Author Bio

Donigan Merritt, 2005

Donigan Merritt was born in southwest Arkansas and left home at the age of seventeen.  He has worked as a journalist, scuba diver, fishing boat captain, sailing instructor, and university professor.

He has a BA and MA degree in philosophy; the BA is with Honors from Simpson College, the MA is from the Claremont Graduate School. He also has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa.

His first novel, One Easy Piece, was published by Coward-McCann in 1981. Since then, he has published seven novels, the most recent: “Species of Feeling,” published by B&B Books, 2013.

He is currently living in Rome. With his diplomat wife, he has lived in various places in Latin America, in Central Europe, in South Africa, in Germany, Washington, DC,  and southern California. They have two children and three grandchildren. Their older daughter lives in Houston, the younger in Boulder.

Contact by email:

Literary agent:

Kathy Green

The Kathryn Green Literary Agency LLC

250 West 57th Street, suite 2302

New York, NY 10107


Two current novels: Possessed by Shadows and The Common Bond

Blossom, August 2011

Critical Commentary

for Possessed by Shadows:

(Shortlisted for the Banff Prize in Mountain Literature, 2006.)

“Wrenching yet poetic. Donigan Merritt has created vivid portraits of lives balanced on a spiritual and physical knife-edge and woven them into a high-altitude haiku. This novel will leave you emotionally gasping long after you put it down.”

–Eliot Pattison, author of Beautiful Ghosts

Possessed by Shadows makes poetry out of the gadgets and lore of mountain climbing and turns the act of scrambling up faces and peaks into a philosophy. A poignant journey of despair, memory, and immense courage.”

— Douglas Glover, author of Elle

Possessed by Shadows is a must-read for anyone drawn to mountains, a masterful story of love and courage, of people who rise above life’s troubles by climbing in search of the sublime.”

–Ken Kuhlken, author of the Tom Hickey mysteries

Possessed by Shadows is not only a book for climbers, it is a book for everybody. Soulful and transformative, it is a journey to our inner world to find our inner voice.’

— Zoltán Demján, first Slovak mountaineer to summit Everest

“The author, who has published five previous novels over the past quarter-century, is one of those too-little-known writers who deserves a wider audience.  This novel, which chronicles the last year in a woman’s life, is everything such a story should be: moving, tender, funny, abrasive, and (yes) inspiring.  The tale is narrated by Tom Valen, a philosophy professor who is having a tough time dealing with his wife’s terminal cancer, and by Molly, his wife, who has her own perspectives on life, death, and love.  The two are avid rock climbers (Molly’s cancer is diagnosed after an injury on a mountain), and they decide to spend Molly’s final year doing the thing they love the most.  Merritt uses climbing—overcoming long odds, conquering something large and dangerous—as a metaphor for Tom and Molly’s inner journeys.  The novel could have been ham-handed and obvious; instead, it’s graceful and subtle.

–David Pitt, Booklist

Some alpine climbs are so visionary that regardless of their success or failure, by expressing a concept worthy of realization or by posing a problem for future generations to solve, they deserve both attention and praise. Within the medium of words and narrative, Possessed by Shadows, a novel by Donigan Merritt, makes such a venture …  Taking as its central metaphor the Greek myth of Eurydice—the young bride hovering on the threshold between life and death (as the Rainer Maria Rilke epigraph describes, “already possessed by shadows”), who fades in the instant her husband turns to embrace her—the novel uses climbing to explore a multitude of liminal spaces: between life and death, action and philosophy, the personal and the political.

— Katie Ives, The American Alpine Journal, 2006

Possessed by Shadows is a brilliant and haunting novel. This work of fiction is not for the faint of heart. The narrator seizes grief and transforms it into redemptive wanderlust: venturing into the mountains, wading through memories, and scavenging for meaning … If you have ever wondered how to distill otherworldly beauty from earthly sorrow, I would highly recommend reading this book.”

— Peng Paine Sun, Amazon reviewer

for The Common Bond:

“Insightful. Merritt has the right instincts when it comes to exposing the vagaries of human relationships … [He] crafts a thorough emotional examination of a couple who spend their lives side by side while managing to remain unknown to one another.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Merritt’s evocative sense of place honors both the tumult and tranquility of the islands.”


“Donigan Merritt is a man of the world and a man who has worn many hats, which is certainly reflected in his writing. He was raised in the southern town of Magnolia, Arkansas but he didn’t stay put for long when wanderlust took him to Hawaii, Iowa, Bratislava, Slovakia, and Berlin, Germany, among other locales. Since leaving his hometown, Don worked such diverse jobs as airport cargo loader to paratrooper in the Army to philosophy professor. Lucky for us, he’s also a writer. The Common Bond draws on some of Don’s own experiences when he lived in Hawaii working as a deckhand on a sport fishing boat and then as a captain after he received his Coast Guard Captain’s license.”

— Corinna Barsan, quoted in Foreward magazine

“Throughout The Common Bond, Merritt paints with absorbing period and geographic detail. His 1970s setting avoids the easy and overused clichés. And the years Merritt spent living in Hawaii are evident in the strong, unique sense of place he creates as well as the nuances of tension he displays between native Hawaiians and newer arrivals to the islands. But what recommends The Common Bond most forcefully is the multi-layered and salient characterizations of Morgan and Victoria. Through the ambiguous ending is a bit of a let-down after the reader has come so far with the characters, The Common Bond is the work of a storyteller with a fully-formed idea of the human condition and with a masterful control over his material.”

— from the Examiner, New York

“Merritt transports us to Hawaii 1981 where the natural storms are emulated in the characters of this enthralling book. They tell a tale of love and friendship, the loss of both, and the painful experience of regaining them.”

— Dee Raffo, Book Buffet

List of published novels

One Easy Piece, Coward-McCann, 1983

My Sister’s Keeper, GP Putnam’s, 1984

Hatch’s Island, Bantam, 1985

Hatch’s Conspiracy, Bantam, 1986

Hatch’s Mission, Bantam, 1987

Possessed by Shadows, Other Press, 2005

The Common Bond, Other Press, 2008

Blossom, Author House, 2011

The Love Story of Paul Collins, B&b Books, 2012

Species of Feeling, B&b Books, 2013

Current Candid Photos

Reading at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in 2009.

With Junot Diaz before the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, 2010.

Hanging out with Annie Proulx at an Argentine estancia, April 2009

Participating in a panel discussion at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, 2010

With Holly, on Sandra Cisneros' terrace, San Miguel Allende.

With Holly, on Sandra Cisneros’ terrace, San Miguel Allende.

In Trastevere

In Trastevere