Kerrigan's Race, the first of the three books of The Syreni series by C.M. Michaels, is a sci-fi fantasy romance about an Olympic hopeful Kerrigan Everett who gets caught in a vortex and pulled into a dangerous ocean, surfacing in the aquatic foreign world of Teresole where mermaid-like creatures live. The foreign creatures lost the last of their fertile women, and out of desperation, they reopened one of the sealed portals so they can capture human females and genetically alter them so they can bear Syreni young and live a life beneath the sea. Kerrigan tries to save her fellow swimmers but her escape plans get derailed when she’s chosen by Neptune and Poseidon to become the Syreni’s next queen, giving her the body of a Syreni female, the eyes of their goddess and a new name. The former atheist must now learn to become a devoted servant to the gods, who she can no longer deny the existence of after she is swept away to Mt. Olympus to meet them.
The idea for Kerrigan's Race came to C.M. Michaels back in 2013 while spending a long weekend in Michigan visiting family. He was so intrigued by the premise that he spent almost the entire weekend crafting his plot-arc. As a writer, he thinks that switching genres from Urban Fantasy to Fantasy has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
You can read our full review of Kerrigan's Race here.
Interview with C.M. Michaels
Is religion a major theme in Kerrigan's Race? What roles do gods and goddesses play in your story?
The Syreni and the world they inhabit were literally created by their gods. Their priests and females directly interact with them throughout their lives, with the females being claimed by Neptune or Poseidon at birth. Their faith is not theoretical like it is on earth. With Camithia being a former atheist, being asked to even believe in the existence of higher beings is a tall order, let alone learning to dedicate her life to them. But the fates have seen that she is the only one capable of preventing the destruction of both of our worlds.
How do you blend elements of fantasy, sci-fi and romance in Kerrigan's Race?
For the fantasy aspect, the story is set on a foreign water world. And while there are a fair share of creatures that inhabit Teresolee that were taken from earth, such as whales, sharks and dolphins, for the most part their world is filled with objects and creatures not native to our planet. As I mentioned earlier, the Syreni are a technologically advanced race, which brings in a heavy dose of science fiction. And underneath it all, this is a story about two characters overcoming the circumstances that bring them together and their own tragic pasts to find their own version of a happily ever after together, battling hoards of griffins, negotiating alliances with raptor allies and getting married in full battle armor.
Why do you think switching from Urban Fantasy to Fantasy is a rewarding experience?
I find Urban Fantasy writing to be a little easier. By being rooted in the “real” world, it provides the author and reader with an established foundation to tie the magical / supernatural elements into. If, on the other hand, your world is full of carnivorous jasperia vines and soul stealing mist clouds, you need to get the reader’s head around these elements in addition to introducing the main plot and your central characters. That being said, Fantasy writing provides a blank canvas for the author which is incredibly endearing to me. I hold Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight) in high regard as a Fantasy Author and have learned a great deal from her writing.
You said that there are intimate and erotic scenes in your books. How explicit are they? And are they a significant part of the story?
The scenes, while limited in number and duration, play a pivotal role in the story, as they describe Camithia’s (Kerrigan’s Syreni name) interactions with the gods on Mt. Olympus as Athena’s consort and a priestess, along with more romantic scenes with Aristos, of course. The gods are nothing if not creative in how they make use of her body, leading to some incredibly imaginative, for-adult-eyes-only escapades. Having said that, the erotic scenes make up a very small portion of the book. This is primarily a fantasy romance.
How is dialogue handled with the Syreni underwater?
After a great deal of consideration, I ended up using italics like I normally would for unspoken thoughts since the Syreni utilize telepathic speech except for when they are at the surface. The downside was that it made it more difficult to differentiate the dialogue from private thoughts shared for the benefit of the reader, but overall it seemed to work best in the end.
How did the other fantasy authors shape your writing style?
Kelley Armstrong and Richelle Mead both write primarily about strong female protagonists and in the first person. They maintain a steady pace that retains reader interest, not getting bogged down in overly flowery prose while still painting a vivid picture of the scene unfolding. While both authors feature plenty of action, steamy romance scenes and nail-biting suspense, their plots are character driven, with the development of the protagonist and the supporting cast being the central element of the story. They manage to present refreshingly unique takes on the supernatural / magical elements in their stories. And in almost every one of their books, the protagonist is becoming part of a new family through circumstances outside of their control, which is a central theme in my books as well.
Here's an excerpt from Kerrigan's Race by C.M. Michaels:
No longer burdened with an unconscious, oxygen breathing body to carry, I dove under the waves and retrieved another handful of Sherifan root from the murky bottom on my way to the last of the females. She was an impressive swimmer even in our rough seas, and as a commander I had to admire her ability to keep her head in a crisis. Surely the king would select her for our region after hearing of her heroic exploits, which meant—unless I wanted to live as a nomad—that she would be carrying my children. I suppose there could be worse surrogate mother servants to be stuck living with. That’s all she would ever be to me. And if she so much as looked at any of Pulchra’s belongings, I’d gut her.
Circling around to surface from behind, I covered her nose and mouth with the toxic plant root balled up in my right hand. She countered with a wicked elbow to my ribs that loosened my grip enough for her to slip out of my headlock, but within seconds the root was taking effect. Her arresting, silver blue eyes widened with fear as her left arm went numb. Her legs soon followed, causing her to go under several times, and yet she still kept pulling herself around in little circles with one hand. The female’s will to live was remarkable—I’d seen battle tested Syreni warriors succumb faster to the potent neurotoxin. Nonetheless, I didn’t want her to suffer, so I tilted her head back and coated the inside of both nostrils. Her lanky, perfectly toned body went limp in my arms.
I cradled her over my left shoulder, looping my arm under her navy clad butt, and swam close enough to the surface to ensure her head remained above water. It felt so weird to hold a human in my arms. I’d never even seen one in the flesh before this morning. In some ways our two species bared a close resemblance, such as our arms and torso, but their long stringy legs were beyond strange, as was their bland coloring and obsession with hiding their skin beneath artificial material. To think the king feared we’d fancy their kind. Not that she was repulsive or anything—based on the humans I’d watched over the last decade she’d be considered stunning—but it’d be like being attracted to a griffin.
About half way back some curious, inane part of me wondered what was underneath that stupid red cap on her head. It slowly ate away at my brain like a famished mealworm until I caved, easing her off my shoulder and freeing her bound up locks. The surprisingly silky hair was a rich, deep brown and was longer than I expected, coming all the way to her shoulder blades. Realizing that I was now floating here, fondling an unconscious human’s hair like some swamp miscreant, I quickly took hold of her body and continued toward the birthing chamber.