Asked and Answered!

Thanks for poking around my website to see what’s what. Below you’ll find the answers to some questions I frequently get asked. And, yes, I do frequently get mistaken for George Clooney. Prove otherwise!

Hold on! Johnny Appleseed Was Gay?

Sharp-eyed readers of Man & Beast might recognize that the book’s hero, John Chapman, is based on an actual historical figure that we rather condescending refer to today as Johnny Appleseed. While I can’t prove John Chapman was gay, no one can prove he wasn’t either. And I think my reading of the few facts that we do know about John Chapman is as good as anyone else’s.

appleWhat specifically makes me think the relatively well-educated, soft spoken John Chapman might have been gay? For starters, John was never married and the historical record doesn’t indicate him ever having had any kind of romantic relationship with a woman. There isn’t evidence of one with a man either, but then again, plenty of historical figures have had had their romantic lives pinkwashed to make them more palatable for American consumption. (And I’m sure he was just as sexy as the guy in the picture!)

In addition to Chapman having been well educated for the time, history shows him as having been a very gentle, soft-spoken man with a fondness for animals. And there has to be some reason he left the relative comforts of Massachusetts for the wilds of the American frontier. It sure wasn’t for the fine frontier dining. (See: Calipash. Yuck, just yuck.)

It seemed to me a pretty strong possibility that John’s homosexuality might have pushed him to head west. After all, with settlers busy trying to hack a living out of the wilderness, they were a lot less likely to have time to pay attention to what their neighbors did. Or to much care if they did.

Plus there were men on the frontier. A lot of men. Hunky men. (Well, I’m assuming that was true…) It isn’t hard to imagine a man with same-sex attractions finding opportunities for relationships that he wouldn’t find at home.

No doubt the American Family Association would disagree with me.

Why Did You Update, Rename, and Re-release Your Books?

Whoa, there is a lot in that question, so let’s unpack it, shall we?

I re-released Man & Beast (formerly Frontiers) and Man & Monster (formerly Firelands) for several reasons. First, because I got the rights back to them and there had never been an ebook version of either. And even though it’s been a long time since both came out, I still get people asking about getting copies of both Frontiers and Firelands.

Given the people what they want, right?

And re-releasing the books let me fix some things I didn’t like about how they originally turned out. It’s not often we get a do-over, is it? I was never crazy about the cover for either book. Simon & Schuster actually commissioned a painter to do the cover for Frontiers and it does look beautiful in some respects. It also looks kind of cheesy to me. As for Firelands, let’s just saw Alyson didn’t have a lot of dough to spend on the cover. And not to brag, but I think the new covers turned out pretty awesome.

frontiersAs for the rewriting, there isn’t that much in either actually. I tweaked John Chapman’s character in Frontiers (he plays a smaller part in Firelands; the two books are standalones and you don’t have to read them in order). Upon rereading the book all these years later, I found him a little … whiny. I also cleaned up a couple of loose plot threads, tweaked a few things here and there and “Voila!” an updated book ready for the digital age!

Firelands has undergone slightly more renovations. In the original version, a rather prominent character comes to an untimely end. And a lot of readers hated that. At the time, I stood by my decision to off the character. I viewed it as essential to another character’s story arc.

Over time, however, I came to  regret it. Novels, television shows, and movies are littered with dead LGBT characters. And I hated the idea that I had contributed to that, even if for a good reason.

So when I had the chance to fix that, I jumped at it. And I think it works just as well. (I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil things if you haven’t read it already.

But why the new titles?

I wanted a fresh start and I had the idea for a series built around the characters. Look for Man & Demon after I’ve finished writing The Drowning World series!

Are Your Books Romance?

They certainly have elements of romance in them — men in love, pretty hot sex, complications keeping the lovers apart. If readers think of them as being “romance” novels, I’m totally down with that. I think romance gets a pretty bum rap, after all. But I think my books can also be classified as historical novels, adventure/suspense novels, and urban paranormal space opera. (In case you haven’t noticed yet, I can be a bit cheeky. It’s part of my appeal. Shut up, it totally is!)

Why Historical Gay Fiction Anyway?

I wrote a longer post answering that very question here, but to nutshell it for you because it combines three things I’m most passionate about: history, writing, and gay visibility. I can’t help but write and I’ve always been drawn to the past (when they finally build that time machine, I’ll be first in line to go back to pretty much anywhere). I’ve also devoted my life to fighting for gay visibility, so when it came to my fiction it was pretty much inevitable that the stories I told would have strong gay elements.

I think I’m pretty lucky that I’ve been able to combine all three of my passions into something I get to do every day.

seattlenightgasworksWhere Do You Live?

I’ll tell you as long as you promise not to stalk me! While I’m originally from Denver and have lived in Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia, I currently live in Seattle, WA. I’ve always been drawn to remote places (see: Australia), if you look at a map, you’ll see Seattle is about as far away as you can get while still being in the continental United States. The San Juan Islands are actually a little farther north and a voice inside my head keeps urging me to move there next. We’ll see! But I absolutely love Seattle which is amazing progressive and stunningly beautiful — if you don’t mind a little rain!

What Are The Most Important Things to Know About You?

I love dark chocolate and can easily be bribed with a bag of Dove’s Dark Chocolate. (See instructions below on where to send your bribe, er, chocolate.) I’m happily married to fellow author Brent Hartinger, am an avid biker, and hate superhero movies. (They were fine for a while, but now they are like noxious weeds that you just can’t kill.)

Can I Send You Something?

You mean that dark chocolate, right? SURE! My mailing address is
PO Box 30542
Seattle WA 98113-0542.

Can I Get an Autographed Copy of Your Books?

Not just yet. I will have paperback versions of most of my books, but not until sometime in 2017. Sorry about that!

Do You Read Anything Else Besides Historical Fiction?

I’m a voracious reader and devour books of all stripes. I especially love horror (Stephen King, Ania Ahlborn) and science fiction (John Scalzi, Arthur C. Clarke). Man & Monster is the closest thing I’ve come to writing a horror novel as it includes the American Indian monster known as the Wendigo. I also enjoy spy thrillers (Daniel Silva), women’s contemporary fiction (Liane Moriarty), and detective stories (Tana French).

Who Are Your Favorite Historical Fiction Writers?

When I was very young, I read The Deerslayer by James Fennimore Cooper and it utterly captured my imagination. In fact, I think that was where my infatuation with remote, isolated places first started. There was something about the way Fennimore described the ancient, primeval forests untouched by man that used to fill North America. Of course, now we know those forests were anything but untouched and that American Indians had carefully been shaping the environment for tens of thousands of years before white people showed up. But I was twelve and we were way less enlightened about these things back then.

Jane Auel’s Children of the Earth series also had a huge impact on me, especially Clan of the Cave Bear. When I set out to write my forthcoming series, The Drowning World, the first thing I did was go back and read Cave Bear. While Auel’s books were set about 22,000 years before the events in A Broken Land, the stories are definitely kindred spirits.

I’m also a huge fan of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, Michael Faber’s Crimson Petal and the White, and Steven Saylor’s Gordianus the Finder books.

If You Could Go Back In Time, Where Would You Go?

That’s like asking me what my favorite kind of chocolate is! (Actually, that’s easy. Dove Dark Chocolate that you can send to the address above. Not that I’m hinting or anything. Hint, hint.)

I guess a better question is where wouldn’t I want to go? And honestly, as long at is was before 1900, I can’t think of any time or place that I wouldn’t find fascinating to visit. As long as I could come back whenever I wanted, mind you.

Got more questions? Shoot me an email at michaeljensenwriter@gmail.com!