Donna Gormly

Donna Gormly

After teaching English and creative writing at Eastfield College for almost three decades, Donna Gormly wanted to write a novel based on community college in the 1970s. But this other story — one about religion, politics and social dynamics in a rural Missouri town — was living inside her. So she penned her first novel, “The Tysen Hotel,” about a woman who challenges a small town’s influential Baptist preacher in an effort to protect her loved ones. The characters, who she says “sat on her shoulders as she wrote,” are largely based on people Gormly grew up around, though she has changed the names. Her father was a “fire and brimstone” Baptist preacher. Changing the names was tough, she says, because “they had such fabulous names in real life.” But she captures the nomenclatural essence with fictional characters such as Sample Forney and Ray Redeem. The plot — which capably carries themes of love, power, lust, abandonment and resilience tempered with a rich sense of humor — is full of fiction. The frightening and unflinching Baptist preacher, she insists, is not necessarily her father. But most of the strange little anecdotes in the novel are real. “Those parts that seem too crazy to be true, such as the story about a fast-moving three-legged dog, and about the character known around town for having an enormous sexual organ, are the true parts,” she says. Gormly has been in discussions about selling a screenplay version of “The Tysen Hotel.” Meanwhile, the 79-year-old, who lives in Lake Highlands with her husband, Paul, plans to begin work on a second project — the one about college.

Order “The Tysen Hotel” via amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or donnagormly.net.

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