Michael Corrigan was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He holds an MA in English from San Francisco State and attended the American Film Institute to study screenwriting. He was nominated for a Pushcart prize for the short story, “Free Fall.” He often draws upon his Irish heritage in his works, which include:
- Mulligan: A Celtic Romance
- In the River Bottoms
- Brewer’s Odyssey
- A Year and a Day
- Confessions of a Shanty Irishman
- Down the Highway
- These Precious Hours
Do you have a writing routine? Where and when do you write?
I usually write in the morning at a quiet computer lab at the university. I like having that silent space to write, which includes articles for the local paper.
Do you have any patterns or rituals associated with your writing time?
I really don’t have any patterns or rituals. I may listen to a favorite song on the earphones to get me rolling. I often have an idea and just jump in and start writing. I like the excitement of making discoveries as one writes, but sometimes the voices guide you in the wrong direction. That’s part of the journey.
What do you do when you hit a wall with your writing?
I often reread a classic, and ask a question like, “What would Faulkner or Hemingway do?” I also do research, and that helps to avoid being blocked. Research can even reveal a new exciting direction. It is also vital to recognize when a topic or project is a dead end. For me, it is important to plow on through and then refine the story through rewriting.
The eternal question: Are you a “pantser”, a “plotter”, or something else entirely?
I don’t know what a “pantser” is. I realized very early that I was better at characters and dialogue than plotting, and often went in the opposite direction with too many plots and sublots. When a reviewer referred to my book, Byron, as having “Byzantine plots,” I had to reassess my writing. There are limits to “free style” improvised writing. I have learned over the years to plot better, but ultimately, you have to tell a story. I love the work of Thomas Pynchon, and he can go off on a tangent at any time…and it’s wonderful. Does The Sound and the Fury have a linear plot, though the four sections tell a powerful story?
What’s the last book you read that made you go “wow!”?
I have become addicted to the chilling Dublin Murder Squad series by actress turned writer, Tana French. She raises suspense novels to a literary level. Klara and the Sun is a remarkable science fiction book by Kazuo Ishiguro.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
I am planning to read Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, which I hear destroys any notion of plot.
What advice do you have for readers?
I think readers should simply read whatever they enjoy, or whatever satisfies their needs, including popular novels. Remember that the great novels are often challenging, so one must persist. There’s a payoff to finishing Moby Dick or Ulysses.
What author, past or present, would you wish to have a long conversation with?
My first choice would be Bob Dylan, but he evidently isn’t into conversation, that much, so my second choice would be John Keats.
What’s the first book you can remember reading on your own?
My father had a bookcase in our house, and as I recall, my first book was either Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz or Tarzan of the Apes.
What books and/or authors have most influenced you as an author?
In graduate school, it was impossible to shake off Faulkner and Hemingway, and Pynchon’s V. was a powerful influence. James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and The Stranger by Albert Camus were enormous influences. I spent a memorable three-week playwrights’ workshop with the late Sam Shepard. I admire Patti Smith and love Jane Austen. There are so many. Certainly, Samuel Beckett. I’ve been influenced by songwriters, as well, including blues artists.
What do you most enjoy about being a writer?
I love the sense of exploration whenever I start a new story.
What do you least enjoy about being a writer?
I grew to hate the networking, looking for an agent, and the need to advertise one’s work to make any kind of a living. It is necessary, however.
What would you tell a new writer?
The new writer should read everything, good and bad, and persist in writing and rewriting. It can be a rough journey with many rejections. It’s good if the young writer can also live life. One needs something to write about.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I don’t know. I never thought of myself as that mysterious.
Thanks to author Michael Corrigan for participating in our Idaho Author Interview series. If you’re interested, or would like to recommend someone, please contact the IWU website editor.