I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed one of Donna Fletcher Crow’s ‘Monastery Murder Series’ books, ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’, my review of which you can see here. I was delighted when Donna agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag.
Hi Donna. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’, the fourth in your Monastery Murder series, and about your writing in general.
Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, with 46 books to my credit; wife of Stanley Crow with 4 children and 14 grandchildren to our credit.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I designed and “wrote” my first series of novels when I was about 10 years old, but what I really wanted to be was a reader— writing came as an off-shoot of that. Ironically, now I don’t have nearly enough time for reading.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I was an English teacher before I became a full time writer. My creative outlet is now dabbling in my rose garden.
(I’m with you in the gardening too.)
I know you pride yourself on visiting the settings for your books. How else do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I try never to write about a place I haven’t visited, but since I live several thousand miles away from my British settings I sometimes find I’ve over-looked something when on location. Sometimes I can find what I need by surfing the web, but my best source is to put out a query to one of the UK writers’ groups I belong to online.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult and is plotting still a bugbear?
Research is always the most fun, so I suppose that makes it easiest, too. Writing rough drafts is the hair-pulling part of the job—and, yes, plotting the hardest part of that dreaded first draft.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I have a wonderful office that I love, it has a plaid carpet, a Celtic knotwork border around the ceiling and a Fletcher plaid hanging at the window. It’s a good thing I love it here because it’s where I spend most of every day. When I’m not babysitting a grandchild I start the day with tea and morning prayers here about 9:00 every morning and don’t break until my husband and I stop for afternoon tea around 3:00, then I’m back up here until I need to fix dinner. That’s ideal, but, honestly, life doesn’t let me have that many uninterrupted days.
It sounds wonderful.
When you’re not writing, I know you like to read English classics. Who is your favourite writer, why do you like them and how have they influenced your own writing?
Jane Austen. No contest. I fell in love with her as a teenager—long before the movies, Colin Firth in a wet shirt, and all the adaptations and spin-offs. I am still enthralled with her lively characters, her humour and the wonderful settings that are exactly where I would love to live. I am a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
My love of history, especially British history, is what spurred my writing. Almost all of my books have begun with a story or historical character I heard of or read about. Wanting to tell that story drives my writing.
Why do you think death has been such a focus for your writing rather than another subject?
Of course, all murder mysteries deal with death and A Newly Crimson Reliquary especially so because it is set during All Saints and All Souls days. Actually, though, I would say that the beauty and goodness of life is the focus of my writing. The dark simply serves to emphasize the light. When a victim is murdered— and often they are very good people—I always try to express the tragedy of a life lost then bring order from the chaos and return to the goodness of life. I suppose it’s philosophical because I do believe that Good will triumph and the light will shine no matter how dark some days may seem. Oh, dear, I hope that doesn’t sound too Pollyanna.
Not at all!
Where did the inspiration for the characters of Felicity and Antony come from?
Thank you for asking! I do love to share the fact that Felicity’s background is my daughter’s story: An American woman who studied classics at Oxford, didn’t enjoy teaching school in London, went off to a monastery in Yorkshire to study theology and married a priest. The huge difference is in the two women’s personalities because, fortunately, my daughter is sweet, obedient and devout—a lovely daughter, but a very boring heroine. I got about 10 pages into my first Monastery Murder with Felicity acting that way and realized it would never work, so I essentially flipped Elizabeth’s personality and made Felicity headstrong, rash, stubborn and a lot of fun to work with.
Antony is a compsite of several priests I have known as well as his own fictional personality.
There’s quite a strong religious element in ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’. How far is spirituality important to you as an individual as well as a theme within your writing?
Very important both to my life and my writing. I am a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, which provides an enrichment for my Anglican spirituality and also serves as a model for my fictional Community of the Transfiguration. Just as I wouldn’t want to write about a place I’ve never visited, I also would not want to try to develop a thematic background such as the world of liturgical worship without experiencing it personally. There are simply too many pitfalls for getting things wrong. Even with my own experience I still rely on my priest son-in-law for backup.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that one of your books should be their next read, what would you say?
I would quote one of my reviewers: “A truly great mystery . . . Not only a fun read but also a learning experience.”
I think I’d agree!
Is there a question you would like to answer that you haven’t been asked?
I would love to tell your readers about my newest Monastery Murder which just came out this week: An All-Consuming Fire. Felicity is counting the days until their Christmastide wedding and Antony is narrating a documentary for the BBC. As if Felicity’s difficult mother’s attempts to stage a royal wedding aren’t trouble enough, Felicity takes on directing an Epiphany pageant for Kirkthorpe’s troubled youth and then the murderer stalking the Yorkshire moors moves closer to home.
Thank you so much for your time, Donna, in answering my questions.
Thank you, Linda. It’s been a delight to be here. I love having a chance to meet new readers and your questions were really good ones. Anyone who wants to know more can visit my website at www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com or follow me on Facebook.