This month, I'll be interviewing Donna Crow, author of the Monastary Murders -- among other books. The reason I selected her is our common interest in theology. The series I mentioned has a major focus on church history.
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JR: Welcome, Donna. Please tell us about your current projects, and especially about the Monastery Murders series. Also, how many novels have you written?
DC: Thank you so much, Jeff. I’m delighted to be visiting Hoosier Ink today. A Darkly Hidden Truth is my 39th novel. Almost all of them reflect my love of British Christian history in some way. The Monastery Murders, while being contemporary murder mysteries, all tell stories of England’s Christian history as Felicity and Antony wade through clues from the past and clamber over the ruins of ancient holy sites in order to solve the mysteries.
These are stories I have wanted to tell for many years, but the series came together when our daughter Elizabeth, a classics major who found she disliked teaching in London, went off to a theological college run by monks in Yorkshire. Anyone who has read A Very Private Grave, the first in the series, will recognize those similarities in Felicity’s background. I got acquainted with the monks and their remarkable spirituality when visiting Elizabeth and wanted to share their story as well. My Community of the Transfiguration is a very thinly disguised Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield.
JR: What inspired you to write this series, especially the emphasis on church history?
DC: At the deepest level I see my passion for British Christianity and my desire for spiritual renewal in England as a spiritual calling. I struggled for years to understand it and then the light dawned when I heard a missionary talking about her longings for Africa.
I also have a great desire that these wonderful stories not be lost. Those who have gone before us in the faith have suffered greatly and struggled valiantly to pass the word of God on to us. It’s important that we remember what they did. I also like to emphasize traditional Christianity because, again, many of the “old ways” are in danger of being lost and I want my readers to see the validity and richness they offer as well.
JR: This series reflects Episcopalian tradition. Is this something that you grew up with? And am I correct you have a son in the ministry?
DC: I grew up as a Nazarene, Jeff. A tradition for which I thank God. Our four children were all raised in that denomination and they, too, are thankful for the excellent teaching they received. All are serving God and raising our 11 grandchildren in the faith, although in various denominations. I like to say that we are a “wildly ecumenical” family. I think this is very important because we all have so much to offer each other and we are all one family.
Yes, indeed! Our son-in-law is an Anglican priest, serving in Calgary. He also studied at the Community of the Resurrection and is a great resource person when I need to know how Father Antony would handle something. You’ll see my acknowledgment to Fr. Lee Kenyon in my books. Also, our youngest son is a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, studying to become a Free Methodist minister. We are very proud of them both.
JR: In The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Christian Fiction, Ron Benrey suggests avoiding mentioning denominations and having the churches in the stories having names like Metropolis Community Church to appeal to a broader base. What reaction have you received from editors and readers for having an Episcopalian/Catholic type tradition in the story?
DC: Interestingly, Jeff, Ron Benrey’s wife Janet was my agent for this series. Since Janet is English she “got” the Church of England background I was working with and sold the series to Monarch Books— an English publisher who also understands the milieu I’m working in.
Technically, my setting is Anglican— a more generic term than Church of England or Episcopalian. It’s important for readers to realize Antony is not Roman Catholic, even though almost all of the history I recount is, of course. The thing is, I want Antony to be free to marry and I have no desire to rewrite The Thorn Birds, gripping as I found it.
JR: I know there are currently two parts in the Monastery Murders. Are there more on the way? And what else do you have on your burner?
DC: Book 3, An Unholy Communion, is almost finished although I don’t have a publication date for it yet. In it, I tell the story of St. David and also recount the 1904 Welsh Revival. I hope there will be several more Monastery Murders because I have many more stories I want to tell.
I'm also working on book 4 in my Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime series but it’s early days of research for that. I’m also planning book 3 in the Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Each of these has a literary figure in the background: Dorothy L Sayers in The Shadow of Reality, Shakespeare in A Midsummer Eve's Nightmare. Jane Austen will be next. So much to do!
JR: Thank you very much for your time, and we'll be looking forward to reading your latest book.
DC: Thank you, Jeff. I really enjoyed your probing questions. I love your "Who says theology can't be thrilling?" motto. I agree. After all, in more enlightened times, Theology was "The Queen of sciences."
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Please visit Donna's website, www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com. It contains information on all her books, trailers for both A Very Private Grave and A Darkly Hidden Truth, and even pictures of her garden.