenly the grove was full of shadows. She stepped backward, inch by inch, trying not to make a sound, as if she might disturb the dead. When the body was no longer visible, she turned and ran. She reached her backpack, slung it over her shoulders, and ran again, down the road, her breath tearing at her lungs.
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Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California and has lived in Washington State, Indiana, and Montana, where she currently resides with her husband, poet and fellow novelist Thomas Thornburg. She has published fiction, literary criticism, and poetry. Thornburg's short fiction has appeared in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, ZAHIR, and CICADA, among other magazines, and in several anthologies. Two of her stories received honorable mention in THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR, and her young adult story "Niam's Tale," set in the world of THE KURA, and published in CICADA, won the 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
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