About Michael J. Coffino:
Before becoming a full-time writer and editor, Michael J. Coffino had two parallel careers: one in the courtroom, the other in the gymnasium. He was a trial attorney and legal writing instructor for almost four decades and concurrently devoted twenty-five years as a basketball coach, primarily at the high school level.
He has authored and co-authored several books, including Truth Is in the House, his debut novel, which has won several awards, including in the categories of Historical Fiction, African American Fiction, Friendship, and Social/Political Change.
Michael also writes blogs, ghostwrites (including non-fiction books, web content, and blogs), freelance edits, evaluates manuscripts, and serves as a consultant and coach for aspiring authors.
Michael grew up in the Bronx, in its Mott Haven and Highbridge neighborhoods. He earned a BS in Education from the City University of New York and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Michael plays guitar, holds a black belt in karate, is a workout junkie, hikes regularly in the hills and mountains of California and Colorado, and plays pickleball. He lives in Marin County, California.
What inspires you to write?
I write fundamentally for personal fulfillment. I love developing words, phrases, and sentences on a page and revere the art of storytelling. In fiction, I cherish the freedom to take characters where I want and tell stories that (hopefully) entertain and emotionally impact readers. In non-fiction, where I ghostwrite memoir, I love telling the stories clients want told, in the way they want them told, and in their voices, while allowing readers to envision their own lives in the narrative—and wonder.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Oscar Wilde, for his sharp wit and elegance in depicting the human condition; James Baldwin, for his fluency and passion in matters of race and justice; Richard Russo, for his unmatched ability to depict the nuances of human frailty; and Elmore Leonard, for his captivating storytelling.
Tell us about your writing process.
My process is intuitive at its core. While I often have an overall sense of where to go, and might work from a rough outline, I cherish and rely upon the organic flow of what I am writing. Similarly, my best ideas—or what I presume are my best ideas—land when my mind is in an uncluttered state and I’m not “trying” to create, e.g., when hiking, driving alone, or watching film. I find my musings are more fertile when I’m not seeking content but rather when I allow content to find me.
In addition, I approach writing as an interactive blend of art and craft. For example, writing a scene with a single character POV (point of view)—a craft rule of thumb—cannot be done effectively without immersing in the nuances of character development, perspective, and sensibility. The same applies for rules of grammar and syntax, which require deft word choice, imagery, and mood creation to produce smooth reading cadence.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I have found that to write effective fiction I need some degree of personal engagement with each character, from main to cameo. It is imperative that more than see the world from their eyes, I become the character, even if briefly, no matter how I personally feel about them. Sometimes that is relatively easy when, for example, a part of the character reflects how I see myself or someone I personally know well. Otherwise, the guiding force is intuitive, feeling out the characters, placing them in challenging situations, and exploring ways to lead them along the path of the narrative. In all cases, it requires connection and detachment at once, not always easy, but always essential.
What advice would you give other writers?
Hard as it may be, and it is admittedly a formidable goal, limit ego attachment to your writing. It is not achievable entirely—we are who we are—but the ability of writers to have some degree of detachment from what we create is essential to doing our best work. It facilitates professional (as well as personal) development and is an invaluable tool.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Foremost, I have learned to be realistic about the publishing market. It is important to appreciate that the field is crowded in all writing genre and that publishers and agents primarily exist to make money. Keeping that in mind, whether to pursue a traditional path—agent queries, book proposals (for non-fiction), and traditional publisher submissions—requires a realistic assessment of the potential monetization of your work. Small independent presses, hybrid publishers—reputable firms not “vanity presses”—and self-publishing, are realistic and honorable options today. We writers must ask ourselves each time we venture into the publishing world: what are our goals and how does publication advance them? No matter what our vision, we should be armed with a well-informed and carefully considered game plan, including how to come at the daunting phase of book marketing and promotion. Getting published is not the challenge. That will happen. The pertinent considerations are how, at what cost, and to what end.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I am enthusiastic about the future of book publishing. The proliferation of publishing imprints the past twenty years is testimony to the expanding population of writers and literary works that command and deserve audiences. Some might say it has become too easy to publish, and they would have a point. But while the competitive field can be jammed, it is hard to quarrel with more reading and writing opportunities in the world. Reading will always be central. Sure, it is tempting to worry about the future of reading and writing after the alarming disdain for truth and reality we have endured in recent times. That I believe will pass. Books, especially works of fiction and memoir, should increasingly provide a vital human outlet and accord readers illuminating mirrors into their own lives, as well as satisfy the innate hunger for knowledge and new horizons.
What genres do you write?: Fiction: Literary and Historical Fiction; Non-Fiction: Sports, Memoir, and Self-Help
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.