Michael MacConnell is an Australian author who has had his books published in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the UK. He is renowned for his thriller novels Splinter and Maelstrom.
Michael talks about how his vivid imagination has always helped him to form realistic characters. “I’ve always been somebody who really enjoys getting caught up in an idea, in a concept and really just playing it out in my mind. I think over time, as I actually got seriously into writing as opposed to just as a hobby, that was really important for the evolution of the story lines, for realism, and especially for coherency of characters.
“I had to believe these characters were real and they had to be real to me if they were going to have that coherent sense, if they were always going to be consistent to themselves. So I think it’s definitely a requirement for crime writing.”
THE MAIN CHARACTER
The protagonist of Michael’s novels was Sarah Reilly, a woman based off real-life FBI agent Candace DeLong. “When Sarah was born so to speak it was a very easy transition from pure fantasy into a quasi-realistic existence in my mind. No, she was very easy to write from. I had met an FBI agent, a very famous FBI agent in the United States by the name of Candace DeLong. She had written her memoirs after I think it was about 15 or 20 years in the FBI and she’s very similar to the character that I’ve invented in Sarah. She isn’t exactly the same but it certainly made it a lot easier meeting this person and sort of saying to myself, ‘These people really do exist. They’re out there. These women who will kick down doors, jump through and arrest serial killers. They’re out there.’ And, she did it on multiple occasions. He stresses that basing the character on a real-life person was much easier than coming up with one from scratch. “It really wasn’t that hard, in the case of Sarah. I think if you asked me tomorrow to come up with a new female character just at the drop of a hat, I think it would take a little bit of time. It took a little bit longer to come up with Sarah’s new partner in the second novel in the series Splinter. It took a little bit of time to come up with her new partner, which was a female character. In Sarah’s case it was easy. In any other case I think it would be more of a process.”
MICHAEL’S TIP: GET YOURSELF OUT THERE
“Go out of your way to meet people in the industry, go to book signings, go to industry parties, to book launches and speak to people. People are always very happy to speak to you. Some of the most approachable people in the world work in publishing, be they agents or publishers or editors, are fantastically nice people. Really it’s just a matter of a person increasing their own chances, as Sun Tzu said, ‘Cast a wide net.’ You do that, you increase your chances hugely.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.