Happy Friday CAN Members!
Catherine Finger here with the great privilege of interviewing CAN Member Donn Taylor. Donn is a prayer warrior and serves our CAN members through his tireless prayers and encouragement. His faithful organization of the weekly online CAN prayer group blesses us all. When he’s not praying, Donn can be found inspiring others in person and via his daily Facebook posts. His wisdom, warmth and good humor is revealed in a new way today.
Thank you for joining us today, Donn! And thank you for your tireless service of prayer over the members of CAN and encouragement. We are looking forward to learning a little more about you. Let’s start with what drives you, Donn. What are your personal passions?
Donn: First is a vision of Western Civilization as one aspect of God’s calling his people out of the popular culture of their day. (That process began as far back as Abraham, but let’s begin with the early Christian church.) The world of Christ’s time was incredibly cruel, even savage. Through Christianity, the West (primarily Europe) gradually emerged from that savagery into what we now think of as civilization, though the process is far from complete. But as of today, only Christendom has that quality, while the rest of the world remains as savage and cruel as it was in the time of Christ. Only Christendom has the answer. The great exceptions within Christendom were Communism and National Socialism, both of which were specifically anti-Christian. In short, Christianity is the civilizing force that has made this progress possible.
Second is a vision that one becomes an educated person by asking three questions. The seeker’s first question is, “Who am I?” The obvious answer is that he is a member of mankind, and that leads to the psalmist’s question, “What is man?” Seeking an answer leads us to considering “the best that has been thought or said” in all ages. (Matthew Arnold’s words.) The third question is, “What kind of world do we live in?” That is where the sciences come in. Today there is an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). My point is that STEM cannot address the first two questions, and the answers to those questions define what STEM is about.
These thematic elements keep showing up one way or another in my novels and poetry.
Thanks, Donn. Talk about deep calling unto deep! You’re reminding me of C.S. Lewis, or Watchman Nee. Outside of your daily prayer and reflection, how do you spend your time? What activities do you engage in giving you a more rounded life?
At age 89 I’m not as “rounded” as I was in past years. Today I’m just doing church and what I can do electronically. I got on Facebook to sell my books, but I’ve ended up doing more counseling and praying than anything else. In past years I served as deacon in several churches, mentored students at the colleges where I taught and a few writers since then, coached a basketball team of 12-year-olds. I participated in church-league basketball and in 10K runs until at age 64 the wheels came off. I still maintain membership in the National Association of Scholars and the Military Officers’ Association of America.
Bless you for that, Brother! I appreciate your passion for prayer, coaching, and service to others. How do you use this experience in your writing?
Tennyson’s Ulysses said, “I am a part of all that I have met,” but in my case it’s more like all I have met is a part of me. And there’s no telling which part will show up at any particular time. My first career was Army, the second as professor at two liberal arts colleges, and only after those did I take up creative writing professionally. My suspense novels reflected my Army experience, my mysteries set on college campuses reflect my teaching days, and my and Mildred’s lives as Christians governed my historical novel. The two passions mentioned above keep appearing in different parts of these and in my poetry.
I’d love to hear about a time when things didn’t turn out as you’d planned. Got a story for us?
Things often don’t turn out the way I planned. I began with two dead-serious intentions: To write suspense fiction reflecting real-world problems as I knew them and to write poetry I wouldn’t be ashamed to see in a collection of American poetry. I think I achieved a little bit of both, but the unexpected happened. Some of my better poetry is comic, and comic passages kept popping up in my serious fiction. People like to laugh, so in my recent work I’ve emphasized the comic elements while maintaining the serious subjects in the background. (My Professor Preston Barclay can’t resist making a pun or smart remark even if it costs him his job.)
I look forward to reading your work. I love a little humor thrown in at every opportunity. Speaking of humor, do you have a funny story relating to your writing or an event you’d like to share with us?
In my first year to teach poetry writing at the Blue Ridge Conference I wanted to prove that serious poetry could be successfully presented to a general audience. So I volunteered to read a poem on the faculty talent show. But the fellow before me on the program had the audience in stitches with comedy of the absurd. So how was I going to get the audience from that to a serious poem? On the spur of the moment I began telling jokes about my age. (“There is no truth to the rumor that I was a critique partner for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address . . . It was actually the Declaration of Independence.”) That let me step things down to reading a serious poem. But it also branded me, and I’ve had to keep doing it ever since.
Ha! I’d love to hear about your source materials for those must-have humorous openers someday! What’s one of your fascinating facts that cropped up while doing research for a book?
For the drug-smuggling flights in “The Lazarus File,” I needed to learn all I could about the Douglas DC-3 aircraft. (I had never flown one.) I remembered that James Stewart flew one in a movie and looked out of the pilot’s window to be sure the landing gear was down. When I located an actual DC-3 and sat in the plot’s seat, I found that the pilot could not see the landing gear. Moral: Never base your research on anything you see in a movie.
Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your world, Donn! And thank you for your commitment to praying for and serving others.
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. Afterward, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include several suspense and mystery novels, one historical novel, and one book of poetry. Two of his novels have been finalists in the Selah Awards. He lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.
Two of Donn’s books were finalists for the Selah Awards and you can enjoy his daily Facebook interactions here: www.facebook.com/donntaylor His marriage to Mildred lasted 61 years, seven months, and four days until the Lord promoted her. For a great holiday romance, check out their love story on line at https://tinyurl.com/te4k8kn