Wednesday’s Writer with Donn Taylor

Today I am honored to welcome Donn Taylor on my blog.

Some people listen to music when they write. Some people write outside, near a window, etc. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’m not sure that I have one. If I do, it’s that I prefer to work in complete silence. However, I can work with a good bit of background noise by simply shutting it out and concentrating. But silence is best and easiest.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Wow! That has varied a good bit. My first novel, The Lazarus File, took about three years because I was learning the craft, and there were many blind alleys. Since then for an 80-90K book, it takes about a year unless other things intervene. My experience is that other things do intervene, so it probably stretches to two years.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

In years past, Mildred and I enjoyed walking on nearby woodlands trails and watching classic movies we recorded off of TV. We also enjoyed traveling to writers’ conferences where I taught poetry writing. Sunday school and church dinners were part of our routine. More recently I’ve spent a lot of time reading—not just fiction, but a good bit of history. I try to read some classic poetry each week.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

From experience (Army and college teaching) joined to research, though the way that these coalesce into viable ideas for fiction remains a mystery. Ambassador (and historian) Lewis interested me in the unholy alliance of Colombian guerrillas, drug lords, and Soviet subversion designed to distract US attention from NATO. That and my Army experience led to research that finally grew into a novel about spies and airplanes in the Caribbean (The Lazarus File). My years of teaching taught me the constant tensions in the college/university environment. So I asked myself, “What would happen if a professor actually said what the rest of the faculty was thinking and didn’t dare say?” A New York Times article on musical hallucinations gave me an idea for the hero’s distinctive quirk. The result was the Preston Barclay Mystery series, with a hero who lives with his own internal music score.

Is there a message in your book you hope readers will relate to?

Always yes, though it varies from book to book, and it is always embedded in the story instead of preached. In Deadly Additive, it was the futility of performing heroic deeds without a Christian context. In Lightning on a Quiet Night, it was the paradox that virtue pursued too far leads to the sin of pride. The Preston Barclay series explores the question of how closely God controls the tides of history and the waves of everyday life. But I repeat: In each novel, keeping an interesting story going remains the main focus.

What are your future projects?

I anticipate one more mystery in the Preston Barclay series. After that, possibly a suspense novel with hero and heroine trying to bring satisfying order to their lives in a disordered world. After that, if I’m still around, we’ll see what the Lord brings.

What kinds of research do you do for your books?

Originally, a lot of library research into foreign environments. (One photo of a house on a Colombian hill led to much of a novel’s landscape.) I still do a lot of that. Internet has been valuable in details like airport layout or verifying historical dates. I’ve sometimes verified legal matters with pro bono law firms. The main object of research is to make sure the overall plot is feasible. After that, it’s a matter of making sure the details are accurate. The paradox is that the “big lie” of fiction—the story that didn’t actually happen–becomes believable when all the small details are true.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to create something. I began writing music at age 14. But at age 18 I got interested in poetry—the Romantics, of course—and began writing poetry and some very bad short stories. But Army service, graduate school, and teaching demanded different kinds of writing. After I retired from teaching English lit, I decided to see if I could write the kind of poetry I’d enjoyed teaching. That point proved, I wanted to find out if I could publish a novel. I did, so now I continue as a very small fish in a very large literary ocean.

Murder in Disguise

Official verdict: Suicide.

But why would that vigorous department chairman commit suicide? Did he kill himself to avoid disgrace from exposure of his rumored activities on the dark side? When visiting professor Preston Barclay (Press) questions his long-time friend’s suicide, he receives threats. He has enough problems already in proving his competence to students and faculty in the newly–hostile environment of the state university. For the new department chairman and campus radicals do all they can to undermine him. And the sexy female siren assigned as his student assistant creates problems there and with his courtship of Mara Thorn.

Press’s questions don’t find adequate answers, rumors accuse his friend of disgraceful activities, and Mara’s research reveals a wide range of criminal activity stretching from the community onto the campus itself. The more things don’t add up, the more dangerous the threats become, and the more determined Press becomes to clear his friend’s name and find the truth about the alleged suicide.

But can Press and Mara’s stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, campus radicals, and an unseen criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger…?

You can find Donn online at:

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