Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 45 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.
The Monastery Murders are contemporary clerical mysteries with clues hidden in medieval history. A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, is the newest release. A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion are the other titles in the series.
The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries is a literary suspense series using literary figures as background: A Jane Austen Encounter is the newest title in this series. Others in the series are: Dorothy L Sayers in The Shadow of Reality and Shakespeare in A Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare.
Crow is also the author of The Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime series: A Most Inconvenient Death, Grave Matters, To Dust You Shall Return and A Tincture of Murder.
The Daughters of Courage, Kathryn, Elizabeth and Stephanie is a pioneer family saga based on the stories of Donna’s own family and other Idaho pioneers in the Kuna, Nampa and Boise area.
Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. Donna is remembered by Idahoans with long memories as a former Queen of the Snake River Stampede, Miss Rodeo Idaho and runner-up for Miss Rodeo America. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
The following is GWN’s interview with Donna Fletcher Crow…
Of all the different genres you could have selected to specialize in, how did you decide to write mysteries focusing on British history and historical figures?
My advice to beginning writers is always twofold: “Write what you like to read.” And “write from your passion.” That’s exactly what I’m doing on both counts. British literature and history has always been my love. I started out writing straight history, as in my Arthurian epic Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy grail. But then I began to feel I needed “something more” in my plots to keep the pages turning while I developed history in the background so I turned to my favorite leisure reading, mysteries.
Forty-three books is quite an accomplishment. What was your first experience with being published?
My first novel to write was Brandley’s Search which eventually became book 3 in my Cambridge Chronicles series, but my first book to be published was a little inspirational romance titled Greengold Autumn for Zondervan’s Serenade Romance series. Writing category romance was a great way to learn my trade because the rules are so strict. After writing three, though, I discovered I couldn’t read romance anymore, so I moved on to my real loves, history and mystery.
How many years have you been writing? Are you writing a book a year?
I’ve written about 43 novels in about 33 years, but the pace hasn’t been at all steady. Many years I wrote 3 books, but then for the longer books like Glastonbury it took me 3 years to write one book. Writing one book a year is a good pace, but currently I’m doing about two a year.
How much research goes into every book? How do you determine what information should be included?
My books are very research-intensive because they are almost all set in Great Britain and it’s very important to me never to write about a place I haven’t visited. Once I get an idea for a story I read everything I can find on the subject until a plot takes shape in my mind. Then I know exactly what places I have to visit, who I need to interview, what museums I need to see. I plan my research trip around that list.
I’ve just returned from a three week trip to England. I spent a week in London researching my next Elizabeth and Richard mystery, then a week in Yorkshire researching my next Monastery Murder. When those books are written it will be time to start the process all over again.
Your latest novel, A Jane Austen Encounter focuses on English professors Elizabeth and Richard. What led them to spend their anniversary in England visiting Jane Austen’s homes?
This trip was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream for them— a second honeymoon and a chance for Richard to research the paper he is writing for his sabbatical. Of course, they had no idea how truly life-changing the trip would prove to be.
Who asks Richard to scan through the donated documents at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath?
A natural first stop on any Jane Austen Trail itinerary is the beautiful city of Bath where Jane spent so much time and set two of her novels. Elizabeth and Richard are having tea at the Regency Tea Room at the Jane Austen Centre there where they meet their rather overpowering guide, an Oxford don with whom Richard has corresponded for several years. Dr. Muriel Greystone doesn’t so much ask Richard to help with the documents as order him to do so.
How does he get involved in an attempted murder?
Ah, one thing leads to another in the normal course of events. As the English would put it, “Say no more; say no more.”
Is he too close to what someone is desperate enough to kill for?
Poor Richard, he’s such a lovely gentleman and a fine scholar. All he wants to do is enjoy his time with Elizabeth and get on with his research. How could he possibly have foreseen what such simple pleasures would lead to?
How did you weave in actual Jane Austen sites into the story line?
As in all my stories, my characters experience just what I experienced when visiting those sites and doing my own research on Jane Austen— except for the dead bodies, you understand.
What do you love about these characters?
I’ve known Elizabeth and Richard for twenty years. They’re celebrating their twentieth anniversary because I’m working in real time with them. I love how they’ve grown together and matured. Especially Elizabeth, she was rather pushy and somewhat too sure of herself in the beginning. Falling in love with Richard, whom she at first thought to be boring, was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Have you written other books with them?
Each book in the Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series features a favorite author for my literature professor sleuths to solve their crime around. The prequel The Flame Ignites will be out later this year, telling about their ill-fated first meeting. The cherished American novelist Elswyth Thane and Rudyard Kipling are literary figures in that book. Elizabeth and Richard come together again in The Shadow of Reality where they attend a mystery week role-played in Dorothy L. Sayers style. In A Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare they are honeymooning at a Shakespearean festival in Oregon.
What was the most difficult part to write about?
Plot is always the hardest part for me. I am totally immersed in my backgrounds and in love with my characters, but building a plot around them requires real discipline.
Tell us about your publisher and your plans for promoting this new book?
I currently write three mystery series: The Lord Danvers true-crime Victorian mysteries, The Monastery Murders, contemporary mysteries with clues hidden in Medieval history, and the Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series. Each series has a different publisher. StoneHouse Ink does Elizabeth and Richard for me. They are a fairly new, young publishing house very focused on changes in the current market and keeping up with electronic innovations. Some of my publishers are more traditional, so it’s very good for me to work with different perspectives on the market. For A Jane Austen Encounter we do a mix of print advertising in targeted Jane Austen publications and a lot of electronic promotion to the general market. In today’s world it’s important to use a variety of approaches.
How many books will be in the series?
A lot, I hope. I have so many stories I want to tell and Elizabeth and Richard are lovely characters to work with because their interests are so similar to mine. Especially now that they are living in England, I have a chance to revisit all of my favorite English literary figures.
What are you planning to write next?
A Most Singular Venture, finding Jane Austen’s London, will reflect Elizabeth and Richard’s adventures in the places where Jane shopped, lived and visited in London as well as uncovering a fiendishly unscrupulous conspiracy to harm innocent people.
To learn more about all my books, see pictures of my research trips and visit my garden, please visit my website: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/aJaneAustenEncounter.php and to keep up on my latest news I would love to have you follow me on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY