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Author Archive: "Keith Donohue"

A Game of Clue

I used to love playing a game of Clue on a summer's night, listening to the crickets or the sound of waves rolling along the shoreline. The game had a simple premise: There were a few suspects (Professor Plum, Mrs. White and the rest), a few weapons (the lead pipe, the rope, the revolver, and so on), and a few rooms (the Conservatory, the Kitchen, the Library). And the players went through a process of deduction in order to be the first one to guess the right murder suspect, weapon, and location.

In his short story "A Game of Clue," (collected in The Barnum Museum) Steven Millhauser imagines Colonel Mustard seducing Miss Scarlett, among other things. I had Millhauser at the back of my mind when I came up with the ludic spirit and suspects and murder weapons in Centuries of June. After I first read Millhauser's wonderful novel Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, ...


June Brides

June, June, June. June is busting out all over. June, the month of roses. The traditional month of weddings and June brides.

An appropriate time, I'd say, for a story about a man with many brides, wives, exes, women scorned, and the rest. My friend Amy Stolls thought so, too, and she writes a hilarious and touching story of The Ninth Wife in her new novel available right now. It's about a woman who is dating a man who has had eight wives, and she's been asked to be the ninth. Along the way, she's got lots to say about love and friendship and growing older. Go get it. Or better yet, order it from Powell's.

Amy and I met at the National Endowment for the Arts many moons ago. She was a newly hired specialist in the Literature Program, and I knew her first through our mutual friend, Cliff Becker. And though he passed away a few years ago much ...


Where Does It Come From?

"Where do you get the ideas for your books?"

Nearly every reading or talk I give I hear that question, usually from someone with lots of ideas or someone searching for one. At the heart of the question beats the mystery of the creative process. Where does it come from? How do you get an idea for a story?

The most immediate answer is that I daydream a lot. Let the mind wander where it will. No great skill involved but an openness to the wandering. Give yourself permission to imagine. After awhile, sometimes a great while, sometimes years, the wandering mind seizes upon an image that persists, an image that you cannot let go, an image that sticks.

In her book What It Is, Lynda Barry calls an image "the formless thing which gives things form," and she has a great deal to say about how memory and daydream help us conjure up those images. If you want to write, you should get your hands on What It Is. ...


Can This Novel Make You Happy?

It's publication day for my new novel, Centuries of June, and I encourage you to buy a copy for the man in your life. Not only does this novel feature a mystery with eight naked women in his bed, but literary fiction is just plain good for men.

Don't take my word for it. Science says that a man who enjoys the arts is more likely to enjoy life and be in better health than those men who do not. A team of scientists in Norway surveyed more than 50,000 Norwegians over several years, and the results of their study were just published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: "[P]articipation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores." Men who attend cultural events are 14 percent more likely to be satisfied with life. Strangely, the impact is not as great among women, but that's probably because so many women already read novels.

Art is good for you, it turns out. It follows that reading must be ...


Summertime

First of all, on this Memorial Day, sincere thanks to the young men and women and their families who serve and sacrifice on our behalf. We remember.

Memorial Day also marks the beginning of summertime. The days grow longer, the weather warm (or hot and muggy here), and thoughts turn to relaxing by the pool or on the shore. And for many of us that means a book in hand to while away a sunny afternoon, a book to rest in our laps while we close our eyes for just a moment.

Summertime reading differs from books enjoyed at other times of the year. We have let down our guard, put on those ridiculous shorts and sandals, and made another mint julep. We are a little less serious, and so are our books. Potboilers while broiling on the sand, maybe a mystery or two, and, for the children, the latest Harry Potter (what do you mean, there aren't any more?).

For ...


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