August 25, 2012


College professor William Donnan
loves mysterious archaeology

William Doonan is an archaeologist and professor of anthropology in Sacramento, CA. He has spent many years conducting excavations in Central and South America. He is also a veteran cruise ship lecturer, traveling the world and speaking on topics as diverse as the Trojan War, piracy in the Adriatic, and the peopling of the Americas.

          Doonan is also the author of three mystery novels. Grave Passage and Mediterranean Grave recount the adventures of an octogenarian detective who solves crimes on cruise ships. His new archaeological mystery American Caliphate was released by Dark Oak Mysteries in April 2012

          Doonan lives in Sacramento with his wife and two sons. He blogs about undead conquistador mummies at www.themumiesofblogspace9.com.



Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?

Let’s see - first I’d like to thank you for letting me visit with your readers.  I’m grateful for the opportunity.  My name is Bill Doonan, and I write mysteries.  I’m also an archaeologist and a college professor.  And I’m a father to two little boys, age 6 and 4, so I don’t get the opportunity to do much archaeology right now, but that’s OK, it gives me more time to write.

I live in Sacramento, California, where it is currently 230 degrees outside.  One of my tomato plants just caught on fire.

What are your hobbies?

This is kind of an interesting question.  When I tell people I write mystery novels, they ask me if that’s my job or my hobby.  And it’s not really my job because I already have a job, the aforementioned college professoring, and I don’t want two jobs.  But it’s not really a hobby either, because hobbies are delightful pastimes, and writing is often hard, agonizing, heart-wrenching, and tedious.  But most of the time it’s a blast.  So for me, writing is my hinterland, my own uncharted world. 

          As far as actual hobbies go, I’m learning to speak Irish.  I’ve been studying the language for about two and a half years, and I now speak it about as well as a four-month-old Irish baby.  But I won’t give up.  There are only about 72,000 native Irish speakers left, and if people stop speaking it, the language won’t be around for much longer.  And I can’t let that happen.

How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?

I do quite a bit of research for my books, so much sometimes, that it gets in the way of the actual writing.  My latest book American Caliphate is an archaeological mystery, and I based it on excavations I worked on in Peru.  So in a sense, the excavations themselves became my research.  Here’s a teaser for the book:

          Archaeologists Jila Wells and Ben Juarez are not thrilled at the prospect of returning to Peru; the ambush that nearly cost Jila her life still haunts her.  But the ruined pyramids at Santiago de Paz hide an important document that would shock the Islamic world.  Professor Sandy Beckham is assembling a distinguished team to dig quickly through the pyramid complex, following clues found in the diary of a wealthy Muslim woman who lived in Spain five centuries ago. 

          In the diary are details of an illegal expedition to Spanish Peru in three well-armed ships.  Convinced that Spain was forever lost to Islam, Diego Ibanez intended to bring the word of Allah to the pagan Americans.  Landing on Peru’s north coast, he learned that the fires of the Inquisition burned even hotter there than they did in Spain.

          As the archaeologists brace for the ravaging storms of El Niño, Jila and Ben hurry to complete their excavations.  But they’re not the only ones interested in this project.  Other forces are determined that the document remain hidden.  Should it be discovered, a challenge could be made under Islamic testamentary law to the throne of Saudi Arabia.  And the House of Saud has no interest in sharing power with an American caliphate that might now awaken from a five hundred year slumber.

If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?

In addition to writing about archaeology, I write a mystery series about an octogenarian detective.  Henry Grave is a World War II POW who investigates crimes on cruise ships.  I spent a number of years lecturing on cruise ships, so I learned a lot about cruise ship culture.  And I decided to write a mystery that takes place on a cruise ship.  Grave Passage was the first book, followed by Mediterranean Grave.  And in August, Grave Indulgence will round out the trilogy. 

          I think of all my characters I’d most like to be Henry Grave.  He’s eighty-five years old, and I would really, really like to be eighty-five years old someday.  On the downside, he drinks too much.

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?

I’ll be happy to.  We’re less than a month from the release of Grave Indulgence.

Grave Indulgence explores crime on the high seas, and establishes a valiant and original protagonist.  Henry Grave is an investigator for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators.  A World War II P.O.W., Henry is as cunning as he is charming, and at 85 years of age, he fits right in with his fellow passengers.

At 1200 feet long, the cruise ship Indulgence is the largest in the world.  Accommodating 5400 passengers and 2100 crew members, she is nearly as populous as the Pacific island nation of Nauru.  At 226,000 tons, she weighs as much as four and a half Titanics. 

          Indulgence is anchored off Helsinki, Finland, preparing to take on passengers for her inaugural voyage when Henry comes aboard.  Indulgence is one day old, and nobody has yet been murdered on board.  The same could not be said about day two.

          With the help of an Arabian prince, a voodoo priest, and a displaced band of hunter-gatherers,  Henry draws on skills honed in a Nazi prison camp to track down a killer who might have his own reasons for taking this particular cruise, reasons unrelated to the sumptuous meals, delightful shipboard activities, and exciting ports of call.

When you have writer's block how do you break free?

I have about six or seven projects going at any time.  If I get stuck in one of them, I just move on to something else.  Usually when I get hung up, it will clear by the morning.  But if you don’t have those other stories and drafts going, you lose the whole day.

What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?

I do have a website: www.williamdoonan.com.  William Doonan on Facebook.  My email is doonan1@aol.com.  I blog weekly at www.themummiesofblogspace9.com, and twice a month at http://novelspaces.blogspot.com.  

What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?

When I was in tenth grade, we had a guy come to class to talk about acting.  One of my fellow students asked him what advice he would give to an aspiring actor, and the guy answered, “I’d tell him to give it up.  Do something else.”  He went on to say that the profession was too brutal, it would chew you up.  And if you were the kind of person who would give it up just because someone told you to, you’d never make it. 

I think writing is like that.  It’s too hard.  Don’t do it.  But if you shrug your shoulders and start writing anyway, you might have a shot.

I can’t think of any truly bad advice I’ve received.  I’ve been lucky in that regard.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?

I’ve been in some great critique groups and some rotten ones.  When they’re bad, they’re nothing but misery - you give a little constructive criticism and you’ve made an enemy for life.  But when they’re good, they’re indispensible.  I’ve been with the same group now for years - fearless guys who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth.  If you write a bunch of crap, you’ll hear about it.  That’s what you need, otherwise it’s just kindness and refreshments, and that won’t make you a better writer.

Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?

I couldn’t live without deadlines.  It’s far too easy for me to just turn on the TV or grab a book, and next thing I know, it’s midnight.  So I have to give myself firm deadlines.  When I’m working on a first draft, I write 5,000 words per week.  And if I fall behind, I feel great anxiety.  So I try not to fall behind.  Also, one of my resolutions for this year was to publish ten short stories.  I knew it was going to be a stretch, but I’m at six now, and it’s only July, so I still have hope. 



Nothing decays on the north coast, not even faith.

Archaeologists Jila Wells and Ben Juarez are not thrilled at the prospect of returning to Peru; the ambush that nearly cost Jila her life still haunts her. But the ruined pyramids at Santiago de Paz hide an important document that would shock the Islamic world. Professor Sandy Beckham is assembling a distinguished team to dig quickly through the pyramid complex, following clues found in the diary of a wealthy Muslim woman who lived in Spain nearly five centuries ago.

In the diary are details of an illegal expedition to Spanish Peru in three well-armed ships. Convinced that Spain was forever lost to Islam, Diego Ibanez intended to bring the word of Allah to the pagan Americans. Landing on Peru’s north coast, he learned that the fires of the Inquisition burned even hotter there than they did in Spain.

As the archaeologists brace for the ravaging storms of El Niño, Jila and Ben hurry to complete their excavations. But they’re not the only ones interested in this project. Other forces are determined that the document remain hidden. Should it be discovered, a challenge could be made under Islamic testamentary law to the throne of Saudi Arabia. And the House of Saud has no interest in sharing power with an American caliphate that might now awaken from a five hundred year slumber.

Buy

7 comments:

Patricia Gligor said...

William,
I love your advice about writing and I totally agree.
I was recently asked the same question and my reply was: "IF writing is your passion and IF being published is your dream, never, ever give up!

john M. Daniel said...

A pleasure spending time with you, Bill. As always.

William Doonan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Patricia & John. Today I'm getting started on my next project - 'Aleutian Grave.'

jrlindermuth said...

Great interview with some sound advice, Bill. Looking forward to reading the new Henry Graves. Admirable character.

Cora said...

Loved your advice to a want-to-be writer: to give up but if you have to write anyway, you just might make it.

I think your habit of keeping several writing projects going at all times is a good idea. Thanks.

William Doonan said...

Thanks, guys! The only way I stay sane is by having multiple projects - otherwise, a hangup can become devastating.

Eileen Obser said...

Good ideas and advice for all writers. Thanks a lot!