American Heroine Abroad
Maryann: Felicity, welcome to It’s Not All Gravy
Felicity: Thank you, Maryann. I’m delighted to be here for my very first interview. I don’t know why people always interview that Donna Fletcher Crow woman when I’m more than capable of speaking for myself.
Maryann: The circumstances that led you to become the heroine of A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE are unique. Can you tell us about your journey?
Felicity: I suppose my life as a heroine all started when I grew to be over 5 foot, 10 inches tall and my adored Miss Lisa broke it to me that attempting a career as a ballerina was an impractical aspiration. My next love was Latin. I was incredibly fortunate to have a really inspiring Latin teacher in high school. So I majored in Classics in college, went on to study at Keble College, Oxford and spent a year teaching Latin in a school in London.
Maryann: That sounds like a wonderful experience.
Felicity: Well, define “wonderful.” I suppose it was more my fault than my students’, but let’s just cut to the chase and say I hated it. So much so that one day I just didn’t show up— spent the time reading in a coffee shop instead. That told me I had to find some other way to use my Latin. I had heard that the church is the only place Latin is still actually used today, so I thought I might fit in there. My landlady in London was actually a Church of England priest (her church sponsored the school I was supposed to be teaching in), and she told me about this really intriguing-sounding theological college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire. So I applied and was accepted.
Maryann: You must have had a strong church background to want to study to become a priest yourself.
Felicity: (laughs) My family never missed a service at our local cathedral.
Maryann: That’s quite a record.
Felicity: Yep. Every Christmas and Easter. Just like clockwork.
Maryann: Oh, you’re teasing me.
Felicity: Well, yes. But the important point is that I really did love those services and I saw women participating in them and I thought, “I could do that.” And I loved the smoke and the candles and the elegant vestments. Oh, and the music— a really wonderful pipe organ and choir.
Maryann: That sounds lovely. But doesn’t it take a little more than that to be a priest or minister?
Felicity: Oh, you sound just like Fr. Antony. He’s my church history professor. Not a monk, just a regular priest who lectures at the college. He’s always on about daily prayer and holy living and that sort of thing. But, then, he can be really interesting and a lot of fun sometimes, too. And he’s really incredibly handsome in his cassock.
Maryann: So what’s it like for a young America woman, living in a monastery?
Felicity: The rigid schedule of prayers and practices like fasting can be a bit much, but I’ll have to admit that it gets hold of you. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and I’ve decided it’s like living on a parallel universe. There are all these everyday people out there going about their normal, everyday lives, and they have no idea places like this exist all over England— all over the world, really. It’s a very Harry Potter experience.
Maryann: I’ve read about female clergy being a very controversial thing in some parts of the church. Have you experienced any discrimination?
Felicity: A few days ago I would have said hardly any. I know a few of the older monks don’t really approve, but most people have been very welcoming. But then on Ash Wednesday my room was completely turned over. They made a terrible mess, but nothing was stolen. So I have to think it was an anti-women clergy thing. Or maybe an anti-American thing. I was absolutely furious and ready to tell off the whole college, but then I discovered my favorite monk, dear old Father Dominic brutally murdered. And Father Antony standing over him with blood all over his hands—
Donna: That’s quite enough, Felicity. You mustn’t tell any more of your adventure. Let them read the book.
Felicity: Excuse me! This is my story and I think I know quite enough to tell it in my own way.
Donna: Well, Maryann, you see what I’m up against, working with this young woman. No matter how difficult she can be, though, I’ll have to admit she’s never boring. And I will tell you a secret, I foresee that a great part of the fun of my Monastery Murders series is going to be growing Felicity up. At the moment she thinks she knows everything— which just tells you how much she has to learn.
Maryann: Thank you so much Felicity, and Donna, for sharing with us today. And let me invite my readers to go to Donna’s Web site where they can read more about the Monastery Murders, see a book video about Felicity and Antony and even buy the book.
Felicity: Yes, do visit us there, and on the Research Albums page you can see a slide show of the garden from my monastery. And I really don’t know what that woman is on about— just because I know my own mind and I’m not afraid to act on my convictions. . .
Maryann and Donna: Thank you, Felicity!