Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Interview with Author Donna Fletcher Crow
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
Apparently, the one I’m currently writing is number 38. I always just said 30-some when asked that question, but I recently spoke at a library event. The librarian had done her research. “Thirty-six,” she said. That makes it 38 with the one coming out in September: A Darkly Hidden Truth, #2 in The Monastery Murders.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO START WRITING?
As a lifelong booklover and former English teacher I had always written on the hobby level, especially writing scripts for our church drama group, but I got really serious when, after reading Georgette Heyer’s Venetia the heroine’s younger brother got stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. I had to tell the rest of his story. Brandley’s Search, which became the third of my six-volume Cambridge Chronicles series, was the result. I really didn’t have any idea how to write a novel but it was like being pregnant—that story had to come out. I probably rewrote it a hundred times before it was published. That was about 35 years ago.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU DEVOTE TO RESEARCH FOR YOUR NOVELS?
Since my subject is the history of British Christianity and I have written books covering every historical period beginning with the birth of Christ, each book requires an enormous amount of research. It’s impossible to say how long I spend on the background reading—months or years— because it’s a lifetime subject. But once I get a specific story outlined, at least in rough detail, the real fun can begin—the on-site research.
This past April I researched my current project, An Unholy Communion, book 3 in The Monastery Murders, which has the Christian history of Wales as background. I spent a week in Wales with a sister mystery writer from Manchester as escort. Then, since my characters are on a walking pilgrimage, I took part in a youth walk from London to Walsingham in Norfolk (126 miles) to get background for that. I’m no youth, but they welcomed me warmly. It was a wonderful experience. I walked about 100 of the miles and took breaks in the follow van, which I considered research as well.
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING IN YOUR RESEARCH THAT SURPRISED YOU?
Always. The surprises are the real fun and what brings the story absolutely to life. One thing that surprised me—and almost blew me off the mountain—was the violence of the weather in Wales. The rain came down in absolute sheets, but not on our heads. The wind was so strong the rain came at us sideways. I live in a desert, so this was an amazing experience to me. My hostess from northern England just laughed at me.
IS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR LATEST STORY THAT YOU HOPE STICKS WITH YOUR READERS?
Although each book has its own theme I hope that over-all my readers will gain a new appreciation for our Christian heritage. As I tell the stories of saints, martyrs and faithful ministers I want my readers to realize that our faith has come down to us at a great cost to those who have gone before. When A Gentle Calling, first of my Cambridge Chronicles, was published a reader said, “And to think, we sit in our comfortable pews and have no idea of all they went through.”
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
Jane Austen and Dorothy L. Sayers are my all-time favorites, although as a nonstop reader I have many favorites. In my current genre of clerical mysteries Kate Charles and Julia Spencer-Fleming are favorites. P. D. James’ Death In Holy Orders is probably the best clerical mystery ever written. But then, having said that, there’s G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown. Oh, naming favorites is a minefield.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Write from your passion. And read passionately. Read the classics and everything you can in your genre.
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING?
Growing David Austin English roses, drinking tea and playing with my grandchildren. And reading, of course.
REVIEW FOR A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, FIRST IN THE MONASTERY MURDERS:
"With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest - in the steps of St Cuthbert - through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries."
--Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters
Please come on over to www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com
to see my book trailer for A Very Private Grave, pictures from some of my research trips, and a visit to my garden.