BY ADDISON SCOTT
Jason A. Michael has a long history with Between The Lines. In fact, he started writing for the paper in 1999, less than 10 years into its history. But if 20 years seems like a long time, consider this: Michael wrote the bulk of his novel, “Easier Said,” released this month on his own JAM Books imprint, even before he started writing for the paper. Now, Michael is gearing up for a book release party to be held on Saturday, Feb. 9 at The Charlevoix Gallery in Detroit. BTL caught up with him to get details on his newly released work and upcoming projects.
For Michael, a native Detroiter, the “Easier Said” story begins in Miami. Three days after graduating high school in 1990, Michael flew to live in the city. He lived there for seven years before returning to Michigan, and he still considers Miami his second home. It was there and then that Jason not only got some of the inspiration for the work, but when he wrote much of “Easier Said.”
“Years before the internet, Match.com or Plenty of Fish, I met a young man who lived in Miami on a phone chat line,” Michael said. “I flew down to meet him for spring break of my senior year and fell in love with both the boy and the city.”
Michael’s novel is loosely based on his experiences in the Magic City and tells the story of an interracial relationship between Jordan Bradley, who works for sensational disco diva Rhaynetta Hughes, and Khalil Kendrick, Hughes’s nephew. The relationship is fraught with challenges from the start. While he falls in love with Jordan, the street-smart Khalil does not consider himself to be gay. Still, the attraction between the two is both undeniable and highly combustible.
“While I did draw from personal experience, as most writers do, I am not Jordan and this is not the story of my life,” Michael said. “Still, I look back at the years I spent in Miami as some of the best of my life and I enjoyed writing about the sights and sounds of the city and some of my favorite places there.”
Most of the book, which Michael left set during the same period in which he lived in Miami, was written while Michael was working as a relay operator for the deaf during 1995 and 1996.
“I came home to Detroit in 1997 and basically finished the book here,” Michael said. “I shopped it around for a while but found that most publishers of gay fiction at the time were looking for gay erotica. Make no mistake, there is sex in the book – some hot sex, if I do say so myself – but the book is not erotic fiction. It’s simply, as I say in press materials, the story of an unlikely love.”
When asked why he didn’t release the book in the ’90s, Michael said that over the years he would pull “Easier Said” off the shelf of his office and do a little tinkering with it.
“The book has been edited and edited and edited some more,” he said. “And I had several preliminary readers who gave me great feedback.”
Despite that positive reinforcement, Michael never released the book. Instead, after racking up a Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council and the Community Pride Banquet Media Award for his work with Between The Lines, Michael started working on a new project: “Strength of Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story.” The story is the authorized biography of the beloved late singer that took Michael approximately five years to write.
“’The Phyllis Hyman Story’ was a true labor of love and I have made it my mission to promote Phyllis and her legacy,” Michael said. “After being forced to release the book myself, I was thrilled when it became an Essence magazine bestseller.”
However, Michael said he isn’t motivated by the success of his last book or by any specific timing.
“There is no significance now as to why I’m releasing the book now, after all these years,” Michael said. “I just felt it was now or never. … Truly, ‘Easier Said’ is not the story I’d write now if I were to do another book. I suspect some folks might even be surprised by it when they read it. But despite being a work of fiction, there’s a certain authenticity and truth about it. And I felt it still stood up after all these years.”
When asked if he has plans to release another book in the future Michael said yes, but said he hopes it “won’t be another 20 years before the next one comes out.”
“God willing you’ll hear more from me soon.”
<TAGLINE There will be a book release party for “Easier Said” on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Charlevoix Gallery on Detroit’s East Side. Michael will read from and sign copies of his new novel and the recently re-released book “Strength of a Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story” at the party. The Charlevoix Gallery is located at 14505 Charlevoix St., Detroit.>