Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview and Give-Away With Michelle Picard

I am thrilled to have new author Michelle Picard visiting Penelope's today! Her debut novel Ruling Eden is now available at Crescent Moon Press. It's a fabulous adventure/fantasy/romance, with a kick-ass heroine, tons of cool other-worldly races, including dragons, faeries, vampires, etc., and finally a delicious character named Gabriel (I love you, Gabe-baby!!!!). Please leave a message for Michelle and say hello. We will be giving away a print copy of Ruling Eden to one lucky reader.

Pen: Welcome Michelle to Penelope's! So glad to have you here today. Your book is such a great adventure. What book have you read that felt like the ultimate adventure, like you couldn't wait to find out the next thing that would happen? (This is how I feel about Ruling Eden...it was awesome!).

Michelle: I feel a bit like that when I’m reading Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. Not that I’m rating myself up there with that kick-ass urban fantasy Fae series, but I definitely can’t help turning the page to find out more. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series is also like that for me. These are books where the action is so constant, it’s amazing how much happens in each novel.

Pen: Haven't tried Rachel Caines' series yet. Thanks for the recommendation! (Great, just what I need...more books on my TBR pile! Hee hee.....). I love your heroine Rachel's sassy first person POV. She is a great combination of street smart, cocky and vulnerable. When you were writing this book, did you "become" Rachel as you wrote from her point of view?  Did you know who she was before you started, or learn more about her as the book progressed? Is any part of Rachel like you?

Michelle: I knew a bit about Rachel when I began. But I learned more along the way. I remember beginning Ruling Eden knowing I wanted her cocky, with a sarcastic edge and with a darker past. (I’ll admit to the sarcastic portion coming from my own personality—grin). I became fuzzy about her after the first three chapters. At that point I sat down and made Rachel write a stream of consciousness commentary on her life. She was very accommodating and set me straight fast about who she was. I do think her fear of becoming too powerful and allowing that power to corrupt her didn’t jump out at me until late in writing the novel.  And yes, after writing so many first person pages of this manuscript, I was pretty much inside Rachel’s head by the end.

Pen: I love the texture of your writing. All of the senses are covered in each scene, very painterly. Do you think about all of the senses for each scene?

Michelle: I pay attention to the senses as I write, mostly because I find without them the emotional intensity of a scene is missing. Usually I’ll succeed in hitting a few of the major ones in the draft of a new chapter. Then I go back, read it, notice the missing tension or intensity, and purposefully add in what I’ve neglected. I’ve become a huge fan of tactile and olfactory description, but that’s evolved as my writing has.

Pen: You do a great job with your "hooks" at the end of each chapter. I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter and find out what was going to happen. Do you know what your hook will be when you start writing each chapter?

Michelle: Absolutely not. They’re a surprise to me. I have a general idea of what’s going to happen by the end of a chapter and of the ground I need to cover, but the emotional place the character ends is not as clear before I get there. It evolves as I write. The hook is extremely dependent on that emotional state. They usually pop at me easily when I reach the culmination of the scene or chapter.

Pen: There is an enormous amount of complexity in this story with all of the different characters and different worlds. How do you keep it all straight? Do you outline? Plot in advance? Do character sheets/world-building sheets for each group?

Michelle: Here’s where I sheepishly admit that my organizational system would be graded a D minus. No character sheets or world-building sheets for me, though I’ve been forwarded a ton of great ones over the years. Most of the complexity and detail is in my head. I certainly plot in advance, but those details almost never reflect the minutiae of the characters or world. I’ll go back and review past chapters to get my mind refreshed as I create new scenes. There’s a lot of back and forth in my technique and I tend to layer in complex details in stages.

Pen: I sheepishly admit it, too. All those damned character sheets and spreadsheets remind me way too much of homework! I loved all of the different races in your book. Which one of the seven paranormal groups would you choose to be and why?

Michelle: Hmmh, good question. Although I adore my hero, Gabriel, who is part angel and part demon, I’d avoid choosing either of those races. There’s one place in my book (or is it in the pending sequel?) where Rachel comments about the irony of having one race with a grating excess of humor and another with a complete dearth  (demons and angels respectively). So they’re out. Probably I’d choose to be a dragon. Rachel’s brother Qest, who is quite a sweetie, is a Kyn, the other reference name for the dragon race. They all have humanoid forms and their dragon forms are gorgeous. Second runner up is Fae. The Fae queen is the ultimate crazy bitch, but I love their magic and the Doctor Seuss like visual quality of their realm. Okay, I love how the witches do magic, too. You sure I have to choose Penelope?

Pen: I know, that's sort of a mean question, isn't it. I TOTALLY love the dragon scenes in your book. I got chills reading those, seriously. Speaking of chills (hee hee) how do you feel about writing love scenes? Difficult, fun, weird?? Does adding magic into the love scene make it more fun to write?

Michelle: Love scenes are not difficult for me. They fly off the keyboard as I type. I’m not sure exactly what that says about me, but I leave it to everybody else to draw his or her own conclusions. Yes, they’re fun, and integrating magic into them adds flexibility to what I can describe or create. Love scenes also allow the characters to reach a different level of emotional truth than many other scenes. On top of that, they’re just plain hot. And how is that not fun?

Pen: Well, if you're a romance author and you don't like writing love scenes, you're in big trouble. I agree...it's fun! :)  As I already mentioned, I love the dragon world in Ruling Eden, and your vision of Hell is so funny. How did you come up with the ideas for all seven worlds?

Michelle: Those visions I definitely did not plot in advance. When each realm arrived in the story for me to describe, the picture jumped out clear to me within a few moments. As long as I’m deep into a story, those world-building aspects flow. The key has been to let myself have fun with them. Maybe not “ha ha” fun, but the kind that allows you to become outrageous or extreme. Since this is fantasy, I’m free to do what I want and don’t have to check my facts with real geographical locales. No one in Hell has been sending me nasty emails telling me I got it wrong (grin).

Pen: Do you like to listen to music while you work? Does certain music inspire your characters?

Michelle: I don’t listen to music while I type, though music does inspire my characters and story ideas. Interestingly, that was not true with the original story idea for Ruling Eden, but has developed since with my other manuscripts. When I am in my head building the story I usually “hear” dialogue. If I try to listen to music while I type, it gets in the way of that dialogue. In contradiction, my favorite place to brainstorm is my health club while I’m on the Cybex machine. And there I am wearing headphones and listening to my MP3 player. The music serves to keep the ideas all flowing in my head.

Pen: Okay, now I feel guilty for not working out. (Think I'll make myself feel better by eating a gingerbread cookie.) I am very attracted to books with a theme about unique types of families and I definitely think this idea is addressed inRuling Eden. Did you know that would be one of the main themes of the book or did it sort of evolve from the plot?

Michelle: I knew that Rachel’s lack of family as she matured was a major issue for her. What I didn’t realize is how intensely she would feel about her three brothers as she discovered them, or her contradictory emotions about her deceased mother. Those evolved with the story. One of my first critique partners for this story had been adopted as a baby. Her perspective really raised interesting questions for me about how Rachel would relate to her brothers.

Pen: What fantasy/magic books inspired you when you were younger? What kind of books do you read now? What's your favorite book/author?

Michelle: The very first “fantasy” book I remember reading was The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I was in fifth grade and my teacher introduced it to the class. It sparked not only a fascination with Unicorns, one of which appears in Ruling Eden, and with Magicians, but also of the fantasy genre in general. Interestingly, although its not fantasy per se, Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear influenced my admiration of world building. For those of you unfamiliar with her stories, they are set in the time period of pre-modern man and deal with the possible interactions between what is supposed to be Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal man.

I still read fantasy voraciously, although the vast majority of it is urban fantasy. Choosing one favorite is difficult. Kim Harrison? My favorite more classic speculative history fantasy author is Jacqueline Carey. Very different kind of writing and slower paced, but rich characters and world building. My vote for a favorite fantasy world is Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series story universe. And for romance fantasy I adore Marjorie Liu.

Pen: I LOVED Clan of the Cave Bear. That book rocks out! Of course, you know the next question is coming....have you ever watched Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Yummy!! What's your favorite episode? Do you like Jean Luc? Why? Is he your kind of hero?

Michelle: God yes. I’m a big fan. Jean Luc is yummy, yummy, yummy. I know your penchant for hair on your heroes, Penelope, and he certainly lacks much, but I’m not so hung up. He is noble and commanding, but with a warmth he doesn’t try to hide at the important moments. And I just love how he tugs down his uniform as one of his mannerisms. I usually go for darker heroes than him, but the Next Generation creators worked magic when they created Captain Picard. Come to think of it, Gabriel’s past may be darker, but he does share some of the major characteristics of Jean Luc. Most of the heroes I write are noble types, the kind that struggle with their dark sides to do the right thing. Favorite episode? Probably one with the Borg.

Pen: How hot did Jean Luc look when he was transformed into the Borg? Oh yeah, digging that!!! I do love the whole beard thing, but a bald guy with that awesome accent...that's a close second for fantabulosity (I just made up a new word!).  

Okay, tell me one quirky thing about you (Michelle is a member of The Quirky Ladies group). What's your favorite cocktail? How do you feel about Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana? Any guy you find delish who inspires your heroes?

Michelle: If you visit The Quirky Ladies blog where we all posted quirky facts about ourselves, then you’ll read about my funny honeymoon story. My husband (fiancée at the time) wanted to surprise me with our honeymoon destination. We’d both wanted to go to Italy, but he told me it was too expensive and we agreed upon London. I was all set to go and he informed me he found a cheap flight, but the catch was we had to fly through Germany. I was the only person in the universe who considered it reasonable to be flying to London from the East Coast of the US via a change of planes in Frankfort. My husband told me our true destination, Venice, when we arrived in Germany and I tried to ask for the connecting gate to London. I’m that gullible. But, hey, I got a great surprise out of it.

Favorite cocktail is Kahlua and Cream. I have a wicked sweet tooth. And I whole-heartedly endorse anything involving Hugh or Eric. Sexy men. They’ve both been visual inspirations for some of the heroes I’ve written. Is it hot in here, Penelope?

Pen: Super hot!!! (fan, fan, fan). What's next for Rachel, next on the horizon for Michelle Picard?

Michelle: Well, the second book of what is likely a four book Eden series has been written. It continues Rachel’s story and introduces more conflict. Not that saving the world isn’t conflict enough. It’s titled Surviving Eden and I am waiting for my editor at Crescent Moon Press to tell me whether they are interested in it.

If they contract it, I suppose it’s on to the third book in the run, which I’ve tentatively entitled Recasting Eden. I intend to resolve not only Rachel’s issues and her love story with Gabriel, but the major issues and love interests for the strongest of her supporting characters. These include her two single brothers and her guardsmen, Tarn and Sebastian.  I love those guys and they deserve happy endings. Plus, Rachel will save the world. You know how that goes (grin).

Pen: That sounds fantastic, Michelle. Thanks so much for chatting with me today. One lucky reader will receive a print copy of Ruling Eden, so please leave a message for Michelle! Here are some other cool links....

Buy Ruling Eden!

Michelle's website

Michelle's blog....She is running another contest here. Stop by to check it out!

The Quirky Ladies