After reading Ruling Eden, Michelle Picard’s debut novel I wrote to her and asked if she would mind doing an interview so we could get to know her better. She kindly agreed and has also offered a book for a giveaway.
Who is Michelle Picard? Give us the low down.
Fantasy writer, social worker, mother of two incredibly bright, handsome tsunami-like young boys. I grew up with my head stuck in books and always thought being a fantasy novelist would be the world’s best job. Like everyone else, I’m a mess of contradictions, even in my reading. I love slow paced epic fantasy world building and fast paced kick-ass paranormal plots in the books I read. Throw in a dash of interest in historicals and science fiction and stir. I’ve never lived anyplace without a winter, although I hate the cold with a passion. I currently reside in New England. My favorite type of food is Japanese and I haven’t traveled the world nearly enough. And most important for this visit to Smexy, my first contemporary romantic fantasy, Ruling Eden, with Crescent Moon Press to be released any day.
Ruling Eden is your first published novel. Tell us a bit about your journey.
Not only is Ruling Eden the first novel I’ve published, but it was the first manuscript I ever wrote. The idea for it was born in the spring of 2005 as I was doing dishes. I know, not a romantic setting to daydream. Eden was the story I cut my writing craft teeth upon and lots of love and attention went into it. Although I continued on to finish three manuscripts after I originally typed “The End” on my first, there has always been a special place in my heart for Ruling Eden. At the time I began the manuscript I had been reading a ton of urban fantasy, traditional fantasy and paranormal romance. I wanted to create a story that blended the best components of all three. Mostly because that was what I wanted to read.
In my novel there are seven disinct fantasy/paranormal races dragons, shapeshifters, vampires, witches, demons, angels, faeries – all the typical characters that show up on the pages of the novels I read. I was driven to ask the question, what happens if these guys were shoved into the same room together? And why do they all exist on the same world to begin with? I wanted to develop one central creation myth that explained it all. After that initial nugget of an idea, I played with the unique characteristics of each of these peoples as they arose. For instance, I didn’t know until I got to the correct scene that described my vampires that mine could go out in sunlight, that they were born of vampire parents, not made, and that their genetic programming only allowed them to fall in love with humans and not their own vampire kind. Very tragic. As far as keeping all of the details of my world balanced, I sheepishly admit I hate using spreadsheets or data tracking systems. Mostly I credit my detail oriented, speeding mind that thrives on minutiae and seems to naturally remember the peculiarities I give my characters and world. Yes, I sometimes have to revisit the text for refreshers, but I rarely have problems with inconsistencies. In Ruling Eden I had the most fun developing the realms of Faerie and Hell, for lack of a better word. Probably because their rulers were such nutcases I felt free to go for bizarre.
Rachel is strong and sarcastic, my favorite kind of heroine – was she inspired by anyone in particular?
Here’s where I have to admit my vice of sarcasm. That part of her voice is mine. Although snarkiness doesn’t always mean strength. I knew I wanted Rachel to be strong. She was a tough character, having grown up an orphan in foster care and kicked out from foster homes time and again. I’d worked with foster kids in my other profession as a social worker. I wasn’t thinking of any one kid I’d met as I developed her, but I knew I needed her strong enough to have overcome that history. And she had to be smart enough to intrinsically get how to play her cards when she’s thrust into an unexpected position of power. Her street smarts provided her with a lot of that. I did have one critique group partner who continually forced me to question whether Rachel was living up to her potential in each chapter. That helped immensely.
One of my favorite aspects about Rachel is that she accepts her new life quite quickly and moves forward. Was this a deliberate action on your part? I love how Gabriel’s insecurities are matched against Rachel’s strengths, even though Rachel is new to this environment. Can you give us some insight to writing their scenes together?
I wanted to make Rachel’s acceptance of a paranormal world and her role in it somewhat believable. At first she’s sure she’s going insane. But not only did I try to find a way to present her with incontrovertible evidence of the truth, but I also placed her at a natural transition point in her own life. A place where she’s dissatisfied and brave enough to take a chance on more, even if the whole idea of it is preposterous to a rational modern person. To take this risk was her first opportunity to demonstrate her strength and courage. Most important to me was demonstrating her reticence to accept the huge responsibility of her new role, but then her courageousness in moving beyond that. She’s learned she’s the heir to the supernatural throne, leader of all seven magical races and the most powerful magical being on the planet. She’s afraid of her power. Afraid of taking on this tremendous responsibility. But her inner strength outweighs her desire to run away from it all. She has a core dedication to humanity that developed because of her experiences going it alone and being treated as less than dirt as a kid. It forged her into a person who insists on recognizing the value of every individual. I admit my own personal value system creeped into her worldview. So when she learns it’s either accept her new role or risk the destruction of all of the world, it’s in her character to step up to the plate despite her wishes otherwise. Rachel has significant fears, but is brave enough to cope with them in order to do what she believes is right.
I wanted her scenes with Gabriel to be a showcase of this contrast within her as she’s falling in love with him and learning to trust him. A place to show her strength and her vulnerability. Ironically, as you noted, they turned out to be a showcase for Gabriel’s insecurities as well. He’s just as used to going it alone as Rachel. Although he’s strong in many ways and described as a deadly warrior, he needs Rachel’s example of strength to grow beyond his personal baggage. She challenges him to be more mostly because she’s too stubborn to believe he cannot do it. She believes in him.
There is a very steamy romance between Rachel and Gabriel in this story. If there is a sequel, will we get more of Rachel and Gabriel? Will Tarn or Sebastian or Rachel’s brothers ever see true love (please!!!) :)
(Big grin.) Yes, there will be more of Rachel and Gabriel. Their relationship journey is not over. My plans include a roughly four book series. The second is written already and is tentatively titled Surviving Eden. It has equally steamy scenes between Rachel and Gabriel. Before the series is concluded, Tarn, Sebastian and Rachel’s brothers (there are three) will experience satisfying love. Remember, there is an urban fantasy feel to these books. All of them will be written in Rachel’s first person point of view, so the secondary characters’ storylines will be resolved through her eyes. Ruling Eden has a happily ever after, despite there being more to come in this saga. But because I used an urban fantasy model, there may be bumps along the way in reaching the perfect ending for the main couple. I fully intend to take the readers there and I hope they’ll bear with me during the low dips to the relationship.
I loved the twist that the supernaturals are there to protect the human world, but it is a big secret to them. I am very intrigued by how Rachel is going to do this. Can you give us any hints?
Hints? Then why would anyone buy the next books? (Grin) Seriously, I think the key is Rachel’s continued mastery of her fears. In Ruling Eden she’s given a bunch of rules by the goddess who created Earth with a promise of retribution if she breaks these rules. Some of them mean a need to keep secrets about the jeopardy of the human world from everyone else. Ironically she knows she needs all of the supernatural races’ help to save the planet. Solving this inherent contradiction means her willingness to fully embrace her new magic, accept what she’s become in this new existence, and risk it all, including retribution by the goddess. You know, the average challenge we all face in order to save the world. I can’t give specifics away without too many spoilers, but the goddess herself becomes a character in the second book and lays down clues to help Rachel save life, the universe and everything.
How important is networking through Goodreads and your blog for you? Do you see it more as a social function or is it done more for business?
A little of both. Although I originally started my blog and my Goodreads account as a way to approach the business of writing and networking with readers, I quickly learned how much fun it was to participate in Goodreads, and hear about what others were reading and writing. The same is true of my blog where I can have fun with whatever topic crosses my mind. Just like in my books, I get to play goddess there.
Since you are in Smexyville, I must ask:
What fictional character do you lust after most?
Right this second that’s Henry, the vampire character of Tanya Huff’s urban fantasy series on which they based the short-lived television series Blood Ties. Not only did I lust after Henry in Tanya’s books, but I then lusted after the actor they chose for the television role, Kyle Schmid. I love his dimples. I also lust after Daemon Sadi, a hero in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy. But I’m not sure how many readers know who he is.
If you could trade places with any heroine, whom would it be?
Mine. Rachel. I already have the jump on her issues and her obstacles. Most of the greatest heroines in the books I admire have incredible challenges. I’d be overwhelmed to walk in their shoes. I’m thinking about Rachel Morgan in Kim Harrison’s books, and Joanne Baldwin in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series. At least with my Rachel I fully understand what I’m getting into. Plus, I admire the hell out of her. The most important argument for choosing Rachel? Gabriel, her half-angel, half-demon hero.
Who would win in a battle, Edward Cullen or Harry Potter?
Harry Potter. He’s more than shown his mettle.
Hairy Chests, smexy? Yay or nay.