I am so super excited to post this interview with my virtual friend, Madison Michael. I say “virtual” because we’ve never met in person, but we’ve talked many times by phone and email as she is my tough accountability partner. I adore talking to her during my morning commute. And most importantly I adore her story, which is what made her perfect for the Women Who Rock series. From an IT systems manager and trainer to a steamy romance author, she is a perfect example of the power of reinventing yourself and rolling with every challenge life throws at you. Plus, she is a big mental health advocate, which of course gets her a bunch of extra points. And, then there is the steamy romance part. In my couples’ therapy sessions (for those who struggle balancing sex, intimacy, and life), I always advise to pick up one of the steamy romance novels before trying medication or blaming each other for lack of desire…so here you go, read all the way down and take your pick from Madison’s collection.
1. Tell me about your business: what, why, for how long?
I am the author of seven steamy romance novels as well as an independent publisher, which means I am a writer, publisher, and marketer. I am CFO, CEO, head of social marketing and sales and of course, I am the janitor, too. I wear a lot of hats.
I toiled for over 30 years, first in banking and then in a Fortune 100 company before retirement. Once free of the 9 to 5 routine, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I had lived in many regions of the US but recently returned to my Chicago roots, so many of my friends were far away and I was a bit lost. My answer was to take non-credit college classes in random subjects that interested me until something grabbed my attention. I waded through “Presidential Powers”, “The Tudors and the Stewarts” and “Conversational Spanish 1” before finding “How to Write a Romance Novel. Finishing the writing class, I jumped on “Editing” then “Self-Publishing” and my career was launched. I was astounded to discover how much I loved writing. I stopped binge-watching “The Good Wife”, got off the couch and into a desk chair, and found I had a lot of stories to tell.
2. Tell me about your family
I am divorced with no children. I have three sisters, one is my editor, one my proofreader and one is my story critic. My mother is a hearty 93 years old but sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s so I have moved to Chicago to be near her in the last few years.
Having lived in many places, I have learned to embrace my chosen family as well as my biological one. I am a regular adopter of stray cats and stray people. My latest addition is Gracie.
3. How do you balance them?
Everyone in my sphere understands and respects my mornings. That is sacred writing time for me and I make no plans, answer no phones. After 1 or 2 pm I return to the living and give others in my life the time and attention they need. By then, my creativity has burned out for the day and I am often spinning my wheels. Connecting with friends and family allows me to replenish my creative coffers and start again tomorrow.
4. What does your weekly schedule typically look like? How much time per week is dedicated to your side business?
I am lucky because my writing is now my full-time business and I devote more than 30 hours to it each week. My day begins around 7 am with coffee – a lot of coffee, with too much artificial sweetener and so much almond milk it doesn’t really resemble coffee. I skim the headlines and my email for half an hour to reconnect with the world. By then a story is burning to get out of me. I write – usually novels, but sometimes my blog or emails to my readers for the next four or five hours. My computer is connected to an ergonomic keyboard and a huge monitor, within minutes I am lost in a world of my own making.
Alternatively, I spend this time doing rewrites and edits. I complete about six drafts before I publish a book. All the other tasks that go into being a solopreneur are tackled in the afternoons and evenings. I assign certain tasks to certain days, Monday writing books, Tuesday education and networking, Wednesday writing all non-book content, Thursday for technology and web work, Friday for CEO stuff, strategy, and planning.
I do a lot of social media in front of cable news, hours and hours of it. After too much news, I decompress with a romcom – my DVR is full of them – or a novel by one of my favorite romance authors until I can’t hold my eyes open one more minute.
5. Describe your start in entrepreneurship
When I wrote my first novel, Bedazzled, I was just trying to complete an assignment for class. Friends convinced me to publish it. Since I refused to be tied to the strict requirements publishers place on romance authors in terms of content, word counts, and more, I became an entrepreneur overnight in order to publish my own novel. I actually thought it was a fluke, a one-time thing but I found I loved writing, I had more stories to tell and I couldn’t leave my characters lives unresolved. I was invested in them and the work of bringing them to life long before I recognized it.
6. When did you feel like you’ve made it? Or what’s your definition of success?
I still feel I have a long way to go, but recently all four of my Beguiling Bachelor Series novels were in the Amazon top 250 romances at the same time, and Bedazzled was number 1 in romance, top 100 on Amazon. That felt like making it, although it was short lived and driven by a big promotion. Still, it felt a little like success.
When I get a good review or an email from a fan saying they liked my work, it feels like success to me. I love learning that my story and characters have touched someone else, and touched them so much they want to let me know. That’s huge.
7. How did you handle the slow or disappointing times?
Ugh, writer’s block is the worst. I started blogging to force myself to write something at a time when I couldn’t seem to write a novel. After three years, I force myself to work on stories every Monday, whether I feel like it or not. I hate exercise, but I understand that the muscles must be worked regularly. The same with my creative muscle. When I am in the zone, nothing can get in the way of writing. The rest of the time, I write first drafts, story ideas, character studies, something that keeps my novels moving forward.
8. Women are multitaskers- let’s talk about the good, the bad, the ugly. What are your views and your method for coping with this issue?
I actually love multi-tasking. I always have. It keeps me from getting bored. For my work, I swap between by writing, editing and marketing efforts easily. They all excite me and there is always lots to do.
My personal life is harder. Finding time to spend time with friends, get the laundry done or get groceries into the fridge are more of a challenge. I have a lot of stuff delivered, dry cleaning, groceries, medications, pet food. That helps a lot. I schedule certain days of the week for time with friends and family. I batch appointments and errands to interrupt work as little as possible. I schedule everything! It is the only way I can survive.
9. How do you know you are approaching burnout?
When the stories aren’t flowing, when the character doesn’t feel like a friend that I want to spend more time with, I know I’m hitting a wall.
10. Does “wanting to do too much” ever affects another side of your life? Like your relationship, parenting style, social life?
I would love to say not at all, but my friends will tell you I forget to return their calls, and my boyfriend Michael would laugh in my face. Even worse, they would tell you that even when I am with them I am often miles away in my mind. I have to work diligently to be present, to make enough time to nurture relationships and to be a good sister and daughter.
11. Share your biggest downfall – something you are working on changing
Overplanning. I use scheduling and planning as a form of procrastination. I am a master at it, in fact. I don’t need anyone to make me write, but all other tasks, including laundry, grocery shopping, and returning phone calls, I can avoid by calendaring them rather than doing them.
12. What’s your biggest strength, superpower?
Mentoring. I am great at helping other people challenge themselves and then achieve their goals. It was a big part of my corporate responsibilities but I have carried it over into all areas of my life. I love helping young people launch their careers and my friends who are retiring to find their new direction.
Now that I have been writing for a while, I provide mentoring, hints and tips for Authors on my Monday blog.
13. What’s your motivating source, re-charge mechanism: a person, a specific activity, a book, or a quote?
It’s a little embarrassing to admit but it’s movies. I love the movies and can suspend reality sitting in the dark and completely recharge. I can re-watch “Pride and Prejudice” or “Anne of Green Gables” if there is nothing new to see, reminding myself of the wonderfully creative minds that came before me. Or I can watch Hallmark movies, sweet romances with happy endings that might spark a new idea or two.
14. Words of wisdom for women who want to do it all: business and family
Someone wiser than me recently explained that you don’t need the self-discipline to achieve those things you really desire. I would say do what excites and rewards you and you will find the energy, the time and the will to have it all.
15. How are your 40s different than your 20s? especially in terms of mindset and confidence
I am past my 40’s already, but emotionally, I think once you get to your 40’s you are who you will be, you stop worrying so much about what people think of you and learn to listen to what you care about instead.
16. Favorite quote: yours or someone else’s quote the re-centers or lifts you up
“He who hesitates dies.” An old boyfriend said it to me first, I think when we were crossing the street, but it has proven true over and over. I tell new writers, just write. When I managed software consultants, I had an enormous Nike “Just Do it” poster hanging in my office. I could overthink things until the end of time, but only doing the work gets the work done.
17. Where can people find you and learn more about you? Website, social media handles, etc. And your current product, promotion, something you are really proud of
www.madisonmichael.net is the hub of my world. Learn about my novels, sign up for exclusive FREE content, or follow my blog there.
All of my books are available exclusively on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited: Bedazzled, Beholden, Bedeviled, Besotted, Desire & Dessert, Moonlight & Moet Follow me on social media at www.facebook.com/MadisonMichaelRomance or www.pinterest.com/MadisonMichaelRomance
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, stress and anxiety management, and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage. Click HERE to check out her free resources on effective communication, emotional unavailability, and intimacy or join her at www.ruxandralemay.comfor blogs posts and additional programs.