It’s exactly what it sounds like. Emma and I got together on Skype and asked each other a bunch of questions, and the only stipulation was that we had to answer honestly! And none of the questions could be boring. Take a look at what we came up with!
Emma Michaels: The number one comment readers have about surrender is the uniquely original story line, what would you say inspired the more unique aspects of Surrender?
Rhiannon Paille: Mythology. I’m very driven by age old stories, and I fashioned SURRENDER after those old stories. The entire basis of The Ferryman + The Flame is the idea that this is a lost myth, something that our ancestors or elders tried to have erased. Anything that was banned, erased, burned, purged from the universe itself, has to be good right?
When you asked me to review Owlet, you made a valid point about asthma and flawed teenagers. What made you choose asthma specifically?
Emma Michaels: I have lifelong asthma and throughout school and the slow crawl towards adulthood it became a serious impediment, not as much because of the limits on me physically but because of the lack of understanding from those around me. P.E. teachers wouldn’t understand and would force me to run or threaten my grade and I knew what was going to happen but had to risk it anyways, So I would run and within 20 minutes be in the ER with the teacher apologizing for not having believed me because she saw me try my very hardest and the outcome. Then of course, new teacher the next year, same welcome to the class. It hurts having the limitations, but it hurts more feeling so alone and so unique in a way that feels more wrong than right so much of the time.
The Great Oak in Surrender has captivated readers, they want to know more about the great oaks tie in to the story and ability to choose a person’s life path. Will it affect future novels? Is there any fun behind the story info you might be willing to share?
Rhiannon Paille: The Great Oak is akin to mythology’s Tree of Life, which is rumored to exist in Avalon, which is what inspired me to create Avristar. In later books I mention how human culture has changed and I draw all the lines together between the first book and the last three books. Without going into a lot of spoilery details, the first three books exist around 7000BCE and the last three books exist around 2010CE. So, While the Great Oak plays a part in the first, fourth, and fifth books, it’s more of an archetype. For the first three books Kaliel and Krishani feel cursed by the tree, but the Great Oak is one of those impartial omnipotent creatures. Hahaha I’m sure Kaliel in the later books would compare the Great Oak to a Magic 8 Ball.
Iris can’t remember her life, but everyone around her seems to know who she is. Was the amnesia part of your original plan for Iris’s story?
Emma Michaels: Yes and no. I wrote the entire Society of Feathers series, then went back and decided to rewrite it including what I had learned. The amnesia was added when I went back and realized that certain things that happened in Iris past are not things any young girl’s mind would be able to properly cope with. It really came down to be it being more realistic for her to have chosen to have forgotten because of events revealed in book two, than for her to have been able to live with what happened without finding a way to face the truth.
There are so many stories and versions of what elves could be. Have elves always interested you? If not what sparked that interest?
Rhiannon Paille: I can see how Iris wouldn’t be able to accept some of the things that happened to her when she was a kid and then magically go back and be reintroduced to it without having amnesia. It was a good add to the revisions! Actually there are two types of elves. The ones you just mentioned at the short ones, that were mistaken for dwarves in some stories, and midgets in other stories. It gets really sticky when you begin to pull apart the myths out there. The Elvens (which are NOT elves btw) are often mistaken for the Frost Giants or the Fir Bolgs who were trying to take over Ireland before the Tuatha De Danann descended from the sky and drove them out of Ireland. My interest comes from culture, my own personal roots being that my ancestors were all from those regions. My ancestors were all Viking Warlords, Kings of Norway, Dublin, Kvenland, Sweden, etc. etc. They then migrated to Iceland, and later to Canada. Mythology from that region has always fascinated me, as it fascinated Tolkien. Me and him use the same Elvens. But I also added feorns (half wolf, half man, but not werewolves), centaurs (half man, half horse) shee (12inch faeries), fae (human sized faeries), gargoyles (stone during the day, bat-like at night), and humans.
We’re gonna write books here Emma with this interview! What originally sparked your interest for a Society of Bird-People?
Emma Michaels: It is a bit difficult to describe. I tend to look at everything around me and see something a different from what everyone else sees (or so I am told) so the smallest thing can change me entire perspective. In this case, I have always been fascinated by ornithology, especially since an illustrator of a text book was kind enough to give me a free signed copy knowing I liked it but couldn’t afford it. From that day on the book has always meant a great deal to me. When I was about 16 or 17 I had a dream about a girl flying and a part of an owl becoming a part of her. I have always had dreams about flying whenever the strong Santa Ana winds would come through my hometown Los Angeles. It really just grew from there, I started to see traits of birds in those around me.
Rhiannon Paille: It’s stuff like that that makes people think us writers are all insane you know 😉
Emma Michaels: I know. But in the words of Lewis Carrol, “We’re all mad here.” 😛 We really are going to write books here in this interview 😛 Surrender has been called “vibrant”, “epic”, “beautifully written fantasy”, “full of magic” and “extraordinary” how did it feel when you got your first review? How did your readers reactions to your novels effect your future choices when writing?
Rhiannon Paille: Hahaha AND she asks me loaded questions! Honestly? I was really happy with my first review because it was from a fellow indie author whose book I loved, and she called my book a Classic! And then I began getting other reviews from other bloggers and not all of them were as positive. Some of them didn’t like my book, some of them didn’t think I knew how to write (okay that might have been true) but the one thing I did want to avoid was having readers influence my future books. I’ve seen others do it, SM Reine is doing it right now with her Seasons of the Moon series, where she polls people on facebook about what should happen in the next installment. Cool idea, but it’s not for me. I had a full story arc for The Ferryman + The Flame in my head before I began and actually before SURRENDER originally dropped in 2011, I had the first drafts of JUSTICE and VULTURE already finished. I like being ahead of the game. It helps me let go of the people who tell me that despite doing six years of work, my book is crap. (you know who you are anonymous reviewer.)
I really liked Falcon, but everyone complains about insta-love between characters (I’m a guilty member of the insta-love club) What do you have to say for yourself?
Emma Michaels: Lol, very good question. You have no idea what you stumbled upon but I have been waiting for someone to ask this one! I am not a fan of following fads, the interesting thing that is going to happen throughout the series is that as you see their past unfurling you realize it wasn’t insta-love at all. In fact, it was quiet the opposite. The thing is. Iris is the person that taught Falcon what love was and his not forgetting that was what was able to reforge that connection. Iris trusts him but it was trust it took him years and years to earn, she just doesn’t know it yet and once she finds out we will see where the story goes from there. 😛 Fate seems to have a huge part in your novels. Do you personally believe in fate or having a path that is already chosen?
Rhiannon Paille: Yes and no . . . I believe in Destiny, not Fate. Destiny is a destination where as fate is a detour. The Great Oak is more like a personality test, like those fantastic career tests we all had to do on the antiquated computers at high school. The ones that spit out job matches based on our answers. There are a lot of other factors that make up what Kaliel and Krishani’s destiny is, and frankly I haven’t even revealed their destiny paths in the first book. I’m also going to add that humans have free will, while Elvens aren’t known for that. Elvens are known for their dedication to duty and responsibility, they are less likely to fall off a prescribed path. But then you have to look past Kaliel and Krishani being physically Elven and understand that Kaliel’s soul is a Flame and Krishani’s soul is a Ferryman. That trumps. It’s like Iris being a human but having a bird soul.
You have other creative influences, like video editing and sketching. How has that shaped you as a writer? Do you sometimes sketch out your ideas before writing them? (I can’t draw so I’m fascinated by people who can.)
Emma Michaels: Great answer! And yes, I tend to lean towards just about every and any creative outlet that has to do with visual stimuli. I actually drew Iris (previously named Serenity), Falcon (previously named Darien when I drew him) and then Jarem and Roger. It actually does really affect my writing when I draw a character or work on a digital design piece. The main reason being that I have a pretty terrible memory span and have a lot of reasons I need a creative outlet. When I do a piece of art or write about something I know for sure it is something I am emotionally invested and even if I don’t remember exact details of what I felt while making the piece I always remember the emotion when I look back at the image. It is like each line is a piece of the memory I can’t seem to reach and seeing the images brings it back together again.
Emma Michaels: What do you hope readers will take away from your novels? What is it you want to inspire them to feel?
Rhiannon Paille: *cue the evil laughter* Writing The Ferryman + The Flame was a bit like therapy. The nightmare lived inside my head for a long time before I managed to get it out onto paper. I wrote it in third person limited for the sheer fact that I don’t think I could have written it in first person (a bit too personal that way) so I did it to separate myself from the characters a bit, but I still wanted my readers to live inside the nightmare with me. Sure, this book begins in a utopian paradise, but all paradises have some fatal flaw, not to mention, my paradise is populated by one Flame (who could cause the apocalypse) and one Ferryman (whose job is to follow death) The Ferryman + The Flame is a disaster waiting to happen. I invite everyone to come experience the nightmare for themselves.
And my last question for you Emma (even though I can think of a million more) What do you like most about being a writer?
Emma Michaels: There is one thing that has drawn me to writing me entire life, even if I never thought of it as a career until recently, it is the feeling of writing, that pull towards it that takes you over and all you want to do is create. Every time I see a blank notebook it fills me with this send of impending creativity, like it is a book waiting anxiously for someone to allow its words to appear to it can finally be shared with the world. It is like a force I couldn’t hold back if I wanted to and when I let it take me over, it feels like complete freedom. As someone with such a confusing personal history and so many limitations in my life, there is a LOT I would give up for those moments of freedom. I want to get to keep having that feeling for the rest of my life when I sit down to write.
I want to thank Emma for her brilliant questions and for agreeing to do this interview! I think we had a lot of fun, and I hope you liked our candid answers!