Thankfully he has that whole 'life-long-nerd' thing to fall back on.
With a daughter, Caitlin, born in 2007, and a son, Lachlan, in 2011, free time has become a very valuable asset, and most of it gets poured into writing.
My home site, hub for my books, and other nonsense: http://www.ozero.ca
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Picard/e/B002LPT7VA
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ozerobook
Books in chronological order:
Watching Yute: http://www.amazon.com/Watching-Yute-Lifehack-Book-2-ebook/dp/B008A7SRJG
Echoes of Erebus: http://www.amazon.com/Echoes-Erebus-Lifehack-Book-3-ebook/dp/B008AFPH6O
Rubberman's Cage (book 1 of a new series): http://www.amazon.com/Rubbermans-Cage-Joseph-Picard-ebook/dp/B00MT427K6
The One Grapes (silly short one-off... thing...): http://www.amazon.com/One-Grapes-Addressing-Hospital-Doodles-ebook/dp/B00Z816C1W/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Lifehack isn't just another zombpoc novel, tell us a little about the genesis of this sci-fi take on the zombie invasion. What makes these zombs different?
Well, the book started as a collection of short stories, which I wrote in between drawing my own fanart. I had a tough gal with a tough gun... and I needed something to shoot. I'm fairly pacifistic, and thought of two things you can generally shoot without a lot of guilt. Zombies and robots. The result was more of a goofy skeletal borg, but the notion was refined to microscopic robots (nanotechnology) used to control corpses.
In Lifehack, Jonathan Coll, responsible for it all, doesn't take it overly seriously. They're 'slow zombies', simply out of his preference. They like Hawaiian shirts and plastic pink flamingos. One or two aren't much of a threat, but a thousand or so are trouble... assuming you weren't caught in the initial infection methods used to trigger mass outbreaks. And if the zombies don't get you, Coll has other fun in store.
Regan is a strong female lead in book one, tell us a bit about her and what you think makes her a solid character to see her world through. What are some of her complexities and strengths?
She's confident and direct (often to a fault) and wears her heart on her sleeve. She's not overly educated, but resourcefulness and being plain stubborn get her through most trouble. When she has a moment, she'll privately break down a bit, be it due to mourning, or just being rejected by the object of her desire.
Also, she's a little broken. Due to the time she spends isolated from humanity part way through the book, her social skills have lost a lot of tact. (Not that she had an abundance beforehand.) Even if her isolation was her own choice, she finds herself desperate to connect to the first human she sees. It makes for awkward introductions.
I see this is a book that gets lauded for a highly interesting plot, memorable characters, great humor and strong romance. How did you work to make these work?
I paid Joss Whedon to write it for me. Nah. I just wrote story progression that suited one mood until a scene came to a moderately satisfying conclusion. Moderately, because I can't go solving problems entirely every few pages. Humour happens. I'm a smart-aleck now and then, and even in life, I have to stop myself from making bad jokes regularly. I let the ones trickle into writing if they're good enough, and don't kill the mood I'm aiming for in that section. Romance? Bah, easy, I fall in love with my characters, and it all works itself out.
Book 2, Watching Yute, is set well after Lifehack and centers around Cassidy another young woman starting her life fresh. It's a smaller story, but still important to the series. How does it differ from book 1?
Book one was action-heavy, and I granted a lot of wishes to the characters. I resolved to see if I could hurt my good guys in meaningful ways. I had a dream... or maybe a daydream? I don't know... of a couple standing nearly-statue-like, backs against each other, in a desert temple bathed in light. The notion struck me as beautiful, so I resolved to challenge myself to destroy it.
That sort of backfired on me... I realized partway through the book that the character doomed to die had the same first name as a friend who had killed herself ten years prior. The book took on some heavy tones of remorse, grieving, and depression. I kept the name for her. I kind of had to. Hard to explain.
Revenge was to be extracted, but not against any faceless zombie horde. Just a couple select fugitives, one of which worked with the technology that had created the zombies. Due to the events of Lifehack, nanotechnology had been banned... but a ban does not erase it's existence.
Echoes of Erebus is book 3 and features a very different lead in Sarah, an advanced being created by a mad scientist. What is she and how does she relate to the other two fem leads?
Her 'father' is Jonathan Coll... or at least what's left of him. He's determined to turn a new leaf, and create something good; Sarah. She is in a way, his meek apology to the world. He builds her psyche out of memories of past victims, her nervous system out of nanites, and her flesh from scavenged fish. Which Coll is very proud to have not killed. Of course, Coll's continued existence, and Sarah's origins are highly illegal.
Coll, and the legacy of his technology is Sarah's link to the world in general. Her encounters with the leads of the prior two books are short... but her encounter with an entity hatched in Watching Yute becomes vital to her ongoing existence in the face of a military set to incinerate her. Which would be a shame, since she's about the only thing capable of stopping the new Coll-inspired threat. It won't be solved by her inhuman strength, or ability to perceive time to be as slow as she needs...
Strong fems are definitely part of your writing, intentional or more organic? What do you think defines a strong female character? Are these things necessarily only true in fem leads or strong characters as a whole?
I make a character who happens to find themselves in positions to overcome. And I happen to often make them female. It's not part of any mandate, I just prefer writing women. For one thing, they can express emotion freely, where a male character might feel unrealistic in doing so. It's a stupid effect caused by society's mentality on it, but there it is. Other than the ease at which I can explore emotion without a character needing to be manly despite it, I write them more or less the same. Strength is strength, smarts are smarts, courage is courage, love is love.
Rubberman's Cage is it's own ballgame, but could it technically have been set in the Lifehack world?
Maybe. I'm deliberately vague about where the Rubberman series takes place. It's a contained society removed from the rest of the world. They know nothing of nanotechnology or any of the history from the Lifehack series. The Rubberman world is technically not science fiction at all, and might not jibe well with the Lifehack world. The Rubberman series is planned for a good handful of books... so who knows?
Funfact: For a while, I was entertaining the idea of it being set on Mars... but I couldn't make that happen logically.
This time we're seeing through Lenth's eyes, one of four brothers who seem to be part of a very restricted and experimental environment. What inspired this story and Lenth himself?
I realized that one of my favourite parts of Echoes of Erebus was essentially a 'dungeon crawl'. Lenth's journey is basically one giant dungeon crawl through different small societies, each with their own quirks and levels of ignorance. Another inspiration was my kids' (departed) hamster... he had a lot in common with Lenth. Fed the same food all the time with unknown origins, a controlling force on the other side of a metal grating, life in an enclosed space...
Oh, also worth noting that Lenth is my first book that has a male protagonist...
I created Six as a rival, but given his similarities to Lenth, he served even more to show what Lenth could have become. Anger as opposed to compassion.
This is a much more claustrophobic environment, was it more difficult to work on a smaller stage? Were there a lot of differences between these projects?
As I mentioned before, it's kind if like a giant dungeon crawl. I've been dungeon master enough to be able to plot out sprawling over-worlds, and deep dungeons. The pieces are similar. A safe place, a dangerous place, characters to encounter. The hero does what they can with what they have, be it a salvaged bit of metal sharp on one edge, or an airship with a railgun. Decisions get made, conditions raise questions, risk is assessed, and the hero moves forward. With any luck.
All of these stories have a lot to do with self-discovery and exploration of the world in a changing environment, are these themes you expected to be tackling and do you enjoy them?
As I expose my characters to new things, it can affect them. Change them, ever so slightly, generally for the better. Finding new places, people, or phenomenon forces a person to re-evaluate their notion of the world, and their place in it.
Boom. Zombies exist. Now what does Regan do? What's onhand to utilize? How brave does she feel at this moment?
Boom, your girlfriend's dead. Now what does Cassidy do? Will anger or despair drive her next move?
Boom, you find out you've actually just been created, and you're not twenty years old, you're twenty minutes old.
Boom, there's a hole in the universe. Now what does Lenth do? Can he get to the hole? Should he try? What might be out there?
As this related to writing, I find that a world that grows, makes the characters grow with them.
Would you say these are political tales (social as much as to do with politics as a whole) or more cautionary tales about how the world could come to be?
My initial point on most stories is a “wouldn't it be cool if...” This often leads to some kind of adventure, and being a people person... well... dealing with people gets involved. This often leads to situations where some kind of ethical stance has to be displayed in one way or another.
Rubberman's Cage has some elements of allegory for the world economy. It has a group of people who don't work, get food easily, and don't have any idea where the things they need really come from. Or care. They think they're superior. Another separate group controls things, another does the work, et cetera.
Some of my books focus on a gay relationship, and portrays them as regular normal behaviour. Because. It never comes into question. I guess that's a bit political of me.
As for any of them being cautionary tales? I don't aim at that... but a well reasoned world's problems will have logical causes. From there, it's just connect the dots.
What other projects are in the works? Anything on the horizon for your readers? any changes in theme?
The next book in the Rubberman series, Rubberman's Citizens takes a closer look at the Citizenry; one of the little societies touched on in Rubberman's Cage. In Cage, we learn that the Citizenry has a dark history, being formerly ruled by what equated to a rape gang. Rubberman's Citizens looks at that history, how they overcame it, and where they go from there. Because of this, it's a notably darker tone than Cage. I don't describe any rapes overly explicitly, but I hope I'm treating the impact of these crimes with due respect.
In the middle of the book is the time when Rubberman's Cage's Lenth shows up. He has a little more impact than he realized during Rubberman's Cage, and the Citizenry will have to decide what to do with the new knowledge he brought .... the Citizens always thought of the 'Messenger' and 'Actual' as being all-powerful...