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Friday, September 21, 2012

Author Interview: Jo Michaels

Today I am pleased to present to you all the twentieth in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the incognito Jo Michaels and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Jo:  I begin each day with a cup of coffee and a blog post. It gets my brain working and the words flowing from my fingers. I also read and comment on a multitude of other blogs because I’ve found inspiration in them on occasion.

Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Jo:  I read everything I can get my hands on. I have a few favorite authors: Fern Michaels, Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer, Cornelia Funke, Emily Bronte, Robin Cook, Jane Austen, and a number of popular authors of today. I like Fern for her female empowerment, Rick for his mythological and historical style, Robin because I love medical mysteries, and the others because they wrote something that spoke to me.

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Jo:  They would see a brain working on overdrive. I cultivate new ideas everywhere. There would be scary monsters, beautiful people, facts, figures, and a whole lot of beliefs I hold to very firmly.

Paul:  What is a typical day for you? 
Jo:  A typical day (M-F) is: Up at 6am, put kids on bus, write my blog post and comment on other blogs from 8-9 while answering e-mails, then work on editing, creating book covers, or my WIP until 3 when the kids return. Cook dinner, homework, clean house, bathe kids, prepare for bed, and read (until I fall asleep).

Paul:  Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why? 
Jo:  I do. Kutula from Yassa because he was fun, funny, and ended up asserting himself into a position that I couldn’t deny his right to, Emmett from The Abigale Chronicles because he’s based on my own son, and Cecilia Hooper from my new series Mystic because she’s such an innocent.

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Jo:  I schedule it every weekday. It’s my job and I refuse to call in sick.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Jo:  My real name. I use a pen name for many reasons and to have my real name discovered might bring me a lot of backlash due to the things I write.

Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Jo:  I won’t lie; I sent my manuscript to agents. They didn’t know how they could market it and I got frustrated by being turned down a billion times. I thought, with the boom in ebook publishing, maybe I had a shot going it on my own. I’ve seen a little success with my chosen route and, though it’s more work for me, I do enjoy keeping more of my profits.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jo:  I’m not a plotter in a traditional sense but I do make some major decisions before I begin to write: What the main character’s moment of change will be, what journey they are taking, who will support them in their endeavors, and how the story will end. I then make chapter titles as a rough guide and let the story flow from there. Every time I’ve attempted to restrict that in any way, I deviate.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jo:  I think every book needs editing. I don’t care how great you are, you need someone to tell you when something sucks. I go through no less than four rounds of edits with every book I publish. I edit in, out, send to my editor, then edit again based on feedback.

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Jo:  For Yassa, yes, because it was historical fiction and I wanted to stay as true to Genghis Khan as I could. For the others, like The Abigale Chronicles (Book One and Book Two) and Player, not really. I do keep a pretty tight timeline worked up for most of them though, and I keep a handy link document open where I dump sites I found with useful information. Mystic requires that I check facts about locations and weather details so I find myself Googling a lot for that series.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Jo:  I suppose it’s time to ruin the surprise here. I’m working on a series titled Mystic about tolerance and judgment. The first book in the six book series is titled Bronya and was just released in August of 2012. There will be five novellas and one conclusion novel. Bronya, the first novella, centers around homosexuality and the devastating effect a community can have on people who are different. As a series, I want to show people they have strength and can battle hate if they work together.

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Jo:  I see so many people out there hating someone over something. Whether it’s a life choice they make, something that happened to them, or something they decide, it can cause a lot of self-loathing. I want people to realize their words hurt as badly as their fists in many situations.

Paul:  Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Jo:  I have written novels, children’s chapter books, and one non-fiction book in my area of expertise: graphic design and branding yourself. I put my short stories on my blog for everyone to enjoy.

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Jo:  I have one that I’m working on that’s very personal. I’m not sure I’ll ever publish it because of that. It’s titled Player and is a novel about the games played when dating. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that jazz.

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Jo:  More than is good for me, I’m sure. I tweet, Facebook, and blog. I did a blog challenge not too long ago and met a lot of like-minded people I have kept in touch with. It has added time to my day but a lot of reward to my life.

Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jo:  My favorite part is the creation and sense of completion I get when I finish a work. My least favorite part is wishing I had more hours in a day to write. I was surprised at the toll the summer took on my WIP. My kids being out of school has thrown a wrench into my schedule. I’m looking forward to November and NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping to get caught up and ahead in that month.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Jo:  I’m an illustrator and photographer as well as a graphic designer. I’ve created a couple of book covers for other authors over the last few months including: Canopy, Lazy Arizona Organic Gardener’s Basics, and Divorced to Dating Disasters. So, that keeps me pretty busy. I love to swim also but this summer hasn’t seen me in the pool much. I’m hoping to have more time to do that once the kids go back to school.

About Jo Michaels: Jo Michaels was born in 1977 in Tennessee. She moved to Louisiana when she was four, then to Georgia in 2010. Her book, The Abigale Chronicles - Book One, has received many accolades for its original and inspiring protagonist, Abigale Fontenot. The children's chapter book was written for Jo's daughter and is about the power of imagination helping someone become extraordinary. Michaels holds a degree in Graphic Design and all artwork associated with her material is original and done by her.

Jo's Blog: Jo Michaels
Jo on Twitter: @WriteJoMichaels
Jo on Facebook: Jo Michaels
Jo's latest book: Mystic: Bronya (Amazon)

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