Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Youthwalks and dead bodies? Interview with Author Donna Fletcher Crow

An Unholy Communion
First light, Ascension morning. From the top of the tower at the College of Transfiguration, voices rise in song. But Felicity's delight turns to horror when a black-robed body hurtles over the precipice and lands at her feet.

Her fiance Father Antony recognizes the corpse as Hwyl Pendry, a former student, who has been serving as Deliverance Minister in a Welsh diocese. The police ignore the strange emblem of a double-headed snake clutched in the dead man's hand, labeling the death a suicide. But Hwyl's widow is convinced otherwise, and pleads for Felicity and Antony to help her uncover the truth.

Matters grow murkier as Felicity and Antony, leading a youth pilgrimage through rural Wales, encounter the same sinister symbol as they travel. Lurking figures follow them. Then a body is found face-down in a well...

Donna Fletcher Crow
 
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.

She is also the author of three mystery series. Her newest titles are: An Unholy Communion, The Monastery Murders; A Tincture of Murder, The Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime novels; and A Jane Austen Encounter in the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have four adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips click here. You can also follow her on Facebook.

Ten Questions with Author Donna Fletcher Crow

What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?
 
AN UNHOLY COMMUNION is the third title in my Monastery Murders series, continuing the story of Felicity Howard, a young American woman who is studying theology in a college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire. In each book the relationship between Felicity and her church history lecturer, Father Antony, progresses. We have moved from irritation, if not outright dislike, to flowering love.
 
Now Felicity wants to spend her holiday planning their wedding, but Antony wants her to help him lead a youthwalk across Wales. She agrees reluctantly when he promises her a peaceful pilgrimage through an idyllic landscape— which is all just fine until symbols of writhing snakes and lurking figures begin dogging their footsteps. This novel explores the reality of evil in an otherwise beautiful world.
 
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?
 
Because one of my goals for this series is to give readers an appreciation of our Christian heritage, I have long wanted to tell the story of Christian Wales. When I read an announcement of a youthwalk in England I knew I had the structure for my story. Because Wales has always been a particularly mystical land, given both to devout Christianity and to occult practices, I knew this would be a good place to delve into the battle between good and evil.
 
Why do you feel compelled to write-in your genre or at all?
 
Because in the background of my plots I tell the story of often obscure British saints and religious occurrences (the martyrs Julius and Aaron, St. David and the Welsh Revival, among others, in this book) I like to have an exciting contemporary murder on the surface. I hope it helps keep my readers turning pages, it certainly keeps me more engaged.
 
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What's been your most memorable research experience?
 
One of my goals as a writer is to give my readers a “you are there” experience while reading my books, so I try never to write about a place I haven’t been myself. Every research trip, always to some place of historical significance and ancient spirituality in Britain, is an amazing experience and results in a book I couldn’t have written any other way.
 
The research for this book was especially intense. First, I needed to revisit Wales and spend time at each place along the Medieval pilgrimage route Felicity and Antony would be walking with their young people. I asked a friend who lives in northern England (mystery writer Dolores Gordon-Smith (http://www.doloresgordon-smith.co.uk/) for advice. With breathtaking generosity she offered to accompany me. You can see the pictures of our great adventure on my website:  http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/book3.php.
 
Secondly, I needed to experience a pilgrimage like the one my characters would be taking, so I wrote to the leader of the youthwalk I mentioned above and asked if I could join them as a considerably overage pilgrim on their 126 mile walk from London to Walsingham in Norfolk.

The delightful young people from four countries were wonderfully welcoming, providing support, prayers, friendship and suggestions for my book. In short, everything I needed except the dead bodies.
 
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey-a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
 
I will forever be thankful to my high school English teachers who introduced me to the English classics, especially Jane Austen and the Brontes. My writing has definitely been an outgrowth of my reading. The specific instance was reading Georgette Heyer’s Venetia. Venetia’s younger brother got hold of my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I had to tell the rest of his story. Brandley’s Search, later Where Love Begins, which turned out to be book 3 in my Cambridge Chronicles, was the result.
 
Writing my first novel was an incredible experience. It was like being pregnant. I would wake up in the middle of the night and write. I had to pull over while driving and write. I wrote on my grocery list walking down aisle in the supermarket. I wish all my novels would come like that!
 
What surprised you the most about the writer's journey-publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
 
The fun! Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work. The intense focus sitting at a computer (of course it was a typewriter when I started) hour after hour can be grueling— especially on those days when the story isn’t flowing. And the discouragement of rejection after rejection while seeking publication.

Then, the shock of discovering that being a published author doesn’t mean you’re set for life with a publisher. . . All the ups and downs, I’ve had them all. But as I look back over 30 years in the business I thank the Lord every day for the amazing privilege of being allowed to do this.
 
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
 
The same thing I tell beginning writers today— write from your passion.
 
Now to have some fun with travel…
 
What's your favorite place you have visited?
 
Oh, my goodness! Durham, Salisbury, Canterbury, York. . .  No, it has to be Glastonbury.
King Arthur was my first literary love, even before Jane Austen. And “Jerusalem” the Glastonbury Hymn, makes me cry every time I hear it. Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England (ebook, Novel of the Holy Grail) an Arthurian grail search epic covering 1500 years of Christian history through Celtic, Roman, Arthurian, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Tudor times, is the centerpiece of my career.
 
The wonderful thing when visiting Glastonbury is to stay in the Anglican retreat house behind the abbey. You can even look on of the abbey grounds while taking a bath! And after hours use the passcode to enter the grounds after the gates are locked and the tourists have gone home. I have wandered alone around the sacred, broken arches in the twilight, just myself and the ghosts of bygone monks.
 
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you've already been?
 
There isn’t any place on earth I wouldn’t be interested in seeing. But none of the others are England and life is short. . .
 
10) And now a fun tidbit-if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
 
Well, obviously in the English countryside. Perhaps named for St. Julian of Norwich since her Revelations of Divine Love is the first book to be written in English. Or The Venerable Bede who invented the footnote.
 
It should be on the grounds of a monastery so we could have daily prayer and Eucharist with the community— a very musical community so we’ll have wonderful hymns and anthems. With a footpath leading across the fields to a little village with a tea shop in a thatched cottage. And, to be practical, it needs to be on a train line.

Thank you, Morgan. It was delightful to visit with you.
 
I hope your readers will drop by my website http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ to read more about all of my books and see pictures from my garden and research trips.
 
And I would love to have you all follow me on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Morgan, it's lovely to be back with you on Pens on a World Map! Happy trekking!

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    1. Hi Donna! Thanks for being my guest again! :) Have a great weekend!

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  2. Great interview! Donna, you are an amazing author and I can attest to that with first hand experience from reading your books! Congrats on your newest.

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