Before the release of Mayhem & Mass, the first story in my Sister Lou Mystery series, which I write as Olivia Matthews, I told a friend I was going to write a cozy mystery series with a Catholic sister as the amateur sleuth.
My friend: “How can you do that? You’re not a Catholic sister.”
Me: “No, and my husband is quite glad of that.”
It didn’t occur to me until later – much later – what he actually meant. (Sometimes I think my mental lightbulb has a short. So frustrating.) Conventional wisdom says, “Write what you know.” I’ve always been partial to writing what I want to know.
My first published story, You Belong to Me, is a romantic suspense, which was released in 2006 and re-released in 2016. The hero, Malcolm Bryant, is a movie producer. FYI: I’ve never been a movie producer. However, I’m fortunate in that my husband is a videographer/editor. He answered a lot of my questions about the film industry. He also loaned me several of his industry books.
Another tidbit about me that may not surprise you is that I’ve never investigated an arson. However, my second story, the romantic suspense On Fire, which was released in 2007 and re-released in 2017, features a hero who’s an arson investigator. For that story, I interviewed an arson investigator. I also read several library books and watched a great documentary on arson investigations, which I also borrowed from the library. (I love, love, love libraries. A lot.)
And despite the joy I have in writing my Brooklyn Monarchs series, I’ve never played in the National Basketball Association. No, it’s true. The insight I’ve tried to weave into each story comes from research. Copious research. That’s what storytellers do regardless of the genre in which we write: contemporary, historical, science fiction, erotic, inspirational, women’s fiction, and so on and so on. Storytellers write fiction, but our fictional worlds are grounded in fact. That’s what allows our readers to snuggle into our stories.
In preparation for writing my Sister Lou Mystery series and creating my amateur sleuth, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle, I once again hit the books – and magazines and blogs. I also had wonderful conversations with the religious women who inspired my cozy mystery series, the members of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. I’ve worked with and had the pleasure of spending time with members of the congregation for nine years. I’m inspired and impressed by their faith, their work and their history. Their joy is contagious as is their passion for social justice. I’ve tried to convey some of that in my Sister Lou Mystery series.
Another reason I’m excited about this series is that it allows me to share what I’ve learned about my faith. Like many people who are born Catholic, I’ve taken some things for granted, such as the difference between sisters and nuns, finding one’s charism, and the reason for fasting during Lent. The research I’ve done for the series has been professionally beneficial and definitely personally fulfilling.
The first story in my Sister Lou Mystery series, Mayhem & Mass, is available now. The second release, Peril & Prayer, is a July 2018 release. I hope you’ll give the series a chance.