Last year I was fortunate enough to get to work on a project involving Frank Hutton. Cutting Block Press was set to release Tattered Souls II and I was brought in to help with proofing and some copy edits. Most folks would say that’s nothing major, but it’s a lot more important to have fresh eyes look at stories after the editors and co-editors have looked at them for months.
I think being a notoriously slow reader helps when it comes to doing any sort of proofing work.
However (yes, this is equivalent to a ‘but’) one of the stories assigned to me caught me completely off guard. Completely.
I’m not going to lie and say when I saw the story was a vampire piece that I thought there would be something shiny or sparkly involved. I am here to say that I was completely wrong. There are no sparkly vampires and this is not for those who think Twilight is the way vampires should be portrayed.
The story, Misery of Me grabbed hold of me early and didn’t let go until I was finished reading. What more is I read it fast. Unbelievably fast. The story pulled me in with its rich characters and the ending… well, let’s say the ending was perfect for the story.
Recently I got to chat with Anne Michaud, the author of Misery of Me and I was fortunate to be able to ask her a few things about herself and her writing as well.
Anne Michaud was not afraid of Herbie when he pulled out the needles and the blood bag. In fact, I’m not even sure she paid any attention to him as he went about his business of extracting answers from those who sit in his chair.
Stand, if you will, and welcome Anne Michaud to The Donor Center.
AJ: Who is Anne Michaud?
AM: I was supposed to be a filmmaker. After a decade of studying film history, film production and screen writing, I realized that somehow, watching my stories on the big screen didn’t fulfill me.
I was supposed to live in England. After many language exchange programs, a disastrous attempt at being a pub barmaid in Putney and my Master’s at the University of London, I struggled with the truth: my dream of becoming a British citizen wasn’t to happen in this lifetime.
What I wasn’t supposed to do was fall in love with writing – and becoming addicted to getting my name published on a piece of paper. I used to love going out and meeting new people, but now it’s all about working hard at home, writing about the characters living in my head, and reading good books.
So who am I? I’m just a writer.
AJ: Being just a writer is not necessarily a bad thing. Before we get into your writing, how did you get involved in filmmaking?
AM: I’ve always been fascinated by films, its long and tedious process as much as the art of making it. Truth be told, it started by this want of being in front of the camera — that career ended after a day of shooting where I envied the crew calling the shots.
As soon as I graduated with honors from Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, I started an indie production house, Pretty Pretty Productions, which served only my own projects. I wrote, directed and produced three short films, which have made the festivals circuit and since are distributed for private channels on television.
Moving away from the film industry is hard. After years of being a script reader for an LA based production company and a judge for the Scriptapalooza screenplay contest in the US, I can say I’m officially concentrating on my own writing, whether it be scripts, short stories or novels.
AJ: After all the years of chasing film making, what changed things for you?
AM: When I finish writing a story – after many drafts and a lot of polishing – I’m satisfied. The piece is mine; my characters, my world. With film, my idea evolves into something else, it mutates. It becomes the vision of the director of photography, the print of the art director, the voice of the actor…it’s not mine, anymore.
Writing is a very personal experience, and although it’s shared with crit partners and editors – and hopefully readers – it stays trapped inside my head. I prefer the closeness I feel with writing, and keeping it on the page. I pour a lot more of myself into my prose than I ever did with my films. Therapeutic, really.
AJ: I understand that completely. Creating a life–even a fictional one–is such a personal thing that only the creators can really understand. It is, after all, part of your voice that helps create those characters.
When you decided to become a writer, did you also decide to become a published writer or did that come a little later on?
AM: The second I put pen to paper I wanted to get published – and I did, my first short story got printed in the only magazine I sent it to. Owning a craft is a hard, long road, but I never shy away from a challenge.
AJ: It seems to me that you like to write on the darker side of the fence. Is that true and why?
AM: True statement. It’s more than a matter of taste, really – I think it’s a way to see life in general. I’d love to be able to lie to myself by thinking it gets easier with time, to pretend getting old is great and the wisdom acquired is worth impending death. But to me, it’s not.
We live, we eat, we shit, we die.
I can’t write something I don’t think or feel or believe in. I don’t write about religion and happy endings because to me, they’re the same: fabrication to make our lives bearable, lies society wants us to adhere to. Plus, I love listening to dark and depressing music, so color me goth.
AJ: So, you ascribe to Stephen King’s ‘tell the truth in your lies’ theory. I do as well. Let’s talk about some of your work, most notably a story you wrote that appears in the anthology Tattered Souls II, Misery of Me. Can you tell the folks who may not have read it yet a little about the story and the inspiration for it?
AM: I was reading what would become one of my favorite vamp novels, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, when the idea struck me. At the beginning of the story (I’m not spoiling anything, here), Eli’s provider spots lunch but on closer inspection, refuses to draw blood from a junkie – this is where I thought: why not? Misery of Me was born, and with it, I explored a whirlwind of need and want, despair and survival.
The story is about suicidal Fred who falls for Liriel, a vampire addicted to heroin – or actually, she needs her victims to intoxicate themselves so she can drink spiked blood. He wants to die and she needs him to be alive, and through a series of usage and abusage, they become link through blood and love. But for how long?
See, if I was still making films, I’d totally shoot Misery, just for the fun of it.
AJ: Maybe you should consider shooting Misery of Me. It would make a great film.
I was one of the fortunate people to get to work on that story before it was published and when I read it, I was so engrossed in the tragedy that is this piece. So much, in fact, that I had to go back to do my copy edits.
AM: Danke for the superb job, I bet it’s not easy correcting my French-Canadian syntax.
AJ: We have a great team of editors that work with Cutting Block Press who go through each piece. More than one or two pairs of eyes go over each work.
Speaking of which, you got to work with Frank Hutton, the editor for the Tattered Souls series, who I believe is quite possibly the best editor in the small market world right now. What was that like?
AM: Working with Frank Hutton was one of the best editing I’ve been privileged to experience. Not only was he patient, but he really understood the story, and his notes/comments/critique made it all the better for it. He literally cheered me up and I felt happy to make the changes for him – does that even make sense? I’m a rebel, I’m not supposed to give in so easily, but I did for him, because he knew what he was doing and where he was taking Misery.
A fine fellow, that Frank. Very glad to have worked with him.
AJ: That makes complete sense–I’ve had the privilege of knowing Frank and his viewpoints are fundamentally sound, it’s hard to argue with him.
Before we move on, the character of Liriel was such an appealing character. When you first started writing Misery of Me did you see the ending turning out the way it did?
AM: I did, and I always know the ending of the story before I write the first sentence. Actually, I can’t start to write the story at all if I haven’t come up with the first sentence, either.
Liriel is one of my favorite characters – she’s so raw and animalistic, yet fragile and broken – that I needed an image as strong as she is for her exit from Fred’s life. It’s so vivid to me, the way that she leaves.
AJ: It was vivid for me and so heartbreaking for Fred as well.
Can I touch on something you just said: ‘I always know the ending of the story before I write the first sentece.’ Always? Wow, I rarely know the ending of any story I write until I get there. Since you know the endings, do you plot your stories out or do you wing it until the ending happens?
AM: I am the most anal outliner you’ll ever meet – ever. It’s all about gestation for me, from the flash of the idea to the final draft of the story, I need to have been given enough time to come up with the first sentence, the development of the storyline and characters, every twist and plot point, up to the very last word. If I don’t allow myself to let my story stir and boil, it’ll be a waste of time.
I have about 15 journals to prove it, and piles of index cards. For my next project, I’m thinking of outlining on a huge piece of craft paper so I can write as much as I need to. I’m getting excited just thinking about using a different color for each character. So yeah, totally anal!
AJ: One more thing about Misery of Me and we’ll move on: How much research did you have to do to get the addiction part down? It came across as very realistic.
AM: I remembered very clearly the scene in Christiane F, the movie about this young girl who prostitutes herself to buy heroin, where her boyfriend teaches her how to cook the drug and where to catch a vein. I was ten years old when I watched it for the first time, it kinda stuck with me.
AJ: Things at that age tend to leave impressions.
Other than Misery of Me are there other stories you’ve written out there that our readers could find?
AM: Late last year, I’ve contributed to the amazing anthology called City of Hell – Chronicles 1. It’s all about bugs, survival and what people do when it’s the end of the world. Fair warning: not for the faint at heart.
I’ve also been published with Pill Hill Press, and my favorite remains Blood on the Beach in the Flesh and Bone, Rise of the Necromancers .
There’s also Pinprick published in 366 Days of Flash Fiction.
And my first collaboration with two other writers, published in the ePocalypse: emails at the end.
For a complete list of my published stories in magazines, please visit my blog – and every week or so, I post a flash fiction piece.
AJ: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers before we go?
AM: Keep reading horror. Keep reading genre. Keep reading period.
AJ: I’m going to let you go, Anne and I appreciate you coming down to The Donor Center. I hope Herbie was gentle with the needles.
Before you go, one more question: Any chance Liriel can be resurrected in a future story?
AM: Could be, you never know. Thanks for having me, AJ.
Down, Herbie. Good boy.
AJ: Thank you, Anne. It was my pleasure. And thank you for writing what has become one of my favorite short stories.
As Anne left The Donor Center, I heard Herbie mention something about a future tattoo on his chest involving a certain vampire’s name. He may have been smitten by Liriel.
[[Herbie’s Note: No vampires were harmed during this interview, though I do intend to find the ashes of one, in particular…]]