Findaway Voices
Author Spotlights

T.J. Michaels

On yourself and your background - Where you were born, how old you are, where you live, how did your upbringing affect you becoming a writer.

I was born and raised in San Francisco in the late 60’s and currently live on the Island of Hawai’I (the Big Island). My parents cultivated my love of learning from a young age and I remember being absolutely in love with Sesame Street, Electric Company and most of all, Schoolhouse Rock. My first ‘squeee’ moment around reading was when my mom gifted me the entire Tolkien collection – I was 9! Because of that, from day one it was all about the books when I raised my kids, and it’s all about the books with my grandkids who are in Kindergarten and 1st grade right now.

Author TJ Michaels

On your history with writing, self-confidence, and overcoming fear - When did you start seriously thinking you’d become an author? Did you always enjoy writing?

My first serious thought on becoming an author was in 1994. I’d picked up my first romance novel ever. It was called Golden Surrender by Heather Graham and I totally fell in love with the genre! I thought, “I can write this! I know I can!” I wrote a gigantic hot mess of a book and then set it aside while I established my career in STEM and raised my children. I did finally publish that book, but not until I’d become an established author. Funny that it wasn’t my first published work 😊

On finding your ideas

Sometimes I get ideas from things I see and people I meet at the day job. I’ve traveled extensively and once I got an idea for a society from riding the train in Austria. Sometimes it’s a crazy dream or something my daughter says while we’re talking about who-knows-what. An idea can come from literally anywhere.

On your goals as an author, what does literary success look like to you?

I’d like to write full time one day. I divorced when my kids were little, and now my kids have kids. That means I’m not only supporting myself, but my kids and their families as well. I’m ever so thankful for the day job, but it’s tough finding time to write as much as I’d like. The day job allows me to write because currently book sales don’t pay the bills. One of these days, I’d like my day job to be writing.

On your motherly/fatherly intuitions or wisdom

  • As a mom and a grandmother, my wisdom to any writer, or any person actually, is DO NOT LET PEOPLE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT HAVE.
  • Write what you want to write. Write what you love rather than for some current trend that you have no passion for.
  • And most important, take time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty if you need self-care. I made myself literally sick because I wouldn’t rest. I’d work all day and write all night once my kids were asleep. As a result, I have a disease caused by the stress I put on my body.
  • Some may say that working yourself into the ground reflects your dedication to the craft. I say, in hindsight, that it’s downright stupid. Seriously. You don’t have to kill yourself to realize your dreams and don’t let ANYONE tell you that you must/should.

On creative outlets you enjoy besides writing

When I’m not writing, I’m sleeping, playing video games, or doing beadwork. We’re part Native American so when I can I work on new beaded pieces for my family.

On your genre(s) your write in and why

I’ve always been a lover of fantasy (Tolkien, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, Robert Riordan, etc) and science fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc), so I write in those sub-genres of Romance. I also write paranormal, urban fantasy and contemporary romance. It’s what I love to read and write.

On your approach to character development

Sometimes I get a very clear picture in my head of the lead characters for a book, and sometimes I have a ‘sort of’ view of them and need to just sit and let them ‘stew’ for a bit. And because I like big worlds and large casts, the stewing process is important so that the characters work well together and are in step throughout the book.

On crafting a story, your writing process

  • I used to be a pantser, but after my first published book, that changed.
  • I submitted a book to a major small-press called Ellora’s Cave back in 2005. It went on to become my debut novel, and the editing experience and process of working with a publisher changed the way I approach writing.
  • They sent me an email that basically said, “Hey, we love this book. If you’re willing to make a few small changes we would like to offer you a contract.” Needless to say, I have a major squeee moment. But that was the beginning of it all.
  • We went through five or six rounds of edits on that book. Most of the issues were timeline problems. For example, the heroine got out of a car, then several paragraphs later, she got out of the car again. I had a LOT of rewrites to do, which was good because I learned how to create and then deliver a pretty clean manuscript.
  • I try to plot from top to bottom. Sometimes I can and sometimes I have to take side roads to get where I’m trying to go.
  • I also build my world as completely as possible before I start writing.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh good god, uh…I’d have to count 😊

On what’s keeping you sane during these crazy times

  • Self care. I take more time to rest, nap, unplug or whatever. If the news is overwhelming, I turn it off. I do spend time on Twitter, Instagram and Facetime with family and friends because they make me laugh, which makes the rest of the world a bit more tolerable right now.
  • I’m also lucky to live in a place that’s nice and quiet with plenty of places to just go sit in the sun and relax. I don’t do it as often as I should, but I’m working on it.

On your favorite books, stories, essays, poems, articles, you’ve written

  • Favorite books I’ve written? I’d have to say my Vampire Council of Ethics series, Gathering of the Storms series and Silk Road. They all have large casts and unusual characters. For example, Silk Road has not only Fallen and Unfallen angels, but demons, leprechauns and shadow priests modeled after my World of Warcraft characters, and really really bad guys that you end up loving.
  • Gathering in the big book I started when my kids were little. It’s post-apocalyptic with a mix of paranormal and sci-fi, which is pretty cool.
  • And in Vampire Council of Ethics, my vampires are actually alive because having a romantic/sexual relationship with a dead person personally squicks me out. But I had to find a way for them to be alive that made sense, so I applied some of my experience in real-life biotech and pharma. So, yeah. I like it.

On developing an online presence and/or what’s been the best way to market your books?

I suck at marketing. I have a PR person and a assistant that help to get me “out there” online.

On working with Findaway Voices

I was thrilled when Findaway Voices landed on my radar! I’d wanted to convert several books that I’d gotten the rights back for, and Findaway Voices makes that process not only possible, but easy!

On why you love the power of audiobooks and stories heard

I’m a bit late to the audiobook game, mostly because it’s very VERY expensive to turn a novel into an audiobook. For example, we received the rights back from one of my publishers for a novella and turned it into an audiobook. It’s less than 4 hours of audio and it cost $2000 to produce. It’s one of the reasons why authors beg people not to pirate books. It’s timely and expensive to put out a book, so when you can’t get paid for that work or recoup your costs, being a writer is tough.

Don’t think about it, what’s the first thing that comes to mind:

  • What is one thing you can’t live without? You mean other than food, water and shelter? My home library and iPad because BOOKS.
  • Cats or dogs or others? Dogs! We train German Shepherds here on the island.
  • Favorite place you’ve traveled to? Ooooh, that’s hard. I’ll go with the UK and Ireland. France (NOT PARIS – ugh!) and Austria are close seconds.
  • Place you want to travel to? Hokkaido, Japan
  • What’s your favorite local restaurant? Mom’s Hilo – it’s a crazy-good Japanese eatery here on my island.
  • What’s your go-to late-night snack? Fresh grapes with a side of pecans or macadamia nuts. I love fruit with nuts. Love, love, love!!
  • A favorite program that you’ve binge-watched? Yuri on Ice, Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars), Firefly, Harry Potter (the entire series) at Christmas time, Lord of the Rings (yep, the whole thing) during Thanksgiving holiday.
  • What are you currently reading? Decadence, Darkstar Mercenaries Book 4. It’s a sci-fi romance series I’m totally in love with.
  • If you could speak a new language, what would it be and why? Japanese because I’ve been trying to learn it for years and I want to go to Japan SO bad.
  • If you could be another author, who would it be and why? I don’t know, mostly because you never know what others are going through in their lives. They may be super-prolific and have someone to support them while they write, but they could have physical illnesses or ailing parents or anything going on. I’m cool with being me 😊