Monday, October 25, 2010

The Story Behind the Story and Book Giveaway

Hi, Ruth Ann here. What do a 7th century hermit, a children's hospital in Africa and a thoroughly modern heroine have to do with each other? If you would like to know, read the story below by my guest blogger, Donna Fletcher Crow. Then leave a comment to enter the draw for a copy of Donna's book, A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels of British Christian history. The award-winning epic GLASTONBURY, is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search covering 15 centuries of English history. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, Book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her re-entry into publishing after a ten-year hiatus. THE SHADOW OF REALITY, Book 1 of The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries, is a romantic intrigue available on Ebook.

Donna and her husband have four adult children and ten grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and tea-drinker.

Over to you, Donna.


A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, Book 1 in my Monastery Murders series, is a contemporary thriller with an all-too modern heroine who is determined to change the future with her efforts to bring about justice. But when her favorite monk in the theological college she is attending is brutally murdered, Felicity is forced to learn about the past in order to bring about justice much closer to home. What can the life, death and strange posthumous travels of a 7th century hermit, who communed with birds and swam with otters, possibly have to do with events today?

I have wanted to tell the story of St. Cuthbert ever since I first heard of him. It must have been in 1985. I was in England with my two youngest children, John 12 and Elizabeth 5, doing research for The Cambridge Collection, my series on 18th and 19th century evangelical Anglicans. Durham had no place in the story I was writing then, but I knew I wanted to see it.

It took only one look at that storybook city with its ancient cathedral and castle perched high on a rocky pinnacle for me to fall in love. And then all the stories about St. Cuthbert— how this holy man transformed the north of England by his gentle, loving life. That was what captivated me, really— the fact that there was no story. Simple faith and love.

A lovely way to live, but it makes for a very short novel.

And so I began pondering telling St. Cuthbert’s story in the context of a thriller— maybe even with Muslims on a jihad. And this was more than a decade before 9/11. After I published my Arthurian epic, GLASTONBURY, The Story of Christian England, in 1992 I approached my editor with the idea of doing St. Cuthbert as a follow-up. He was enthusiastic.We signed a contract.

Then he moved to a different publishing house. In due course a new contract arrived from a new publisher. A contract that my lawyer husband advised me not to sign.

By 1997, I had written THE FIELDS OF BANNOCKBURN, my story of Scottish Christianity and my editor, who had attended Trinity College, Dublin, wanted me to write an Irish epic. No way. “I am NOT going to Ireland. They throw bombs at each other there.” We agreed that I would write my St. Cuthbert story. Contract signed.

And then The Good Friday Agreement. Apparent peace in Ireland. I knew I was to write the story of Christianity in Northern Ireland. We simply inserted a new title, THE BANKS OF THE BOYNE, on the contract and I made my travel plans. (Three days before I was to leave— taking my teenage daughter and her friend with me— the glorious peace was shattered and it was only on hearing directly from God that I went ahead with the project. But that’s another story.)

So life moved on, as life is prone to do. Our daughter went off to study classics at Keble College, Oxford, then stayed in London to work in a Church of England church before going on to theological college. While in London she met a lovely young man who was also working for a church before going on to theological college . . .

Never mind that her mother had made her stand against the wall and repeat, “I will not get serious with any man I have not know for two years” twenty times. True love is simply overwhelming. And aren’t we glad?  Besides, London is seven hours ahead of Boise and I was getting phone calls regularly at 3 a.m. telling me “Mama, he’s so wonderful.” And he is.

So they went off together to The College of the Resurrection, run by The Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire. Not yet married, Elizabeth lived in the tiny cottage outside the community grounds that they would share as man and wife and Lee lived in the dormitory. They were married in Wakefield Cathedral during Christmastide 2003.

During their three years with The Community of the Resurrection I was exceedingly privileged to visit many times, to get acquainted with the monks and lay teachers in the college, to understand how they lived, to enter into their worship.  In other words, to live what was to become the background for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE.

Of special interest to this blog is the fact that even work the Mirfield Fathers have done in South Africa became a barely fictionalized part of my story, and that Felicity and Antony's motivation for saving the fabled treasure is to build Fr. Dominic's African Children's Hospital.

Felicity Howard, my energetic, headstrong, American heroine has a background that needed very little fictionalizing, as does the setting of my College and Community of the Transfiguration. I was only a few pages into the story, however, when I realized that giving Felicity Elizabeth’s background was fine. Giving her Elizabeth’s personality would never work. Well, except perhaps for the headstrong bit. But Felicity is very much her own person with her own ideas of life. And a great deal to learn, indeed.  As a matter of fact, I think that growing Felicity up will be much of the fun of writing this series.

You can read more about Felicity, watch my trailer and see research photos for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE and read about my other books, and even order them, on my website:

Thank you, Donna, what a fascinating story. I'm about to sign off so that I can take a look at the photos and book trailer on your website.

Donna has kindly offered to send  a copy of A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE  anywhere in the world to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment for Donna and your email address by midnight Thursday, 4th November if you would like to be entered in the draw for her book. The winner will be announced in the Sunday Edition on the 7th November.

The giveaway is void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.
Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.


  1. Wow, I'm the first to leave a comment? I'd love to win your book, Donna. I'm at avaldal at shaw dot ca. I'm fascinated by the depth of your historical research. What a wonderful resource you have in the ancient lands of the British Isles. In Canada anything 200 years old is considered the beginning of time :-)

  2. Ruth Ann, Thank you so much for the great opportunity to share with your international readership. It's going to be so much fun to see where in the world I ship my book to.

    Alice, thank you for being the first to sign up! I was delighted to see your address because I have just returned from a month in Calgary with my daughter and her children while Lee went back to England. You can read about my adventures there on my blog: just scroll down through as many as your find interesting.
    Also, I'm laughing about 200 years ago being the beginning of time! Same thing here in the western US, of course. I'm sure that has much to do with my life-long fascination with the British Isles.

  3. Ruth and Donna, thanks for a great and interesting post. I had to giggle at your comment about Ireland ... that was my impression about the country too - and then God took me to live there for 18 months and I discovered a totally different world. I allude briefly to that in my blog tomorrow, "Another Time, Another Place" and you'll get an idea of why I'd love to win your book.

    My email is marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net.

  4. I'd love to win this book. It sounds very interesting!


  5. Thanks so much, Donna and Ruth Ann, for such an interesting blog. I enjoyed the beautiful photos too! I would love to win a copy of 'A Very Private Grave' - even the title sounds fascinating! I am an Ellis Peters fan from way back - I love her Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries - and the title of this book reminded me of them. My email address is jo-anne[at]jo-anneberthelsen[dot]com.

  6. Marion, Oh, yes, I absolutely fell in love with Ireland and most especially the Irish people, but it truly took going there for me to understand.
    Jo-Anne, I'm a brother Cadfael fan, too. Ellis Peters has also writtens ome wonderful historical novels as Edith Pargeter.

  7. Ruth and Donna,
    Thank you for a fascinating post. I love the way you choose a location and link it with Christianity.If you're really prepared to mail to South Africa, I would love to read this. My email address is shirley(at)shirleycorder(dot)com.

  8. a wonderful posting....thanks for the chance to read this fabulous novel :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  9. I would be delighted to mail to South Africa, Shirley, even though the US Mail is just about the only postal service in the world that doesn't apply their book rate to international mail. Grrrr.

  10. As far back as I can remember, I have loved murder mysteries, especially those set in the British Isles. I am thrilled that Donna is writing for the Christian market and was reminded of Brother Cadfael, like someone else mentioned. A Very Private Grave sounds like it should be made into a PBS mystery series!

    Donna, have you considered making your earlier books available in the Kindle format? I'd love to read them.

    Donna and Ruth, I enjoyed this interview and appreciate the chance to win Donna's book.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

  11. Oooh, thank you Carole! Wouldn't that be fun! When the book was first announced a movie producer asked to read it for a possible option. But he passed, saying "it sounded too much like "The DaVinci Code." Then a recent reviewer complained because it wasn't enough like "The DaVinci Code." They were both wrong, of course--A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE was never intended to be or not to be anything like that--but there's no accounting for opinions. Anyway, thanks for writing!

  12. Ruth Ann, do we have a winner yet? I'll autograph the book and post it as soon as I know. Blessings to all!

  13. Yes, Donna, we do have a winner--it's Shirl! Congratulations, Shirl, I'm sure you're going to enjoy Donna's book.

    Thank you to everyone who left comments for Donna.

    Thank you, Donna, for a fascinating "Story Behind the Story" and for doing a giveaway of "A Very Private Grave." Thank you for taking the time to pop in and leave comments for our readers.

    May God bless you all.