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An Interview with Michael Mclaughlin

Category : Fame & Fortune

TGC: What prompted you to sell everything and move from Sacramento, California to Lake Chapala, Mexico?
MM: Luck. We were both tired of the rat race and decided to retire early. We could have slugged it out for 7 more years and retired but we took a leap of faith, sold our house in 2005 (That is the luck part) and looked for a place to retire. We looked along the Oregon coast and in Mexico. For cost of living, medical care, climate and intangibles, Lake Chapel Mexico won out. It has the largest number of American expats living outside the US. We also have a large number of Canadians. Many notable writers have found inspiration here. Tennessee Williams started his play Street Car Named Desire and The Plumed Serpent of D.H. Lawrence was written here.

TGC: You live in one of the great paradise locations in the world. How does your location affect your writing?
MM: For me location has very little to do with it. I can write in a boxcar or on Mars. Once I get into the zone of writing nothing else matters, my entire focus is that blinking cursor and the story inside my head. I am sure some people would think writing in a foreign land would affect your art, for me it doesn’t. I like to think of my short stories are about people, people that just happen to be Mexican or American or space alians.  I think good writing is about the human condition. Sure, in Mexico people put more spice on their food or Canadians eat poutine but cultural differences does not change the human “stuff” inside us. Some people like to write about pain or dysfunctional people in the world, I like to write about the obtuse and strange things people do as normal. No enough of that in modern writing.

TGC: What prompted you to form the improvisational comedy troupe, Spanglish Imposition?
MM: I am still trying to figure that out myself. After founding, directing, producing, collecting tickets, sweeping, repairing flats, paying bills, answering the phone and performing in a improvisational theater for 20 years I thought I had hung up my shtick But in a weak moment, there was another woman down here who had performed with an improvisational group, we met  and… Plus it is fun, keeps my mind active and we are the ONLY English speaking improvisational group from Tijuana to Tierra Del Fuego. This is our 5Th season coming up.

TGC: You’ve worked as an actor and as a writer. What different opportunities do each provide you as an artist?
MM: The writing life is lonelier. The acting life is more surreal.  Both bring little fame and less fortune. As an actor you are recognized in public more and it is nice to be stopped on the street  with “Aren’t you that guy who appears in that TV commercial?”   Performing on stage with other actors is great fun and I hope I die on stage. Of course writing I do alone, but the finished product is a group process. Writing (for stage, TV, radio or film) doesn’t come alive until performed. As a writer for stage there is nothing better than hearing your words spoken by a good actor and the audience laughing or crying. Also I might add, as a writer you better get use to others (the list is too long to name them all) taking your words and changing them.  As an improvisational actor, different art form than a stage actor I might mention, I get the best of both worlds. I write and act out my own material. The brilliant and the crap.  As a writer you are a creator, as an actor you are an interpreter.
Both as a writer and actor it affords me the opportunity to shine light on the human condition, as Tolstoy defined what art is.

TGC: You keep your personal life very private. Who you are isn’t evident in your writing or on your website. Even your bio says very little about who you are beyond your writing. What are some advantages or disadvantages to letting your writing do all the talking?
MMActing:  I guess I am shy. Many comedy actors are believe it or not. People are generally surprised I am an actor, let alone an improvisational actor and funny. “You don’t look funny” I have heard more than once. So it goes. When I’m on stage my life is not private, I share it. The audience sees you naked on stage as a writer and actor. No rewrites, no rehearsing to get it just right. As a stage actor I can hide behind the words of the writer, I can’t do that as an improvisational performer. I must live in the moment. It is fun, exciting and it is surprisingly good mental health.
Writing: I think if you looked at all my work you would say I am an eclectic writer. If my writing does talk for me than I must be multi-strange . Wait a minute, I’m not strange, I’m complex! Sure, most of it is humorous, zany, far-out, but some of it is spiritual and painful. My story in The Glass Coin is different from what I usually write I’ll admit, but it is part of me. It deals with what many famous people experience: How does one handle fame and fortune when your family’s (matriarchal) legacy is killing. What rituals do the successful do to maintain their success? What do they have to give up to be successful?

Read Part 1 of  Starla-Astral Warrior by Michael Mclaughlin
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