From a snowstorm

BY NICK FETTY | MARCH 6, 2009 7:22 AM

When Erica Quinn left her widowed mother, Margaret, to join the Angels of Destruction, it looked as though Margaret would be alone for the rest of her life. In a bizarre turn of events, a young orphan girl ends up at Margaret’s door. This is the premise of Angels of Destruction, Keith Donohue’s most recent work.

This evening, he will be at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., reading from and answering questions about the book. The reading is free and begins at 7.

While weather inspires most people only to change their wardrobes, a snowstorm drove Donohue to write Angels of Destruction.

“I had a picture of a snowstorm in my mind,” he said. “And a girl lost in the snow with a figure approaching from the horizon.”

He discovered a love for writing when he was in seventh grade. His teacher made students keep journals, and because Donohue didn’t have much to say about himself, he made things up. The teacher recognized his talent and encouraged him to continue writing.

After earning a doctorate in English at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., Donohue went on to write articles for the Washington Post and the New York Times. He is at present the director of communications for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the U.S. National Archives, in Washington.

Donohue is a well-rounded author who prefers fiction over other genres. He likes the freedom creative writing provides and appreciates that a novel is much more of a time commitment than an article or speech.

Amazon bought the rights to the movie adaptation of Donohue’s first novel, The Stolen Child. The book, published in 2006, chronicles character Henry Day and the effect being kidnapped at age 7 had on his life.

Donohue, who read from The Stolen Child in his last Prairie Lights appearance, recognizes Iowa City’s “great reputation” as a literary hot spot. Prairie Lights employee Tim Budd said the novel sold quite well at the bookstore because of word of mouth.

“I’m attracted to [Donohue] because he didn’t go to school for writing; he was never a member of any kind of writing collaborative,” Budd said. “This was really a guy who had a day job and then wrote a novel at night.”

Budd said he is looking forward to Donohue’s reading and is excited about asking the author questions.

One of Donohue’s most memorable moments as a writer came at a book signing in California. A man who recently lost his mother approached Donohue and mentioned that because preparation for the funeral took a lot of effort, there wasn’t much time left to grieve.

A scene in The Stolen Child depicts a boy saying goodbye to his mother, and Donohue said the man was moved to tears by the scene.

“I just thought, ‘This is what it’s all about,’ ” he said. “If you can reach people and touch people emotionally as well as intellectually, you can’t ask for more than that.”

That moment stands out in his mind, though he’s generally pleased to interact with his fans.

“One of the great things about doing readings and things like that is when you get to meet people who’ve read the book,” Donohue said. “And they tell you what the story meant to them.”

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