Michael Haskins, Author of “Stairway to the Bottom”

Welcome, Michael. What is your book about?

My book, Stairway to the Bottom, is about greed. In this story, there are two cases of greed. One case, federal agents believe a man who vanished from Key West on a Jet Ski knows where Boston gangster White Bulger’s hidden fortune is, now that Whitey is in custody. They want it and feel after all these years they deserve it. The other case involves retired and not so retired Cold War agents who think the Jet Ski escapee is the agent that walked off with more than $20 million in diamonds as the Berlin Wall came down. They want the diamonds. Sometimes it’s comical. Other times, as the ending approaches it becomes deadly serious.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I think the most unusual character in the series is Padre Thomas Collins, as Jesuit who talks and sees angels. He lives with survivor’s guilt because the angels told him to leave his Guatemalan rectory days before government soldiers came and massacred the residents. He’s an off-the-wall character that some of the regular characters don’t like or trust, but his angels have kept Mick Murphy, my main protagonist, alive.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I spend time in the bars of Key West observing tourist and locals. There are some strange mannerisms people have in bars and on vacation. I try to put some of these to use in my characters. These traits separate my characters.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I know the beginning, middle and end of a story before I begin. How I get to the middle and end is the fun part. As I write the things I knew or wanted in the story sometimes change, including the end. In Stairway to the Bottom, I didn’t like the ending and added one more chapter. I hadn’t totally thought of that way on ending the story, but as I re-read it, I knew it need a little more than I planned on. I think the ending found me.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

I thought I was writing stories about good times in Key West, until a local friend and critic asked me about why my character was such a stickler for justice. I thought about the books in my Mick Murphy series, the ones from California/Mexico and the Key West ones and realized justice was the driving factor. Justice doesn’t always come from the people who have that responsibility. Bad guys don’t have rules and good guys do. The law has rules to follow and sometimes those rules keep the bad guys on the streets. At least in my series, Murphy’s rule is to be true to friends and see that justice is reached, no matter what.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My background is in journalism, old journalism, before computers. Murphy’s background is journalism. Murphy covered Central America, I worked in Boston, so the similarities stop. We also enjoy Jameson and Cuban cigars. I kept him close and that allows me to be more flexible with the other characters.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I try to write every morning. To finish Stairway to the Bottom, I found myself writing through the afternoon and sometimes into the evening. It was an interesting experiment and I found I could do it. Usually, I would have brain freeze before noon. I also have days when I re-read and self-edit and re-write what has come before. I find this slows my writing process down, but when I’ve completed a book I am usually more happy with it than friends of mine who bitch about Major re-writing.

Does writing come easy for you?

When I am not writing, I love writing. Most time I’m having a good time, but there are those times the story takes off on its own and I have to keep up. I think writing is like anything, if it comes too easily you won’t take it seriously. It has to offer the writer challenges and that’s one more thing to love about writing.

What do you like to read?

I read mysteries. I read because I like the author and want to see what he/she is doing. Sometimes I discover something new in their writing style and think I can use it. We all steal from each other, it’s a great community.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Anyone that wants to write has to read, read and then read some more. A writer has to know what has been done, what is being done and figure on a way to make it better or more interesting. After all, love & greed are the two driving forces behind a good mystery and finding a more interesting way to tell your story maybe hidden in the pages of someone else’s book.

Where can people learn more about your books?

I have written seven books in the Mick Murphy series. Car Wash Blues will be released in Aug. 2012. Free Range Institution came out in Feb. 2011 and are both hardback books. Stairway to the Bottom is a trade paperback on Amazon and on Kindle and Nook, as are some of my other books. To find out the whole story, check my website: http://www.michaelhaskins.net. More there than you ever want to know.

3 Responses to “Michael Haskins, Author of “Stairway to the Bottom””

  1. Maureen Fisher Says:

    ‘Stairway to the Bottom’ sounds like a good read. Love your character research technique, must try it.

  2. Sheila Deeth Says:

    I like the sound of your characters.

  3. Mike Dennis Says:

    I had the pleasure of having Michael read this novel one chapter at a time to the Casa Marina Group, a small writers critique group here in Key West. As he was writing it, he had intended to incorporate into the plot a search for gangster Whitey Bulger, on the run for nearly 20 years. Bulger was in fact captured as Michael was writing his book, so he had to turn on a dime. He very deftly shifted the focus from finding Bulger to finding his hidden money, not an easy thing to do after he had become so committed to the former. Good job! Good book!

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