CD: Donna, thank you for stopping by my blog for a chat. I believe we share one of life’s great challenges – gardening in the semi-arid American West. Has your English garden survived the winter?
DFC: It’s lovely to be here, Catherine! Oh, yes—not just gardening, but trying to grow an English cottage garden. My David Austin English roses are my favorites and I think they made it through the winter. Another challenge I have is that my garden is really too shady to be prime for roses, but I soldier on.
CD: The question I most want to ask is how you manage to write three mystery series: The Monastery Murders, The Lord Danvers Series, and the Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries? How do you find time to enjoy that fabulous garden?
DFC: Oh, time. Isn’t that always the question! I love having three series to work on because that way I can have one with my editor, one in the incubating stage and one actively growing (hopefully) on my computer. And I enjoy the fact that, while they are all mysteries that include my love of history in some way and usually a good dash of romance, each one has a separate focus that indulges a different interest of mine: Celtic saints for the Monastery Murders, the Victorians for Lord Danvers which is Victorian true-crime, and English literature for Elizabeth & Richard which is literary suspense. And then when it all starts driving me crazy I go out and smell my roses.
CD: I am amazed at the variety of your work. Mystery, Historical, Romance, Children’s Fiction, and Non-Fiction. If you only had room for three novels in your suitcase for a long trip (let’s exclude The Bible, non-fiction, and assume you can’t take an e-reader), which would you pack?
DFC: No contest—they would all be English mysteries.
DFC: Brandley’s Search (reissued as Where Love Begins) was my first novel. I had been overdosing on Georgette Heyer novels and one of her minor characters got hold of me and demanded that I continue his story. It was like being pregnant—I would wake up in the middle of the night and write; be driving down the road and have to pull over and make notes. I do wish all my novels would come like that.
Then I somehow managed to get it accepted by a small publisher who rather promptly went out of business (not my fault, honest). I was at a writers’ conference when the word went around. I was sitting next to an editor. “They had my novel!” I wailed.
“Send it to us,” she replied.
In what has to be one of the all-time hard sells I replied, “But you don’t do fiction.”
“We’re starting a new line.”
That first novel became a six-book series The Cambridge Chronicles and that editor even accompanied me on a research trip to England. All that was 30-some years ago and we still keep touch.
CD: With so many successful novels, most in series, has the excitement faded when a new book becomes published?
DFC: Never! It’s always like a having a baby.
CD: Do you have any insights or opinions about the opportunities for beginning writers in the rapidly changing world of publishing?
DFC: What a Brave New World publishing is today! I love the opportunities available through electronic publishing and social media. Most of my older books are coming back as ebooks and that’s just so exciting! The challenge is not to let it become too easy. We all need to keep rewriting, working with good editors and working to up our standard whether it’s our first book or our 45th.
CD: How has your faith influenced your fiction writing? Is it a strain of soft music in the background of the story, or is it front and center?
DFC: The main influence has been in my choice of subject. My passion is the history of British Christianity so there will be an old monastery, a Celtic saint or a magnificent cathedral somewhere in any story I tell because that’s what I love. I firmly believe that no matter what we write who we are will speak louder than our actual words. I hope my faith is that for my stories.
CD: Do you have a favorite character? Favorite setting? Favorite time period?
DFC: Felicity, the amateur sleuth heroine of my Monastery Murders is one of my favorite characters to work with because she has so much growing to do. Book 4 in the series is with my editor now and it’s fun to see the progress she has made and the rough edges I still need to work on. Also, the fact that she’s so hard-headed and impetuous is a great way to keep the plot going because her scrapes are always interesting—no matter how much they drive her loving, sensible Antony absolutely wild.
Anywhere in the British Isles is my favorite. Even The Daughters of Courage, my family saga set in the Idaho desert, works in a bit of English background.
Favorite time period is whichever one I’m working on at the moment, although I’ve always had a special drawing to the Regency, fed by my love of Jane Austen. I got to indulge this in A Jane Austen Encounter, the latest in my literary suspense series.
CD: Do all of your historical novels involve research? How do you keep track of research pertinent to a novel or series?
DFC: Absolutely. Research is the core of everything I write. I read everything I can find on my subject here, then head off across the pond to find the missing bits on-site in England. I try very hard never to write about a place I haven’t visited. When in the field I make notes in spiral notebooks and take pictures. In the “old days” I then put things on 3x5 cards and kept them in index boxes. Now everything goes in folders on my computer.
CD: Thank you for visiting today, Donna.
DFC: Thank you so much for the great interview, Catherine. I love the opportunity to meet new readers. For those interested in my latest release:
“Jane Austen’s Regency World” Magazine said:
Playful mystery featuring an engaging pair of amateur sleuths.
A letter, apparently from Jane Austen’s great-niece, is at the heart of this entertaining literary mystery— the third volume in Donna Fletcher Crow’s Elizabeth and Richard series. American academics Elizabeth and Richard Spenser are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to England to visit Jane Austen’s various homes. Their first port of call is Bath, where Richard— thanks to his distinction as an Austen scholar— is invited to help sort through a box of documents donated anonymously to the city’s Jane Austen Centre.
. . .
It’s great fun— but just as entertaining as the mystery itself are the settings. Fletcher Crow brings Bath, Winchester and Chawton to vivid life in her pages, with a good helping of literary history and numerous references to Austen’s writings that illuminate the narrative.
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/
You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY