Mike Doogan: I believe in writer’s block. I’ve just never had it. Yet. I start a novel with a character and a situation and go from there. I write first thing in the morning and try to write 1,000 words a day. I use a trick I think I stole from Hemingway: Always quit before you are completely finished with a scene or a thought so there’s something to get started with the next day. I write to find out what happens next, and because I’m naturally curious I don’t have a problem keeping at it until the story is finished.
A: Is there anything that does distract you? (Email? Websurfing? Political crises in the legislature?)
A: What are your mystery/literary influences?
Mike Doogan: As a reader, I’m an omnivore. My main influences are the classic American detective writers: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, the MacDonalds — Ross and John D. — and Rex Stout. But I’ve also learned a lot from Hemingway, Steinbeck and George Orwell, among others. Not to mention movies and television, which have really helped me in figuring out how to stage scenes.
A: Understanding human behavior is so essential for a writer. Has working as a legislator taught you anything new or surprising about humans? Have politics influenced your writing in any particular ways you’d like to share?
Mike Doogan: I think working in politics has refined my sense that good people can do bad things and vice versa, that life is more about people striving to do the right thing and often failing than it is about people who are always heroes or always villains. All of the great forces that motivate people — love, sex, money, power of all sorts, including political power — can make people noble or venal, and the difference between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing is often narrow and, in some ways, inexplicable. I’m not a complete relativist. I do believe in right and wrong. But after immersing myself in politics, I’m not as sure that I’m always right — or even that I always know what right is.
MIKE DOOGAN will be reading and signing at Title Wave on Thursday August 21 at 7 PM.