Donna Fletcher Crow has written 38 books, most of which are novels dealing with British history. Her best known work is the award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history. She currently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband.
Her latest release is A Darkly Hidden Truth, Book Two in her clerical mystery series The Monastery Murders.
Thank you so much for this interview, Donna. Can you tell us briefly what your new book, A Darkly Hidden Truth, is about?
Felicity Howard is a thoroughly modern American woman who, rather rashly— as she does most things— has gone off to study theology in a monastery in Yorkshire. Because she and her church history lecturer Antony solved the murder of Father Dominic in A Very Private Grave, book 1 in the series, Father Anselm has now asked them to find a valuable missing icon. But Felicity can’t possibly help. She’s off to become a nun. Then her impossible mother turns up unexpectedly. And a good friend turns up murdered. . .
In the midst of breathtaking chase scenes, mystical worship services and dashes through remote waterlogged landscapes Felicity learns the wisdom of holy women from today and ages past and Antony explores the arcane rites of the Knights Hospitaller. But what good will any of that do them if Felicity can’t save Antony’s life?
They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us about yours?
Naming the first book in the series was the trick. My agent suggested A Fine and Private Grave from the Andrew Marvell poem “To His Coy Mistress”
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace
My English publisher liked it, but my American publisher said Americans wouldn’t get the reference, so we settled on A Very Private Grave. A Darkly Hidden Truth seemed to flow naturally for book 2.
I had no say on the cover but I was delighted that the designer used the ruined Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk because much of the action of A Darkly Hidden Truth takes place in Norfolk and I visited Castle Acre just a year ago, although not for this book.
Can you give us your favorite excerpt?
While awaiting Neville, whom they were to meet at the ruined St. Benet’s Abbey in the soggy Norfolk Broads, Felicity and Antony explore the strange structure of the old drainage mill built in the gatehouse. When the skies open and they are engulfed in a downpour they shelter against the roofless walls and attempt to ring Neville once more:
The thing that held them fixed in horror, though, was not the muffled ring sounding from beneath them, as if a call from another world, but the specter that rose at their feet as the pouring rain washed back the mud to reveal a slim white finger, then hand, then wrist, the receding soil making it seem in that small circle of light inside the blackness that the arm itself was rising from the grave. Reaching upward for light, for air, for them.
What’s your favorite way to promote your book?
I’m old fashioned enough that I still enjoy speaking to groups and meeting readers in person at book signings, but I’m thrilled to be able to take advantage of the amazing opportunities offered by the electronic age. I still feel like I’m visiting with readers in person when I’m doing an interview or an article for a blog or chatting on Facebook.
Can you tell us about your typical writing day?
Because I began writing when I had children in school I find that my day still runs pretty much on a school schedule. I would get to my typewriter (in those days) as soon as the children were out the door and I’d stay there until they came home around 3:00. Then everything stopped for tea. That was the highlight of the day when we shared food and the happenings of our day, usually with friends in tow. It’s still the same, only it’s just my husband and me at the tea table unless a friend comes by.
What do you do to relax?
Drinking tea with family and friends is number one. I also love working in my rose garden and, of course, relaxing with a good murder mystery.
What author do you think is overlooked today?
Your question makes me think of Barbara Pym whose writing career was reborn when Poet Laureate Philip Larkin named her the most under-rated novelist of the century. I would love to be a Philip Larkin for Sally Wright with her excellent Ben Reese Mysteries and Dolores Gordon-Smith’s Jack Haldean series.
What author would you most like to meet?
Jane Austen. She was my first literary love as a teenager and hasn’t been surpassed today. Because of her leading me to my love of English literature I became an English teacher and then a writer.
What’s next for you in regards to writing books?
I am currently editing my epic Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, for ebook format. Glastonbury, which covers 1500 years of English history, has been in print for 20 years and is my best-known book. I’m thrilled that it’s to have a new electronic life.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I was an only child and therefore, my father’s son. I grew up on horseback and became a rodeo Queen, Miss Rodeo Idaho and runner-up for Miss Rodeo America.