How did you get started in the mystery/suspense genre?
After I retired from college teaching I joined a local writers’ group. It was difficult to change from academic writing to fiction, but with the help of colleagues I managed to do it. The result was a suspense novel, The Lazarus File (spies and airplanes in the Caribbean), which has just been re-issued as an e-book. Why suspense and mystery? Those genres seemed to come most naturally. I’ve always loved watching people prevail against seemingly overwhelming odds—and I’ve seen quite a lot of them do just that—so it came naturally to write about things I admire. My military experience led to the quasi-military plots of Lazarus and Deadly Additive; my time on college faculties provided the setting for my mysteries, Rhapsody in Red and its contracted sequel.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I liked the Zane Grey westerns and the Sherlock Holmes stories, but overall I'd have to pick Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. I still remember his expurgated oaths of the riverboat pilots.
Do you have a favorite from the books you've written and if so, why?
No favorite. Each novel has its own quality. I like the flight scenes in Lazarus, particularly the night flight scenes. But then I like the night-fighting scenes in Deadly Additive and the wacky faculty meeting scenes in Rhapsody.
Did you have an imaginary friend as a child and if so, do you think that "friend" influenced your desire to write?
No. As a child I was too busy tearing around the yard and neighborhood all day and getting into trouble. I didn't have time to conjure up an imaginary friend.
Is there a living person who influenced your writing? How?
I have to name two. My father, Dr. Walter F. Taylor, Sr., was an American literature scholar. He read to my brother and me much of the Mark Twain canon when we were still in grammar school. Later, he never compromised on what was true or beautiful in literature, and he insisted on the importance of sound in poetry. The other person is my wife of sixty-one years, Mildred, who loves to read. I can only write things that are pleasing to her. (We figure sixty-one years is a good start.)
What was the best writing tip you've ever received?
No contest on this: read, read, read, not only in your chosen genres but anything that broadens your knowledge and perspective. Lately I've been reading Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, though I never plan to write on that subject. Before that it was Mark Moyar's brilliant history of the early Vietnam War, Triumph Forsaken. Recently I've read a treatment of George Washington's spy rings in the Revolutionary War and I'm about to tackle Dr. Ben Carson's America the Beautiful. I mention these to make the point that something good is going to fall out of that kind of reading, usually at an unexpected time, to enrich my next novel or two.
What is the best tip you can give someone new to the adventure of writing?
Two important items. The first is patience: it always takes longer than you think it's going to. Second, learn the craft: don't be too proud or too stubborn to learn basic rules of grammar and punctuation. (I was stubborn, but college freshpersons sent me to the grammar books so often that I finally learned.)
What is the best "life" advice you've ever received?
Something that is very simple in theory and very difficult in practice, what with all the everyday distractions from things that at the time seem so critically urgent. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." It's hard to keep that perspective.
What rating would you give your books (G, PG, etc.)
All in all, I think I'd rate them G. But that doesn't mean that they're bland. They confront problems of good and evil head-on and without pulling any punches. They have references to sexual evils, but I never ask the reader to enjoy anything vicariously that he shouldn't. They have portrayals of violence, but I don’t ask the reader to enjoy the bloody details. They are designed mainly to entertain (which should be the purpose of commercial fiction), but they also have solid backgrounds of theology and philosophy.
About Deadly Additive:
To soldier-of-fortune Jeb Sledge it seems like a simple job: Rescue an heiress and her journalist friend Kristin Halvorsen from their kidnapping by Colombian guerrillas and collect a sizable paycheck. But Kristin has other plans. After stumbling onto a mass of dead bodies, she won’t leave Colombia without the proof she needs for the story of a lifetime. While she and Jeb wrangle over her obstinacy, they discover a hidden factory where the guerrillas build a new and deadly type chemical weapon for the international black market. Their discovery triggers a raid on the factory, followed by a desperate search through the Caribbean and the U.S. to prevent a catastrophic attack by weapons the factory has produced. But who is behind that attack, and what are the planned targets? Finding out brings Jeb and Kristin again into peril for their lives. But more than that, it launches them on an unexpected spiritual odyssey.
Go to Deadly Additive on Amazon
About Donn Taylor:
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. His mystery novel Rhapsody in Red and his suspense novel The Lazarus File (spies and airplanes in the Caribbean) received excellent reviews. The poems he published in various journals are collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. He is a frequent speaker for writers' groups and has taught poetry writing at the Glorieta and Blue Ridge conferences. His current teaching crusade is to promote the writing of good-quality poetry that's accessible to ordinary readers. He and his wife live near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.
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