Regarding Helen

Greetings, Action Force.

As you probably know, my newest book, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest, is coming out in July.  I thought this would be a good time to actually talk about the book and what it’s about.

Epic Road Quest is a combination road movie / heroic odyssey / screwball comedy.  That might seem like a strange combination, and it probably doesn’t help to promote it that it doesn’t fit easily into a category.  It’s come up before that I struggle with the many labels I’ve been saddled with, and this book probably isn’t going to make anything clearer.  Though I’m sure most people will just call it “silly”, and as long as they like it, that’s cool with me.

But, as usual, being silly was never my intention.  I was motivated to write Epic Road Quest for a couple of reasons, and over the next few posts, I’ll go into all those reasons.

First up, I’ve just always wanted to always write a story with a minotaur as the protagonist.  Hardly surprising, considering my well-documented love of monsters and weird creatures.  I’d experimented with stories featuring minotaurs in the past, but none of them made it past the idea stage.  It was only when I thought of making the minotaur in question a female that it finally clicked.

Helen is where the entire story started.  I’ve always loved physically powerful superheroines.  She-Hulk has been a favorite character of mine for decades.  But I’ve always also been disappointed that there is no genuinely monstrous female heroes.  Comic book superheroes are full of strange looking guys:  You’ve got the Thing, Nightcrawler, and Martian Manhunter, just to name a few.  But females are almost always traditionally attractive.  Even She-Hulk tends to be thinner and more feminine than her cousin.  That never really bothered me, of course, because She-Hulk is smart, physically powerful, and even physically imposing and that’s pretty amazing for a female character.

Still, I’ve always liked the idea of a female monster as hero, and I’ve always wanted to write a minotaur hero, so it was only a matter of time before I figured out to combine the two. And Helen was born.

Helen is a minotaur.  In the universe of her story, minotaurism is a enchanted condition passed along family lines.  Her minotuarism comes from her mother’s side, though by now, it mostly manifests in small ways like cow ears on her mother or a tail on one of her brothers.  But Helen is full blown minotaur.

(For those of you who want to get technical about it, the original minotaur had the body of a man and only the head of a bull.  I went the more modern interpretation where the condition is more like a humanoid bull (or in Helen’s case, cow).  Fur.  Cow head.  Tail.  Hooves.  I like it better that way, and it’s my book, so I can do whatever I want.  So there.)

As a seven foot tall woman with superhuman strength, Helen is something of an outsider.  Her world is a mix of traditional mythology, modern fantasy, and parallel modernity, so it’s not as if there aren’t other monsters and strange creatures in the public eye.  But even in a world where orcs and elves are common place, minotaurs are a rare thing.  Female minotaurs are even rarer.

Helen is traditionally monstrous, though I’ll admit I didn’t make her truly hideous.  She’s even supposed to be a bit cute in that way that a lot of (sigh) furries might enjoy.  Yeah, I hate to say that but there’s no denying it.  Not that I have a problem with that because, hey, I have a crush on a giant green woman who can benchpress a herd of elephants, so who am I to judge?

Going forward in the story, I had a couple of clear goals in how I wanted to portray Helen and her story.  I knew for sure that I wanted her to be confident with who she was, but still, conflicted at times.  Aren’t we all?  And don’t most of us have body issues now and then?  Helen’s are just a little more singular.  I also didn’t want to write a story where she becomes more traditionally beautiful via some magical cure all by the end.  Helen is a minotaur at the start, and she’s a minotaur at the end.  I might call that a spoiler, but anyone who has read anything else I’ve written probably already figured that out.

More importantly, I wanted Helen to be well-deveoloped mentally as well as physically.  Too often, empowering a female character is as simple as making them kick a bunch of ass while scowling.  They’re reduced to tough guy caricatures with boobs, and that can work for some characters, but considering Helen is a modern day person with modern day concerns, it made little sense to me to treat her as a born adventurer.  Helen is just a regular person, with her own outlook, her own strengths, pet peeves, and insecurities.  She has her low moments and her high moments.  But she doesn’t live or die merely by her physical strength, but by her strength of will and determination.

My goal isn’t necessarily to create a “strong female character” but to just create a strong character who happens to be female, just as I never strive to create a “strong male character.”  I try to make good characters, first and foremost.  And Helen is a character I’m very happy with.  Not only is she pretty cool, but she can punch a dragon and get away with it.

And I’m sure even She-Hulk would be impressed by that.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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One Comment

  1. Posted June 30, 2013 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    I’m so excited for this book!!!

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