Please join me in welcoming Donn Taylor to the blog today!
With a PhD in English literature (Renaissance), Donn Taylor taught literature for 18 years at two liberal arts colleges. Now retired, he has published suspense novels, mysteries, and poetry. His historical novel “Lightning on a Quiet Night” was a finalist for the 2015 Selah Awards. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. In a prior incarnation, he led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. He now lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.
His latest book, Murder in Disguise, released in October 2017.
Official verdict: Suicide.
But why would that vigorous department chairman kill himself? To avoid disgrace? Those rumored ventures on the dark side? Some other secret life? Visiting professor Preston Barclay wonders. But his questions bring no answers, only anonymous threats. He has enough problems already, proving himself on a strange campus while radical faculty do all they can to undermine him. Worse yet, that sexy siren assigned as his assistant complicates his courtship of the beautiful Mara Thorn.
While Press keeps asking questions, Mara’s research reveals a cancer of criminal activity that permeates the community and even the campus itself. The more Press questions, the more dangerous the threats against him become, and the more determined he grows to clear his friend’s name.
But can Press and Mara’s stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, the campus radicals, and an unseen but powerful criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger…?
Hi Donn! Welcome to the blog!
Donn: Apples. Oranges are messy.
Donn: Winter. For cold weather you can put on more clothes, but for hot weather you can’t take off your skin.
Carrie: this is so true!
Donn: Dogs. Cats are too self-centered, even in their vocabulary. They always say me-ow, never you-ow or they-ow.
Carrie: Hahahaha! I am totally using that from now on. Love it.
Donn: Both. Tea at breakfast, coffee at lunch. It just works better that way.
Carrie: That seems like a good system 🙂
Q: Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Donn: Prayer. Not the getting-this-or-that–thing kind of prayer, but the kind that brings me back into harmony with our Lord. It’s like tuning a musical instrument to an absolute pitch.
Carrie: Beautifully said!
Q: Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?
Donn: Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy; Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse; Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi; C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Gavin Lyall, The Wrong Side of the Sky.
Carrie: Oh, excellent choices! I reread Mere Christianity often.
Q: Writing spaces are as diverse as authors and books. Where is your favorite space to write?
Donn: In my Army days I often wrote fairly complex papers in noisy environments. That required concentrating to the point of shutting out the noise. It could be done, but it wasn’t the best situation. When I retired from teaching and we moved into this house, we converted the smallest bedroom into a study, and that’s where I do any serious writing. I now have a corner desk with two wings. The center (corner) element holds my computer and monitor, the right wing holds two cheap printers, and the left holds the few reference books I keep ready at hand. This gives me a quiet place where I can come without distraction and give full concentration to the writing itself. I’m thankful for this luxury.
Carrie: That sounds like a great environment to work in – much better than working around Army noise 🙂
Q: Describe your main characters in one sentence each, and tell me who you would cast in their roles if Hollywood wanted to produce Murder in Disguise as a movie!
Donn: Professor Preston Barclay (“Press”), haunted by musical hallucinations, stays in trouble on his campus because he actually says what the rest of the faculty thinks but doesn’t dare say. To play this character in film I would choose the classic movie actor Dick Powell, who played similar outspoken characters. Professor Mara Thorn, burned by a teenage marriage to a dominant older man, abhors being touched and is driven by determination to succeed without any help from anybody—especially any man. To play her in film I would choose the versatile classic movie actress Eleanor Parker.
Carrie: Eleanor Parker = amazing.
Q: What surprised you about Murder in Disguise or your characters as you wrote their story?
Donn: Some of the unsavory characters in the story began talking in pseudo-eloquent language. We expect thugs to talk like thugs, and we don’t expect them to imitate the diction of educated people. They don’t make it, of course, but their attempts ought to be good for a few laughs. I didn’t plan that. The characters just started talking that way.
Carrie: haha! Characters do have a mind of their own sometimes 🙂
Q: What do you most want readers to take away from Murder in Disguise?
Donn: Fiction’s first task is to entertain, so the book is a success if I achieve that. But the book also addresses deeper themes. Because Press’s specialty is history of ideas, some of the important ones show up briefly in his teaching. The novel touches on the crime of human trafficking, and a subplot deals with some of the ways that universities today habitually violate the constitutional rights of their students. (Unfortunately, this problem is the norm rather than the exception on today’s campuses.) The novel also presents scenes of worship, and the hero ponders the degree to which God controls the ordinary events and actions of everyday life. I hope the book leads readers to ponder those same subjects.
Carrie: A lot of great things to mull over!
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Donn: My immediate project is a fourth mystery in the Preston Barclay series. Beyond that, Lord willing, I’m contemplating another suspense novel that will take a different approach to a terrorist attack on an American city.
What about you? What interests you most about this book?