Interview with Michael McGarrity
Our first featured author is Michael McGarrity.
His most recent novel, Residue, is the 13th book in the Kevin Kerney crime fiction series set in his home state of New Mexico. Michael is an enthusiastic library supporter, which is how I first met him. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on several literary and cultural events, and I am very honored to call him friend. Here’s some writerly insight from one of the funniest, loveliest human beings I know.
– Amy Rivers, Director Northern Colorado Writers
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
As with any creative endeavor, it does both as it should.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Being too eager to publish, not learning the craft of writing, and sloppiness. Dreams with a little luck come true with hard work.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Ego doesn't matter as long as you can set it aside to be the best possible writer you can be. Aspire to great storytelling, not to great fame or fortune. If you are a natural storyteller, you'll write no matter what.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Learn how to spell.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I'm one of the lucky writers. With the publication of my debut novel, TULAROSA, I was able to become a full-time writer.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
With my first advance, I paid off my truck, bought a new hot water heater, and stashed the rest away. Often, new writers believe once published the gravy train goes on forever. Many mid-list, really good writers crashed with the 2008 recession and never recovered. That just might be happening again.
What does literary success look like to you?
Continued book contracts, a readership base that continues to expand, all my backlist still in print, wonderful and appreciative fans who like what I do, and the ability to make my way financially as a writer. Is there more? I don't think I'm missing anything. But if you forget about success, I hope my stories have some staying power and will endure. That would be a very nice legacy.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I recommend everyone should read John Ralston Saul's Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Specifically the chapter "The Faithful Witness." Doesn't matter if you agree with Saul or not, the chapter will make you think about the role of the writer and the importance and meaning of the craft.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Striving for perfection on the page and with the finished product. Have yet to achieve it.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
Word counting. It's the only way I track progress because mostly I have no idea where the story is going.
How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
For a quarter of a century I've made my way as a full-time writer. My 80th birthday is three months out and my seventeenth novel will be published on November 10. I'm still grumpy at times, but I'm probably a hell of a lot happier and nicer than I would have been had I not tried to tap into my urge to tell stories.
Give a shout-out to a fellow author.
Luis Alberto Urrea. Master storyteller and a warmhearted, good man.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I already did all that, not knowing at the time that it was part of my apprenticeship to become a writer.
Michael McGarrity is author of the Anthony Award-nominated Tularosa, Mexican Hat, Serpent Gate, Hermit’s Peak, The Judas Judge, Under the Color of Law, and The Big Gamble, as well as New York Times Bestseller Hard Country, the first of his American West Trilogy.
A former deputy sheriff for Santa Fe County, he established the first Sex Crimes Unit. He has also served as an instructor at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy and as an investigator for the New Mexico Public Defender’s Office.
In 2004 he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts — Literature. He is also the 2015 recipient of the Frank Waters Exemplary Literary Achievement Award and the 2015 Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts – Literature. He has been instrumental in establishing the Hillerman-McGarrity Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of New Mexico, the Richard Bradford Memorial Creative Writing Scholarship at the Santa Fe Community College, and the N. Scott Momaday Creative Writing Scholarship at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Emily Beth (Mimi).