We yearn to create a story that engages readers and tempts them to read into the wee morning hours. How do we accomplish that? An editor helped author Donna Fletcher Crowe recognize an important key. ~ Dawn
A Heroine to Love
by Donna Fletcher Crow
What do you look for first in selecting a book, especially if the author is unknown to you? An exciting plot? Captivating characters? An enticing background? Of course, we want all of them in our stories. Along with a meaningful theme, beautiful prose and. . . Well, the list goes on. But it seems that more than anything else, it’s the people that matter most.
This really came home to me when I received that all-important, long-awaited acceptance letter for A Very Private Grave, The Monastery Murders 1. The editor said, “We think that Felicity is a heroine readers will really care about.” That was it. Well, of course, I was thrilled. I didn’t really care why they accepted it just so long as they did! But what about my breathtaking, intricate plot that I had lost so many nights of sleep over? What about the amazing background development of sites that I had slogged through mud and wind to visit? What about all the history I had pored over in cold libraries to get just right? What about. . .
That was an excellent lesson to me. I had loved Felicity and had worked hard to make her a living, breathing character, but my editor’s comment showed me the importance of the heroine. And he’s right, isn’t he? We love Pride and Prejudice because we suffer with Elizabeth (well, and also because Mr. Darcy is so gorgeous!). We reread Jane Eyre countless times because living Jane’s life vicariously is such an amazing experience.
Felicity started out a very different woman. Because I was using my daughter Elizabeth’s experiences as Felicity’s background: studied classics at Oxford, found she disliked teaching school in London, went off to study theology in a college run by monks in rural Yorkshire. . . For the first few chapters of my rough draft, Felicity was Elizabeth— sweet, devout, compliant. Fabulous qualities in a daughter, but in a heroine B-O-R-I-N-G.
So the real Felicity was born— brilliant, impulsive, loyal, headstrong. Felicity went off to become a priest so she could set the world right with no doubts that she would be able to do so. At the end of A Very Private Grave she tells Antony, “I thought I knew everything. Now I realize I don’t know anything.”
Antony replies, “I can’t think of a better place to start.”
In A Darkly Hidden Truth Felicity, who never does anything by halves, has decided she’s going to be a nun— in spite of Antony’s pleas that she help him find the valuable stolen icon, in spite of the fact that her mother is about to arrive from the States unexpectedly, in spite of the fact that a dear friend has disappeared. . .
Again, Felicity has a lot to learn, and, even though it seems she must learn everything the hard way, she is making progress. Especially when it comes to choosing the course for the rest of her life. Will it be the veil or Antony?
Who are some of your favorite fictional heroines? What makes them special to you?
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 38 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, 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.
Her newest release is A Darkly Hidden Truth, book 2 in her clerical mystery series The Monastery Murders. She also writes the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about these books and to see book videos for A Darkly Hidden Truth and for A Very Private Grave, Monastery Murders 1, as well as pictures from Donna’s garden and research trips go to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com.