Friday, March 23, 2012

A Heroine to Love by Donna Fletcher Crow

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:


  1. Dawn, thank you so much for inviting me to Seriously Write. As I've said elsewhere, I see much of the fun of this series will be growing Felicity up. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share Felicity with your readers.

  2. And to answer my own question as to my favorite fictional heroine--I expect it's obvious from my article--Elizabeth Bennett in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Come to think of it, she and Felicity share a lot of qualities: opinionated, headstrong, sure of herself, yet caring, intelligent, willing to admit a mistake. . .

  3. Our pleasure, Donna! As for fictional heroines, I've always loved Jo in LITTLE WOMEN because she was so independent. Another favorite is Hadassah in the MARK OF THE LION series by Francine Rivers. Hadassah inspired me in so many ways.

  4. Oh, yes, Jo is a great role model. I still remember crying when my mother read Little Women to me for the first time. And, of course, I was in love with Marme.

  5. I love your description of Felicity. My favorite fictional heroines...that's a tough one. Polly of the Five Little Peppers. Heidi. Betsy of Betsy, Tacy, & Tib. Jo. I have to think of some modern ones!

  6. I loved Sara Crewe in "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. During my childhood & adolescence I read that book over and over again. My favourite bit was the transformation scene in the attic, when Sara asks her friend to imagine a sumptuous feast, & describes it and encourages her to believe in it, and then it magically appears before the 2 girls. I loved Sara for her courage, her faith and her imagination. You are right Donna, characters do matter above all.

  7. Your question reminds me how I always preferred reading my brothers' books to mine when I was a kid. Their heroes had such more exciting lives than my heroines.

  8. What great answers. oh, yes, jenny. heidi--how i loved having my mother read Heidi to me. Somehow i didn't meet the Francis Hodgson Burnett characters until I had myown children to read them to--but equally delightful that way. Sheila, I grew up on the Bobbsey Twins--equal number of boys and girls.

  9. What a coincidence...Just today I wrote about heroines in my blogspot. I'll have to check out Donna's books.

  10. Loves to read tipps about writing. I have alot to learn, although I am just wring post for my blog. It is an important reminder to really connect with the readers. nice post!

  11. Ah, Joy-- I've been at this for more than 30 years and I *never* stop learning! That's part of the joy of the job.

  12. Hi Donna, I also loved Jo in LIttle Women - she was me! Also Maggie Tulliver (Mill on the Floss) I can't think of any ONE heroine in books I've read as an adult... maybe Anlexander McCall Smith's No 1 Lady Detective (who is NOT like me!)


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