In place of our regular monthly interview with a member of the Academy Training team, we’re instead going to be interviewing the winners of 2016 Top Sims Contest, T’Lea and Rune Jolara, whose sim titled “Defying a Direct Order” won them the coveted title of “Top Sim of 2016”!
Let’s dive in and learn more about these writers and this well-written sim.
WOLF: Hi there and congratulations on your win! I’m really excited to learn more about the story behind this sim. But first, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourselves as players and writers, and how long you’ve been members of our community?
T’LEA: First, let me say that I really appreciate all the support for our sim. The competition was, and always is tough. How long have I been with the community? I believe it’s been over ten years now, and I hope to be here for ten more. When I first started writing back in 1993 I was fresh out of high school, and at the time DS9 was accepting spec scripts. I wrote a few and sent them in, but nothing ever came of it, except my growing passion for writing and Star Trek. When I found this community it combined the two things that I love, and the rest is history! Since then, this group has become a second family to me. A family of writers who understand and enjoy the same passion for Trek and storytelling that I do. As a full-time caregiver to a disabled family member, you all have provided support through friendship, and no matter what ship I have been assigned to (there’s been quite a few over the years) writing with you all has provided an outlet for me in the best of times and in the worst of times. This place truly is special to me.
JOLARA: Thank you and, likewise, I want to thank everyone for their support. I originally joined in 2005 but ended up taking an extended LOA. I came back a couple more times but, again real life got in the way. I finally came back to stay in 2012. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or the other. Even during my childhood I would sneak away and write. It’s helped me through some pretty dark times in my life. My earliest memories of Star Trek is watching TOS with my uncle. When TNG came out, my interest (almost obsession) in all things Trek was reignited and hasn’t really stopped. Like, T’Lea, this group combined two things I loved the most. As a bonus, I’ve met some pretty incredible people and made some lasting friendships… really they’re like a second family. I wouldn’t trade my time here for the world.
And tell us more about the characters – who are they, and what makes them tick?
T’LEA: Oh, boy. The Romu-vulc is a bit complex, just ask Counselor Moonsong or anybody that knows the character more intimately. T’Lea is half Vulcan and half Romulan, the child of a failed attempt to reunify Vulcan and Romulus (pre-supernova). She is a woman of two opposing worlds and beliefs, and she knows that she can never truly belong to either. When I first started writing for T’Lea it was all about revenge, and finding her mother who had abandoned her at birth. However, over the years the character has grown. She has found love with Captain Vetri, and they have two daughters, T’Sara and Gina (adopted). Family has become T’Lea’s strength, dulling her lust for revenge and her thirst for power and galactic domination. She still has a dark side and a mean streak, and she still struggles to abide by Starfleet rules and regulations, but what anchors her from tail spinning down to the evil villain that she can truly be is the love she has found in her family and close friends. I must say though, I do enjoy writing her when she’s tempted by evil and cruel thoughts. Jolara and other characters in the past have been a thorn in T’Lea’s side (I like to call them frenemies), and they really make writing a lot of fun.
JOLARA: Rune’s backstory is kind of complicated and a little crazy. She’s always been different from the rest of her people and has struggled most of her life with trying to fit in. Joining Starfleet and being exposed to such a wide variety of species, opened her eyes to the fact there was nothing wrong with being different. With the support of her new Starfleet family and friends, she found the strength and resolve to be true to herself by breaking away from her society and be who and what she was born to be.
What’s the backstory to this sim?
T’LEA: We recently finished a mission where T’Lea and Jolara, and the rest of the Invicta crew were possessed by the trapped souls of a long dead civilization. Well, it just so happened that our two characters got the souls of two lovers and they, you know, “reunited” against the hosts wishes. That little indiscretion caused a lot of problems for T’Lea, who is married, and there was a big fallout from that. T’Lea of course blamed herself for not being strong enough resist the spirit possession, but she also blamed Jolara, who was an easy target. This joint sim, I think gives closure to those hurt feelings, and puts them back near some kind of acceptance toward each other. T’Lea’s willingness to still be there for Jolara’s personal problems I think conveys without actually saying it that she has forgiven what happened between them during the spirit possession. Jolara can tell you a bit more about her character’s backstory to this sim.
JOLARA: Again, the backstory is kind of complicated. A few months earlier, Rune found out she was pregnant which was impossible as she had never been with a man. So naturally, she went searching for answers. At the time of this sim, Rune had just found the father but before she could get any real answers, the man was murdered and she was the prime suspect. Needless to say, combined with two previous missions in which were both emotionally and physically traumatic in varying degrees, her stress level was off the charts. Thus, she went into premature labor. Considering their “friendship” had been pushed beyond it’s limits, it only seemed fitting that T’Lea would be the one there when it happened. Or maybe it was Karma coming back to slap them both.
Were you surprised that this sim moved ahead through the rounds to the final round? Did you think it had a chance of winning?
T’LEA: Completely surprised. It’s hard to know what will strike a chord with readers, especially when the other sims are so good. There’s so much talent here!
JOLARA: Yes, completely surprised. I’m my own worst critic and there are so many great writers out there, so it’s always a surprise when others think I’ve written something good enough to be recognized.
How often do you write together, doing joint posts?
T’LEA: We wrote together a lot on the Invicta, and on previous ships that we were assigned to. The writer behind Jolara is gifted and very easy to weave a story with. Since we are on different ships now we don’t get to sim together as often as we had, but I am sure we’ll do a joint-sim again. I think we have some unfinished business we could work on? Is there another baby on the way that needs delivering?
JOLARA: When we were on the same ship, we would do at least one joint post every shore-leave. It’s always fun because I just never know what the writer behind T’Lea is going to throw at me. I do miss our characters getting under each other’s skin. They definitely have some unfinished business so I would say there’s no doubt we will write together again when the opportunity presents itself. As far as another baby to deliver… highly unlikely but I’ve learned to never say never.
Tell us more about your writing style. What’s your process for putting together a sim? (Not a joint sim – just any sim you’re writing.)
T’LEA: I started out in screenwriting, so that’s where I draw from. Every scene has a beginning, middle and an end, just like every story. It has to have a reason for being. Is it going to accomplish something important? Is it going to move the story along? Does it motivate the character to do something or realize something? That’s what I aim for. I don’t always hit all those marks, but when you have a great writing partner it makes it much easier.
JOLARA: I’m more of a play it by ear kind of writer. While I may start out with a clear cut idea of what I want to do and where I want to go, it often changes as I’m actually writing. It may sound strange, but sometimes it even seems like the characters just write themselves and decide what they want to do.
Thank you for your time!