Thursday, September 6, 2012
Author Interview:Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail by Donna Fletcher Crow
Describe your book in five words or less.
The subtitle says it: Novel of the Holy Grail
How did the ideas for your books come to you?
I grew up on the Tales of King Arthur, so it was a natural progression to want to trace their growth from the beginnings of English history. I had originally envisioned a six-book series covering Celtic, Roman, Arthurian, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Tudor England, then I read Edward Rutherfurd’s Sarum and saw how the epic structure would work perfectly for my story. One of my key inspirations was the William Blake poem “Jerusalem” which I first heard as a hymn in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. It got hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t see it as a message, but one of the things I learned in writing my way through 1500 years of history is that it has so often been much darker than it is today. It’s easy to look at the troubles of our time and despair, but so often throughout history the flame of truth and peace has flickered very low— but it has always rekindled.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? What's the easiest?
Research is my favorite. Especially the on-site research, of course, because nothing can bring a story alive like standing on the ground where my historical characters worked and lived. Writing the rough draft is the hardest part because it requires such intense focus to bring all the elements together. I will have to say, though, that I do enjoy that part of the process because when it’s going well there’s a sort of magic that can take over.
What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?
I currently have 3 mystery series going and I’m working on new books for each of them: An Unholy Communion, #3 in my Monastery Murders is with the editor and will be out early next year; A Tincture of Murder, #4 in my Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime series is about half written; and I’m just back from a research trip to England for A Jane Austen Encounter, #3 in my Elizabeth and Richard romantic suspense series. That should keep me busy for awhile.
Why did you choose to write for specific genre?
My stories push me and I choose the genre that seems to fit the story I want to tell. As I mentioned, I didn’t originally see Glastonbury, A Novel of The Holy Grail, as an epic but then I realized that genre would be the best way to present my subject. The Monastery Murders are contemporary mysteries with a lot of history in the background. That seemed a more interesting way to tell the stories than as the straight historical novels which I had first envisioned.
What's it like hearing that readers are eagerly awaiting your book's release date?
Absolutely fantastic! Connecting with my readers is really what it’s all about. I’ve especially had this experience with the Monastery Murders because readers are really getting involved with Felicity and Antony’s relationship.
What is one question that you've always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Well, I could fantasize about being asked how I got to be so rich and famous, but I’ll have to wait until that happens before I’ll know how to answer it.
What was your road to publications like?
Very slow until things fell into place. I had written my first novel, Brandley’s Search which became part of my historical series The Cambridge Collection. It was accepted by a publisher but nothing happened. I was sitting next to the editor Carole Streeter at a writer’s conference when I got word that that publisher had gone out of business and they were returning my manuscript. I told the editor what had happened. “Send it to us,” she said.
My reply has to be one of the all-time hard sell lines: “You don’t do fiction.”
It turned out that they were just starting a fiction line. They published 4 books in that series and Carole accompanied me on the research trip that sparked much of the inspiration for Glastonbury. I recount it in the afterword of the book:
“When we drive into Glastonbury, have the Kleenex handy." I smiled at Carole, my traveling companion. For us this was the trip of a lifetime: a pleasure trip long-dreamed-of, a research trip for books we were each working on, and a religious pilgrimage.
Carole smiled and reached under the seat, behind the well-worn Ordnance Survey map by which she had navigated our journey over the maze of English roads, and finally pulled out the box of tissue.
As it happened, however, by the time I had maneuvered the little car around three more of the terrifying roundabouts at the high speed of English motorists, muddled through the rush of even heavier-than-usual closing-time traffic, and found that greatest of rarities— a parking spot in the vicinity of The George and Pilgrim Inn, my tears were from frustration, not religious ecstasy.
The next morning, though, rested by a night of sleep in the same Inn that had been accommodating pilgrims for five hundred years, we gathered umbrellas and raincoats and set out with renewed spirits.
In a mist too gentle to bother raising our umbrellas, we crossed the street and entered the ancient walls around Glastonbury Abbey. We stood by the modern oak cross given to the abbey by Queen Elizabeth II and read the inscription: "This symbol of our faith marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can describe its origins."
Then we switched on the recording we had rented for a self-guided tour: "…Glastonbury was not a public church. It was only for the monks' worship— built for the glory of God. . .”
It was when we were at the sixth station that the tall, elderly gentleman we had noticed earlier approached us and removed his hat from his a balding head. "Are you enjoying that tape?"
"Oh, yes. Very much!"
The man's eyes twinkled. "And what do you think of that fellow's voice? Rather good tones, wouldn't you say?"
Carole caught on first. "Oh, it's you— on the tape!"
The twinkle changed to a full-fledged grin, and the Prebendary of Bath and Wells introduced himself. "Retired now, served in the Cathedral at Wells for many years. But I still come here every week for the communion service. Every Tuesday of the year without fail."
I was overwhelmed anew at the holiness of the ground we stood on. "So it's really true— what they say about worship having continued here unbroken for two thousand years?"
"It certainly is. I had the opportunity to speak to the Archbishop of Canterbury once, and I told him that compared to Glastonbury, they were newcomers over there."
Soon our guide left us, and we continued our tour to the end of the tape. Reluctantly we turned away from the abbey enclosure. As we approached the massive Gothic gateway, a rather ragged street musician began a new tune on his violin:
And did those feet in ancient times,
Walk on England's mountains green…
Now I needed those Kleenex, and they were locked in the car two blocks away.
It was the next morning as we were driving toward Salisbury that Carole read aloud from a pamphlet she had picked up at a bookstall: "'Did our Lord ever come to Glastonbury as a lad? The story lingers not only here, but elsewhere as well. Briefly, the tradition is that our Lord, entrusted to the care of his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea by his mother Mary, daughter of Joseph's elder brother, accompanied Joseph on one of his expeditions to Britain to seek metals for his flourishing trading company.'"
I gave a shout of laughter. "What? That's crazy!"
But Carole kept on. "No, wait, this is interesting. It says, 'Perhaps there is some truth in the tradition which still lingers in Somerset that St. Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain first as a metal merchant seeking tin from the Scilly Isles and Cornwall, and lead, copper, and other metals from the hills of Somerset, and that our Lord Himself came with him as a boy. The tradition is so startling that the first impulse is to reject it summarily as ridiculous.'"
"It sure is," I said, but Carole kept on.
"'Amongst the old tin-workers, who always observed a certain mystery in their rites, there was regularly a moment when they interrupted their work to sing a quaint song beginning, "Joseph was in the tin trade."
"'If this is so, it is quite natural to believe that after the crucifixion, when the church was dispersing under persecution and in answer to the Great Commission, Joseph and his party, which included his son Josephes, would come to this land with which Joseph was already acquainted.
"'Among the cherished possessions the little band brought with them was the cup used at the Last Supper in Joseph of Arimathea's Jerusalem residence, an ordinary cup in everyday use in his house, now become a sacred treasure, since with this cup of olivewood our Lord had inaugurated the new covenant.'"
My imagination was now so thoroughly engaged I traveled the roundabout three times, and I wasn't laughing at all.
About the Book:
THE HOLY GRAIL LIES SOMEWHERE IN GLASTONBURY!
When Joseph of Arimathea and his little band of pilgrims sought asylum from Roman persecution they fled to Glastonbury — and carried with them the most sacred relic in all of Christendom.
This tiny, sheltered corner of Britannia — this holy “Isle of Avalon” — was also a place of refuge when King Arthur and his knights fought off the invading barbarian hoard and it became the King’s final resting place.
Centuries later, the discovery of Arthur’s bones in Glastonbury sparked a great flowering of the faith and yet more magnificent building — after a devastating fire nearly obliterated the work and worship of centuries.
Then, after the last abbot of Glastonbury was dragged to his death atop Glastonbury Tor, the Abbey’s splendid arches were left to crumble. And yet they still stand today — as beacons of hope for the future.
Two millennia of history and legend intertwine around Glastonbury’s broken arches. And through it all — through ages ancient and modern — the faithful have sought to answer the same question that Arthur asked: Where is the Holy Grail?
About the Author:
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
Donna is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to:
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Pick up your copy of Donna Fletcher Crow’s Glastonbury: A Novel of the Holy Grail at Amazon
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