Local Author Shares Insights into Novel Writing with Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY SUE HAMMOND
Creative inspiration, writer’s block, and the art of novel writing were topics addressed in an interesting program offered by Donald Douglas Dowling during the Feb. 11 Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville meeting at The Parkview in Westfield. Dowling, who is a Westfield resident and retired teacher, is a published author. He is also an honorary member and past president (2005-2006) of the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club.
Current Club President John Hamels, Ph.D. welcomed Dowling and his spouse Audrey Kay Dowling, a professional artist, to the session. The Dowlings are owners of the Portage Hill Art Gallery in Westfield. In 2017, Donald Dowling published his first book The Gold of Vanishing Creek: A Western Novel (ISBN-13: 9781542431477; ISBN-10: 1542431476). He is now working on his second novel.
The format of Dowling’s program consisted of answering written questions provided by those present at the meeting. A lifelong reader and writer, he said, “I’ve always been a story teller. My story lines come from life experiences and a lot of historical research. In particular, the westward expansion is a topic in which I have been very interested.”
He continued, “Ideas for my first novel came from three experiences I had. Once, when I was a kid, I was exploring a cave, got stuck in a tube, and touched a pool of water. I thought there could be buried treasure there! During another time, I was a camping at a state park in New Mexico. I saw a beautiful scene of plants around a lovely pool of water. Being in the desert, the pool became a small stream, and then it disappeared into the sand. That was the inspiration for the vanishing creek in my first novel. The third experience was when a bear once chased me. Bears are really fast!”
Dowling has lived in and traveled through the West. He said, “During the summer between by sixth and seventh grade years, my parents moved our family from Massachusetts to San Francisco. In my teen years, I hitchhiked through various places. Later I rode my motorcycle or drove my ’57 VW Bug (Beetle) throughout the West. I enjoyed stopping at small town diners, and talking with old geezers. These guys told the most fantastic stories about when they were young. The conversations that I had with them helped to form some of my novel’s characters and story lines.”
Another inspiration for Dowling’s writing includes his love of the Western genre and authors, such as Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Zane Grey, Alfred Bertram Guthrie Jr. and Louis L’amour. About L’amour’s literary works, Dowling said, “I love his sense of place. His books are some of the best historically researched novels I have ever seen. As you may guess, Western novels have to have fistfights and gun battles. It is important to accurately describe the firearms of the time period. I spend a lot of time doing research to be certain that my writing is historically accurate.”
When asked how one overcomes writer’s block, Dowling replied, “You write! At times when you get mentally constipated, just start with putting your thoughts down and doing some writing. When I taught English to junior high students, I used to help them conquer the power of the white paper. In order to convert creative thought into concrete words, it is important to know the purpose of your writing, such as for information, entertainment, persuasion, etc.”
Dowling credits his lifelong love of reading as the inspiration for his writing. He said, “I often thought that I could do as good a job as some other authors. That’s what spurred me to write my first novel.” Also, he gave credit to his spouse and two sons for allowing him the critical time and space to work on his literary pieces. When asked how often he writes, Dowling answered, “On a good day it may take me six hours to write six, good pages. I write in spurts. Also, I spend time checking my facts.”
He noted that he does not conceive of the ending of the novel before he begins drafting it. “But I do know the end when it happens,” he said. Dowling has sold about 1,000 copies of his first novel The Gold of Vanishing Creek. Copies of this novel, which may be signed and autographed, are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Portage Hill Art Gallery at 716-326-4478. The book is available for $10 plus NYS tax, or for $12.95 plus shipping on Amazon.com.
Dowling hinted at his second novel, which he hopes to finish by mid to late summer. He said, “In it will be two main themes. The first is about the gold rush, and fortunes being made and lost. The second is about mail order brides. One of the characters is a gold miner who asks a couple from back east to join him, and to bring a suitable woman with them as a bride for him. All three of them do not make it out west.” To find out what happens, be sure to pick up a copy of Dowling’s second book when it is available.