Local author combines travels, interests to launch writing career
Published April 1, 2013
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, Donald Frederickson was sitting on a crumbling wall, stopping to catch his breath after climbing up and down a steep temple stair, when he saw them.
A troupe of spider monkeys sat, feeding not 50 feet from him. Mesmerized, he watched and studied them, and described the experience later in a short story.
Frederickson, 69, has been drawing creative inspiration from his real-life travel experiences since he began writing three years ago. Since then, he has already published two fiction books and one forthcoming book of “epic Viking poetry” — and that doesn’t include roughly 30 short stories he hasn’t yet published.
“It’s a hobby that I spend lots of hours a day on because I enjoy it,” he said.
You might recognize Frederickson from metro Detroit art fairs, like Clinton Township’s Festival of the Senses, where he sells his books from vendor booths. He’s usually wearing the sort of leather brimmed hat one would expect an adventuring archeologist to wear.
About three years ago, Frederickson was sitting in his Clinton Township home when he decided to lay out the beginnings of a book, he said. Inspired by newspaper articles of Somali pirate hijackings, he laid out the outline for a fictional story. The outline became a chapter, which, in turn, became his first novel, “Dakharo Heist: To Steal a Pirate’s Treasure,” which tells the story of a professional thief hired to recover $150 million from an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates.
His books all are self-published through his company, Hiawatha Publishing, for which he also designs his own cover art.
For “Dakharo Heist,” he drew on the year-and-a-half he spent at a military communications station in the Semien Mountains in Africa while serving in the U.S. Army.
After the military, Frederickson backpacked through Europe in the 1960s. “I kind of got the bug for being able to put a pack on my back and go where I wanted to go,” he said.
He majored in anthropology, then economics, at the University of Wisconsin, and later earned master’s degree in industrial management from Central Michigan University.
He moved to Clinton Township in 1973 when he was hired by at what was then Ford Motor Company’s automotive paint plant on Groesbeck in Mount Clemens. He worked for Ford in quality assurance and statistics positions before moving on to work for DuPont. He retired nine years ago.
The living room of his Clinton Township house is adorned with Mayan replica statuettes, roughly 30 Mayan masks fill the walls of another room — some of which have actually been used in ethnic celebrations — and a collection of Mayan books fill the shelves of a wooden bookcase.
After raising his three children, Frederickson began traveling. At the age of 50, he took two Spanish courses at Macomb Community College and headed for Mexico.
Frederickson’s most recent work, a historical fiction novel called “Roar of the Jaguar: The Legacy of a Mayan Prince,” was inspired by his longtime passion for archaeology and anthropology, as well as his extensive trips to Mayan cities in Mexico and the rest of Central America.
Though “Roar of the Jaguar” takes a few creative liberties with history, he said, the book is based heavily on historical fact. The book tells of a modern-day archaeologist who is sent back in time by an ancient hallucinogenic drug to the Mayan civilization. There, he bears witness to the rise of Mayan King Shield Jaguar III, who was an actual person.
Frederickson become somewhat of a local expert on Mayan culture during the last few years, so much so that, on March 18, he gave a presentation on Mayan culture at the Clinton-Macomb Main Library in Clinton Township.
His girlfriend and editor, Cynthia Pugliese, said Frederickson’s books weave fact and fiction. “His characters are pretty believable — that’s the key,” she said.
Sitting down at his laptop, Frederickson said he starts with a general concept in mind and goes from there.
“What comes out on that piece of paper when I’m done with that chapter is totally and completely different than what I expected to come with when I started writing,” he added. “I’m very light — probably some people would say too light — on my descriptions. I leave a lot up to the reader. I’m very, very heavy on dialogue. I try to build by characterizations through dialogue.”
Pam Flanigan, the administrator for a writers group that meets weekly at the Shelby Township Library, said she has seen Frederickson’s writing improve during the last few years. Frederickson’s subject matter is typically dramatic and moves toward an action-adventure genre, she said.
Frederickson has been a regular attendee of the group’s weekly meet-ups, and usually writes well above the two-page, single-spaced writing assignments.
“He won’t hesitate to give you friendly advice,” she said. “He has a lot to offer, as far as his own work and as far as his own knowledge.”
Frederickson agreed that he’s been improving as a writer during the last three years. “The next book is tremendously better,” he said of his third novel, “Last Run to Hidalgo.”
“Last Run” tells the tale of a biker and Vietnam War veteran who must rescue two kids from a Mexican drug lord. In the meantime, he is set to release his third book, a collection of original poems called “Tales of the Vikings: Epic Saga Poems.”
“I would just like to be a reasonably recognized writer,” he said when asked of his goals as an author.
“It’s addictive,” he said of writing. “I know where the story in general is going to take me, but I don’t know how it’s going to get there.”
“Dakharo Heist” and “Roar of the Jaguar” are available for purchase on Amazon, through Barnes and Noble via special order and for Nook and Kindle eReaders. For more information about Frederickson and his books, visit Hiawatha Publishing’s website at www.hiawathapublishing.com.
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