IDOL TALK: Having Two Novels Already Published Wasn’t A Prerequisite  

New York Times bestselling author Michael Koryta got the call from the records office at Indiana University shortly before he was scheduled to graduate. Looking back, it’s easy to understand why he overlooked a single core prerequisite.

Koryta was busy writing part-time for the Bloomington Herald-Times, he worked occasionally for a private detective and in what little spare time he had left, he was writing novels. He did all of this while studying for a degree in criminal justice because he never lost sight of his goal to become a crime fiction writer.

A precocious kid, he can’t recall when the lightbulb flipped on. “I don’t remember a time I wasn’t reading and not wanting to write. That goes back to the earliest part of my childhood,” he says.

Koryta was a college sophomore when he sold his first novel. While shopping his first manuscript, the 19-year-old didn’t tell anyone he was a student for fear they wouldn’t take him seriously. Tonight I said Goodbye, was published the next year. He’d just turned 20, too young to walk up to the bar or rent a car, but old enough to be nominated for an Edgar that year.

His second novel, Sorrow’s Anthem, was published before he was scheduled to graduate. With so much on his plate, it’s easy to forgive him for overlooking that one required course in his curriculum. He was told he could not walk across the stage and pick up his diploma in May 2006.

“They informed me I hadn’t completed my intensive writing requirement.” That’s right. Indiana University was insisting he complete a writing course (he chose creative writing—go figure), before he could graduate. At the time, his creative writing was already published in ten languages around the world. So, he spent the summer of 2006 taking a correspondence course to graduate while still writing for the newspaper and working on his third novel.

Indiana University, after all, has its standards.

He has published seventeen crime and supernatural novels since his sophomore year. His eighteenth novel, Never Far Away, launches February 9. It is a story of a mother who is a witness to a terrible crime that forces her to fake her own death, go into hiding and give up her family. When her husband dies unexpectantly, and with her children believing she died long ago, she reemerges as their aunt and guardian. In doing so, she inadvertently leaves a trail for an assassin who failed to complete the job the first time.

Koryta, now 38, has been a published author for half his life, having written 18 novels in the past 19 years. It can all be traced back to his laser-like preoccupation with writing, which delayed his Indiana University graduation. He finally received his diploma at home in the mail at the end of the summer of 2006, which only goes to prove Michael Koryta is truly in a class of his own.

To read the entire story, visit The Big Thrill magazine.