I ASKED THIS GROOVY FLORIDA CHICK SOCIAL ACTIVIST AUTHOR IF THERE’S A FUTURE IN NOVEL WRITING FOR OLDER, STRAIGHT WHITE SOUTHERN MALES AND IF CANCEL CULTURE IS FACIST.
Based on my enjoyment of Mickey J. Corrigan’s novel What I Did for Love and then The Physics of Grief, I look forward to reading her new release All That Glitters, scheduled for release on January 26. Buy it here. In the meantime, here’s her response to amazing, ingenious questions sent from Pineapple Hill recently:
1. First of all, describe the Mickey J. Corrigan body of work in terms of the novels. Are these a series featuring the same protagonist across multiple stories? Why or why not?
The novels are all stand alone with different characters and plots. The only series I’ve had published (“The Hard Stuff”) consists of four novellas, each featuring a different protagonist but all set in the same fictional town. My novels do not have the same setting or characters, but they do share features. Typically, the protagonist is a strong young woman dealing with or committing crime, involved in a challenging romance, and facing her own dark side. She’s smart, independent, troubled and in trouble. Many of the novels are set in South Florida, where I live. A sunny place for shady people, this tropical paradise provides the perfect environment for quirky crime—in real life and in fiction. One of my novels, however, is primarily set in Boston, where I am from, another in New York City. I like to immerse myself in the mind of a fictional person and see the world through their eyes, so I can widen the view I have of life. I guess that’s why each novel features a different protagonist with different obstacles and issues to overcome.
2. Describe the Mickey J. Corrigan author persona. How was it formed? What are its key characteristics in terms of mindset, outlook, and behavior? Who the hell is Mickey anyway and who is her ideal audience? What type of person will most likely be attracted to Mickey?
Mickey was created after I began writing fiction because I had already published quite a bit of nonfiction in the form of serious minded books. The fiction I was writing was totally different, the voice nothing like the more formal one I used for my nonfiction. I chose a gender neutral pen name so that I could write first person accounts for both a male and a female protagonist. MJC is looser than I am, drinks a lot more than I can, and has a much more chaotic and adventurous life. My daily life is pretty straight, disciplined and dull, so I allow my suppressed wild side to emerge through the characters Mickey creates. People who like MJC books have a dark sense of humor, they like to read quirky fiction about women with minds of their own, and they appreciate surprising stories that do not follow a formula but take them to places they might not expect.
3. Describe your writing process in terms of getting a new story going. Do you begin by writing freely or do you begin with an outline?
I avoid outlining and often am not sure where a story is headed. I begin with an idea, a concept or issue I want to explore. Some writing teachers say to never do this, they advise us to begin with a character or setting, and to outline very carefully. I say each to their own. The ideas that launch my stories are all different—talking to ghosts, being hired to kill cheating husbands, getting paid to attend funerals, falling in love with a sex offender or a student half your age, planning a school shooting, counseling disturbed people during a pandemic. I do a lot of research so the voice of the protagonist will sound authentic. I learn a lot about some esoteric subjects that way.
4. You’re originally from Boston but have lived in South Florida for many years. How have these two places influenced your body of work?
I’m Irish-American and well educated due to my Boston upbringing. I have a dark sense of humor and enjoy bars, crazy stories, and unusual people. Florida provides all of that without the cold and snow, which is why I’m still here instead of back up north in my hometown. I love the tropics, the lush vegetation, exotic animals and insects, postcard perfect skies and white sand beaches. Residents and visitors from all over the world bring variety and excitement to the area. It’s a beautiful, interesting place to live, but it’s troubled. Like a gorgeous woman who draws you into terrible situations but makes it worth your while. At least, the writer in me sees life here that way.
5. Do you address social issues in your stories? If so, which ones—and how?
I do address contemporary social issues in my novels, and in fact usually begin a book with one in mind. Some of the topics my characters confront include school shootings, mental illness, alcoholism, predatory teachers, the sex offender label, domestic violence, depression, college debt and prostitution. By allowing my characters to approach and wrestle with such issues, I try to offer readers viewpoints from lifestyles that might differ from their own. My characters are not politically correct, which earns my books some scathing reviews but also can broaden a reader’s perspective. Researching and writing about such topics has helped me to expand my own understanding of some complex social issues.
6. Is there a future in novel writing for older, straight, white Southern males? Should they be squeezed out to make room for underserved races and genders?
In my opinion, no writers should be squeezed out of the publishing world if they have talent and a good story to share. Writing is inclusive, anyone can do it, but publishing has not always been that way. It’s great that publishers these days tend to invite manuscripts from all kinds of authors with all kinds of backgrounds. But I sure would hate to see publishers choose the novels they publish based solely on an author’s age, race, ethnicity, or sexual identification. Some writers complain that male authors get the important reviews and preferential treatment, while others think that women and minorities are receiving all the contracts. How can both be true? The best approach for any writer is to work hard at the craft and be persistent in the search for a publisher. If you have talent and patience and a viable story to share, your identity should not get in the way.
7. How might the writing and publishing communities be further impacted by polarized political influence?
This has become a major obstacle, I think, for both writers and readers. It’s tricky for publishers these days to release books that might cause an uproar on social media because an author is writing from the viewpoint of a minority group to which they do not belong or being politically incorrect in some other way. Often the publisher has a choice to make when an author gets cancelled by half the population but is revered by the other half. Meanwhile, readers miss out on books that might help them to open their minds to new, opposing, or less polarized viewpoints. And writers are not producing their most creative or impactful work while trapped within the narrow boundaries imposed in order not to offend anyone. Here’s the thing: the artist’s job is to offend us, to wake us up and shake us up and spur us into thinking about life in new ways. But if the businesses that foster the arts are restrained by public outcry and mass shaming, then artists cannot flourish, invent, grow and inspire. This is unhealthy, because it is socially and intellectually limiting for writers, publishers, readers, and just about everyone else.
8. Is cancel culture fascist?
Whoa, what? I thought we were talking about writing and publishing? Oh, I see, you want to know what I think about cancelling authors and politically incorrect books. In my opinion, book banning is indeed a form of fascism—one that has long plagued this country. In the relatively recent past, sex and profanity resulted in important books being banned in schools and libraries, even removed from circulation and pulped. Topics that were once deemed “immoral” caused writers to limit their subject matter. It used to be the religious right calling for books to be outlawed. Now the virtuous voices of cancel culture are coming from a different place, but their outcries sound the same to me: this offends me so nobody should read it. It’s Fahrenheit 451, dystopian and oppressive. The arts are suffering and we are too.
9. Will printed novels eventually be replaced by digital and audio formats?
I hope not. Digital books were a novelty hit and a threat to the printed format when they first became available, and many people prefer to use a digital reader. Audio books are popular because you can listen while you drive, work out, or wait in line somewhere. But enough of us prefer to have a physical book in hand, so there continues to be solid demand for print. During the first year of the pandemic, a lot of books were sold in every format. This, to me, is one positive note from a terrible year: more people buying books.
10. Do most novelists today earn a living from it?
Nope. But that was never the case. Being a novelist is like being a tennis pro or a chess master: you don’t make a living doing it, yet you continue to study, practice, and compete because it’s what you love to do. Also, there’s a sliver of hope that you could make it to the top. Who knows, you might one day win the lottery. One never knows what the future will bring and most novelists are depressed optimists or pessimistic dreamers.
11. What has been your main reason for switching publishers?
I am not a guaranteed earner for publishers and I don’t write series so my contracts are usually for a single book. I’ve published multiple novels with a couple of presses, The Wild Rose Press in the US and Salt Publishing in the UK. When I was writing nonfiction, I published with Random House and Doubleday, Penguin, Macmillan and Prentice Hall, and some smaller independent presses, depending on who my agent could sell to at the time. If I ever found a great editor at a generous press that wanted to publish all my books, I would be happy to work with a single publishing house.
12. And finally, perhaps most important: What are Mickey’s favorite cocktails for winter, spring, summer, and fall?
Winter: There is no winter in Florida, which makes you thirsty all year round. Most of the time, any cocktail works. If it’s cold out, a glass of decent whiskey, no ice, can be appealing, but this is as rare as an honest man in South Florida.
Spring: I’ll try whatever’s new, even hard seltzer (ugh), but usually end up with a glass of good red wine.
Summer: Hot days are made for hard cider. Or rich, dark beer. Or something frothy and light.
Fall: Is it fall? Because it’s 85 degrees and the sun is scorching. Bartender!
13. The hot tub at Pineapple Hill—where I read books written by others while brainstorming ones I’m writing myself—has unique supernatural powers from which I become way smarter and at least slightly more inebriated. What about you? Complete this interview by contributing a hot tub story of your own or from the news.
We had a hot tub for a while. But when lightning struck our house, it fried the heater. Perhaps this is just as well.