Thursday, June 03, 2010

Donna Fletcher Crow

 Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 30-some books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England is her best-known work, a grail search epic beginning with the birth of Christ and going through the Reformation. She’s won numerous awards, including First Place in Historical Fiction by the National Federation of Press Women. Her newest book, A Very Private Grave, comes out this year, first in the UK and then in the US.

She’s here today to talk about what it means to be published in two different countries. She has a lot to say about how the dual publication affects editing, promotion and even paying taxes.

Welcome Donna Fletcher Crow!

Swimming the Pond

As I enter this exciting and scary world of virtual book tours I'm still smiling about the irony of talking about an ecclesiastical thriller on a blog named "Straight from Hel." And I must say any qualms I might have had were much soothed when I opened the blog and found fields of Texas bluebells and Helen's charming smile welcoming me. Thank you so much, Helen, for hosting me.

Since A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, Book 1 in The Monastery Murders series released in the UK on June 1, just in time for their National Crime Fiction Week, June 14-19, and since the US release won't come around until the end of September, the whole split personality feeling of doing business on both sides of the water is much on my mind.

First, a word about the story. Felicity Howard, a wide-eyed, strong-willed, full-steam-ahead young American woman, who found teaching Latin to London school children boring, takes herself off to remotest Yorkshire to study in a theological college run by monks. Well, what else can she do with a classics degree? When her favorite monk is brutally murdered and Felicity finds her church history lecturer with blood all over his hands the fun really begins.

So I have a very American heroine in a very English setting .(I always have American heroines when using contemporary English settings— it gives me an excuse for the inevitable mistakes.) And, surprise, surprise, when I had my first telephone conversation with my new agent whom I had only met electronically, I discovered that she is English, living in America. So we quickly agreed that, given the fact that the ecclesiastical thriller subgenre is primarily an English invention, an English publisher would be the way to go.

I have been absolutely thrilled with the process. Of course, as we all know, the Internet puts the world at our fingertips, greatly simplifying such international alliances. Perhaps I should mention at this point that, although I have published 30-some books, I had been out of circulation for a decade. That made publishing A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE like starting a whole new career. Ten years ago contracts didn't mention electronic rights. Manuscripts were sent in hard copy. Editors sent notes on little yellow post-um notes. Authors didn't have web sites or blogs or Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. . . "O wonder! . . .O brave new world, That has such people in't!"

Other than the fact that the ground had shifted under my feet, and that my husband spent months trying to get the IRS to certify with the Inland Revenue that I am a US taxpayer, the first substantial difference I noticed was in the editing process. Never in 30 years in the business have I been edited so thoroughly. I can only hope that my editor in Oxford got paid something near what she was worth (as if anyone in this business does) because she did a simply heroic job and by answering all the questions she raised I believe the story was dramatically improved. And then the copy editor didn't merely correct my capitalization and comma usage, but had her own substantive questions. I hope I was able to communicate my appreciation to them.

And now I'm working with two publicists and two release dates, wanting the English release to be a success, but not able to get there to do any events or signings on site and with my American publicist warning me not to do too much advance promotion because it will just irritate people who can't get the book yet and will forget about it by September. And with my American enthusiasms I have the feeling I'm driving my very polite and very understated English publicist quietly mad as he has to explain to me yet again that "That really isn't done here as it is in America." It's a bit of a tightrope walk stretched over a very wide pond, but I'm loving every minute of it.

And if you're reading this in America, please, please put your name on the "notify me when it's available" list on Amazon so my American publicist won't be mad at me.

P. S. Helen has kindly invited me back after the US release, so we can see how it's all working out then.

Thank you, Donna!

Donna will be back in October to talk about the U.S. release of A Very Private Grave. I’m looking forward to that.

Donna is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden and watch the book trailer at her website. At her site, you can also order A Very Private Grave in either country by clicking either Amazon (for the US version) or Amazon UK.

Feel free to ask her about her cross-continents publications, writing historicals, or what she’s working on next.
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  1. Helen, thanks so much for having Donna on your blog. Very interesting post. I recently had my foreign rights sold for one of my books (and have no idea how it all works), so this blog was very helpful for me. :)

    Donna, congratulations on your new UK release!

  2. Hi, Donna. I was wondering how much input you have with the publicists? If you have an idea for promtion, perhaps something that has worked for someone else, do they welcome your ideas, improve them, or politely negotiate around them? Do you choose the publicist?

    Thank you, and congratulations. Hope everything runs smoothly, Simon.

  3. Congratulations on your recent release in the U.K. and soon to be released in the U.S.! How exciting it must be to be facing two big dates in one year. I hope to read more of how the U.K. release is different or the same as the U.S. release over the coming months. Wishing you the best of luck.

  4. Tough balance to maintain. Sounds like the American promotion will be more fun, though. Is your English publicist really set in the way he wants to promote there?

  5. Fascinating interview...and a stunning garden. Looking forward to hearing how the American Release goes this fall. Best wishes!

  6. Helen, thanks so much for introducing this author and new series. Love the interview.

    Donna, wishing you much success with your UK release and looking forward to it coming to America.

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Elizabeth, congrats on the foreign rights sale!

  8. I always enjoy reading your blog interviews, Helen, and this was was interesting! As a dual citizen myself, I do wonder how people work with these things! I live in Scotland, but my first novel is set in San Francisco, which has made me wonder if the British audience will take to it at all.

  9. India, a book set in England is considered a rather exotic setting and is popular with readers. I don't now if that works in reverse.

  10. Congratulations on your new book release! I'd love to hear your viewpoint on the changes in publishing in the past 10 years, esp since you've been published then, and now. Do you like the changes? And see them as beneficial? Do you partake in the internet social networking, and what changes might you see in the next decade?

    Thanks Helen and Donna!

  11. Congratulations on your success Donna. Helen, thanks so much for this post, it was a pleasure to read

  12. Hi everyone. Donna should be by soon to answer questions - and we're asking some good ones!

  13. I like the short snynopsis of A Very Private Grave, Donna. Intriguing plot! It's also interesting that the heroine is American in an English setting. I think that detail alone will make American readers feel connected to the story.

    My curiosity was especially piqued after reading the part about the changes that has taken place in the publishing industry since you were last in circulation. You said, 'Never in 30 years in the business have I been edited so thoroughly' and also, '...the copy editor didn't merely correct my capitalization and comma usage, but had her own substantive questions'. Do you feel that the entire publishing process, beyond editing, has become more intense due to the new electronic formats? And, as an established author, did this new process make it smoother for you?

  14. Thanks for a wonderful and interesting blog post! I'm headed over to Amazon next to put my name on the "notify me" list for your fall release.

    I'm currently working on a book set in Glastonbury, and am excited to hear about your previous work as well. Mine is set after the Reformation, but I think I'll have to find your book to read for background.

    Best of luck with your U.K. release!

  15. Great question Alyson.
    Katie, I'm quite glad that Donna's books will be ones you'll want to read.

  16. Oh, Wow! I'm overwhelmed by all your commenrts! Thank you everyone! Helen, thank you so much for the great experience! I'll try to answer everyone, but be sure to e-mail me through my website if you want more in depth info.

    Elizabeth, Thankyou for your kind words and congratulations on your foreign rights sale. it's really odd for me that the "foreign rights" were to America.

    Simon & Diane, well, the English listen politely and then refer me to the US. The US says "We have to get permission from England." Smile. Still, in the end they are amazingly gracious and have even done things that are outside budget for them like producing my trailer (you can watch it on the home page of my website) and are printing postcards for me.

    thank you, Jane, yes, it's all a bit frantic trying to promote and plan my next books. And then my thought-provoking romantic intrigue THE SHADOW OF REALITY came out on Kindle the day after the UK release of Private Grave. I felt like I'd had twins.

    India, where do you live in Scotland? I loved researching in Scotland when writing THE FIELDS OF BANNOCKBURN. how interesting that your situation is just the opposite of mine, but i think you'll be fine. Really, people love a good story whereever it's set. Good Luck!

  17. Hi again, I've broken my replies into two sectionsbecause Joanne and Alyson especially wanted to know about the changes in the industry in 10 years.

    Over-all, Joanne, I'd says very beneficial. At least, I think they will be when it all settls down and we get used to the seismic changes that have taken place. It's certainly eaier to work now with sending ms out electronically and keeping in touch with editors and readers by e-mail. And this whole blog thing is simply wonderful! Of course, we use up lots more time with our new opportunities than we save by now having to crank things out on a typewriter--with carbon copies! There, did i date myself or what?

    Alyson, the electronic openness to self-publishing has the very grave danger of watering down editing b ecause many self-published books aren't edited at all. But for working with a professional editor the process is greatly facilitated because of the ease of exchange.

    I think the difference I found, however, wasn't due to the e-media, but to the fact that i was working with English editors. I think their intense care to "get it right" is due to their long tradition of high literary standards.

    Katie, How exciting that you are setting a book in Glastonbury. "Holiest earth in England" (also kookiest in places, too, of course--I think it goes together.) I do hope my GLASTONBURY will be helpful. I certainly tried to make it as accurate as possible and still tell a good story. Fay Sampson's DAUGHTER OF TINTAGEL is also wonderful on the Arthurian legend.
    Do let me know when yours is out!

    Again, thank you, everyone!


  18. Katie,

    I just this minute joined Sylvia Dickey Smith's new group for historical fiction: WRITERS THROUGH TIME. It looks like there will be some good discussions. Here's the link

  19. What an interesting post!

    So true - things do work very differently here in the UK as opposed to America. Great to read it from an author's perspective.

  20. Thank you Donna for those great answers to questions!

    Hi Talli. It's been nice having some UK authors stop by.

  21. I can't wait to pick up one of Donna's books. She writes exactly what I've been reading lately. This weekend I'll be shopping for one of them.

  22. Oh, Talli, great to hear from the UK! Where are you exactly? My daughter lived in oxford, then Balham, then Yorkshire and finally Manchester, so we've experienced a great deal of you green and pleasant land.

    One English reviewer said the thing she enjoyed about Private Grave was that the American heroine reflected England back to English readeers through American eyes. I wasn't really aware that I was doing that, but i can see wht she meant.

    Thank you, Susan. If by "pick one of them up this weekend" you were referring to my books (which I would love) you can order GLASTONBURY through my website and pre-order A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE right on myhomepage. THE SHADOW OF REALITY is Kindle only at the moment, on Amazon, or other formats on Smashwords. if you are in the UK Waterstones has Private Grave. A bit complicated, I'm afraid. Just didn't want you to get frustrated.

  23. Thank you Donna. Your post was great and your comments here really helped explain more.

  24. thank you so much for inviting me to your great blog, Helen. What a wonderful group of readers you have. Thank you everybody for your support and thought-provoking questions.

    I look forward to returning in October.

  25. @Donna, I live in Perthshire. It's a small country though, so I've been around most of it. It's an inspirational place to live... something in the air refreshes me.

    Feel free to contact me through my blog if you have questions about Scotland. I should work for the tourist board... i just love it so much I never get tired of talking about it with interested folks. :)

  26. Oh, yes, India, I loved perthshire. The lovely Scotsman who helped me with research for THE FIELDS OF BANNOCKBURN had a family cottage there. First time I ever got to sleep with a pig to keep my feet warm (the ceramic kind, of course). Lucky you! I will check out your website. Thanks.

  27. Great interview, Donna! Glad you came over to Writers Through Time listserv for historical fiction writers.


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