Today I'm intruducing you to Donn Taylor, another Texas author. I loved his writing when I read The Lazarus File that was published several year ago. Now he has a new release, Rhapsody in Red. I'm in the middle of reading this book right now and enjoying it.
I haven't spent much time thinking about this. I suppose I write about characters I respond to, whether positively or negatively, and about situations that concern me. In The Lazarus File, my protagonists are people who keep their promises in spite of difficulties. The situation that concerned me for that novel, set in the 1970s, was the interface of Colombian drug cartels, native terrorist organizations, and Soviet expansionism. For Rhapsody in Red, the protagonists are professors devoted to truth with a capital T in a college that is sliding toward relativism. (It's a lighthearted mystery, though, so I don't want us to get too serious.) With poetry, it's a matter of finding interesting expression for small kernels of concentrated truth. I also don't want to get too serious about the poetry because my objective is to write good-quality poetry that a broad popular audience can enjoy. Many poetic truths can be expressed in humor and satire.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
That's an easy question, Lena. It has to be the day I married Mildred, the most wonderful woman in the world. John Milton (unknowingly) described it perfectly when he wrote, "With thee conversing I forget all time," or better yet, our status on our marriage day:
The world was all before them where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
How has being published changed your life?
Life has certainly gotten busier, but its qualities and objectives remain the same. There is a great satisfaction in having landed my first national contract, and that with a publisher like Moody. (Lazarus was a small-press book.) But it also raises the problem of making the next book as good as the one before it. As for busy-ness, I have to find time for edits of both the mystery and a poetry book, and publicizing both, as well as writing the next book. Fortunately, I have an encouraging wife who helps me find the necessary work time.
None of us could make it as authors without understanding and encouraging spouses. What are you reading right now?
The Bible, of course. To keep up with the world, I read two weekly and two daily newspapers, including the on-line NY Times. I also read the Baptist Standard and the Roman Catholic journal First Things, along with posts on an electronic bulletin board run by the National Association of Scholars. I've just finished Mark Moyar's Triumph Forsaken, the most thoroughly documented history book I've ever read. (It will undoubtedly become the definitive history of the early years of the Vietnam War.) In fiction, I've been reacquainting myself with the brilliant Western writer Ernest Haycox and the British aviation-and-espionage writer Gavin Lyall. In CBA, I've just finished Dodson Brandt's White Soul and begun Lisa McKay's My Hands Came Away Red.
I read White Soul, and now my husband is reading it. What is your current work in progress?
I'm working on a sequel to Rhapsody in Red. Same protagonists, same setting, very different problem, but the same lighthearted tone. I'd probably better leave it at that, for the characters and situation keep asserting themselves in unforeseen ways.
Be sure and let me know when you have a publication date. What would be your dream vacation?
Two weeks anywhere with my wife, Mildred. Better yet, the two of us for two weeks in Heidelberg during Fasching (German Mardi Gras). We'd alternate between the magnificent Mannheim Opera and those lively Fasching parties with their excellent popular music.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
The overall Colombian/Caribbean setting for Lazarus was determined by the subject. Research recommended local settings, and a single photograph helped me build a specific fictitious setting in the Andean Cordillera Oriental. The process was quite different for Rhapsody. The problem there was to make the setting seem specific and authentic while making Overton University an any-college located anywhere. (It is definitely not modeled on any institution, but shares characteristics with many.) The setting is vaguely Midwestern and west of the Mississippi, but defined no further than that.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
It would be the economist and Hoover scholar Thomas Sowell because he is the most brilliant mind writing syndicated columns and well-researched books today. A close second would be Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things. He has wide-ranging interests and is a master of quiet irony.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Mildred and I enjoy walking the many woodland trails in our neighborhood. We also love classic movies—the ones made before Hollywood went sleazy in the mid-sixties.
I'm with you on the movies. What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Choosing a subject and shaping it into an appropriate plot. I don't always overcome. They all fight back, and some of them defeat me. When I do succeed, it's by thrashing away at airy nothing until something concrete and acceptable finally falls out.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Be patient: it's going to take two or three times as long as you think when you start out. Read, read, read, and learn the craft. And don't be too proud to learn basic rules of grammar and punctuation.
In the lighthearted mystery Rhapsody in Red, a history professor with musical hallucinations and a female Wiccan professor of comparative religion have to solve a campus murder before police can pin it on them. They are ostracized when they expose unsavory faculty relationships, and their lives are endangered when they find that organized crime operates a racket from the campus computer network. Before they're through, they both face life-changing spiritual decisions.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
The quick way is www.donntaylor.com, my Web site for Lazarus that will soon undergo major overhaul. Rhapsody in Red is listed by title only on Amazon for advance orders. If people type my name into Google, they'll turn up all kinds of things.
Thank you, Donn, for spending this time with us.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Rhapsody in Red. I think you'll like it. The book has a unique flavor. And if you can, get a copy of The Lazarus File. You can probably find out how on Donn's web site.