Donna Fletcher Crow, author of “A Tincture of Murder”

ATinctureOfMurderWhat is your book about?

A Tincture of Murder is a Victorian true-crime novel in my Lord Danvers series. This one is set in mid-Victorian York where Charles and Antonia, Lord and Lady Danvers are drawn into working in the Magdalen Asylum for Fallen Women, much to Lord Danvers’ disgust. But, you see, Frederick, his younger brother has taken Holy Orders and is running this refuge for the destitute and disreputable—and women are dying. If Charles and Antonia can’t find out why the refuge won’t survive. And neither will Freddie’s reputation. Family honour is at stake.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I have wanted to write about the work of the mid-Victorian slum priests for many years. Freddie’s work is based on that of the Reverend Charles Fuge Lowder who did such valiant work at St. Peter’s London Docks. These men from the best families and of the highest education chose to work and live among the poorest of the poor, sharing the Gospel in a truly hands-on way.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

When my publisher asked for another in the Lord Danvers series I began looking for the true crime I would want to work with. That’s how I put together all my books in this series: find the historical crime, then build a fictional story around this. When I found the case of William Dove, the Leeds’ Poisoner, whose trial explored legal principles still debated today, I knew this was what I wanted to do. And then, as a special bonus, I found a second true crime— this one more bizarre than anything you’ll read in Dickens.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I think perhaps I’m more “present” in the setting and subject matter. My passion for the history of British Christianity and my desire to tell the stories of holy men and women of ages past comes through in all my books. Lord Danvers is probably my most biographical character (apart from those who are actually historical figures) in this series. I often say that all my heroes are based on my husband. Antonia is becoming more like me now that she’s a mother.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Charles’ Aunt Aelfrida, The Dowager Duchess of Aethelbert is my favorite character. She rules her family with an iron fist, an autocrat who is always certain that she is right (even when she’s wrong). Everyone is terrified of her, but yet they love her. She’s a lot like Maggie Smith in “Downton Abbey” but I created her years and years before the Dowager Countess of Grantham
Made her appearance.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Since I try never to write about a place I haven’t visited and almost all of my books are set 7000 miles away in Great Britian, I usually have to have the plot mapped out before I take a research trip so I can be certain I visit all the places I need to. In this case, since it is almost all set in York, which is one of my favorite cities on Earth, the main mapping out needed to be of the trial of William Dove which reflects many clues to the puzzle Charles and Antonia are working on. I was fortunate to be able to get an 1856 published transcript of the trial to work from.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

First, I hope my readers go away feeling they’ve been entertained with a good read. I hope they’ve smiled from time to time at my characters’ foibles. I also hope they’ve learned something about the times and places I’m writing about. Most of all, I hope my readers will come to share my sense that “History is Now.” We are living today with the results, for good or for bad, of the acts of previous generations. We can be inspired by the holy and avoid the evil.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I like to go to my computer right after breakfast and stay there until my husband (whose office is also at home) and I stop fro afternoon tea at 3:00. This is the schedule we’ve carried over from having children coming home from school when everything would stop and we would sit down together around a pot of tea and healthy snacks. In that time I always hope to have written five pages.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

I start my day with morning prayers and a cup of tea. I have a sofa in my office where I sit to light a candle, read my Bible and pray. Then I have a routine of stretching exercises I do while my computer is booting. Then get to work.

What are you working on right now?

I have two other series besides the Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime: The Monastery Murders (Book 3, AN UNHOLY COMMUNION will be out early next year), and the Elizabeth & Richard Romantic Suspense series. Since Elizabeth and Richard are both literature professors, each book in that series has a literary figure in the background: Dorothy L. Sayers in THE SHADOW OF REALITY, Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER EVE’S NIGHTMARE. I’m currently writing book 3 A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER. This summer I visited all the places Jane Austen lived in England. Elizabeth and Richard are now following that same path— but fortunately, I wasn’t dogged by a murderer.

Where can people learn more about your books?

donnaCrowBlackWhiteThe Lord Danvers series is available in all ebook formats:
I would love to have readers visit my website to see my book trailers, read about all my books, see photos from my research trips and visit my garden:
You can click the little orange B in the upper right corner of my homepage to go to my blog, or go directly to “Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light”
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