Interview with Mickey J. Corrigan of SONGS OF THE MANIACS

DLB: How long have you been writing?

MJC: Too long! Seriously, I published my first book (under my real name) when I was just out of grad school. By the time I was married with a kid, I’d published a couple dozen nonfiction books. With a baby to care for, I switched from research oriented textbooks and biographies to writing fiction. Then, a few years ago, I published my first novella as Mickey J. Corrigan. Since 2012, Mickey has published more than a dozen books. Most are novellas, plus a couple of novels. I prefer short novels, both to read and to write.

DLB: What is your day job?

MJC: I used to make a living as a writer. I even had a job at Harvard School of Public Health as a writer. But once I switched to writing fiction, my income dropped dramatically. To make ends meet, I work as a professional editor. I love to help new writers shape their manuscripts and polish them until they shine. I also ghostwrite, both fiction and nonfiction, for other people. It’s fun and rewarding work.

DLB: How many books have you completed?

MJC: I think I’ve published more than fifty books at this point. But I’ve completed many more than that. The first three novels I wrote were embarrassingly terrible. I am so happy they were never published. I burned those manuscripts. And I felt good doing it! I’ve got a few unpublished novels sitting in my files. I’m always sending them out to publishers and agents, then editing them again. Trying to make them better.

DLB: What was your inspiration for SONGS OF THE MANIACS? Did you write with an outline? Did you do research?

MJC: Songs of the Maniacs was written during hurricane season. During a previous season, South Florida had been badly battered by high intensity storms. Not like Katrina, the killer storm that demolished New Orleans. But mean hurricanes that came one after another, bringing with them scary high surf, heavy flooding, and devastating winds. Our house, a small A-frame originally built as a surfer cabin, was trashed and we’d been forced to move.

Settled in the new house, I was weathering a mild panic with each thunder clap. At the time, I also was experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. I’m not sure why, but my writing was suddenly in question. I wondered: did I want to be a writer anymore? Who did I wish to be? Or become?

The characters and the plot for SONGS came out of all that. No outline, no research. I do not use an outline for fiction, although I always do for nonfiction books and articles. With fiction, I just try to keep out of the way so the characters can tell the story. When research is needed for some aspect of a story, I usually do that first. I love doing research. I always learn so much when I’m writing a book on a new topic.

DLB: Is there really a SONGS OF THE MANIACS?

MJC: No, but there could be. The story is set near Miami when a bizarre epidemic has been sweeping the nation. Victims, mainly young people, are afflicted with a psychological disorder that causes them to lose their identity. When they recover, they have a whole new identity. In fact, they become someone else. The story is a kind of metaphor for the search for self. For meaning. And for accepting who you are. Or not.

DLB: Any advice for other indies?

MJC: Keep writing. And don’t publish the first thing you write. Take it to a writing group instead. Learn what others think of your style, your skills in communicating ideas, your ability to create characters. Then rewrite. Edit a lot. Be patient with yourself.

Read. Pay attention to the things the authors you admire do with a story. How do they bring characters alive on the page? How come you can’t put the book down? As a writer, you can study with the top players in the game. Just buy their books and study them. And keep writing.

DLB: What is your dream writing space?

MJC: I used to write in the middle of the living room. The family was in and out, it was impossible. Now I have my own space. We just moved to a little rundown house a block from the beach. On quiet mornings, I can hear the surf. This might just be my dream writing space.