A brief autobiography
by Michael Craft

Authors often write under a pen name (a “pseudonym” if they’re into Greek, or “nom de plume” if they fancy French). I’m no exception. The full name I was born with is Michael Craft Johnson. I decided to write as Michael Craft not to conceal my identity or to create confusion, but merely to give my author’s persona a more “literary” ring. Somehow, “Michael Craft” sounds more like a man of letters than does “Mike Johnson.” For those who might be curious as to how I ended up with Craft as a middle name: Craft was my mother’s maiden name. My English ancestors on her side of the family came to America in 1630. Honest. It’s all documented, and I’ve been assured that my forebears were not horse thieves deported to these shores.

miketot.jpg - 18083 Bytes
The author in 1952.
I was born in 1950 in Elgin, Illinois, which is located on the Fox River some 40 miles northwest of Chicago. My childhood was unremarkable, as I grew up during the heat of the Baby Boom in a small Midwestern city that then numbered about 50,000 and still manufactured wristwatches. I attended a Catholic grade school for eight years, and while the religion didn’t stick, the discipline and the love of language did. Back then, remember, those first eight years of education were known as “grammar school.” I can still diagram any sentence you care to throw at me, and I am forever grateful to the good sisters who drilled those lessons into me.

The next four years were spent at Elgin Academy, a private boarding school (now a day school) that I attended as a day student. It was great. A number of lifelong interests were nurtured there, including music, theater, and running. I graduated valedictorian, which sounds more impressive than it really was because there were only 34 of us in my class—I was something of a big fish in a small pond.

mikecol.jpg - 26202 Bytes
In 1972. That tie!
Then on to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (a considerably larger pond). I enrolled as an architecture student, but switched during my first year to graphic design, the major in which I graduated. I stayed on for several years of graduate school with the Institute for Communications Research, but by 1976, I realized it was time to enter the “real world.”

I was lucky enough to land a job at the Chicago Tribune, not as a reporter (as some of my readers might assume), but as an art director in the paper’s editorial-design department. I was one of perhaps a dozen designers responsible for the look of the paper itself. During my ten years there, I spent four years designing the front page of “Tempo,” the daily features section, and another two years designing the Sunday magazine. I also absorbed the milieu of the newsroom, which would later prove useful as the setting for my books.

During my tenure at the Tribune, I moved north to Kenosha, Wisconsin, which, like Chicago, is located along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Commuting the 50-some miles by train, spending some three hours a day sitting with my briefcase in my lap while watching the world whisk by, I decided to put that time to use by working toward a long-held goal: I wanted to write a novel. Sometime in 1980, I started making notes, and within a year or so, I had a draft.

REcover.jpg - 28844 Bytes
First novel, 1993.
After many false starts and an abundance of trial and error, rejection and revision, I finally secured my first contract in 1991 (11 years later!), when Los Hombres Press, a small gay publisher in San Diego, agreed to print my first novel, Rehearsing. It was released in February 1993. The old adage couldn’t be truer: Persistence pays. And to my astonishment, that first effort was recognized by the Chicago-based Society of Midland Authors, which honored Rehearsing as a finalist for its 1994 Adult Fiction Award. (Click here for book details.)
mikeleon.jpg - 66504 Bytes
Leon and Michael.
Photo by Jake Jacobson.
During that long struggle to get published, I went through two important life changes. First, in 1982, Leon and I found each other; I have dedicated all of my books to him. Second, in 1987, I left the Tribune and went to work with Leon in his family-owned business, which manufactured musical wind instruments. We have since relocated to the California desert near Palm Springs, which has allowed me not only to focus on my writing, but also to attain a graduate degree in creative writing, a long-held goal.
FDcover.jpg - 34966 Bytes
First Mark Manning mystery, 1997.

With the support and security I enjoyed while working with my partner, I was able to launch my “other” career as a novelist. That career took a crucial turn in late 1995, when Mitchell Waters, then a new agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. in New York, agreed to take me on as his first client. I had the manuscript of Flight Dreams in hand, and Mitchell suggested that I work up a proposal for a sequel to it so that he could attempt to secure a contract for a series. In 1996, we signed on with Kensington Books for the first three installments of the Mark Manning series, and in June 1997, Flight Dreams was published. (Click here for book details.)

The series has proven highly popular with readers and critics alike. (Reviews are found elsewhere on this site, with the listing for each book. Click here for the index of novels.) In June 2000, the series moved to St. Martin’s Press. I’m truly honored to find myself among the ranks of the many distinguished authors who have been published by Stonewall Inn Editions, St. Martin’s gay imprint, and by Minotaur Books, St. Martin's mystery imprint.

What does the future hold? In addition to the Mark Manning mysteries, I have been writing a second series, featuring theatrical director Claire Gray, which has less of a gay focus, intended for a broader audience. (Mark Manning fans needn't fret though; the new series still has a strong gay "presence," containing a firm plot link back to the earlier books.) And in recent years, as a further reflection of my long-held interest in theater, I have been trying my hand as a playwright. My first endeavor, Photo Flash, was first produced in 2003. (Script details.) My second script, The Transit of Venus, is now complete and available for its premiere production. (Script

Thank you for your interest in my writing. Please feel welcome to visit this site anytime, as it will be frequently updated. And rest assured that I would be happy to hear from you. If you have a moment, drop me an “e.” Just click here.

mikeb.jpg - 20016 Bytes
With my best wishes,
craftsig.gif - 5078 Bytes
Desert Literary Society (Advisory Board Member)
Lambda Literary Foundation
Mystery Writers of America
Publishing Triangle
Society of Midland Authors

Click here to return to main page.