"One of the People on Whom Nothing is Lost"

Michelle Blake doesn't wear hand-tooled cowboy boots when she teaches writing classes at Tufts University. But she has plenty of other things in common with the intensely ethical character she has created for her Lily Connor mysteries. Like the Reverend Connor, an ordained Episcopal priest who runs anti-bias workshops, Blake is a deeply intelligent and moral ex-Texan whose sleuth is, in fact, the product of her "thwarted vocation."

Blake studied at Harvard Divinity School from l987 to l99l, after struggling earlier in the l970's with issues of vocation and with her desire to be "a woman with a sustaining call to serve God as a priest." Instead she moved to Vermont, received her Master of Fine Arts, became the director of two graduate writing programs, married the writer Dennis McFarland, relocated to San Francisco, and gave birth to a daughter.

Read More

Julia Spencer-Fleming Interviews Michelle Blake

Michelle Blake is the author of the critically acclaimed Lily Connor series. Lily is an Episcopal priest, born and bred in Texas, transplanted to Boston, at odds with the church, and, as befits a sleuth, often in trouble. The New York Times Book Reviews wrote that the series "...stands out for a couple of reasons--besides the essential one of being written with intelligence and grace. These books take a long view of crime, finding meaningful lessons in antisocial acts."

Blake received a master of theological studies degree from Harvard Divinity School and at one time considered becoming a priest herself. She now teaches fiction writing at Tufts University and lives outside of Boston with her husband, the novelist, Dennis McFarland, and their two children. The paperback version of the third book in the series, THE BOOK OF LIGHT, was published this spring by Penguin Putnam.

Michelle tells me she thinks associatively--which explains some of the lovely, unique imagery found in her writing. When it came to my interview questions, she grouped a few together to answer by theme.

Julia: Amazon.com has said, "To that extremely short list of crime-solving clerics who manage to be convincing as both priests and detectives (such as G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown and Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael), we can now add Lily Connor." What would you like to tell us about your series?

Read More