Michael Collins (Irish author)
A current member of the Irish National Team for the 100k distance (62.2 miles) and holds the Irish national masters record over the 100k distance. As captain of the Irish National Team in 2010 he won a bronze medal at the World 100k Championships held in Gibraltar, and led home all Irish athletes.
Collins grew up in Limerick, Ireland and attended St Munchin's Boarding School in Limerick, known for producing talented distance runners. In 1981 while attending high school in New York (Rye High School), he won The New York State Cross Country Title and competed in the prestigious Fifth Avenue Mile.
Collins is a distant relative of the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins. In 1983 he was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he earned his undergraduate degree and a Masters of Fine Arts. He then earned a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago 1997 with an emphasis in computer-aided technologies where he worked on some of the first generation online applications that eventually morphed into the Netscape browser. While doing his doctorate he wrote The New York Times notable book of the year, The Meat Eaters (English title), The Man Who Dreamt of Lobsters (American title). Given the critical reception of these stories of Irish life, Collins began a dual interest in creative writing and computer programming, drifting between the two disciplines ever since.
After graduate school, Collins worked as a programmer writer at Microsoft at its Redmond headquarters. He specialised in business applications. While at Microsoft he continued his creative writing, often writing late at night in his office with pen and paper so the manuscript would not be found on his computer. His short-listed Booker Prize novel, The Keepers of Truth was written during this time as Collins continued to try to remain true to his two passions.
During this time, Collins also returned to running and found international form again as he began competing in extreme races. In November 1999, after completing The Keepers of Truth, and slogging out 100-mile training weeks, aside from programming and writing, he won The 100-mile Himalayan Stage Race and also The Mount Evererst Challenge Marathon. Said Collins, "It was a year of extremes. There were so many things I wanted to do. Most of all the drive came from a 1995 stabbing attack where I was left for dead on the streets of Chicago after a drug addict attacked me. Even now, almost 25 years later, if the going gets tough, I think about what if I had died on that summer evening in 1995? I think we need life-altering experiences to give us direction, to keep us wanting to all that we can while alive."
Collins is the author of nine works of fiction, including novels and short stories which have been translated into twenty languages. His work has garnered numerous awards, including Irish Novel of the Year, along with being shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and Impac Prize, and his work has been twice selected for inclusion in The New York Times Notable Books of the Year. His novel, The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton was selected as the Breakout Novel of the Year in France in 2007.
In 2010, in reaction to his eldest daughter's illness, Collins released a dark and metaphysical novel titled, Midnight in a Perfect Life. Damningly criticised by much of the media, this novel of intellectual and spiritual crisis was something Collins needed to write. "I abandoned the pat formula of crime fiction that had steered some of my earlier work and sought to write an open-ended novel of questions. I knew the perils of writing something dark and unconventional. I felt more like a writer while engaged in the novel than any of my previous work. Unfortunately, my US publisher did not see it that way, so we parted. I understood the deeply personal connection to the subject matter was going to be potentially alienating to readers, but sometimes you write for yourself. The novel came out as Midnight in a Perfect Life in England, but I had wanted it to be called, "Of Uncertain Significance", a title I felt might have served as a better guide for how to read the book."
France proved Collins' salvation, as it has over his writing career, and in 2011 he received the prestigious Lucien Barriere Literary Prize at the Deauville American Film Festival for "Midnight in a Perfect Life". The award honours the best American Fiction for 2011. Currently, the novel is being adapted for the big screen. Says Collins, "It was a personal vindication for me to have found a jury of my peers who saw exactly what I was trying to achieve in the novel. That one of the judges, Gonzague Saint Bris, lives in the home that Leonardo Da Vinci lived out the last three years of his life suggested to me that the yardstick of critical judgement must extend beyond conventional confides, that risk-takers are eventually rewarded if only posthumously... I know the novel succeeded in what I wanted it to do. That is all a writer can demand of oneself."
Currently, Collins is writing The Solitude of Lot, a post-Apocalyptic novel that looks deep into the death of the Information Age after a series of nuclear and cyber attacks end the grand experiment of capitalism, globalisation and the Internet. It draws upon his personal experience having worked at The University of Illinois as Netscape was developed and on through his experiences at Microsoft in the mid-to-late 1990s.
- The Meat Eaters (short stories, also published as The Man who Dreamt of Lobsters), 1992
- The Life and Times of a Teaboy, 1993
- The Feminists Go Swimming, 1994
- Emerald Underground, 1998
- The Keepers of Truth, 2000
- The Resurrectionists, 2003
- Lost Souls, 2004
- Death of a Writer (British title: The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton), 2006
- Midnight in a Perfect Life (British title), 2010
Current adaptations of his novels include The Resurrectionists to be directed by John Madden.
Lost Souls is currently being adapted by A Film Monkey Production.
In recognition of the help he received during his early years, Collins sponsors numourous writing prizes. This year he sponsored The Dowagiac Writing Prize, awarding high-schoolers in three categories, fiction, poetry and photography. He also sponsored The Brisbane Writers' High-School Prize, again awarding prizes for fiction, poetry and photography. The emphasis, or theme for these prizes focuses on "home" or "place".
Collins has raced the marathon and ultra-marathon distance at the South and North Pole, on Mount Everest and Sahara desert. In 2007, he finished 5th at the USA (USATF) 50 Mile Trail National Championships, and was the USA Masters National Champion Runner-up. In 2010 he won a bronze medal at the World 100k Championships held in Gibraltar.
Collins' endurance and extreme running races have also centred on humanitarian awareness, raising money for various causes and charities as he participates in these extreme events.