Friday, August 30, 2013

Know Your Hunt to Read Authors: Joseph Picard

This week, I'm proud to introduce a new Hunt to Read author who has done it all: he's stared down Romulans across the Neutral Zone for days at a time, daring them to blink. He got roughed up by some Naussicans in his Academy days. He's done battle with Cardassians and Ferengi, and is one of the finest starship captains in the--

[Someone hands me a piece of paper]

Oops! Wrong Picard!

No matter--this week's Know Your Hunt to Read Author is Joseph Picard, who has three books up on HTR:


Watching Yute

Echoes of Erebus

We caught up with Joseph to discuss the unique challenges of writing gay and lesbian protagonists, finding time to write with a family, and some rather "interesting" feedback that he's received from a reader. Enjoy!

First of all, Joseph, thanks for taking the time to join us! It was a 1/365 shot, but today also happens to be your birthday. Happy Birthday! How does it feel to be another year older, knowing full well that we're conducting this interview ahead of time?

At first, I thought “Hey! It’s like The Daily Show, recording the previous afternoon!”  But I’m answering this weeks ahead of time. That’s no Daily-Show-Overnight thing. This increases the odds that I COULD BE DEAD BY NOW. GHOST INTEVIEW!! OOOooOOOooOOOoh. So if you’re a reader out there, buy my books for the sake of my kids’ RESPs. J Unless I’m alive, in which case, you’re just fueling my various addictions.

I don't know if you know it, but we share something in common; we've both written gay protagonists in our books even though neither of us is gay.  Talk a little bit about where you came up with the idea and what that's like.

Once upon a time I drew a lot. I had been drawing a lot of Lifehack’s lead characters, (before it was ever to be a book) and someone said that Regan looked like a lesbian. Well. Okay, whatever. He couldn’t tell me why, but when I asked if Alisia was gay, nope. As descriptions of the books get longer, a story began emerging, and their orientations just sort of stuck. Blame TATU, or Willow Rosenberg. (from Buffy).

The pairing gave me comedy as Regan doggedly tried to woo Alisia, tragedy as she got repeatedly shot down, and a bittersweet … something, since Alisia was sympathetic. We’ve all seen straight romance story arcs a zillion times, but this was a fresh set of parameters and emotional dynamics to work with. Add a somewhat antagonistic ex just for fun.

I was deathly worried about offending real life lesbians and bisexual women, so I posted some of the early forms of Lifehack online and asked gay women to check it out. Bracing for hate, I instead found readers! That was my green light that I was handling it all right.

Your Lifehack series has a little bit of everything: nanotech, zombies, an ass-kicking lesbian protagonist. Tell us a little bit about the books, especially the latest one, Echoes of Erebus, without spoiling things too much.

They are a series, but they aren’t. They all take place one after the other, with a few years in between. They follow different protagonists in different places, but they all deal with personal relationships, (romantic or otherwise) while nanites are the source of the biggest problems. Often that means nano-controlled zombies, but not always.

Lifehack follows Regan as she dumps her nasty cheating girlfriend, and go to move in with her egg-head brother in a shiny new city. The brother works for a company that develops nanotechnology, but one employee has a sick sense of humour when he gets fed up with his employers. He starts a good ole fashioned zombie plague before skipping town. Regan finds reason to stay in town through the quarantine, living in the city for two years ‘alone’. Eventually the military notices her, and sends Captain Alisia Terone to fish her out. Things don’t go as planned, Alisia finds herself the target of an unwanted crush, and the nanite threat gets worse almost as soon as it’s discovered.

In the second book, Watching Yute, Lt. Cassidy Stanton finds herself at a low ebb in life, and takes up a new assignment guarding a ‘temple’ owned by local aboriginals. Over years, life begins to look up, with a new love, new friends among her colleagues. A strange presence lingers on the temple, and it attracts attention from dangerous people, and…. Well, that’s when deaths start.

Watching Yute
has some ‘undead’ in it, but not zombies, and they’re not a direct threat to the protagonists. This book is the odd one out, with a very low kill-count, (around five people, as opposed to thousands or millions) but the deaths count, a lot. It’s a very emotion-driven book, and might be my favourite of the three, but I’m a little biased, as it was driven a lot by a friend who killed herself. Imagine me on the skytrain, conceitedly reading my own stuff, and trying not to cry in public.

The third book, Echoes of Erebus, introduces Sarah Hartford, cycle courier. Early spoilers? She isn’t. Her entire existence is a set of manufactured experiences running on a computer. She doesn’t even have a body until her unseen ‘father’ gives her one. He arranged the tissue from biological material harvested from dead fish, and a nervous system built almost entirely on nanites. Her father is likewise digital in nature, and resides in her head to help her find a place in the real world. (Complicated father/daughter relationship, huh?) Thanks to the events of Lifehack, nanites and related technology are strictly controlled to the point of being nearly banned outright, and the father is (in a way) the very person to blame for the massacres of Lifehack. “But he’s sorry! Really!”

In the process of finding her place in the world, she has to hide her origins. She makes some good friends early on, but protecting them from an abusive ex forces her to expose some of her inhuman abilities. While that situation is going downhill, she gets tangled up in the slowly rising tide of monsters- which look uncannily like something that the father in her head has been known for.

The core of her origins runs a little deeper than even her father has been willing to face, and that horror turns out to be her greatest weapon.

Eeeeeheeeheee, see me trying to hide spoilers? There’s a big one that only people who were paying attention in Lifehack can appreciate. While I tried to make them all readable separately, there are links, both obvious and subtle. And of course a cameo here and there, since I can’t resist checking in on old characters. (Short stories due to be released free in coming months also peek in on some of them.)

If you were making a movie about the series-that's-not-a-series, who would you cast as the lead, and where would you film it?

Ugh. I’ve mulled it over a lot, and no one’s nailed a role in my head. Every sassy gal with wavy black hair might strike me as a ‘Regan’. I’ve cited Claudia Black and Michelle Rodriguez for Regan, only to have a friend tell me, “eww, too old!” Ugh.. really? Redheads with long hair get compared in my head to Alisia… Gee, as if actors can’t dye their hair for a part. Oh! hmm.. Katee Sackhoff (Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar) would make a heck of a Cassidy Stanton. Starbuck’s a BIT more aggressive than Cassidy, but it’s not far off, and the wiry physique matches nicely.

I’ve thought of Joss Whedon for directing, (although he writes a lot of his stuff, so.. bleh..) because he does humour mixing with action and drama in very natural ways…where would I film it..? Hollywood north, baby! Vancouver.

Maybe it has to be an anime... Production I.G. pops to mind for their work in Ghost in the Shell, and Attack on Titan among many others.

Have you received any...let's say "unique" reader feedback from your writing?

Three stand out in my head.

One was from a young lady who wrote me for advice. She had fallen in love with her best friend, and being both female, it was especially stressful for her. I did my best to give a thoughtful response, (with the disclaimer that I’m a guy) and later I heard back that things went well, and they had begun dating! I don’t know how much of a role my advice played, but who cares! Young love! Wheeee!

I also heard from a mother who had given Lifehack to her son, (I think he was around 12 years old, way younger than I aimed Lifehack) and it seems that the book taught him that being gay isn’t just a sex thing! “They’re in love!” Heehee.. gawsh.

The funniest was from a reader who wrote to me while quite drunk, and detailed a threesome between herself, Regan, and myself. Well, as detailed as one can be while drunk. It was readable. By the time I got that email, she had already written me another, written the morning after, sober, apologetic, and embarrassed. She begged me to delete the first email, and never tell on her. AND HER NAME IS… nope, sorry, relax.

Do you get a lot of Star Trek jokes because of your last name? Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who's heard every "disc jockey" and Full House joke in the book...

These days, I don’t get it a LOT, unless I’m at a VCON event, but it was the worst in high school while next gen was still running fresh episodes. One kid in particular made terrible tries at making cracks about it until one day he said something typically goofy, calling me “Mr. Enterprise” or something similarly uninspired. I stood, straightened out my shirt “Picard maneuver” style, and pointed at him. With my best Sir Patrick accent, I declared “You will address me as SIR, or CAPTAIN.” And he did from that day on. It later confused the heck out of people who weren’t in on the joke. “Why did he call you Captain?” “We were in ‘Nam together.” “Shut up, Joe."

Ooh, side note, my dad once flew airplanes as a hobby, and could be referred to Captain Picard.

Very cool! Writing is a difficult enough profession as it is, but you've dealt with some real adversity in your life: tell us a little bit about that, if you don't mind.

I’m struggling with an addiction to energy drinks. Great for writing, terrible for editing. I haven’t had a fix in days, and the jitters are getting bad. I’m actually (not kidding) going to be hosting a discussion panel at VCON about energy drinks. It’s sure to be gloriously insipid.

Oh, and I’m in a wheelchair. In 2001, (September, no less) I was cycling to work, (never liked cars much, never had a license, didn’t trust myself with 2 tons of metal) when I decided to jay walk, and a speeding Mustang picked a fight. I lost. The girlfriend who I’d been seeing for a loooonggg time stayed by my side despite my warnings, so I figured we should make it official, and at the time this goes out, we will have been married ten years and one week.

Congratulations! And on top of that, you're a dad, too! As a bachelor, I often take the ability to retreat into my writing cave uninterrupted for hours at a time for granted; are your kids understanding of you doing the same? Or do you write in spurts?

They’re 6 and 2; they don’t get it, really. The 6 year old has dictated books to me, (Horsey Time” is my fav of hers, and has no horses in the entire whopping sentence or two on each of the 5 pages.) But yeah… I’m not good at writing short spurts, I like to get immersed, but times like that are few and far between. His nap times, plus her school helps, but there’s also SO much that NEEDS doing in the house every day. It is making book 4 the longest time it’s taken me for a book yet… but bit by bit, RUBBERMAN’S CAGE will get there.

Rapid fire time! Place you want to visit that you haven't yet?

Travel is a horrible thing, designed to show ways that architects and engineers don’t think of wheelchairs. And the whole world doesn’t have wifi yet. And where can I plug in? I’m missing Jon Stewart. And I’m getting a cold. And who would feed the cat? And...NO!

Cake or pie?

Pie. Cherry or raspberry preferably. Or cake if it’s black forest, or DQ ice cream, and I have my lactose pills. Hey, rapid fire doesn’t mean I have to be rapid in my answers, does it? In a related story, I hate twitter.

Dogs or cats?

Cats. I don’t have the energy for a dog.

PC or Mac?

PC. I was raised on macs in school, and groaned when my dad brought home a PC, but that attitude didn’t last long.

Favorite Movie of All Time?

Akira? Sure. Honorable mentions go to Cabin in the Woods, Army of Darkness, Ghost in the Shell, Matrix 1, Holy Grail, LOTR... uh.. I’d better shut up now, I could go on and on.

If you could own any business in the world or be the first person on Mars, which would you pick and why?

Mars is impractical. And no wifi. But any business? Hmm… oh to choose.. A gaming studio? (Bethesda and Square pop to mind to make a Lifehack game..) A movie studio? Or maybe something less creative and more earth-save-ish?

Thanks Joseph! And be sure to check out Joseph's books, Lifehack, Watching Yute, and Echoes of Erebus on Hunt to Read; I'm sure he'd appreciate your honest feedback, as well!

And for you other HTR Authors out there, we'd love to have you on KYHTRA! Check out the submission guidelines HERE. Happy Hunting!


D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder & CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at

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