Joseph Picard – Echoes of Erebus

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Echoes of Erebus has just launched. It stars a young lady named Sarah who soon learns that she doesn’t even have a body, and was created by the ‘man’ who caused a walking-dead genocide or two in my first novel “Lifehack.”

After a brutal but oddly well-meaning lesson on her father/creator’s past crimes, she’s told of her nature, and given her first body. Sarah was born under the sea, at the age of 22, into a body constructed with a nanite-based central nervous system. The rest of her was created with molecules salvaged from scavenged dead fish. And a seagull. We cannot forget the seagull.

Her father, who lives in a section of her brain, then expects her to go inland and begin a normal life. With no papers, and a body brimming with illegal technology, that’s trickier said than done. On top of all that, creatures have been showing up in underground pit-fights, that have a lot in common with the father’s past creations.

While I made sure that Echoes of Erebus is perfectly readable on its own, I couldn’t resist giving certain tips of the hat to Lifehack and Watching Yute.

Echoes of Erebus compiles the “kind-of-a-trilogy” that started with “Lifehack,” and continued with “Watching Yute.” I know Lifehack and Watching Yute were pretty different in theme. It’s interesting to see what kinds of people prefer one over the other. Lifehack was pretty action-ey with hordes of walking dead, and Watching Yute didn’t have a single zombie; depending on what you call a zombie. Watching Yute focused a lot more towards human drama and quiet tactical maneuverings.

While all three books relate to each other, I made efforts to make sure that each of them are completely understandable and reader-friendly as stand-alones.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’ve been in the Vancouver, Canada area for … wow, eighteen years now, but previously moving around Canada roughly once a year or so. I’ve been writing bits here and there for as long as I can remember, betting more and more serious about it as time went on. I’ve done a lot in visual art and music, but these seem to have fallen to the wayside in favour of writing. Now that Echoes if done, I might have to pay those hobbies a visit.

In 2001, I was hit by a car, and have been in a wheelchair since then. Six years after after that, I had a little girl who has been a trial and a joy, as kids tend to be.

What inspired you to write this book?

Back when Lifehack was only a collection of short stories, I wrote another short story intended as a kind of sequel. I shelved it then, and focused on Lifehack. After that, Watching Yute came along, which in many ways was a very personal story. Watching Yute stands tall, but I knew I had unfinished business in this universe. That old short story popped into my head, and I knew I had to expand on it. Without re-reading the original short story, I attacked Echoes of Erebus, and the result really caps off the world nicely. And blood washes off anyway.

How did you choose the title?

SPOLER ALERT: ‘Erebus’ is a name that ‘Jonathan Coll’ chose during Lifehack. The original Erebus is a Greek death/darkness god. And Jonathan thought that was cool enough to use as an alias when he needed one during Lifehack. At the end of Lifehack, he is assumed to be gone forever.. but we all know that badguys don’t stay dead. He stayed dead for a while, or at least he stayed out of trouble.

As for what the actual ‘echo’ is… it might be his return, it might be his ‘daughter’ Sarah, it could be the overall impact that his actions have had on the world. There’s a ton of things that qualify as an Echo of Erebus.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I just always wrote. I would get an idea, and I needed to map it out. I never thought I could do a book, it just seemed too mammoth of a task, but when I had a few hundred pages of stories about Regan Grier in Lifehack… well… it just didn’t seem so impossible anymore! Once I knew I could do it, it was just about making the plan, (outline) and the time to flesh it out.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Music is one. A common one, I suppose. I picture the setting, and think of what the soundtrack would be. Lyrics can ruin my flow, so unless they’re lyrics I know very well, and can ‘tune out’, I tend to favour instrumental stuff…. or rock hard enough that the singer is unintelligible. Or another language. A lot of my action scenes were written while listening to Rammstein.

Lifehack had a lot of 80s rock, (as Regan has a little bit of an 80s vibe) Watching Yute has a lot of …. scraggly slower sounding stuff to fit a dry desert, Echoes of Erebus had so many themes to put soundtracks to. One particularly vicious and bloody scene was written to Marilyn Mason’s “Beautiful people.”

When romance reared it’s head, Sarah McLachlan often stepped up. When sudden inspiration didn’t have time for me to pick a song, the soundtrack to the movie ‘Moon’ often picked up the slack. It has a way of carrying your mind along without tripping on any pebbles along the way.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

My books are based near-future, on earth, and there no aliens. So other than my fictional aboriginal peoples, (fictional land, fictional aboriginals) most of my characters have fairly common sounding names. Generally I have an idea of what they’re like, and will think of them for a few days waiting to hear a name that fit them. In a pinch, I resorted to flipping through a baby-name book randomly.

Cheryl in Watching Yute is a notable exception. Her first name is borrowed from the departed young lady that the book is dedicated to. The book touches some of the issues that surrounded her death.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

The simplest thing is “I can.” Beyond that, there’s so many, so many, so many things I learned. Don’t be afraid to delete pages of material if it bugs you a little. Don’t be afraid to have to rewrite sections that don’t sit well. Don’t be afraid that it will trigger ripples of changes though the rest of the book. DO the changes, flow with it, you’ll thank yourself.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Oh, a ton of things. A handful of aspects in Lifehack especially. With distance comes greater perspective, but at some point, you have to move forward, not back. I know Lifehack does well in it’s current form, but if I ever find reason to rewrite that, I have ammo for it. I’m not saying I’m going to, but I did leave myself elbow room in the universe with the other books to not restrict myself in certain areas I would change. If I did. Which I’m not. Not now. Not soon. There are other stories to tell, that have been banging on the doors waiting to be let out.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Phew. I read quite an assortment. Staring at me from the shelf right now is Terry Pratchet for an adventure with humour, John Stewart, Jolene Frose (Local to me, awesome gal) C.L. Hart, (Again, awesome local).

I don’t read as much as people tend to assume, and I thought it was just my own hypocrisy, but I’ve heard other authors saying the same thing. They don’t want to accidentally draw influence from other books. Heck, when I started C.L. Hart’s “Facing evil,” the protagonist reminded me too much of Cassidy Stanton, the protagonist of Watching Yute, which was still in progress. I had to put Facing Evil down at page 11, where it sat for a year or so until Watching Yute was done. That turned out to be a very good decision. After reading Facing Evil, I found even more similarities, and I am glad that all of Cassidy’s differences remained intact. The two characters should go have a beer some time.

Nah. Cassidy probably couldn’t take it in the state I left her. (Sorry, Cass!)

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m sort of taking a break from writing for a little while, hoping to make some steps in my visual art, but a few ideas are brewing. One is a non-fiction about my injury, though to keep it from being too depressing, in many parts I’d be taking the perspective of inanimate objects. The kinds of things that plot against me in daily life. Evil stairs, deceptive ramps, slippery floors that put me and my wheelchair on my back on the bus, and the orange that rolls out of my lap, to land in plain sight and yet out of reach.

On the other hand, I do have an notion for another sci-fi. I think I am more likely to write that one first. It will have a bit more of a fantastical tone, but I fear I can’t say more than that right now. And no, that does not mean something like cyber-dragons. Not that kind of fantasy.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

In writing? A loose outline is key. Strict enough to guide, loose enough to allow you to wander off the path, sometimes drastically. Take criticisms well.. but don’t take them as gospel. Even the most useless-seeming little comment is rooted in something they felt was ‘off’. Examine what that is. And then decide if it’s important enough to change. Sometimes an opinion is only one person’s opinion. But know that if something in your story bugs you a little bit now… it will bug you next time, and the next time, and the next time. And it will bug readers. Don’t justify it in your head and say that it doesn’t matter. Change it, delete it, write around it, anything. It won’t vanish on its own.

In publishing? Do your research. Look at your options, talk on a lot of different forums. 90.9% of writers are more interested in helping out than anything else. The other 9% just want to promo their stuff. The last 0.1% are the obligatory jerks.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

I tend to write for myself. I’m a thirty four year old male. I suppose then, males from 18-50. And let’s not be sexist, I know a big portion of my readership is female. Many happen to be lesbians, who first noticed my books due to the lesbian protagonists in Lifehack and Watching Yute. But I’ve gotten fanmail from a tweener lesbian, and a comment from a boy who realized that being gay isn’t just about sex thanks to Lifehack. And at a scienc-fiction convention, I met an old man who…

Oh heck. I really have no idea. I’m sorry.

Just be ready to meet some characters, and walk with them through their personal baggage, the good times and bad, nanites, and the occasional multi-million zombie horde.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My site, has little excerpts as well as links for trade-paperbacks, e-books and hardcovers. Towards the bottom of the main page is a table to alternative sources; particularly for people who like e-books, but not the PDF format.