I am pleased to have as my guest today, Donna Fletcher Crow, who is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.
Instead of detailing her publishing history, I will let the interview we did introduce you to Donna and her work.
She titled the interview “The Power of Story” and I found that an intriguing title.
Q. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Tell us a little about it.
DONNA: Well, my mother read the classics to me: Bambi, Heidi, Hans Brinker. As an only child I loved reading The Bobbsey Twins series. I thought living in that family would be heaven— having adventures with brothers and a sister was the way I wanted to live. I especially remember The Bobbsey Twins and Mystery Mansion, The Bobbsey Twins at The Seashore.
The point isn’t really what I read, because I didn’t move on to great literature until my sophomore high school English teacher required that I read Wuthering Heights and I never looked back after that. But the thing is that I LOVED to read! I was an only child growing up on a farm in the days before television. Now that dates me, doesn’t it? I spent days on end lost in books. And I never came out. I suppose I do the same thing now when I’m writing.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DONNA: As you can tell, my original passion wasn’t writing, it was reading, although I did write poetry and short stories as a child, mostly I just wanted to read. I loved stories. And when I didn’t have a book in front of me— late at night in bed— I would tell myself stories. It was always stories: stories I read; stories I told myself.
I guess I’ve always been fuzzy. When I was writing my grail search epic Glastonbury my daughter’s high school friends would say I was “Lost in Glastonbury” whenever I did something particularly spaced-out.
Q, What was the first thing you wrote? The first to get published?
DONNA: Well, if you don’t count the series of adventure novels I wrote and illustrated in the 6th grade— starring myself and my friends and each lasting about 5 pages— my first writings were plays for our church drama group because after we had done “The Robe” and “A Man Called Peter” there wasn’t much else available. I still use the dramatic approach in writing my novels— arranging the action in terms of scenes and watching it all play out in my head.
My first published? Oh, my goodness— can you believe I had to get the books out and look at the copyright dates to be sure? The confusion is, they weren’t published in the order I wrote them. My first novel was a Regency-style historical novel, Brandley’s Search which was eventually published in 1986 about 7 years after my first draft and about a hundred rewrites. My first published were two inspirational category romances, Greengold Autumn in 1984 and The Desires of Your Heart in 1985. Writing category fiction was a great way to learn my craft, but as soon as I realized I couldn’t read it any longer I had to quit writing it.
Q. How many years did you submit before your first publication?
DONNA: Oops, I answered that last question all wrong. My first book to get published (I had done a lot of short things before that) was The Frantic Mother Cookbook in 1982. I never imagined a writing career for myself. I was a mother and a retired (I hoped) English teacher. But after 3 sons we wanted a girl. And I didn’t get pregnant. I had to do something, so I started developing my writing skills. Writing the long-unpublished Brandley’s Search was part of that process. Then in 1980 Elizabeth was born. The Frantic Mother Cookbook was my response to survival with four children, one in high school, one in junior high, one in grade school and one in diapers. A through line is, “Will someone pick up Elizabeth? She’s crying again.” (Which is actually libel because she wasn’t a fussy baby.)
Q. What kept you persevering? What helps you now when the frustrations of the business mount?
DONNA: Mmm, good question. I suppose there was really never anything else I really wanted to do. There was always another story I wanted to tell, even most recently when I came through my 10 years-long “Wilderness.” I was still writing, I just wasn’t publishing. A Very Private Grave is one of the products of the wilderness. A supportive husband and writing community have been great helps in keeping going, but in the end, it has to come from inside oneself. And that comes down to Faith.
Q What do you like to do when you are not writing?
DONNA: I’m a passionate cottage gardener. You can see pictures of my garden on my Web site. I also love to drink tea with family and friends and read, read, read. I have 10 grandchildren that I adore spending time with but since they are spread from California to England I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with them as I would like.
Q. What feeds your creativity?
DONNA: Reading. Mostly English mysteries. I love those who write in my genre of ecclesiastical thrillers: Kate Charles, Phil Rickman, Susan Howatch. . . Also the classics: Jane Austen, Dorothy L Sayers, P. D. James. . .
Travel to favorite sites in England also feeds my creativity because background is so important to me in my writing— and also in my choice of reading— so there we are full circle.
Q. What is the best book you have read this year?
DONNA: Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. It has everything: history, sci fi, mystery, humor. I love the concept of time travel because I get as close to that as possible when I research the background for my books, and in this case the device of rebuilding Coventry Cathedral really gripped me because I have always been emotional about its bombing.
Q. What have you been dying to tell readers that no interviewer has asked so far?
DONNA: Since I’ve spent so much time in this interview looking back on the early days, it’s fun to recall how I wrote my first novel Brandley’s Search. We had built and moved into a new home, (our dream home, if you will, lots of room for the family inside and out) and I was exhausted. I felt like an avalanche victim covered in all those cardboard boxes. When I tunneled out I spent days— weeks— on end sitting in a comfy chair in our bedroom reading Georgette Heyer.
And then I read her Venetia and was consumed by the character of Venetia’s little brother. I can’t even recall his name now, but I had to know what happened to him. I would wake up in the middle of the night and scribble ideas. I would pull over to the curb when driving to make notes. I wrote all over my shopping list in the grocery store. It was like being pregnant. That story had to come out. And the first draft took me about nine months, too. I have often wished all my stories would come that easily, but it was a great way to start.
Donna’s latest books are A Very Private Grave, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series and The Shadow of Reality, a romantic intrigue that will be published later this summer.
A Very Private Grave features Felicity Howard, a young American woman studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire. She is caught up in a mystery when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered. This is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and her church history teacher, Fr. Antony, flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland.
“With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters
Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden, watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, and read her international blog on her Web site
16 thoughts on “Meet Author Donna Crow”
Hi Donna and Maryann. The Bobbsey Twins books were also my favorite as a child. They belonged to my oldest sister, but they got handed down sister by sister. I liked them more than the Nancy Drew books.
Enjoyed the interview!
Straight From Hel
I have hardly met any woman of, ah, “a certain age”, who has not loved the Bobbsey Twins books. I think reading them was some kind or rite of passage.
I’d forgotten all about the Bobbsey Twins. Yes, before there was Nacy there was THE Twins!
Giggles and Guns
Helen, Maryann and maribeth, Thank you so much for writing! What fun to discover a shared fondness for the Bobbsey Twins! I had no idea! When I wrote that I wondered if anyone would know what I was talking about. Ah, maryann, “a certain age” can explain anything, can’t it? Of course, my children thought I wrote my epic Glatonbury from living memory. (It begins with the druids seeing the Star of Bethlehem.)
What a wonderful interview! I also loved the Bobbsey Twins. And I loved to read. As a child, I’d check out several books from the school library and stay up most of the night reading them. I think a love for reading might be an early sign of an eventual author!
Thanks for sharing, Donna. (S)
Nancy, you are so right. I can’t imagine anyone trying to write if they don’t love to read.
Donna, good think I wasn’t drinking my coffee when I read your comment about your kids thinking you had lived your story. It is so funny what they will think.
I love your enthusiasm, faith, and perseverance through all times, Donna. You’re right: it starts with reading. Love of writing, being published. I think that being so soaked in books as children, we just can’t imagine our own won’t be out there someday, too.
Nancy and Jenny, such fun to hear from you. Jenny, I know you read a lot to your own children, too. What do you recommend? Nancy, fun to know you loved the Bobbsey twins, too. I wonder if those books will ever make a comeback? Dated, i suppose, but wonderful memories.
This has been such fun reading all the comments. So glad that everyone enjoyed Donna’s visit. And Donna, thanks for the interesting interview and stimulating a good discussion here. I have enjoyed your book and wish you well with it.
I actually started the Bobbsey Twins series with my daughter–she was six, Flossie and Freddie’s age, and just loved them. So, not dated at all! (She did note some of the political differences between then and now, but that was great fodder for discussion.) Recommendations? I’m afraid I’m somewhat inappropriate with reading to my daughter. She, like her mother, gravitates toward scary, and since she doesn’t seem to have nightmares, or do anything except come up with increasingly creative plot lines of her own in response, I tend to indulge this. Right now we are reading Stephen King’s THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON. We’ve also done THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (oh so creepy), and less torrid fare like LITTLE HOUSE, THE SECRET GARDEN, A LITTLE PRINCESS. And maybe one of these days, one of your books, Donna 🙂
What a fun list, Jenny! I would be honored to have you read one of mine to her. I missed The Secret Garden as a child, so had the great fun of discovering it with my children.
What a fascinating interview, Donna! I’ve never come across the Bobbsey Twins books (I don’t think they made it to the UK where I am) but I loved the question – and your answers.
The Secret Garden is one of my favorites and I had the honor of directing the play a few years ago at our Community Theatre. Had a wonderful group of talented kids to work with and it was one of the best productions we mounted here.
Donna, love the interiew! Had to laugh about your grade school stories. I did the same thing – wrote haunted house stories and illustrated them, mind you! and passed them around the classroom. Those were the days — a ready-made captive audience! (:
Your new book sounds wonderful. Good luck with it.
Author of ABSINTHE OF MALICE
P.S. Count me as another Bobbsey Twins fans. In fact, the first “book” I wrote was an unabashed knock-off of Bobbsey Twins, written in pencil on a lined tablet and passed around the neighborhood.
Sheesh, I was a fearless promoter when I was a kid. What happened to all that optimism and chutzpah?
LOL, Pat. I think we gain some inhibitions as we grow up. Kids let their enthusiasm for something run unbridled. We put all kinds of controls on ourselves.