Michael Craft Johnson was born in 1950 in Elgin, Illinois, which is located on the Fox River some 40 miles northwest of Chicago. He 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.”
The next four years he spent at Elgin Academy, a private boarding school (now a day school) that he attended as a day student. A number of lifelong interests were nurtured there, including music, theater, and running. Michael graduated valedictorian, which sounds more impressive than it really was because there were only 34 in his class.
Then he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolling as an architecture student, but switched during his first year to graphic design, the major in which he graduated. He stayed on for several years of graduate school with the Institute for Communications Research, but by 1976, realized it was time to enter the “real world.”
Michael Craft landed a job at the Chicago Tribune, not as a reporter (as you might assume), but as an art director in the paper’s editorial-design department. He was one of perhaps a dozen designers responsible for the look of the paper itself. During his ten years there, he spent four years designing the front page of “Tempo,” the daily features section, and another two years designing the Sunday magazine. He also absorbed the milieu of the newsroom, which would later prove useful as the setting for his books.
During his tenure at the Tribune, Michael 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 his briefcase in my lap while watching the world whisk by, he decided to put that time to use by working toward a long-held goal: writing a novel.
During that long struggle to get published, he went through two important life-changes. First, in 1982, he met his future partner Leon and they have been together ever since, and he has dedicated all of his books to him. Second, in 1987, he left the Tribune and went to work with Leon in his family-owned business, which manufactures musical wind instruments. Now, as the company's vice president for communications, he is responsible for its advertising and public relations.
With this support and security, Michael has been able to pursue his “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 him on as his first client. Michael had the manuscript of Flight Dreams in hand, and Mitchell suggested that he work up a proposal for a sequel to it so that he could attempt to secure a contract for a series. In 1996, Michael signed on with Kensington Books for the first three installments of the Mark Manning series, and in June 1997, Flight Dreams was published.