iOn the rare occasion someone asks me how I get my ideas for a novel, I politely say, “It’s hard to explain. Everyone’s different. It’s complicated.”
When I was a teenager I wrote about my emotions.
In college I pretended I was William Faulkner.
Drafted in the army in the Vietnam era, I read books like Catch-22 and The Naked and the Dead. I didn’t write anything of my own, but I met people I never imagined existed. I never forgot them. Eventually them became characters in my stories.
In my late twenties, returning with my wife and children from a Club Med trip, I published my first novel. It was called Club Caribe.
In my thirties, living in Manhattan, shopping at Bloomingdales a lot, I renamed the store Abingdon’s and it became my second novel and a best seller. It was pure genre.
In my forties, working an intense day-job, I had years of writer’s block but managed to publish some page-turners, echoing my interests in sports, politics, horse racing, and my time in the army. I also wrote five or six novels that never found a publisher.
In my fifties, more young adult fiction, adaptations, biographies, and self-help books got published. My writer’s voice, unfortunately, was inconsistent.
In my sixties, leaving my day-job, I stumbled on a new voice. It was complicated, messy, and sometimes unbearable. My story telling became more confident, and dug deeper into character and theme. My writing style focused on brevity to make complex shifts in plot and character, which were increasingly three-dimensional. I no longer wrote genre fiction because my life—everyone's life—is not formulaic.
Today, I don’t care so much about sales. I do like when intelligent readers comment on my work. Being compared to other writers is, well, ridiculous. I respect everyone’s journey, because each one is its own novel.
Michael's thoughts on writing, politics and everything in between.
Michael R. French graduated from Stanford University where he was an English major, focusing on creative writing, and studied under Wallace Stegner. He received a Master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He later served in the United States Army before marrying Patricia Goodkind, an educator and entrepreneur, and starting a family.