Since growing up in the Midwest, M. E. Roche has lived on both coasts as well as in Ireland. As a registered nurse, she’s had the opportunity to work in many facets of nursing and volunteer with her local coroner—part of the sheriff’s department—in northern California. Her favorite books have always been mysteries.
Her first three books were young adult mysteries, introducing Nora Brady as a student nurse. Nora has since moved on to three adult mysteries, and the newest ONCOLOGY has just been released on Amazon. In addition, M. E. has written the standalone mystery novel: BIGAMY, set in the 1930s. She is currently working on another standalone set in the Dust Bowl era.
ONCOLOGY – Cancer Treatment Can Be Murder has Nora working as an RN in an oncology clinic. When a former patient suffers a heart attack while on a cruise, an autopsy is done as required; this shows no evidence of prior cancer treatment. The medical examiner in San Diego who did the autopsy notifies his friend, the medical examiner in Jacobsport, who is Nora’s friend—the one who got her the job in oncology. Determining how this might have happened and how many other patients might have been affected is a complicated undertaking for this inexplicable situation. Determining who is responsible while not raising any alarms can also be risky for Nora and her friends.
What brought you to writing? Like many, I thought about writing long before I sat down to do it. At some point, it’s that “If not now, when?” The shortage of nurses has always been a problem, never more notable than the present. While I had never read the books written in the 1950s and 60s about nursing students who solved mysteries, I knew of them, read them later in life, and decided they needed an update, which is what my first three novels attempted to do—the idea being to attract young readers to the nursing profession. After completing those, I decided I wanted to bring Nora Brady into adulthood and wanted her to become a detective without completely giving up her nursing career.
Your Writing Process: I start with a vague idea of what a story will be about, but I love letting the characters shape the direction of the narrative. I find that writing first thing in the morning, after a cup of coffee or two and maybe the early news, is the best time for me—sitting at my desktop and letting the words come…or maybe not come. I’ll give the process an hour or so, then take a walk and let the day begin. I seldom go back to work in progress, rather using later in the day for editing or correspondence. When writing, I prefer no distractions, but later in the day, I may have an easy listening station playing.
Current Project: I often have several projects going on at the same time. Right now, I’m working on finishing a novel I started some time ago about a series of crimes that transverses the country, from the northwest coast to the city of Boston. It involves inter-agency workings that I’m attempting to learn and manage. In addition, I’m working on another novel set in the 1930s about a great-aunt of mine who immigrated from Ireland and ended up marrying a man in Nebraska—a homesteader. He eventually dies, and she’s left with all the problems that ensued for many wiped out during the Dust Bowl era. It raised so many questions and has necessitated quite a bit of research, not just in that era but also about my family. Most of the family had made it to Chicago, so how did she end up in Nebraska?
Setting the Location for a Novel: The Nora Brady novels are set in the fictional Jacobsport, California, which is based on Eureka, California. I was told I should have used the actual name of the town and places, that it would be more relatable for readers, but I worried about getting too close to home with actual places or people. Eureka readers will tell me they see the places I describe, but I hope there’s just enough anonymity. However, when Nora goes down to San Francisco, I use actual streets and landmarks. This is also what I do for the background in Boston. When I was writing Bigamy, however, I did base the story on actual people in a small town in New York state, where relatives of the characters still lived. I couldn’t chance using real names or locations, so I moved the story to New Jersey and a fictional town.
Kind of Research: There is some research for every novel, even where my nursing is involved, as things have become so specialized. When writing about law enforcement, I try to stay pretty clear of legal and procedural specifics and instead focus on the character’s deductive reasoning. In my volunteer work with the coroner, I did several ride-alongs with the sheriff’s deputies; that chance to talk with the deputies over several years was invaluable.
When writing about another era, I try to read as much as I can, both fiction and non-fiction, about the period until I have something of a feel for the time. There are always details, however. If I use an actual town and want to talk about transportation, I have to be sure of what might have been available. If I write about peanut butter, was it even a product at that time? If I write about the characters meeting in an Irish parish, was there one in the area? Readers do recognize the accuracy of details. I want things to be realistic and relatable.
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