September 5, 2014

Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial): Jo Michaels

I'm kicking of my series--Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unoffical)--with my dear friend and roommate at UtopYA, Jo Michaels. 

Jo is my partner in crime on so many levels. She's got one of the biggest hearts around and a head full of knowledge. UtopYA was where I got to meet her in person for the first time!

Jo & Tia at UtopYA
Hello my sister from another mister! I’m missing you so much since UtopYA. You are all kinds of awesome. Thanks for hanging out with me on my blog today and letting me pick your brain.

Jo: Howdy, sis! I miss your face, too. I can’t believe it’s gonna be a whole ten months before I see you again—doesn’t seem short enough. It’s exciting to be here, and I can’t wait to see what questions you have for me.

What was the best part of your UtopYA experience (other than hanging out with me, of course)?

Jo: Wow. Tough question since you took away my answer. Everything about UtopYA was so amazing that it’s hard to choose one thing. I loved meeting everyone, being at our table and chatting people up about our books, the panels I made it to, and getting to say hello to Gennifer Albin. I made so many new friends while we were there! Running from before sun up to well after sun down left me little time to reflect on the awesome time I was having until I got home (with no voice lol).

You have an infectious energy for all things publishing—from editing to graphic design to marketing to writing and much more. How did you discover this passion?

Jo: I’ve always been a huge fan of books and writing. I used to write short stories I never shared with anyone but my mother, and I’ve been reading since I was four (Little Golden books). So, reading and writing have always been a huge part of my life. When I decided to write Yassa, the world of self (Indie) publishing was beginning to take hold. I wanted to do more myself, so I dove right in and never looked back. Because I hold a graphic design degree, I already had a leg up over many—as far as formatting my books for print was concerned or handling type the way I wanted for my covers. But I read everything I can get my hands on about blogging, writing, design, and self-publishing. It’s made my blog sort of a go-to for answers on many things. I share because I’m not in this alone. We all have to work together or we fail. When one of us succeeds, we all win. To answer your question, I discovered one passion by having another. They go hand-in-hand, you know?

Your Mystic novella series—or, as I prefer to call it, the Women Save the World series—is amazing. It’s about a group of exceptional women who are brought together to save the world and led by a rocking leader, Markaza. Tell us a little about her and the culminating book, which will be a full-length novel, in the series.

Jo: Thank you for the compliment, first of all. You’re very sweet. Markaza is a character that lumps many characteristics I find intriguing together: Loyalty, strength, self-confidence, and depression. She struggles with the world around her, trying to fit in, being bullied for a while, growing into what she is through the series, and is appalled by the actions of some of those who claim to be human. Her book will give us a look at her life, as she fills in the other ladies of WSTW about what’s going on, and it’ll answer some burning questions I left dangling through the other novellas. We’ll also have the fight with the monster rising from the ground in Central Park, those photographs that were taken a couple of books back are gonna surface and cause trouble, and a few characters you may have thought were gone from the story line will come back and slap you.

It sounds amazing. When can we expect to get our hands on it?

Jo: I’m hoping sometime this year. I’ve been so busy trying to get my house in order from the move (paint, shelf paper in my kitchen, tending the new pool, etc…), it’s been difficult to fall into a regular schedule. This is getting easier since the kidlings just went back to school on Monday, and I have my work hours back. No one is running in screaming, “Mommy! I need blah, blah, blah!” It’s lovely. I’ve done a lot of catching up lately, and I’m hoping that trend continues into more productive days as the year progresses. So, I can’t give you an exact date, but I’m hoping before Christmas. We both know I’ll be writing 50k+ in November for NaNoWriMo; so, I have that to look forward to. *grin*

Two of my favorite books of yours surprised me. First, I Zombie. Not only did I not know I was a zombie genre fan before this book, but I didn’t know a zombie book could make me cry. Then, there was Yassa. Who knew I could care about Genghis Khan? What draws you to non-traditional characters? What do you think makes a character memorable?

Jo: My novels are all character driven. I’ve written in a number of genres because I think up a character first, and then give that person a story. Yassa was the only exception; that book is ninety-percent fact, and I’d done all the research to craft it. I think a memorable character is strong but a little naïve, driven but tentative, and wise but confused. There has to be some kind of inner conflict for the person, and they must have flaws. No one is perfect, but our flaws make us loveable. I’m drawn to those characters because I think I’m a lot like them. I’m different, but likeable. People will remember Genghis, but they’ll also remember Börte (I love writing strong women). Memorable characters are interesting as people, and the author’s job is to round those characters out for readers. The best fiction is based in fact, and there’s a wide world of personalities to choose from if you open your eyes. *grin*

You are totally loveable!! Before UtopYA, I had no idea about your acting skills and drama background (Jo can rock any accent—so cool!). If you could bring any of your books to screen, which would it be? What character that you’ve written would you most like to play?

Jo: Oh, man; I’ve been ousted! I’m a movie lover, too. I play along with the actors on the screen and often remember the show word-for-word when it’s over. Yeah, I know. Weird. So, when I’m writing my books (or editing for others), they play through my head like a movie. I think the most interesting one would be Yassa, but I could totally see I, Zombie on the big screen. If Yassa, I’d like to play Börte, and have my husband play Genghis Khan (those two are a lot alike). If I, Zombie, I’d wanna be Tammy. She’s such an interesting character!

You are the mastermind behind Indie Books Gone Wild (where I am an editor/proofreader as well). Could you share your best piece of publishing advice for indie authors?

Jo: My best piece of advice would be to never stop learning, and save your pennies for a great editor. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve stopped reading (and won’t read anything else by that author) because the writing was so poorly edited. Read everything you can get your hands on about the craft of writing, editing, self-publishing, design, branding yourself, blogging, and social networking. You won’t be sorry. Of course, I have to say it: You should also WRITE ON! no matter what.

You gathered several UtopYA authors--Casey L. Bond, N.L. Greene, Kelly Risser, and myself--for an anthology. Can you share a little about it?

Jo: I'd love to share about it! My original plan was for a young adult novelette anthology. I wanted more than short stories, you know? I don't think you can get a good feel for an author's style in less than 6k words. I wanted 10. haha! But these ladies are the only ones who made the final cut. Because I was looking to turn out 100k words (at least), it grew into an anthology of novellas. Once we all started talking, it morphed yet again into a single novel with five people writing five different genres in the same storyline. Nothing like it has ever been done before. So far, we've found we work beautifully together (as you know), and the ideas coming out of our group is something that makes me want to squeal and clap my hands. I also have some unique ideas for the formatting that'll help us stand out amongst the crowd. *grin* We're hoping for a Halloween release date, but we'll see. *fingers crossed* I'm deeply honored to partner with these ladies. I see awesome things coming out of this one.

Quick Questions…

Favorite Punctuation Mark: Tilde
Ocean or Mountains? Ocean
Favorite Alcoholic Beverage: Corona
Favorite Dessert: Strawberry Cheesecake
Shower or bath? Shower
Sweet or Sour? Sweet

I LOVE this picture of you and BJ Sheldon with Gennifer Albin, one of the UtopYA keynote speakers.

Jo's everywhere on Social Media. Check her out:

I can’t say enough wonderful things about you, my friend. I am beyond grateful to have you in my life. UtopYA 2015, here we come!!

Jo: Ditto! Next year is gonna be awesome. I can’t wait for them to announce the schedule! Plus, I get to see you again! Sosososoosoosoososoosoosososo excited about that!

More about Jo...

Hi, I'm Jo. Let's forget all the "Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah" stuff and just go with it. I'm a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.

I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I'm going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I'm married to. Along with my children, he's my whole world.

I've lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I've had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I've written about in Yassa.

One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of
the week. Connect! I'd love to hear from you.

Please come back for more #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial), and check out the announcement post to see the schedule.


Trish said...

So cool to learn more about Jo and everything she does, does the girl sleep? I'll have to put UtopYA on my list for vacay next year!

Jo Michaels said...

Thanks for having me on the blog, Tia! Miss you so much.

That was an awesome interview. :)


Tia Bach said...

Trish -- No, she doesn't sleep. :-) I think she's actually developed the technology to have clones of herself running around. :-)

Definitely join us for UtopYA!

Jo -- Love ya!