Hi friends! I’m excited to welcome Jess Michaels back to ALBTALBS! Twenty years and 100 books is an almost bewildering milestone and such an achievement. Without further ado … Jess!
Fantasy vs. Reality
Hi everyone and a big thanks to Limecello for having me here today! If you don’t know who I am, I’m Jess Michaels, I write very steamy historical romance. I’ve been doing it for a while, too, because right now I’m counting down to my 100th book release. Time (and work) flies when you’re having fun I guess.
When we started talking about what I might write about here today, I kept thinking about that meme “how it started, how it’s going”. You know the one, probably, it’s pretty popular on Instagram/FB/TikTok. Certainly, after over twenty years in this industry, I can see a difference, see the development of where I started and what I wanted to where I am and what I want today.
For most authors, it starts with a dream. When I started out, I could perfectly picture what my future as a published author would look like. I wanted to write for one of the big publishing houses (which was the only way to really publish at the time…I’m old). I even knew the house I’d pick. And then I just knew it would all take off. I’d work really hard and write really good books, my publisher would see and support that, building my career. And…voila…success! Bestseller lists, being able to have an income as a writer, booksignings, whatever the trappings of “success” looked like from the outside.
In retrospect, I might have been a little naïve about the process. But I learned pretty quickly. I dove into studying my craft and the industry. I even became a bit of an expert in it and helped other people as they worked toward publication. Because I have always felt like if you can pay it forward and back, what’s the point? I still feel that way, by the way.
And eventually, it paid off. I sold a couple of novellas to a respected smaller press and then the publishing house of my dreams came calling. I was on my way. It turned out not to be the smooth road I pictured. Oh yes, there were really fun moments. Distribution was different then, there were several chains of bookstores and lots of ways to be successful with a first book. The house and my editor seemed happy, even excited about me.
But ultimately, they got interested in some other shiny author. They certainly didn’t want me to write as fast as I was capable of doing and not even as fast as they could be willing to produce for a prolific author. Over time, there was a change in their enthusiasm and it translated to a change in how they pushed me, which of course gave them ammo to tell me why they didn’t have enthusiasm.
To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. I wavered along the line of buckling under the pressure and lifting my chin and just…showing them. Luckily for me…I chose door number two.
When I left the first publisher and moved to a smaller press, I immediately saw better return financially and mentally. And then the indie revolution happened. And that opened up so many more avenues. For a person who could write six or more good books a year, this was a revelation. And I finally held my breath and jumped off a cliff, having no idea if the wings I’d built in the previous ten years were strong enough to bear my weight.
But they did. And the world opened up. I’d set myself a very modest goal for what I wanted financially and I blew past it several times in that first year as an indie. I got great reviews, I could write as much as I wanted about whatever I wanted. When things went wrong, I could fix them (as opposed to things never getting fixed and then being told I was a failure). I hit the USAToday Bestseller list. 10 Times.
That’s the thing about dreams. It’s so easy to get tangled up in the vision of what they *should* be, maybe because that was what you saw or what someone told you or just the way you pictured it when you were young or naïve or the world hadn’t changed. I could have continued slamming my head against a trad door and I would have sold something again to one of the bigger houses. And I would have carried on trying to get what I wanted, while ignoring the path that had laid itself out in front of me.
Circumstances and luck and privilege let me see the path before I turned away, though. It let me look straight down it and see the potential pitfalls and decide to try for it anyway. And it turned out it led to a much better future, a much brighter experience, a much more creatively free and financially rewarding place in a sun I didn’t even know existed.
So I guess what I’m saying is that if you are following some dream, whatever that dream is, and you have tunnel vision about where you have to go or what it has to look like, I hope you’ll take a breath and look around. Because something the path you never expected…is the one that will take you far beyond where you ever wanted to go. In my case, that will be 100 books in May. My 99th book, The Queen’s Man, a seasoned romance between two MC who are over 50 that I’m SURE my old publisher never would have let see the light of day (or the light of promotion at least) will be out March 15.
So what dreams have you followed and changed?
I know most of the readers here are lurkers – but I hope you’ll pop up to congratulate Jess! I mean, 100 books! Amazing!
The final book in the Regency Royals series by USA TODAY Bestselling Author Jess Michaels.
Queen Giabella of Athawick should be happy. Her children are all married and in love, her land is at last at peace and she’s about to have more freedom than she’s experienced in her whole life. And yet she’s…restless. Only one man has been able to settle her during times of trouble: her longtime personal secretary, Dashiell Talbot. So when they’re asked to do a tour of Athawick to celebrate their upcoming democratic elections, she knows she’ll be well taken care of. And she agrees.
Dash has served his queen for a decade and it has been the joy of his life. And the challenge, considering all he ever wants to do is touch her. But that is not his place and he has always been able to control himself before, nothing will be different now.
Except that Gia is starting to have trouble controlling her own desires and everything that has been hidden, suppressed, denied is about to bubble to the surface with an explosion of powerful passion. Will they be able to find a path to a real future? Or will the past keep them apart once again?