Interview With Author Michael Stephen Daigle

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I am Michael Stephen Daigle, an author from New Jersey. I’ve lived in the Northeast U.S. all my life, and use the places I have lived as the settings for my books and other works. My Frank Nagler Mystery series is set in a fictional town called Ironton, N.J., based on a collection of towns in Morris County, N.J. Other stories are set in Maine, Massachusetts and New York state, for example. I was a journalist for more than three decades. My current project is book five of the Frank Nagler Mysteries, a literary, urban noir series of police stories.

The books: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; A GAME CALLED DEAD; and THE RED HAND.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

The Frank Nagler books began when, in my early 20s, saw a newspaper item about a break-in at a college. The suspect took some items and was never caught. I wrote eight paragraphs about that. Then I added a victim, and wrote eight more paragraphs. Soon I had a story, the first Nagler book. A GAME CALLED DEAD, (later rewritten), a main character, Detective Frank Nagler, a sidekick, Leonard, a blind bookstore owner, a reporter, Jimmy Dawson and a series.

I have used parts of many events I covered as a newspaper reporter and editor in the Nagler books. THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, the third book in the series, is based on a case of serial incest we covered in Maine, and some of the politics in the stories I borrowed from stories I had covered.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

While I have lived in the Northeast U.S., the towns I lived in were varied, from big cities, to working class industrial towns to rural villages. Each offered the experience of seeing life in a variety of ways. The rest is being open to what is going on around you. Listen to those you speak with, and then read, read, read.

# How do you deal with creative block?

One benefit of being in the newspaper business is that each day I went to work expecting to write. And there is nothing more motivating than a thirty-minute deadline with a story that calls for 800 words. That said, we all get stuck. Pick another story to work on, or another part of the book. The worst thing to do is to beat yourself up because the words are not flowing. Slow down, rethink.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Being lazy and easily satisfied, which leads to sloppy writing and poor story telling.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Choose a title that best reflects to story. THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY was chosen because the first murder takes place in a swamp, and because the swamp represents the political and economic morass in Ironton, N.J., where the story is set.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING was different. I was reading “The Book Thief,” by Markus Zuzak, when during one of Death’s monologues, the phrase “the weight of living” popped into my head. I thought it was a good book title. The challenge was to write a book as good as the title.
I am fortunate that my publisher Imzadi Publishing of Tulsa, OK, has Anita Dugan-Moore as a graphic designer. We exchange ideas, and I wait to see her cover designs, for which she has won several awards. Otherwise find a designer you trust.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

Take them with a grain of salt. It is easy to read a review and determine that the reader pre-judged the story. Those are the ones that say, “the writer did this and that, but I was surprised by who the killer was.” That said, don’t be so full of yourself that you miss the point that sometimes shows up in a harsh review.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I know more, have read more and experienced more life. I wrote two novels in my early 20s. I knew nothing about writing novels, especially writing mystery novels. But I could string words together. I can still do that, but I have many years of life to fall back on now.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best things are the response from readers. I once attended a book club and in the living room of the home, the fireplace had been decorated with a string of plastic gloves filled with popcorn and with a plastic ring on one finger. It was a reference to a scene in THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY when police divers find in the swamp a woman’s severed hand with a gold ring.

The most surprising things are when a character I hadn’t imagined shows up and takes over the book. Such was Sister Katherine in THE WEIGHT OF LIVING. She is the keeper of all the secrets.

The worst thing is fighting the self-doubt. It is easy to talk yourself out of a good idea.

Worst yet, is marketing. As an independent author I have little marketing budget, so I greatly appreciate opportunities like this interview. Thank you.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

You have to do both. But first, you must be satisfied with what you have written. Otherwise readers will notice the difference.

That said, readers will follow your books if they like them, and you should try not to disappoint the paying public. People like the Nagler books and I have been asked perhaps a billion times when the next one is going be released. The trick is to make sure it does not go to your head.

# What are your plans for future books?

I want to finish the current Nagler mystery, the working title of which is THE PLACE OF OUR HORRORS.

I also have two non-mysteries in various states of undress, which I want to spend some hard time with.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

My father sailed to the South Pole in 1939 with Adm. Byrd, one of the great adventures of the 20th Century.

I was the drummer in the greatest garage band of 14-year-olds to ever come out of Fulton, N.Y., West Hartley Parkway.

When I was eight, I led a labor strike of other youthful oppressed workers. We took umbrage to the notion that the owner of the blueberry patch in Vienna, Maine would pay experienced workers more. So we walked home, five miles or so.