When Mike Langan begins to develop characters for his books, he browses through magazines and clips pictures of how he imagines them to look.
"I love to make up stuff," said Langan, a 1986 Jamesville-DeWitt High School graduate. "I know what they're going to say, I know what they're like, I know how tall they are, what they weigh" -- but a tangible visual aid helps him get a better feel for who he's creating along the way.
His process must work, because the Fayetteville attorney and writer recently won two national literary awards for his second legal mystery novel, "Ready for the Defense."
On March 5, Langan earned an award from the Fourth Annual Reader Views' Literary Competition for the best book set in the Mid-Atlantic region. Two days later, he earned an award for the best mystery/suspense novel in the 10th annual EPPIE competition, given by the Electronically Published Internet Connection, also known as EPIC.
In "Ready for the Defense" first-year lawyer Hank Fisher is left defending a high profile client after his boss, the senior lawyer on the case, is murdered. The plot thickens as Fisher's sleuthing uncovers irregularities in campaign funding and hints of involvement with germ warfare.
Before becoming a lawyer, Langan studied literature at George Mason University where he earned his masters of fine arts in creative writing. His literary heroes, such as Ray Carver, John Updike and Ernest Hemingway, had a big influence on his life as a writer, however, his passion lies in genre fiction. Langan's all-time inspiration is Elmore Leonard, a prolific writer known for his westerns and crime/contemporary themes.
"All the literary stuff I was writing had these unhappy endings," Langan said. "I thought I should write what I like. You're married to the thing for a couple of years, so you can't really fake it."