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Monday, September 20, 2010

VBT Surviving Eden with Author Michelle Picard...

YGR:  Where do you hail from? What do you love most about your hometown?

MP:  I’ve lived a variety of places in my life. My birthplace, however, is Louisville Kentucky, a city that will always have a special place in my heart. Much of my family remains in Louisville. It’s a fantastic eating city believe it or not and has a thriving arts community. I don’t visit as much as I like, but when I do I love it. I highly recommend the Louisville Zoo. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Louisville any longer. Instead I now call Massachusetts my home, moving there for graduate school and meeting my husband.

YGR:  As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your current career?

MP:  Although my first career choice in second grade was paleontology, I quickly moved on to dreams of becoming a novelist. Although I never pursued writing formally until I sat down and began Ruling Eden in spring of 2005, I always dreamed of writing a fantasy novel. It took me a little over thirty years to develop the will power to pursue that aspiration. I think having children expanded my view of what was possible. Anything. I maintain another job as a social worker, although the writing compliments that other type of creativity nicely.

YGR: What do you do for fun?

MP:  Read voraciously, go out for laughs and inspiration with my critique group the Quirky Ladies, listen to music. Music makes me very happy. I’d love to go out dancing more often. I’m completely free on a dance floor and it feels marvelous.

YGR:  How has your environment/ upbringing colored your writing?

MP:  As a child I was fairly isolated and in my head a large amount of time. It led to a very fertile imagination. That part of my life resulted in a pattern of lots of head time even as an adult. It comes in handy as I’m creating complex characters, worlds and plotlines.

YGR:  Tell us about your latest book.  Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?

MP: My latest book is Surviving Eden, the second in my Eden’s Court series. It released in both e and print format just this late summer, and I am thrilled to give readers a chance to keep following Rachel and Gabriel’s story. Links to buy this book, or my first called Ruling Eden which recently took a second place in the PRISM awards, are available at my publisher’s website www.crescentmoonpress.com or on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  This series as a contemporary romantic fantasy and it’s told in Rachel’s first person voice. Here’s the blurb for Surviving Eden:

Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches–the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.
Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lillith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves? 
My plan is to jump into writing the third in this series, which I’ve already outlined. It’s tentatively called Recasting Eden.

YGR:  How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?

MP:  The titles were easy once I chose the backdrop of a magical version of the Garden of Eden. They seemed kind of no brainers actually. And setting is very important to these novels as the heroine is dragged out of her mundane world and forced to confront an entire new existence of magic and paranormal races in constant conflict.

YGR:  Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?

MP:  I admit I used some contemporary issues from my own life in creating my heroine Rachel. Rachel came from foster care and the state protective service system of Massachusetts. That is not my background, but my other day job is social work and I had spent some time as a caseworker in the child protective state system, toting teenagers to group homes and residential settings. The work was grueling, but it gave me a first hand look at what a girl goes through as part of that system. Almost all the work I do as a clinician is humbling and teaches me lessons.

YGR:  How much of your work is real? How much is fantasy?

MP:  Um, I’m thinking it’s all fantasy. But that’s up to readers to form an opinion.

YGR:  Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

MP: Carving out the time. That’s the biggest obstacle. Keeping your dedication and forging ahead. I work best when I’m multitasking. But that also means in order to keep writing I need to make sure I get back to the story consistently when other matters draw my attention away.

YGR:  What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

MP:  Find a writing community. They are your biggest support and the best source of learning craft and the business aspect of writing. I can’t emphasize this enough.

YGR:  Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

MP:  Not writer’s block. Writer’s distraction. I usually trust that I’ll get back to it when my muse gets fed up with the outside distraction and starts making my stomach cramp with anxiety from being away from writing too long.

YGR:  Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?

MP:  Choosing one favorite author is very difficult. The most influential ones are the ones who wrote the books of my youth that seduced me into worlds of fantasy and romance. Interestingly, I include Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel among these. That’s not fantasy as much as speculative history. As a girl I even named my goldfish after the heroine and hero from that series. Aayla and Jondalar. But that book grew my fascination with epic stories and far away lands.

YGR:  How did you deal with rejection letters?

MP:  I’m pretty good at compartmentalization and shutting away inconvenient pangs of pain. So after a little stomach twisting I just put the letters to the side in a folder and chock it up to the process. I tend not to let myself have much angst over them or get angry. You have to keep trying no matter the rejection.

YGR:  What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

MP:  Paper, pens, a keyboard, and word-processing functionality. In the end without these basics you go nowhere. But with them you can go anywhere even without the best of the writing craft books or the funkiest technology.

YGR:  Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?

MP:  Although my Eden series does not push the limits in either of these categories, I personally have very few lines around gore or erotic content. I think provocative writing has a very important place and function. If they’re needed to tell a story correctly, then I accept that fact.

YGR:  Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?

MP:  Minimally, although I’ve done research on Eastern deities and Celtic legends and characters to supplement stories I’ve written. I do like taking a look at the mythical beasts from the cultures around the world to find unusual ones to pepper my books. For instance, the baku is a Chinese beast who eats nightmares, which makes him a very helpful fellow to keep around. He’s featured in both my Eden stories.

YGR:  Which is your favorite of the books you have written?

MP:  Surviving Eden, my newest release. It’s a tad darker, which I admit I prefer, than my first book, Ruling Eden.

YGR:  What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

MP:  Well, I haven’t used the information in a novel yet, but my family just chartered a 41 foot sailboat for a week (I’m NOT a sailor) and I did my best to be a helpful sailor’s mate living on the boat for that time while my husband played captain. He adores sailing and has raced. I’m considering writing a story based on some water world or in which water and sailing is a crucial element. Otherwise, although my imagination is weird, I haven’t actually done too much weird stuff in the name of research. I fully intend to, however (grin).

YGR:  Where can we find you on the net?

MP:  My website at: www.michellepicard.com My blog, the Portal Playground at:  www.michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com My group blogsite: www.thequirkyladies.com as well as on Facebook and on Twitter @RulingEden. And you can always email me at michelle@michellepicard.com
Where can we find out more about your books?

The best place is on my website www.michellepicard.com or my publisher’s site www.crescentmoonpress.com.  Please visit.

Excerpt: Moonlight filtered through the windows of my bedroom, softly draping Gabriel’s naked body as he lay next to me on his stomach. His thoughts seemed to be somewhere else entirely. I loved how the pale light played along his flawless limbs, his smoothly muscled body. The silken sheets teased my already sensitive skin. I let my thoughts drift away from my gnawing guilt as I avoided discussion about my date with Colin. As Gabriel relaxed by my side, his aura glowed bright with his pleasure.

I’d given up on trying to shut-off my perception of auras. The dizzying visuals superimposed over everyone’s bodies were now becoming familiar, natural. Gabriel’s included the outline of a pair of wings jutting from his back. Their ghostly image had been present even before he manifested those wings for the first time during his battle with Michael in council.

Tonight was no exception. With downy feathers tucked magically away inside his body, a trick he alone of his angel counterparts could accomplish, his aura reflected their shining outline. The shadow wings were almost as lovely as the real thing.

I couldn’t resist running my fingers down the raised skin on both sides of his back while I lay beside him, my head supported by elbow and hand. I’d convinced myself Gabriel felt shy about the wings. I’d only seen them twice, including the time they manifested. But his hesitation to show them to me hurt. Perhaps he didn’t fully trust me. I dismissed that thought as ludicrous, but it still nagged at me.

My light tracing of the soft, barely perceptible tissue ridges sent pleasant tingles into my hand. His body tensed under the movement of my fingers and I felt his discomfort in the contact. Disappointed with his response, I stilled my fingertips.

“I won’t touch them if you don’t want me to,” I whispered into the hushed night of the room, holding my breath for his reply.

After a moment he relaxed, as if he’d fought through his initial hesitation to some decision. “Please continue,” he said, voice sleepy. “It feels good.”

I smoothed the ridges once again, delighting in the tiny shocks sparking into me. Gabriel’s voice bounced out into the moon-touched room, filling the space with its rich tones, surprising me with its serious intent. “When I was a child I fell asleep most every night dreaming of wings. I hated being born without them.” He paused. “The dream died long ago and I never thought to gain them. Yet… Here I am.”

My breath hitched hearing the pain of the memory in his cautious words. He sounded surprised to be speaking them. Guilt flooded through me for forcing him to expose himself to this hurtful past. Every day he walked into that negotiation room to manage the talks between the angels and demons. It was one thing for me to insist on facing my own memories head-on; another to see someone I loved forced into the same.
Gabriel caught my eyes before I could glance away. “I recognize that look on your face,” he chided. “You are blaming yourself, again.”

I kept my gaze on the window, the shadows of the garden just outside, wishing I could hide the waiver in my voice. “Don’t badmouth a little good old-fashioned guilt.” I tried to joke away his point-on comment. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and the will to give my smart-mouth rein died a sudden death. “My decision puts you in that room with them everyday.” I removed my hands from him, unable to continue my caress.

He shifted on his side, reaching his hand to cradle my face. “Being in that room may be frustrating, but it is valuable to me as well. I feel less need to run from them.”
My indignation surged on his behalf. I wanted to insist that he never ran, but hadn’t I accused him of the same weeks ago? My words had been to the effect that he’d bought into their crap about being an abomination. I’d wanted this experience for him--a chance to put to rest the ghosts that haunted him. I just hadn’t counted on how witnessing his pain during the process would shred my heart.

He smiled as if he’d recognized the play of thoughts and emotions running across my face and valued them. “I did run, in my own way. But being forced to watch the angels and demons confront their issues, I feel less like I am some shameful secret that must be denied.”

“I’m sorry this hurts you,” I blurted, my words choking me. I hated how out of control my emotions became with him. I valued my control.

His voice roughened with irritation. “You never forced me into the room. It was my choice, if you remember.”

“Yeah, but--”

“Do not make less of what I do by claiming responsibility for that choice. I survived hundreds of years making my own decisions before you were even born.”

Gabriel’s tone made my hackles rise for just a moment before I remembered his pain. He had a point, but I wasn’t about to give up on blaming myself in this matter. Call me masochistically stubborn.
His momentary anger dissolved, shifting into an all too different mood. His fingers moved in a caress of my cheek. He was a master at distracting me when he wanted and I’d sullenly noted before how most of the time this was a good thing. “Besides,” his voice lazed, “I need your mind focused elsewhere. It has always been my fantasy to make love to a woman with wings wrapped around us, brushing along our bodies.”
My mouth quirked up as my nipples tightened. “Any woman in particular, or will you just put out a personal ad? Wanted: female with wing fetish. Only those already butt naked need apply.” His chuckle tightened all things lower on me and I shifted on the bed, anticipation licking my skin.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excerpt Michelle. It sounds like a great book. I love the Wanted add at the end of the excerpt. Too funny! I love characters with wings. There aren't enough of them.

Michelle Picard said...

Thanks Becky. I always love a hero with wings. And it's pretty nifty to have Gabriel able to take his out on command as well as fold them away. Somehow it heightens tension for me. I loved being here at You Gotta Read today. Thank you so much for hosting the start of my blog tour.

ReneeRearden said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Michelle. I'm always interested in learning what personal experiences help shape the worlds authors create. I look forward to reading this series!

Andrea I said...

I enjoyed the interview. It's alway nice to learn more about an author.