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Interview: Michael Craft, Author of The MacGuffin

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The author of a dozen novels and three stage plays, Michael Craft has been best known for many years as the author of the popular “Mark Manning” series, which is set in the Midwest, as well as the “Claire Gray” series, set in California. Three of Mr. Craft’s novels have been honored as national finalists for Lambda Literary Awards. Michael Craft is currently busy promoting latest mystery novel, The MacGuffin, which features a new protagonist, architect Cooper Brant.

Readers can learn more about Michael Craft and his work by visiting his website and his Facebook Page.

Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.

My new mystery, The MacGuffin, deals with the race to discover a promising new source of alternative energy that could profoundly upset the world’s dynamics of energy production. With such obviously high stakes, the race turns murderous, and because of his family connections, the story’s central character, a mild-mannered architect named Cooper Brant, finds himself caught in the crosshairs. As Coop attempts to save his own skin by unraveling the secrets of past crimes, I hope that readers will not only enjoy the pleasures of a classically plotted whodunit, but will also consider the story’s underlying premise that energy independence is both needed and feasible.

Who are your favorite characters in the story?

Cooper Brant, my protagonist, is not only the central character, but also the only viewpoint character; the reader is privy to no other character’s thoughts. So it’s fitting that Coop is my favorite character in the book — I’ve spent a lot of time in his head. He has a depth and complexity that I really like, a mixture of determination and insecurity to which many readers should readily relate. Plus, he’s smart and witty — gotta like that! Other characters that resonate for me most strongly are Cooper’s wife, Stasia; a police detective, Arcie Madera; and a small dog named Pyrite, who is introduced on page one. When I started writing the story, I didn’t think of the dog as a “character,” but he certainly became one.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?

How about this one? It’s the closing line from Part One of the book: “Pyrite dashed forward, sniffed at the body, then took a lick, tasting blood.”

If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?

The book does in fact have a cinematic feel, and one Amazon reviewer has already suggested that it should be turned into a movie. My dream cast would include George Clooney as the 50-something Cooper Brant and Meryl Streep as his somewhat older wife, Stasia. Clooney has the subtlety and depth required for Coop, while Streep would be perfect at portraying Stasia’s languid sophistication and simmering needs. I am open to suggestions regarding the casting of two other important characters, police detective Arcie Madera and oil tycoon Bix Emery.

What are your favorite aspects of writing?

I honestly love it all — not only the actual writing, but also the research that precedes it and the revision that follows. I have discovered that very few fiction writers outline their work, but I do, and to me this is just part of the discipline. When I talk about an “outline,” I’m referring to a scene-by-scene narrative synopsis. This begins with random note-taking, then proceeds to three-by-five cards, and ultimately takes the form of a carefully written synopsis (perhaps 30 pages) that serves as my guide when I begin the drafting.

Your least favorite aspects of writing?

At the very beginning of the writing process, the uncertainty of waiting for inspiration always makes me nervous. This takes place during that period “between projects” when I’m digging around for an idea, wondering what the next story will be about. But once I’ve had that “ah-hah!” moment, then I’m off and running.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

While I was working on my MFA several years ago, the program had a strong literature component that introduced me to several masters of fiction whom I had managed to miss reading previously. The biggest revelation to me was Vladimir Nabokov. His Lolita is really astounding; it’s also laugh-out-loud funny, which I wasn’t expecting at all. It went right to the top tier of my list of favorites. Others, in no particular order: Virginia Woolf for any of her novels, but particularly Mrs. Dalloway; Richard Yates for his Revolutionary Road; Flannery O’Connor for her short stories, particularly “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading a first novel recently published by a friend. I want to like it and wish I could recommend it, but it’s just not working for me, so I must politely decline to name it.

If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors — dead or alive — who would they be and what would you serve them?

I’ve already mentioned Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Flannery O’Connor; they would certainly be on the guest list. I would make room for Ayn Rand, even though I don’t always agree with her, but I do find her endlessly fascinating. And I’d round out the five with Agatha Christie, for reasons that should be obvious. I’d start the evening with a cocktail hour and a round of stiff drinks, just to get everyone talking and lubricated. I’m not much of a cook, but I do make a hearty red pasta sauce that everyone seems to like, so that would accompany the featured course. It may not be the mark of the most gracious host, but I doubt if I could resist the temptation to whip out my iPhone and snap a few pictures of Agatha Christie eating spaghetti.

What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?

I wish I had written the Harry Potter series, and not because I’m all that interested in children’s literature. Do I really need to explain why? Okay, seriously, I wish I had written Lolita. Early in the story, Nabokov’s wacky protagonist/narrator Humbert Humbert tells the reader, “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three . . . .” Which writer wouldn’t want to lay claim to such an astounding economy of words?

What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?

“Think for yourself.” This is the core message I took away from reading Ayn Rand’s novels, though I don’t believe she ever explicitly used those words. I am forever indebted to her for teaching me that lesson at exactly the point in my life when I needed to learn it. I was 30 then. The second 30 years of my life have felt far more enlightened and liberated.

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About April Pohren

  • I really want to thank Blogcritics for giving me the opportunity to talk about “The MacGuffin.” I’m proud of this book and hope that you’ll enjoy it. Comments from readers are always welcome, and I always find time to respond. You can link to my e-mail at my website. And happy new year to all!