Inspiration for books can come from many places. Katrina Mountfort, author of Future Perfect, had an unusual moment of inspiration when reading an article about body waxing for men. It got her thinking about the painful lengths some people go to look their best and how airbrushing is making our perception of ‘perfect’ increasingly out of reach.
She then wondered what would happen if a seemingly ‘imperfect’ protagonist, short, curvy and feminine – otherwise known as normal – was born into a world where super model looks had become the norm. This soon became the premise for Future Perfect. Following a bio-terrorist attack, the population now lives within domes where men and women are almost identical, personal relationships and attachment are forbidden, a BodyPerfect cult dictates the appearance to which everyone is striving, religion has been replaced with Mind Values. Every thought and action is monitored and controlled. People conform through fear. Curiosity is dangerous.
Unfortunately, Caia, the protagonist, has a habit of asking too many questions. She knows she shouldn’t take the risk as she seems to have it all. She’s highly educated, works in an important research role for the Government, known as the ‘Ministry’, and is surrounded by the luxuries of a dome. However, she feels a freak as a normal-shaped woman and fights to keep her attraction to one of her imperfect co-workers hidden, something that becomes increasingly difficult once she realises her feelings are reciprocated. When he introduces her to illegal, subversive thinking, something that fuels her curious mind, she is drawn into a forbidden world and, when the pair are sent on a mission outside the dome, her life changes irreversibly.
This isn’t just a story. Albeit extreme, it’s a comment on society. It warns of what could happen if our relentless drive for perfection and destructive tendencies continue. Katrina felt so passionate about these issues that it is no surprise that the words flowed as she began to write the novel. She didn’t even stop to plan.
Then Katrina stopped to read it. Not realising it’s normal for every writer’s first drafts to be bad, she became discouraged and shut her manuscript away for five years. Fortunately, someone encouraged her to have another go. Once she’d finished, she sought a critique from The Writers’ Workshop, which brought into her life a supportive mentor and, added to that the encouragement of a writing community, she overcame her challenges and polished her work to a high enough standard to send out.
Katrina has done a convincing job with the world in Future Perfect. The characters have authentic reactions to scaremongering, propaganda and censorship such as the alarming news snippets dispersed between the prose. Most seem to swallow it and others seem to hide their skepticism while Caia battles her curiosity. I loved the way Caia’s isolation, in spite of the crowded dome, was captured: “Whenever I found myself in a group it was as if a circle had been drawn around them which excluded me.”
I found the chatty tone, in which the characters speak to each other, surprising. However, it captures how unnatural everyone really is in the clinical dome and creates a nice contrast with Caia’s experience outside despite the dangers and appalling treatment she faces for daring to explore it. The question is, once she’s tasted the outside world, how can she go back to the old one? And, is she truly only one of a few disillusioned by life in the dome?
Future Perfect raises many questions like these and Katrina’s mentor made her realise her story had more mileage than one book. Making a change to the ending, Katrina set it up to become the Blueprint Trilogy. She began work on the second book, Forbidden Alliance, while she was publishing Future Perfect with Elsewhen Press, a small publisher specialising in speculative fiction. She’s enjoyed a warm experience working with a specialist publisher and has also embraced the opportunity to spend more time with the characters who have become like family. In fact, she’s discovered that writing books in a series becomes easier because much of the groundwork, such as character profiling and world building, is done when writing the first.
The third book in the Blueprint trilogy is due out next year and I ask Katrina how she manages to keep up the book-a-year pace. Her advice is to write quickly and edit slowly which means letting the first draft flow out then giving it as much time as it needs for editing later. Despite being critical of society’s aspirations for personal perfection, Katrina is right to be passionate about perfection when it comes to writing!
Discover more about Katrina and her books on her website here.