Donald Steven Olson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and studied English Literature and German at the University of Minnesota. He began writing as a teenager and completed his first novel when he was 18 - but it was not published for another 20 years.
Donald completed several novels in the 1970s and worked at various jobs in order to travel as often as possible to Europe. In 1980 Christopher Street , a gay literary magazine, published one of Donald's short stories. He then wrote The Secrets of Mabel Eastlake , his first published novel. This camp gay thriller garnered attention in the U.S. and U.K. and led to the publication of Paradise Gardens , a novel that he had completed in London several years earlier. That, in turn, led to the publication of A Movie , the experimental novel he had completed at age 18.
Increasingly interested in gay history, and the social ramifications of the Oscar Wilde trials of 1895, Donald spent five years researching and writing about the short, tumultuous life of the 19th-century English artist Aubrey Beardsley. The play Beardsley , about the devastating relationship between Beardsley and Wilde, was produced in 1987. The play was followed by the novel The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley in 1993.
Gays in Oregon had been battling repressive anti-gay rights measures for years, and yet no one had ever written about these battles from a gay perspective. Donald felt these ongoing battles were an essential and defining part of gay cultural history and identity that were being entirely ignored by the mainstream media. Queer Corners , set in a fictional gay neighborhood in Portland, Oregon during a viciously homophobic anti-gay rights battle, was turned down by several publishers for being "too political". It was finally taken on by BridgeCity Books in Portland and published in 1999.
Between his travel-writing jobs, Donald continued to write plays and novels. For his next three novels, Donald used the name of his Swedish great-grandfather, Swan Adamson, as a nom de plume . My Three Husbands , a comic novel about two rather conventional gay dads and their very unconventional daughter was the first Swan Adamson novel.
It was followed by a sequel, Confessions of a Pregnant Princess . But the U.K. publishers wanted a follow-up novel of their own, so Donald wrote an alternative sequel called Memoirs Are Made of This .
He lives, works and gardens in Portland and Manhattan, and is currently working on a new novel, The Secret Library, and a fictional biography of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea.