M. E. Roche is the author of the Nora Brady student nurse mysteries, as well as mysteries for grown ups, also featuring an older Nora Brady. You can find out more about her on her website, meroche.com.
Writers are always cautioned to write what they know. Good advice, except even if we think we are familiar with something, and begin to write, we often find we don’t know as much as we thought. At least, that’s the case for me.
I am a nurse who wanted to modernize the books about nursing for today’s young readers. My early books were stylized as mysteries, and loving mysteries myself, that’s how I wrote—taking a student nurse through the settings of a nursing home, a hospital and then to a semester abroad. In each case, however, I found that I had to spend a fair amount of time fact checking something I wanted to write. As an example: I lived in Dublin, but I had no idea of the hierarchy in the Irish police—the Garda.
Later, I decided to have my main character move on into law enforcement herself, while still working occasionally in the hospital setting. I was told there was no way she could do this, but I’m a writer and I can have her do whatever I want! I did, however, connect with my local law enforcement, do some drive alongs, take a firearms course, and begin volunteering with the coroner which was part of the sheriff’s department.
At some point, friends suggested I write a story about their grandfather who was jailed at one point for bigamy. The interesting thing about the story: his first wife orchestrated the marriage to the second wife because she loved her husband. And this wasn’t some place out west; it was in New York! My friends provided newspaper accounts, but as this was set in the 1920s and 30s, there was still a lot of details to research about that time. What I knew: it was about the time of prohibition and the stock market crash. Describing their lives, I learned about the introduction of Wonder Bread and peanut butter into the American diet, and about sewing machines coming into the everyday home. I also learned about the ease with which someone could re-invent themselves prior to today’s communication between states and the invention of the internet. I also learned about prison life. All of this was fascinating to me.
The current research
I’m presently researching the past of a great-aunt I never really knew; I saw her rather frequently while growing up, but she was very quiet (maybe because there were eight of us children) we never had a real conversation. I can’t say why questions suddenly came to mind, but I remembered my mother telling me that Toots (as we called her) had been married, but her husband and two children had died in a fire before her coming to live with my grandmother. I now wanted to know more, but everyone in her generation had passed. In contacting cousins, there was a bit more to piece together: she had come from Ireland about the same time as my grandmother (early 1900s), married and moved to homestead in Nebraska. Initially, I tried Ancestry but didn’t know when she had been born, when she had come here, and I knew nothing about her husband except his name. I’ve been reading about homesteading, the dust bowl, and immigration. And I’ve discovered that our library has a genealogical center with people who will help conquer Ancestry.com! I’ve discovered there is so much I didn’t even know about this country. Again: the research is fascinating. My new book—out next month—is another mystery with my main character, Nora Brady. This one is a paranormal mystery which also required research. My curiosity piqued with the passing of one of my sisters, prompting me to explore the topic. I took a number of classes with a spiritualist who I also consulted when writing the book. It is, of course, fiction. I hope you will read and enjoy!
Please be sure to visit M. E. Roche’s webpage for more information on her books and where you can buy them. And if you’d like to see some of the other authors who have been guests here on my site, click here for the Guest Post Archives.