Michael Haskins is the author of a series of Key West crime novels featuring colorful Mick Murphy, a journalist who can’t seem to keep his nose out of trouble. Haskins, a long time resident of Key West, brings an insiders view to his fast paced stories, always keeping the reader on edge, guessing until the final pages.
Here, Haskins answers a few questions about the writing process, his experiences with readers, and his upcoming Mick Murphy mystery – CAR WASH BLUES.
Beyond the jacket blurbs and reviews, what do you think readers will enjoy the most from CAR WASH BLUES?
If you’ve been to Key West you will recognize the streets, bars and marinas, as I try to stay true to the island and its culture and its characters.
How has your non-fiction newspaper work helped you grow as a writer of fiction?
Taught me to look for details and get them right. Too often in fiction the writer seems to think making everything up is okay. If you are dealing with real locations that doesn’t work. As a journalist, I couldn’t make up a detail I missed, I had to get it right. I think that has helped me portray Key West so that people who have been here know what I’m writing about. I often get emails from people saying I remember that bar or restaurant.
What is your writing process – do you work from a synopsis or outline, or do you prefer off-the-cuff?
I work off an outline that is very flexible. But eventually the story takes off on its own and I often feel like an observer instead of the writer. I often tell people at signings that and mention that is probably how God feels about us.
Key West is an essential element in your stories. What kind of reaction do you get from locals who read your novels?
Locals want to be in my books! Bad guy or good guy, it doesn’t matter. So do bars and restaurants. My publisher made me change a street name because of legal issues and locals came up to me for a year asking where Sweetzer Street is. Some thought it was an alley. I had to tell them Sweetzer is in Los Angeles and then they demand to know the whole story.
How much of yourself do you put in your protagonist, Mick Murphy?
Well, we smoke cigars, drink Jameson, sail, and are journalists, but I don’t have red hair. I have recurring characters in the stories so I keep index cards with important info. I thought Mick Murphy should be easily remembered, so I gave him my bad habits. The red hair and beard make him stand out in a crowd and I did that so I would have to be creative with him as he did his investigations and chase the bad guys. If he stood out in the open they’d spot him easily. It has turned into a real challenge.
Who are your favorite authors?
That’s a hard one because there are so many. Hemingway, early in my life. Living today, it’s James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, James Hall, and another whole group of great Irish mystery writers.
Is there anything you’d like to tell the readers about your books or yourself?
My books are about friendship and honesty. Murphy searches for the truth and is loyal to friends, the rest is how he goes after it. I believe those traits are important in life and in my fiction. For myself, I believe life is good, but sometimes problems arise so I can appreciate how good I really have it. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else or anywhere else. When I was a teenager I wanted to live in the tropics and be a writer, and now I’m doing both. In the next go-round, I’ll be more specific, but I am not complaining, just learning as I move forward.
Haskins lives in Key West, Florida. He has been the island’s daily newspaper’s business editor and the city’s public information officer. Originally from outside Boston, he has lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Los Angels and Tijuana, Mexico before settling in Key West fifteen years ago.
To learn more, please visit his website.