Meet Author Donn Taylor
Author Donn Taylor 2015
1. What is the reason you write books?
For whatever reason, I'm just driven to do it. Yes, I would like readers to find a message in my books, and I'd like them to read with pleasure. But if those considerations were inoperative, I would still have to write. It seems to be part of my DNA. Some of my poetry has never come out of my study, but it has served its purpose because I got the words onto the paper.
2. Is there a vision or hope you have when people read your novels?
To be honest, I'm kind of hard-nosed on this. If a reader wants a message with proofs, he should read scholarly nonfiction. Fiction proves nothing. Beyond entertaining, it can only illustrate or inspire. But in my novels I invite readers to see the world as I see it, a continuing conflict of good and evil in which the individual strives for the good, makes mistakes, fails, and keeps on striving, redeemed in the end not by his own efforts but by God's grace. I find that an inspiring vision. There is always hope, but the ultimate hope lies beyond this world.
3. Where were the concept, characters and plot for Lightning on a Quiet Night birthed?
Odd that setting came first. My parents moved to Northeast Mississippi when I was seventeen, and I quickly came to appreciate the region's forested hills and its small, fertile valleys. I also appreciated the people—the small-town storekeepers, bankers, and farmers. I began with the idea of bringing in an outsider who has to learn what makes the local people tick. A romance seemed the natural way to develop that kind of dialogue. I'd like to say the Lord took over then, but that would be presumptuous. What I'm sure of is that, as I wrote, the story deepened and broadened to become something I hadn't imagined when I began: It became more than a small town trying to justify itself. It became a town of nice people grappling with the problem of pride in a world that remains fallen in spite of all that humans can do.
4. Are there some life experiences which influence your writing?
Yes. On a surface level, my Army experience governed the flight scenes in The Lazarus File and the ground combat scenes in that novel and Deadly Additive. My years as a professor are reflected, remotely, in the campus environment of Rhapsody in Red. (But I would never represent any place or person directly in fiction because that isn't playing fair.) At a deeper level, I write about the kind of people I admire, people who persevere for the greater good when the deck is stacked against them and (as in Lazarus) even when they are betrayed by their own government. And through all of this, the Christian worldview dominates because, ultimately, I've found that it's the only one that answers the basic questions about life.
5. Congratulations on being married for 61 years! Can you share some words of wisdom that may help others reach this outstanding moment?
Yes, Mildred and I made it through 61 years, seven months, and four days of marriage before the Lord called her home. (She fought an eight year battle with ovarian cancer.) The words of wisdom came from my parents. Mildred and I thought they made sense, so we adopted them as our practice. Regarding the inevitable disagreements, we agreed never to speak to each other in emotion, but to wait till the emotion subsided and talk out the disagreement in rational discussion. We never quarreled, both through the practice of that rule and because neither one of us could stand to hurt the other.
6. Do you have children or grandchildren? Share anything about them you like.
Four children, eight grandchildren. We have it all covered with the children and their spouses: We have an engineer to build it, a CPA to cost it, an Air force officer to defend it, three lawyers for the legal implications, and a liberal arts major to say what it means.
7. First, thank you for your service to this nation. Second, care to share what you did in the service and what you drew from those experiences?
I led an Infantry rifle platoon in the last months of the Korean War. Later, I completed Army flight training and instructed in tactical flying at The Army Aviation School. My most pleasurable assignment was command of an Army aviation company in Europe. In Vietnam I worked with air reconnaissance and continued with that in Europe afterward. All of this was unspectacular but satisfying. The most important thing I drew from these experiences was that "The commander is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen in his command." That is the rule I have adopted for my own life. I am responsible, regardless of the circumstances. Needless to say, I'm often disappointed with myself.
8. For me this is the second novel of yours I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. I also saw a strong message in Lightning on a Quiet Night, what is the overall message you're putting forth for readers to examine or consider?
It is best summarized in the novel's two headnotes. From Ezekiel 33:12: "The righteousness of the righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression." No amount of prior virtuous conduct can justify us when we sin. (Only Christ's sacrifice can do that.) And from Shakespeare: "'Tis mad idolatry/ To make the service greater than the god." Although doing virtuous deeds is good, we can concentrate on those to the point that they become more important to us than the God who created virtue.
9. Are you working on another project or something else?
I've completed a sequel to Rhapsody in Red and begun a sequel to the sequel. There are a few other concepts bouncing around in my head like loose screws, but it's too early to try describing them.
Do you have any hobbies or favorite things to do?
In my younger years I loved competitive basketball and distance running. Later, Mildred and I enjoyed traveling, particularly in mountains. In recent years we settled for classic movies, though now I'm reduced mostly to reading. Studying Cold War history has been a favorite.
Your novels aren’t just from one genre which I like and thought interesting. Is there a particular way you brainstorm story ideas? Does your wife assist in anyway?
Regarding the three different genres, I just wrote what I felt compelled to write. Yes, Mildred and I talked extensively during the writing of my published novels. Actually, she came up with some of "my" best lines, particularly in Lazarus. She did much of the research behind Lightning. In absence, she still guides me, as I will not write anything that she would find offensive. (That doesn't mean I won't tackle tough subjects. It just means that I'll always be on The Side of the Angels.)
Do you have a message on your heart to share with people?
We live in a fallen world in which human perfection is not possible. Most of the world remains in the savagery that was world-wide in the time of Christ. But Christ said, "My Father is working until now, and I myself am working" (John 5:17). Through Their work, Christendom (and Christendom alone) has slowly, very slowly, risen above that state of savagery to the condition we now call civilized. This Christian civilization is always under attack from without and within. It is our duty as Christian warriors to engage in that constant spiritual warfare. As individuals, we may lose many of our tactical skirmishes. But through all of this we know without doubt Who wins the final battle. This gives us joy even in our darkest personal hours.