Monday, October 18, 2010
Lena, thank you so much for inviting me to “A Christian Writer’s World”. Your blog is a major stop for me on my virtual tour for the North American release of A Very Private Grave, #1 The Monastery Murders and I’m delighted for the opportunity to visit with your readers today.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Ooh, Lena, you’re starting right off asking me to tell secrets. Well, because I try never to set a scene in a place I haven’t been, you could say that to some extent all of my characters’ experiences are my own. Except the murders, you understand. But as for personal characteristics, I’m afraid I use my family shamelessly. Best example is Felicity Howard, my heroine in A Very Private Grave. My daughter grew too tall to be a ballerina so majored in classics. Studied in Oxford, hated teaching school in London, went to study theology in a monastery in Yorkshire. I couldn’t have fictionalized a better background for Felicity. But Elizabeth is sweet and pliable (most of the time) and deeply spiritual. That made a rather boring heroine, so I turned those things around. Felicity is headstrong and opinionated and a very nominal Christian. I foresee that a lot of the fun of this series will be growing Felicity up.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Because I believe so strongly in the importance of research I’ve done many things I would never do while clothed and in my right mind if a plot hadn’t called for it. Perhaps the wildest was rappelling into a lava flow cave and then spelunking further into the flow with my son for Kathryn, book 1 The Daughters of Courage. I actually enjoyed the rappelling after John talked me over the edge, but deep into the cave my claustrophobia got hold of me and I panicked. Ergo, Kathryn has to conquer her claustrophobia when events require her to go into the same cave.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Actually, I’ve always been a reader. After an intense period of reading led me to write first novel (Brandley’s Search, #3 The Cambridge Collection) I was amazed to be cleaning out a cupboard in my mother’s basement and discover a series of adventure novels I had written and illustrated when I was in the sixth grade. Each book was about five pages long and starred me as heroine, of course.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’m afraid I’m pretty focused. There are many types of books and wonderful writers out there I would enjoy, but life is so short. I struggle to keep up in my own field— which is English crime fiction, especially Clerical Mysteries. I try to reread the classics such as Dorothy L. Sayers and P. D. James and keep up with Kate Charles, Phil Rickman, Dolores Gordon-Smith. . . Oh, there isn’t even time to list them all.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I have written 35 books, mostly novels of British Christian history. The Arthurian Glastonbury, the Novel of Christian England, is my best-known. One of my most successful series was the 6-book series The Cambridge Chronicles, historical romances of the 18th and 19th century Evangelical Anglicans. Now that I’m specializing in mysteries I have two series, my ecclesiastical thrillers, The Monastery Murders and The Elizabeth & Richard mysteries, romantic intrigues.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
What wonderful questions you ask, Lena. This really goes to the heart of the matter. Especially because I’m a contemplative introvert by nature, which is simply not a very politically correct thing to be in today’s world. The answer has to be centering on God to keep my interior life focused. I begin every day with Morning Prayer and private devotions, end every day with Evening Prayer. My worship is sacramental and intentional. I receive daily Eucharist as often as possible.
How do you choose your characters' names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Our children. Three sons and a daughter, two engineers and two in the ministry, all with stable homes and all serving the Lord— for which I thank God every day. It’s pure Grace. I would say our 10 grandchildren, but don’t feel we can take credit for them.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A horse. As an only child I grew up as my father’s son, which meant on horseback. My little Arabian stallion Duhk Rababbi (Duke) carried me to the Miss Rodeo Idaho title and runner-up as Miss Rodeo America.
What is your favorite food?
English Christmas Cake! Dark, heavy with fruit, covered with marzipan an inch thick and topped with fondant icing. The ultimate comfort food.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
After 20 years of a reasonably successful writing career publishing dried up for me in 2000 and I was out of the loop for 10 years. It wasn’t the writing, I was still doing that, it was life. In that time we had 2 weddings and 2 troubled marriages; 5 deaths and 10 births; our daughter emigrated and we moved from the house we had lived in for 25 years; we helped found a new church; my husband started a new business. . . Now that I’m able to focus again, thanks be to God, the greatest challenge is learning the technology. Ten years ago there were no blogs, no Facebook, no Twitter. . . But I’m loving it!
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Two things: Read, read, read. Especially the classics. You may never write as well as you read, but you’ll never write better. And write from your passion.
Tell us about the featured book.
Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood .
A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ageless truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Felicity flung her history book against the wall. She wasn’t studying for the priesthood to learn about ancient saints.
She wanted to bring justice to this screwed up world.
Children were starving in Africa, war was ravaging the Middle East, women everywhere were treated as inferiors. Even here in England—
She stopped her internal rant when she realized the crash of her book had obscured the knock at her door. Reluctantly she picked up the book, noting with satisfaction the smudge it had left on the wall, and went into the hall. Her groan wasn’t entirely internal when she made out the black cassock and gray scapular of her caller through the glass panel of the door. She couldn’t have been in less of a mood to see one of the long-faced monks who ran the College of the Transfiguration which she had chosen to attend in a moment of temporary insanity. She jerked the door open with a bang.
“ Dominic!” Felicity was immediately sorry for her surly mood. Father Dominic was an entirely different matter. She was always happy to see him. “ I didn’t realize you were back from your pilgrimage.” She held the door wide for him as he limped down the hall to her living room.
“Just returned, my dear. Just returned.” As he spoke, he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes that belied his eighty-five years, but he couldn’t quite suppress a small sigh as he lowered himself stiffly onto her sofa.
“I’ll put the kettle on.” Felicity turned toward her small kitchen. “I’m so sorry I don’t have any scones.”
“No. Just tea today—”
She looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then remembered.
What a great hook. We'll all want to know what she remembered. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I would love to have readers visit my website at http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/
They can see a trailer of A Very Private Grave on the home page, see pictures from my research trips, order any of my books, view a slide show of my garden, and visit my blog, among other delights.
Thank you so much, Donna, for spending this time with us and giving us a peek into your book.
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