If you enjoy reading mysteries, then I have someone I want you to meet. Donn Taylor is a novelist, poet extraordinaire, and a lover of puns. Those who know him personally enjoy his sharp wit and his books.
Donn, welcome to the blog. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m older than dirt but younger than chaos. My first career was Army: Infantry in Korea and aviation in Vietnam. Afterwards, I taught English lit at two liberal arts colleges. Now I just write fiction and poetry, and also teach at writers’ conferences. The highlight of my life was my 61-year marriage to the loveliest of God’s creatures.
How did you get started writing?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to create something. I began writing music at age 14. Two years later I entered college as a music major, studied piano with an instructor on leave from Cincinnati Conservatory and played some of my classical compositions in her recitals. But at age 18 I got interested in poetry—the Romantics, of course—and began writing poetry and some very bad short stories. Since then, writing is just something I have to do, though there have been long periods when professional and family requirements pushed it far into the background. I always wanted to write a novel. After I retired from college teaching, I joined a local writers’ group and finally realized my ambition with The Lazarus File, a novel of spies and airplanes in the Caribbean, still available as an e-book.
What kind of books do you write and why?
I write poetry because I have to for personal reasons—some published and some not. I began writing suspense novels because my military and aviation experience provided good background information. For years I’ve been fascinated by mysteries like those written by Raymond Chandler, so I decided to try one of those. My college experience gave a good background for that. You’d think that a small liberal arts college would be as close to Shangri-La as you’d find on this earth. But as one of my characters says, the reality is more like unsupervised recess in a public schoolyard in a tough neighborhood. So I wrote the mystery—Rhapsody in Red—and had a good bit of fun with comic satire of the college scene. I’ve continued in the mystery genre with this present book and at least one in progress. Then we’ll see…
Tell us about your book.
Murder Mezzo Forte is a sequel to Rhapsody in Red with the same protagonists. Preston Barclay (“Press”) is a reclusive history professor who suffers from musical hallucinations. Mara Thorn (the name she chose when she re-invented herself) is a headstrong professor of comparative religion, a former Wiccan recently converted to Christianity. Earlier, they solved a campus murder, but now police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly murdered female colleague—and they’re probably guilty of her murder. The leaked scandal threatens their jobs. Their desperate attempt to prove their innocence plunges them into a tangle of unsavory corporate relationships among trustees and puts their lives in danger from a hidden but powerful criminal organization. Those circumstances provide suspense, but along the way there’s also a good bit of comic satire of the college scene.
Where do you get your ideas?
Creativity remains a mystery. I don’t think we ever know whether we generate our ideas or whether they’re gifts from God. I think probably a mixture of both. Shakespeare’s Owen Glendower claimed he could “call forth spirits from the vasty deep.” Then Hotspur asked, “But will they come when you do call for them?” It’s the same with ideas: We can call, but will they come? Some come from asking “What if…?” My question that resulted in the Preston Barclay character was, “What if a faculty member actually said what the rest of the faculty was thinking and didn’t dare say?” But usually, my ideas come out of reading and research. In researching Colombia for The Lazarus File, I came on a striking photograph of a lone house on a bare hilltop. That photo, transformed in several ways, provided one of the important landscapes for the novel. In casual reading in the New York Times, I read about someone with musical hallucinations. So I gave the character Preston Barclay a constant stream of music in his head, and thus Rhapsody and Murder Mezzo Forte became the only novels I know of that have built-in music scores. To summarize: I suppose my method is to start reading and researching, believing that something good will eventually fall out of it. It’s like going where lightning strikes while you’re carrying a lightning rod. Sooner or later, God’s lightning will strike.
Where can readers purchase your book?
Although it can be ordered through any book store, the best bet is to type my name into Amazon. (Readers can also click on the word Amazon to go straight to the new book.) That will take you to a page with all my books on it. Hope you enjoy!
Donn, thank you for sharing your story and your books with us today.
Donn has graciously offered a free e-book of his new mystery, Murder Mezzo Forte to one lucky name that I will draw out of those who leave a comment below. So if you like mysteries, leave a few words below. You just might win. I love Donn’s books and I know you will too.