First, let me introduce Donn Taylor…
I can’t remember the year, but I’ll never forget the sight. I was at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, walking through the lobby, when I saw Donn and Mildred Taylor for the first time. They walked toward me, holding hands like high school sweethearts. It didn’t take long to realize that I would rarely see them when they weren’t holding hands!. Once I even walked into my classroom to discover Donn at the piano, Mildred listening intently in a chair, eyes closed. They were both enjoying the music and each other. It was beautiful.
I wondered if Gary and I would still be holding hands when we’ve been married that long. So far we are!
So today I’m thrilled to Donn Taylor to you today. You’ll learn about his writing and achievements as you read his interview, but I want to go on record as saying Donn Taylor is truly a gentleman and a scholar. He’s also a mentor, an encourager, and he loves his Mildred and his Lord.
Be sure to leave a comment for Donn and you’ll be in the drawing for next week’s give-away of his book. Now, let’s get started!
Welcome to The Christian Writer’s Den, Donn. Would you first tell us something about your writing journey?
Thanks for having me! My writing journey followed more twists and turns than a snake on a mountain railroad. In my college years I wrote some fairly good poems and considered a Western novel titled Lightning on a Quiet Night. The Korean War killed that project before it got past the precipitating incident. So the next two decades of Army brought only bare-facts tech writing, and after that came graduate school and the painful switch to bloviated academic writingâ€”and in both situations no time for creative writing. Two decades after grad school I retired from college teaching (English lit) and decided to see if I could write the kind of poetry I enjoyed teaching. That point proved, I returned to the old ambition of publishing a novel. It took longer than I expected to convert from literary thinking to commercial-fiction thinking. That first novelâ€”The Lazarus Fileâ€”took a couple of years to finish. It was published in 2002, and it’s still selling as an e-book.
Did you ever return to the Western you thought of in college?
Yes and no. After Lazarus, I learned there was a Christian market. So I resurrected the title Lightning on a Quiet Night and its precipitating incident. But I set this novel in Northeast Mississippi soon after WW II. The focus changed to examine a small town too proud of its virtues having to come to grips with its first murder. That theme alone could get pretty dull, but it mostly hovers in the background while the story follows a romance, the sheriff’s search for the murderer, and teenagers playing various pranks. In the process, though, the novel covers a fairly wide variety of Christian experience. Begun earlier, it’s just now published. Thanks to Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas for accepting a novel that combines several genres.
Describe some of the techniques that make your writing distinctive. How did you learn them?
I learned capsulization the hard way. I wasted a whole day writing a painstaking description of an upper-class Colombian home. The next day I captured it in one sentence: “The Rocas received Mark in a room whose graceful dĂ©cor spoke equally of solemn tradition and spontaneous laughter.” Since then I try to find the capsule first. From Shakespeare I learned to take the reader quickly from comedy into pathos. From Robert Heinlein and classic movies I learned to lighten suspense with momentary comic elements. Heinlein mentioned, in passing, a zoologist named Tiergarten (German for zoo); in my WIP I mention an oncologist named J. Carson Oma. And some of my minor characters speak in clichĂ©s but never get them right: “The grass is greener when you are not straddling the fence.” Well, that’s what I try to do. I guess the readers receive it okay because they haven’t yet thrown tomatoes.
I love the combination of pathos and comedy. I’m working hard on that in my current WIP. You’re writing for the Christian market, so you need to stay connected with God. How do you do that?
Honestly, I don’t always make it. Mildred, my wife, taught me to set aside a time for prayer and reading scripture, usually before starting any serious work. But off and on during the day I do quick prayers, often for people with problems, and I always conclude with prayer at night. Joanne Hillman’s Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear the Shepherd’s Voice added a new dimension to my prayer life.
Besides your day of salvation, what is the happiest day in your life?
No contest on that. It was the day Mildred and I married (August 21, 1952). We never wanted anything more on this earth than just to be together. John Milton says it best: “The world was all before them, where to choose/ Their place of rest, and Providence their guide . . .”
You always speak of Mildred with such love and respect. A great tip for all of us. So what is the best tip you can give someone just beginning to write fiction?
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 to learn basic rules of grammar and punctuation. (I was stubborn, but students sent me to the grammar books so often that I finally learned.)
Thank you, Donn! I know I’m not the only one who enjoyed your insight and stories. And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment, then check back next week to see if you’re the winner!
Thanks for Tweeting!
Bio: 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 and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He has published four novels and a book of poetry, and is a frequent speaker at writersâ€™ conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics. You can find Donn on the Web: www.donntaylor.com (includes contact info) www.facebook.com/donntaylor; www.facebook.com/authordonntaylor; www.twitter.com/donntaylor3.
And now let’s celebrate with these Christian Writer’s Den friends!
Congratulations are in order for some of our writers and speakers.
1.Â Cherrilyn Bisbano (RI): Cheryl has two great things to share! First of all, she started a new blogÂ January 1, 2015. Check out her Pelican Promise blog at http://pelicanpromise.blogspot.comÂ Also, Cherrilynn gives God the glory for three upcoming speaking engagements. She’ll be at: Cape Cod March 27-28 and at Singing Hills Campground April 24-26 & November 12-15.
2.Â Tammy Blackburn (NC): Tammy has a new children’s book. How Do I Know? is a picture book and is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Tammy at her website, www.TammyBlackburn.com.
Congratulations, Cherrilynn, Tammy, and Chinonso! And if you didn’t have a new success to share, be sure to come back next week when I’ll have a new collection of writing opportunities and contests for you!