As I am currently traveling overseas, the best way to reach me for any reason is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For press inquiries (including review copies of any of my books), contact me directly via email.
Photos can be found at the bottom of this page. Photo credit for portrait images and author's photo: @ajstetson )
My mailing address is:
324 19th Ave SE
Puyallup, WA 98372
An Interview With Michael Jensen
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 condescendingly 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.
What 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.
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 civilized 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 figure out another guy was into dudes.
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.
Giving 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.
As 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 what seemed like 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 LGBT 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.
Where Do You Live?
I’ll tell you as long as you promise not to stalk me! Actually, that would be pretty hard to do these days, as I'll explain in a moment. While I’m originally from Denver and have lived in Los Angeles, Sydney, Australia, and Seattle, WA, I currently don't have a permanent address. My husband Brent and I always planned on traveling a great deal, but after Trump was elected in 2016, we decided it was time to get the heck out of dodge. We sold our house, moved our lives online, and headed out the front door to become digital nomads.
If you're not familiar with the term, a digital nomad is someone who primarily works online and is able to do their work anywhere there is an internet connection. That frees them to live pretty much anywhere they want. Many digital nomads have embraced the relatively recent phenomenon of co-living which is a group of digital nomads living together in situations specially set up for them. Co-living takes many shapes and sizes. We've stayed in places where there as few as four other people sharing co-living accommodations and as many as fifty. People are constantly coming and going, so the make-up of a facility is constantly changing. It means you're frequently saying good-bye to new friends, but then you turn around and make two new ones! Digital nomads tend to be a very quirky group of hardworking folks passionate about seeing the world and having new experiences. So far we've done col-living in Miami, Malta, Italy, and Bulgaria. In 2019 we'll be living in Thailand, Bali, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
But we aren't on vacation! While we frequently do and see cool things, we put in pretty long days working on our books and projects! I
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? Alas, I won't get it right away, but you can send me something that isn't urgent (or perishable) to:
324 19th Ave SE
Puyallyup, WA 98372
Can I Get an Autographed Copy of Your Books?
Not just yet. I will have paperback versions of most of my books eventually. Stay tuned for details! 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 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, that sparked a longstanding fascination with remote, isolated places. 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.
Click on the photo for larger images (or contact me for different or higher-resolution photos)
Photo Credit: A.J. Stetson