If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Jenner Michaud joins us to discuss the creative process, and the unique joys and dangers of the fairy tale world.
Tell us about your journey on the path of fiction writer. How did you begin?
I began writing seriously after attending a workshop on speculative fiction in 2012. That’s when everything clicked. I never could qualify what I wrote before that workshop, and I usually tried to make my writing fit into more mainstream fiction instead of going with what instinctively poured out of me. Since I was always drawn into places that push the boundaries of the possible (and keep me up at night), writing was more of a chore when I fought against instincts. I wasn’t exposed to horror or dark fiction until adulthood, which is why I think I fought it for so long because it seemed to come out of nowhere even though it’s something I was born with. Learning about SpecFic made it okay to write offbeat, weird and dark material, and I have been writing consistently since I have become more comfortable and embraced what comes out naturally.
You seem to have a flair for dark fiction. What is it about the fairy tale concept at work in the anthology that caught your fancy?
Dark fiction is definitely my niche. Writing a fantasy story was a challenge I had set for myself since I am not all that comfortable with the genre. Fantasy often requires a lot of world building, and the creation of concepts and characters way beyond anything my brain can comfortably grasp. The most obvious way for me to tip my toe in the genre was to attempt retelling an existing fairy tale where a lot of the elements were already established, and give it a new twist by turning it on its head. That being said, my story is technically fantasy because it’s a fairy tale, but the story itself does not have fantasy elements other than animals acting like humans, so I have not strayed too far from my comfort zone, which is probably why I was able to make the story work.
You chose to reinvent the Three Little Pigs. Good choice! Is there something special about this one? Why this one over the others?
I didn’t have it in book form as a child – it was a record that we played on a six-foot, wooden monstrosity of a record player. And we played that thing endlessly on all speeds (45, 33 and 78, because that’s how old that player was), so if there is one fairy tale I could work with, it’s this one. For my own version, I flipped it around to make the pigs the antagonists to the Wolf’s protagonist. It was also great fun to work in other famous fairy tale characters like Red Riding Hood (caught in a love triangle with B.B. Wolf and the pot-smoking pig), as well as Mickey and Donald (as crooked cops).
There’s a great modern flair to your version which incorporates clever nods to the present, such as social media, and the nod to that great storyteller who has animated so many fairy tales, Walt Disney. How did your concept for this reinventing this story take form? What was the creative process like?
A few years ago, I was reading another retelling of The Three Little Pigs and ideas for a different version bloomed in my head. I could barely finish reading that story before putting my own down on paper. I shared that first version for critique, where it was summarily lambasted and torn to shreds, seen as too “Disney and dated”. I filed it away with the thought “nice try, but stick to what you know”. About a year later, I saw a call for reimagined fairy tales so I dug it up and reworked it, adding some modern twists and Grimmer details. It was rejected, but I became obsessed with making it work. I edited and rewrote it until I was pretty sure it was “something”. When AHEA came up, I sent it in, and I was both ecstatic and flabbergasted when the acceptance letter arrived. I had done it and written a successful fantasy story: “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” will be my first published short story of that genre.
Your credits list numerous short stories with various publications, an accomplishment to any working writer constantly engaging in their craft. Tell us about what it’s like to engage in the hard work of submitting to so many markets, the challenges and successes that come with it?
I write what’s in my head rather than create a story from prompts or themes, so the biggest challenge is always finding a market for a completed story. I wish I could boast about submitting frequently, but I only submit when I find the right match. Perhaps as a result of this, I have a very high submission / published ratio (e.g. 4 of the last 5 short stories I submitted were accepted for publishing). Once a story has been rejected by a certain market, it can’t be submitted there again even if it eventually turns into a version that becomes a perfect fit. So it’s best to put our best foot forward as we get one shot at making a first impression, and because of this I submit very strategically – even if unfrequently.
Time is always a challenge for most, but I’d say focus is an even bigger one for me. Even though I always have many projects on the go, I can only focus on one story at any one time despite stories having a mind of their own and developing all at once. I need to find a better brain traffic controller to be more focused and efficient.
Can you share with us your creative projects for the future?
My number of wips is somewhat staggering and I think reflects my challenge with focusing on one project at a time. I have some 40 completed short stories at various stages of the editing process, and at least 4 apocalyptic novels/series in the works, all of them with various TEOTWAWKI scenarios (The End Of The World As We Know It), with half of them falling into the currently trending genre of climate change fiction. (I say at least 4 because there are others that I have set aside for now but will return to at a later time.) My novel project for NaNoWriMo 2016 is a dark thriller called Ilmassa (the Finnish term for “in the air”), where a deadly pathogen is dropped from planes in a bio-terrorist attack on Canada.
Even if I lived a thousand years and wrote 24 hours a days, I would only scratch the surface of all the ideas I have. The more I write, the more ideas I get, so there is no writer’s block in sight for me.
Jenner Michaud is a Canadian speculative fiction writer with an interest in the dark recesses found at the edge of reality. She enjoys weaving stories that push the boundaries of the possible, even when they go bump in the night and keep her up.
Her short fiction has appeared in several horror anthologies, most recently in “Killing it Softly”, “Largely Deceased” and “Paying the Ferryman”. She is also a contributor to Ephiroll Productions’ Plague series (“Plague: Aftermath“ and ”Plague: Ruination”), imagining a world devastated by a fictional airborne strain of Ebola. Her short story “Of Holes and Craters” has been featured by Digital Fiction Publishing and released with its own cover. (All titles are available from Amazon).
Follow her on Twitter @JennerMichaud / Blog: jennermichaud.wordpress.com