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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History


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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Fay Sampson Discovers Recurring Themes in Her Work

By Fay Sampson ~ April 20, 2015

t’s strange how some ideas haunt you, turning up repeatedly in your work, even when you don’t consciously will it. 

When I set out to write the Aidan Mysteries I wanted to set them in sacred places that had seized my imagination when I first visited them – a wonderful excuse, too, for a second, in-depth pilgrimage. I set the third of these, A Corpse in Holy Waters, around the sacred wells of Cornwall and Devon. In particular, there was that little chapel of St Clether, out on the moor, where the stream comes into the church from one well-house, flows behind the altar, and out into a second sacred well on the south side. And the spectacular pools of St Nectan’s Kieve, where the water leaps through a natural hole in an arch of rock. 








Corpse in Holy Waters (Greenbrier) is available on all the main ebook platforms.





                                                                                                                                                     But I was not expecting sacred wells when I started researching for the second novel in my new crime series, The Wounded Snake. I chose for my setting the wonderful medieval Dartington Hall and the fascinating nearby town of Totnes.

This is well known as the landing-place of the legendary Brutus, who is supposed to have given his name to Britain, for its Elizabethan street market, its fondness for alternative lifestyles, the supposed ‘leper squint’ in the church, where  victims were said to watch the services through the aperture, though it’s probably something else, and the narrow ‘leper paths’ leading down from where the Magdalen Hospital once was.

What I had not known about, curiously, were the Leechwells. ‘Leech’ is an old name for a healer. Almost all healing wells are dedicated to saints, like the ones I had used in Cornwall. Totnes’s Leechwells are different. Three springs flow into a rectangular basin. Each is received by a separate trough, edged with granite. These individual pools each have a name: the Toad, the Snake and the Long Crippler. That wonderful last name is the local word for a Slowworm, also known as the Blindworm. Paradoxically, its waters are said to be good for the eyesight, just as the pool of the warty Toad cures skin ailments.

 No one knows the origin of these curious names and their attribution to the three springs.

Needless to say, once I had discovered them, the Leechwells came to play a crucial part in the plot.

When you are a writer of imaginative literature you don’t always have to look hard for your best material – it often comes to you unbidden.

The fist in this new series about two female sleuths, is The Wounded Thorn, set in the marvellously evocative town of Glastonbury. It is published by Severn House in hardback, with ebook and possibly paperback later. The Wounded Snake will follow it.

Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick.

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Reader Comments:

Fay, what wonderful research adventures you have! I'm so pleased to hear about your up-coming book The Wounded Snake. We'll look forward to reading it.
-Donna, April 20, 2015

Yes, one of the joys of writing novels is the excuse to go on research trips to immerse myself in the settings.

I began writing novels with place as the driving factor. I asked myself "What might happen in a place like this?" 50 books on, it's still very important to me.

The Wounded Snake, appropriately, has twists and turns in the course of the story. There was a moment when I couldn't see how the last twist, which I knew needed to happen, was going to work out so that the whole thing fell logically into place. But a weekend's reflection and, yes, of course that's why he went missing and how the mystery finally unravelled.

I'm now looking forward to The Wounded Thorn being published in the USA in June. Place is vital there too. The wonderfully evocative setting of Glastonbury, where sacred history meets you at every turn. Legend claims it to be the oldest Christian site in Britain.
-Fay, April 23, 2015

Isn't it funny, Fay, how the answers to plot questions are always there, but sometimes we don't see them for awhile.
The same thing recently happened to me in the next monastery murder. Ah the mysteries of the subconscious mind!
-Donna, April 23, 2015

That's why I don't like to write too prescriptive a synopsis before I start. Yes, I need an overarching plot, but some of the best ideas occur spontaneously in the course of the writing. You reach a certain juncture and something deep inside says, "Yes! That's what needs to happen."
-Fay, May 4, 2015

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