Donna: Lisa, thank you so much for inviting me to stop by Seeking With All Your Heart for a chat with you and your readers.
Lisa: Welcome, Donna. Why don’t you tell us first when and why did you started writing? Donna: I suppose the why all comes down to one word: love. Love of books, that is. I was an only child living on a farm and my mother was unwell, so books were my companions. And when I wasn’t reading stories I was telling myself stories in my head. I started writing seriously when I was drama minister for our church and we needed new material to produce. Starting out as a playwright was very helpful because it taught me to think in terms of constructing scenes. I wrote my first novel BRANDLEY’S SEARCH (reissued as WHERE LOVE BEGINS) when the hero got in my head (he had been a minor character in a Georgette Heyer novel I read) and demanded that I tell his story. It was like being pregnant. That story had to come out.
Lisa: Why British history instead of something else?
Donna: I always tell beginning writers to “Write from your passion.” My passion is to encourage British Christianity. I didn’t understand it myself until one time I heard a missionary speak and I realized her feelings for Africa were the same as mine for England, so I realized then that it was really a spiritual calling.
Lisa: What started you writing GLASTONBURY? Where did the research for this book take you and why so long to write it?
Donna: Many of those stories I told myself as a child involved knights saving ladies from dragons, so I’ve always had a fascination for the Arthurian stories. GLASTONBURY really came into focus for me when Carole, my editor at that time, and I visited Glastonbury on a research for my series The Cambridge Collection, of which BRANDLEY’S SEARCH was a part. Carole bought a pamphlet that told the legend of Joseph of Aramathea taking Jesus to Glastonbury as a young child. I laughed so hard cried, then I realized, “Wait a minute, that’s a wonderful story!” The research was great fun! All the Arthurian sites: Tintagel (Merlin’s cave); Dozemary Pool (The Lady of the Lake); Cadbury Castle (Camelot), and, of course, Glastonbury itself (the Tor, Chalice Well, Wearyall Hill). Then there was the research for each of the book’s six sections. Arthur is the centerpiece, but I cover; Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Tudor England as well. The Roman sites are especially wonderful to visit: Caerleon, Bath, York, Hadrian’s Wall. I cherish a picture of my two youngest children at a museum on Hadrian’s Wall wearing Roman armor. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have done all of that and that I was always able to take some of our children along on my research trips, so it enriched their lives as well. Three years of actual writing seems about right for an 876-page book that covers 1500 years. But when you consider I wrote my first Arthurian story in the 3rd grade, you could say I was rather late getting around to it. And then, I did have to take some time out in the middle to do some ghostwriting because, frankly, we needed the money.
Lisa: Where did the inspiration come from for your latest series The Monastery Murders?
Donna: I had wanted to tell the stories of British saints, beginning with St. Cuthbert, for years. When our daughter, who had studied classics at Oxford and discovered she didn’t like teaching school in London went off to a monastery in Yorkshire to study at a theological college run by monks I had the opportunity to visit her often, get acquainted with their way of life and very special style of Christianity and to know many of the monks personally. I realized then that I had the perfect setting for the stories I wanted to tell.
Lisa: Will you share what you are working on now and what readers can look forward to in the future?
Donna: Love to, Lisa! Just yesterday I finished the rough draft of AN UNHOLY COMMUNION, Monastery Murders 3. First, let me tell you about the research: Last April I met up with writer friend Dolores Gordon-Smith with whom I had become friends over the internet. Dolores, who lives in Manchester, is a lady of faith and writes charming murder mysteries set just after World War I. She escorted me the length and breadth of Wales, most of the time laughing at me because I simply couldn’t get over how hard it rained in Wales! Well, I do live in a desert. Then I spent 10 days as a considerably over-age pilgrim on a youthwalk with a group of teens and 20-somethings from all over England and Wales— and one girl from Texas— walking the 126 miles from London to Walsingham. Which just goes to prove that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for research for a novel. Well, except for the murders, you understand. So, as you’ve probably figured out, Felicity and Antony are off to lead a youthwalk pilgrimage across Wales. They follow in the steps of Aaron and Julius, two of England’s earliest martyrs; St. David, who Christianized Wales; and the early 20th century revivalist Evan Roberts. It all sounds peaceful, bucolic and relaxing— right? But if I tell you that the theme of the book is the reality of evil, you’ll know not to plan on relaxing too much.The author welcomes all inquiries, and she can be contacted through her website: http://donnafletchercrow.com/ You can reach Lisa Johnson through her email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or blog: http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/