Dony Jay Harbaugh: Writing what he knows

After years of reading spy and thriller books, the Spring Garden Township Police Department detective decided to write one of his own that reflected his faith-based values.

Presented by: Our York Media

Writing is like therapy for Dony Jay Harbaugh.

In his home office surrounded by shelves packed with thriller and spy books, he chronicles the fictional life of Reagan Rainey.

Reagan is a CIA operative — a man of danger and espionage — and a man of faith. He’s the main character in the novels Dony has written, and, in many ways, he’s a souped-up version of Dony himself.

Dony is a detective in the Spring Garden Township Police Department and an avid reader who gobbles up thriller and spy books at a veracious rate.

But his faith is also a big part of Dony’s life, and he didn’t see a character like that in any of his beloved books.

So he made one up.

Dony felt like he knew Reagan even before he put pen to paper.

“Writing the character was like exploring more of myself in a way,” Dony says.

Writing the character was like exploring more of myself in a way.

Dony Jay Harbaugh

Creating a faith-based character was important to Dony, but he didn’t want it to come off as preachy. Faith is more of an underlying characteristic, just part of who Reagan is and what gives him depth.

There’s got to be something that gives you purpose, Dony says. “For Rainey and for me, it’s our faith.”

His books are clean — there’s no gratuitous sex or crude language — which was challenging at times.

“It forces you to be a little more creative in how you write dialogue,” he says.

Being a clean book doesn’t mean it’s boring, though.

There are bullets flying and guys getting killed, he says. They just don’t swear while it’s happening.

It’s been hard to find time to write his novels. But writing helps him work through some of the things he sees in his detective work.

It also breaks the monotony.

At work, he writes reports and search warrants. It’s all facts.

But in his novels, he’s free.

“I can make it anything I want to be.”

Get Neighbors of Our York in your inbox: Every Thursday at 9 a.m., we’ll email you a full version of the latest “Neighbors of Our York” profile. You subscribing lets us know you like and value what we’re doing.