by Molly Noble Bull
Today I am interviewing Donn Taylor, my good friend who lives a few miles north of Houston, Texas. Donn and I are members of a national organization titled American Christian Fiction Writers. Welcome to Books That Inspire, Donn.
Donn: Glad to be here, Molly.
Molly: You've just published a mystery called Rhapsody in Red. What is it about?
D: Here's a description from the back cover: "That second Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a bad day to find a corpse on campus." Preston Barclay is a self-made recluse, and he likes it that way. Teaching college history allows him time to grieve the loss of his pianist wife and battle the musical hallucinations that have been playing in his head since her death.
When he and a headstrong colleague, Mara Thorn, discover the murdered body of another instructor, Press's solitude is destroyed, and preliminary evidence seems to implicate them. They form an unlikely alliance to stay ahead of the police, the college administration, and whoever committed the murder. If they don't stay ahead, they could wind up unemployed, behind bars, or worse…. There's also a sample chapter posted on my Web site, www.donntaylor.com.
M: Why did you write this particular novel?
D: I know the environment of the academic world from teaching in it for twenty years. I also know its foibles, so it seemed like a good setting for a light-hearted mystery and a good way to have fun while writing it. It also touches a few significant issues.
M: What purpose does the novel serve for your readers? Entertainment only? Persuasion? What?
D: Primarily entertainment—ill-matched characters forced into a partnership that's often comical. But they and their college do grapple with serious issues most small denominational colleges face: academic standards vs. commercialism, education vs. indoctrination, and Christian heritage vs. secularism. But readers genuinely interested in those issues should begin by visiting the Web site of the National Association of Scholars: www.nas.org.
M: Before being a professor, you were a career Army officer in two wars. How do you convert experiences from those two careers into fiction?
D: I never convert anything directly. No person I've ever known appears in my novels. But my fictional characters share the personal orientations and value systems of people I've known, usually in combination. In my suspense novel The Lazarus File, my aviation experience informs the flight scenes, but none of the flights are copied directly from my experience. They'd better not be: some of them are drug-smuggling flights.
M: You've published poetry as well as fiction. Is it easy to switch back and forth between them?
D: Yes and no. Yes, my poetry book Dust and Diamond appeared this year. No, it's not easy to switch between poetry and fiction because the thought processes are too different. If I'm writing poetry, I take several entire mornings in a row and try to come up with one or two tightly organized poems on significant subjects. In a fiction-writing session I just let it flow and tighten it up later through editing.
M: You entered college as a music major. Does that have any influence on your writing?
D: On my writing and everything else. Music runs constantly in my head. When I write a scene, I'm hearing music appropriate to it, like the music score for a movie. That's where I got the idea for Preston Barclay's musical hallucinations: they give him a dual consciousness, and his life is like living in one movie mismatched with the music score from another. Working with the idea was good fun.
M: It sounds like fun. Where can people buy your books?
D: Rhapsody in Red will be stocked in bookstores. On line, the best start for it and Dust and Diamond is my Web site, www.donntaylor.com, which provides excerpts from each book and links to various sellers.
M: It was great having you, Donn, and I hope you will come back real soon.
D: Thank you for the opportunity.