Jeffrey J Michael’s goal as an author is to inspire people to be better humans. All that he does is with the intention of offering the reader an opportunity to explore new ways of looking at their world (and worlds beyond). Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Jeffrey J. Michaels. I am a Gemini. As such I am deeply involved in whatever interests me at the moment.
I am currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as “The Mystical Histories.” It is varied enough that I may even finish most of the stories. I like to think of my work as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements.
In my real life I am a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant
If you need to know more than this, we can sit down over a nice cup of coffee or 21-year-old scotch some afternoon and I will provide fascinating facts such as “born in the Midwest” “loves the Art Institute and architecture of the Loop district of Chicago” “likes peaceful pine forests and giant sequoias” “voracious reader” “many brushes with fame, but not impressed by it” or “likes cats”. Probably there will be a story involved with each of those facts and it may even be true.
When and why did you begin writing?
My grandmother told me that I was always telling her stories from the time I was able to speak. My mother said I was always making things up and I don’t think she always approved. Blah, blah blah, something about lying or not telling the truth, she would say.
I don’t consider myself a writer so much as a storyteller. Paper and pen seemed a good medium to immortalize some of the better lies, er, stories.
It is not so much a thing I began doing as it is an essence that makes up a great part of me, a motivation that cannot be excised from my existence.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
High School solidified my commitment to the written word. I shifted from being a passive participant to an active creator. What that means is I stopped just reading others’ work and started writing and (this is the important part) distributing the stories I was making up to others: teachers and fellow students, the kind fellow that ran Brainerd’s Bookstore, a couple of cousins who acted like they liked my work. I tended to avoid showing things to friends and family by instinct and I would say this is wisdom for every writer to follow.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My most recently released volume is the first in a trilogy that is a part of a larger series. It is titled “Tasa’s Path” and introduces us to a young girl who travels to a mystical community, ostensibly to learn how to become a steward of Gaia, the living earth. She thinks she is normal, but by the conclusion of the book she is setting off with her friends to find others, like them, who are of the Blood of the Dragons. Tasa was hoping for a quiet life of reading and collecting books, but she finds herself in possession of a sword forged in dragonfire, and one of her friends is dragon named Torin.
What inspired you to write this book?
I read a book about a young boy, Harry somebody, who is invited to a school of wizardry. He and his friends get involved in a lot of adventures in the first book and in subsequent volumes things get quite dangerous and dark for the kids. I wanted to write a brighter series, but maintain the emphasis on education and learning. Basically I was looking to tell an upbeat story about happy kids playing in the woods at a Renaissance Faire style community. It was all going fine until the beast men showed up.
I have several other volumes in progress. In structuring them I took my cue from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, which contains several trilogies and many stand-alone volumes. Her stories all weave a larger history of humanity in space and colonizing the planet called Pern.
In my work I tell the histories and tales of the mystical beings we know of as dragons, giants, elves and fairies. I am a metaphysician by nature and seek to weave the philosophies of stewardship for the planet and co-existence with all life forms into my stories.
Do you have a specific writing style?
There is an oft repeated phrase in writing classes these days that one should “show not tell” and to a great extent I agree, but I do like to tell sections of my tales, as if we are sitting about a cookfire and grilling up a bit of mastodon meat. I sometimes envision myself as a shamanistic type, one of the cave painters, a Druidic bard, or perhaps a Grecian student of Homer telling an epic tale.
Here is a secret about all the books in my series. There is a single narrator of the stories, though he remains well hidden and may never be fully revealed. I am just taking dictation for this great being. But please don’t tell anyone.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
“Tasa’s Path” is called such because the main character is Tasa and she learns of her path through life beginning in this book. The following volumes are titled “Tasa’s Journey” and finishing with “Tasa’s Home”. The entire series is under the umbrella title of “Tasa’s Passage” and each title has multiple meanings that eventually tie in to the greater series.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I dislike books that are preachy or purposefully sermonizing, so I tend to believe that mine are not “message” books. That said – yes there is a message. Respect the earth, love life and live it well, get along with everyone if possible and let others be if not possible. The characters in my series often get back to a single question when they are confronted with a challenge or an obstacle. It is the question that guides all the mystical beings. “Is the action I am about to take for the good and well-being of Gaia?” Gaia is the character that exists in every one of my books. Every one. She is the vital energy of the planet earth itself. We are expressions of her will and as such we do not own her or any portion of her. We are of Gaia and when we walk a balanced path we act as stewards of the earth itself.
Sorry. Looks like I got a bit of a sermon in there after all!
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not really. One thing I get asked is “How do you write about women so well?” My life has been blessed with the knowing of powerful women. Not dominating, but strong. Not forceful, but intelligent. Not warriors, but nurturers. They have influenced me every step of the way and I cannot express enough gratitude to every single being who has shown me the balancing path of strong yin to assist yang in creating a beautiful life.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
As to fiction authors that I have enjoyed I must first say that Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne connected me to the joy of imagination and adventure early on. As time went on I discovered many, many others such as Isabel Allende and Italo Calvino, but the two that remain most influential in my mind to this day are Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Gene Wolfe.
Mary of course wrote Frankenstein and this single creation set off a chain reaction of media representation that continues strong to this day. But it is often more her life story and the fact that she is the author of many powerful novels that are relatively unknown that I find inspiring.
Gene Wolfe was kind and generous to me during a brief decade or so that I was privileged to know him personally. Many of my writing lessons are directly traceable to candid offhand remarks that Gene said in quiet discussions. In addition he is a damned fine wordsmith and quite possibly the finest writer of the late 20th and early 21st century.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
I would love to be able to call Gene Wolfe a mentor, but our communication was never such a formal student teacher thing. Still, more than any of the writers I have had the privilege of knowing, Gene’s sly style and wit has shaped much of my confidence as a writer. He demonstrated early on that an author should never take the reader’s intelligence for granted. Write to a higher level and raise the bar for the reader to reach if they choose.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
The initial painting of Tasa is done by a young artist named Lane Brown. He is a great talent and I found the portrait by chance one evening while looking for images on the internet. He has since done a few pieces for me and I love his art. We took that original painting and using a website called 99 Design submitted it in a contest. Of course the prize is money you provide as a fee for whoever wins and you are the one that selects the winner. We were blessed to find a designer out of Romania, Andrei Bat, who is working with us to create a unified look for the entire series.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Gene Wolfe said to me, “If you want to be a good writer read good writing.” I often quote that advice to students and clients. The corollary is, if you want to be a great writer read great writing. In addition, I tell aspiring writers to write the story they want to read. That is not uncommon advice, but I believe it is the advice that will help fan the creative spark to full bright flame.
Remember that the universe is a creative energy and YOU are an aspect of the universe, a particle of that same creative force that brought the entire diversity of existence into being. Act like it! Create!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
In the immediate context of reading I say this, enjoy! Read what you wish and ignore the critics who are more than willing to tell you what is wrong with this or that book or author. Are you having fun with the book? Then it is a good book!
In the greater sense of life and living, here is a little story.
A hero of mine, Norman Vaughan, did what many thought was an impossible thing. He went to Antarctica at age 89 and climbed a mountain that was named after him. He had gone to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd in 1928 and Byrd named a mountain after Norman. The guy got it into his head to go back and climb this thing and everyone said, “You’re nuts, Norman.” But he did it despite all the naysayers and a great many setbacks and outright disasters. When he got to the top he said, “Dream Big and Dare to Fail.” Those words changed my life about and I give them to all my students and readers whenever possible.
Jeffrey J. Michaels
Huntington Beach, California
Cover Artist: Andrei Bar