Sarah Pickard, also known as Persephone, is a passionate and hard-working writer in her third year of English & Creative Writing at the University of Windsor. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing her work on bookstore shelves across the country in the near future. Learn about Sarah Pickard and her work from this interview I had with her!
Rachel: Your work with genre fiction is impressive. Can you give me a breakdown of your cast and the various universes they reside in?
Sarah: I do huge cast work. I know who my main crew is:
There’s Anthony/Biter – depending on the genre – who is either the grumpiest old man you’ve ever seen or just the horniest teenager imaginable. He’s absolutely Team Dad.
You have Eileithyia/Carma, who’s constantly wavering between the most motherly person you’ve ever seen or the angriest – she has no middle ground.
You have CC and Jelle or Persphone and Jae-yon. They’re absolute maniacs. CC is a criminal mastermind and Jelle is her more or less willing sidekick. They’re aggressively aromantic and asexual to the point that CC often refers to it as “a weakness” for other people to even have these feelings.
Prometheus/Murphy is one of the three men in the entire family and he worries about everything. He practices stitch craft and he’s constantly selling knitting and embroidery. Whenever things go wrong, he grabs his siblings and brings them away – one on each shoulder, one on the back, and the rest just have to cling on. He’s this big mountain man who has never relaxed a day in his life, which makes sense when he marries his wife, who has never worried about a thing in her life. She is Lisa Tavoularis – she’s so tiny! There’s like, a 15 inch height difference between them.
Then there’s the Heulens. You’ve got Michael/Prowler – he’s literally the straight man of the group in that he’s the only sane one and the only heterosexual character that I’ve ever written. I promised to myself years ago that I would never write a heterosexual white man and I have kept that promise [Editor’s note: the Heulens are African American]. There’s Nicholas/Nocturne who is way too obsessed with Star Wars, never uses contractions, and never talks about his feelings despite his internal dialogue (which consists of the most extra exta love poems). Then we’ve got Spike, who is always Spike. He is too pure for this world, too nice. I feel so bad for what I’ve put him through. Spike and Prowler are the single nicest characters and they hate each other! There’s also Susan/Scruff who’s really getting her big feature in The Honourable Assault [Sarah’s current novel] this year. When she was 10 years old her brother got punched in the face and she told him to quit bitching about it and punched herself in the face just to prove that she was tougher. There are the twins, Jakab/Tricks who suffers from heavy anxiety and heavy depression – he just wants to sit in his room and listen to Linkin Park and have people stop bothering him – and there’s and Lucy/Luke or Luna/Luke. She’s bi-gender and I haven’t truly figured her out yet. I don’t know as much about her as I do the rest of them as this is her first big feature as well. She has a lot of self-love – she knows she’s too good for the nonsense that the rest of them put up with.
Patience is huge in this novel but I hesitate to add him because he doesn’t appear in Grimsvill, the canon universe, but he’s an amazing character. He’s obsessed with cross dressing, eating the hearts of men, and murdering his ex-boyfriends. They’re like, “I love you,” and he’s like, “Stand under the chandelier for a second.” He writes them love letters then burns the replies. He is the perfect example of what happens when you love your kids too much to tell them no. He’s an awful person and I adore him.
The oldest universe is Grimsvill. This one originated when I was very little and this is the one most of them were born out of. This is why they’re all monsters in the canon. This is basically a monsters-in-high-school expansion and every bad pun you can think of. It’s an excuse just to give Biter terrible t-shirts. The worst/best t-shirt I have is “Always B+” with a blood bag on it and “See You Next Month” – they’re so great. It’s been thought out to include four generations. I know them, I know their kids, and I know all the way back to their grandparents. The current novel that I’m working on for it is focusing on Spike coming into town and learning that there is a cult who is sacrificing all the humans that are in town.
The Honourable Assault is the first novel I’ve ever written that I had an idea for a sequel for and I have four books outlined right now in the same universe. That never happens to me. It’s a steampunk universe and the first one features the crew of the Honourable Assault [an airship] – especially the three of them who get lost in the Sundarbans of India while getting chased by a man-eating tiger. It is one of the human universes and it’s also one of the universes where Anthony is 47. Because he’s a vampire in the canon, I give him one of 3 ages – 25 because that’s his vampire age, 47 because that’s the age difference between him and Eileithyia, or 847 because that’s how old he actually is. Because Patience is in it [Anthony’s son], I went with 47.
I’ve put Hellfire aside for now but it was my first completed novel. It’s more of a darker look at the monster universe than Grimsvill. We’re here for the monster puns, and this one looks at what it would actually be like to be a vampire and be 847 years old, what witchcraft is like, and what being a werewolf is like. It has a darker tone. It’s a world where humans only just realized these things were real – there was a lot of backlash and a lot of people being killed. After CC is murdered, things just go to shit. Biter was the Blood King who ruled Europe during the 13th century with Theodore, his husband. Now it’s the 21st century so he doesn’t do this anymore, but Theodore is trying to get him to do it again by basically orchestrating the slaughter of his entire family. About 8 named characters die. It was a very interesting look into Biter as a serious character as this is the least comedic universe I’ve written. It shows how him and Theodore are co-dependent and how it’s unhealthy, along with depression, anxiety, and the exhaustion of what being immortal would look like.
R: When did you first begin writing?
S: I like to joke that I came out of the womb with a first draft. Before I could write or type, I would dictate my stories to my grandmother and she would write them for me. My first rendition for Biter came around when I was 4 years old so he’s had 16 years of development. When I first started seriously writing with the cast I have now, I was probably in 6th grade, which is when Grimsvill came up. I wrote my first novel, Hellfire, when I was 16 so I guess that’s probably where most of them came in. Prowler, the Humans, Theodore and Esme were all born. Things came together because I made the vow not to write straight people anymore and then it just took off.
R: What are your writing goals for this year?
S: I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year and I’d like to use it to finish The Honourable Assault. Then I can get it edited up and submitted to a publisher for the end of next year. I’m working on the gothic AU [alternate universe] this year as my first stab at doing a romance novel. I’m constantly writing anyway.
R: Where have you been published so far? Where are you thinking of applying next?
S: I have been published for poetry by Young Authors Canada and a couple publications we’ve done in the creative writing department. Nothing for my serious fiction so far but I did get a very personalized rejection letter from NineStar Press that I am very happy with. This made me realize Hellfire has to be a mulit-novel story but I don’t have time right now. To submit my first novel and get a personalized rejection letter is pretty great. They had some really good feedback for me and all of it I absolutely agreed with. One of the publishers I’m currently eyeing is Harmony Inc. because they have constantly open submissions, but the day I submitted they closed! It’s been a year and a half and they haven’t opened up yet. Harmony, NineStar, and Riptide – I’m mainly focused on LGBT publishers because that’s the work I do.
R: Tell me about your job and how it helps you in your writing.
S: I work at the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum on a summer-by-summer basis. Every year, they get money from the government to hire summer staff so I’ve worked there for 2 years now. I’m a Historic Interpreter. I am a tour guide and do general upkeep. We run the museum 6 days a week. I don’t know if it’s helped my writing directly, but it gives me a lot of free time – it’s not a very busy museum. I’m their resident expert on Victorian Mourning and Victorian medical history which has helped me with the steampunk AU and the gothic AU.
R: What are some of your other hobbies?
S: Well, in other work I’m the co-cordinator of the Coldwater Steampunk Festival. We had about 8,000-10, 000 people last year. It’s internationally attended and brings about half a million dollars into the local economy. I’m the figurehead of the festival and go to promotional events. I’m on the poster – I’m Miss Morphine. It’s not Dr. Morphine, it’s not Nurse Morphine, it’s Miss Morphine! It basically involves wearing a corset 8 months out of the year. In that same vein, I work with the Orillia Wearable Arts Fashion Show, so I’ve modelled for designers and I’ve put in my own design line. I modelled for one year for a designer with a Geisha piece where I had my hair in this big headdress. I put in a steampunk line the next year with my sister. But this year we’re both busy and we’ll probably just model again.
R: Is writing something you would like to do full- time?
S: Absolutely. I could not imagine doing anything else. If I don’t write every single day I get annoyed. Every creative writing major wants to be a full-time novelist. I’d say I’m reasonably confident in that I’ve always been working towards getting my fiction published. I’ve never really worried about anything else – as much as it worries my mother.
R: Which cast member do you relate to the most? Why?
S: I guess Carma is the closest to me because we both want tons of kids and like to see men cry.
R: Which cast member gets on your nerves/is the most difficult to write about?
S: I’d have to say CC and Jelle. I don’t know if they get on my nerves but they’re the hardest to control because CC does whatever she wants and Jelle is along for the ride. It’s hard to plan anything. Not that everyone else doesn’t have a mind of their own, but they can at least stick to the plot. I can’t even block out a novel – I just basically plop them into a universe and see what happens. That’s the benefit of doing what I do – same cast, different AU’s. I secretly refer to it as a Pickardian because I want this to be a thing in fiction in the future. I’m also constantly asked if I can even do anything else, so I do, then I say, “See? I just do this because I want to.” Then it just gets put into the universe anyways.
R: You write a lot of LGBT+ fiction/romance. What do you think about the way LGBT+ people are represented in literature and why is it important to you to expand on the amount of LGBT+ literature available?
S: There’s been a huge controversy, especially in the past, and especially with the gay trope. If LGBT people get a novel, they usually die at the end – especially lesbians. Most mass-marketed LGBT literature is reduced to the coming-out narrative. People in small towns realize they’re gay, they fall in love, something happens. I think that’s a good story but sometimes you just want to see a lesbian punch a dragon (I want this on a t-shirt). I don’t do coming out stories because I want LGBT people to read my stories and see LGBT people who aren’t reduced to coming to terms with their sexuality. They’re here and know what they want to do. Asexual people usually aren’t added because writers think that they have no point because there’s no sexuality. Statistics are 1 in 100 for most characters but mine is 1 in 6. For me, I have all these complicated characters and I’ve moved across the spectrum. Also, a lot of LGBT literature is white dominated – you see a white gay dude – so I make as many LGBT people of colour as possible – but it’s something I need to work on. I always try to make sure my cast isn’t just all white people. The thing I explained to my brother is, “You can make a straight white guy but why would you go with the most boring option?” It’s more fun to do everything else, and there’s enough media for straight white guys and I’m not going to contribute to that.