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Research for The Witching Moon …Keeping it Believable

March 17, 2014

Green Shamrock BackgroundHappy St. Patrick’s Day.

A special treat in honor of the day: Loretta C. Rogers talks about the research necessary for the writing of The Witching Moon, a novel that has roots in Ireland and is filled with magic. Loretta is the best-selling author of historical westerns with an unexpected twist. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading and traveling; especially with her husband on their motorcycle. Loretta enjoys hearing from readers and encourages them to visit her website:

Research for The Witching Moon…Keeping it Believableloretta-c-rogers


Loretta C. Rogers

 Just because we authors write fiction doesn’t give us license to make everything up. Well, okay, so maybe it does. It’s our story, we can write whatever we want. Right? Not exactly. My personal mantra is to create a story that that draws the readers in–to keep them turning the pages, to see what happens next. I’m talking about writing realistic fiction or fiction that is at least entertaining enough that readers are willing to suspend disbelief.

Often readers ask how do I write stories where the characters and/or the situations seem real?  I don’t mean to over-simplify the answer, but it’s called: “Research” coupled with a vivid imagination.

My mother used to say she would hear me having conversations that sounded so real she would look to see  to whom I was talking. I probably was as young as three years old, and conversing with imaginary friends. But, I digress.

While writing The Witching Moon, I had a working knowledge about the Salem Witch trials, and throughout the centuries the United Kingdom was fraught with superstition and witchcraft. However, I wanted my heroine to be from Ireland. This begged the question–did witches exist in Ireland?

Before I give you the answer, let me share that one well-meaning reader posted a review stating that everyone knew there were no witches in Ireland. Hmmm, my research revealed that while witches/witchcraft wasn’t as widely spread in Ireland and Scotland, it did, indeed, exist, and as in the opening chapter of The Witching Moon there were incidents of certain Irish women who were burned at the stake as witches, and usually by order of the papacy.

Witching MoonWhen creating the heroine, Sheen O’Reilly, I didn’t want her to be an ordinary witch, nor did I want her to be someone who conjured up hexes and spells to cast on people. It was my desire to make Sheen unusual, but likable; a heroine readers wanted to know more about, but could also, feel her depths of emotional anguish and uncertainty about a gift she considered a curse. Again, through research, I discovered that every one hundred years, it was believed, that a female child (in Ireland) was born with the gift to communicate with animals, the ability to heal, and under certain circumstances might turn a human into an animal.  These women were known as faery doctors.

To make Sheen even more unique, I gave her the gift of ‘second-sight.’ This way, she not only could communicate with animals and spirits, she was able to read the hero’s (Guthrie Tanner) thoughts.

Every good story needs a villain worthy of the heroine and hero. The Witching Moon pairs the rich history of the old west with the mysticism of Ireland. Again, research played an important role in authenticating the historical aspects of the story. What Native American tribes were predominate in 1868 Montana? I also needed the names of mountain ranges, towns and their proximity to a military fort, and weaponry for this time period.

Sheen used specific herbs for healing, reducing pain, and inducing sleep. Once I found these herbs, the question was–which ones were native to Montana? More research.

I did a search of boy names in the Native American culture. “Otaktay” is a baby boy name, and the Native American interpretation is “Kills Many”. Using the name and its meaning gave me the perfect vehicle for creating a ‘bad-to-the-bone’ antagonist.

I have to be careful with internet explorations so it doesn’t become a source of procrastination. After all, books don’t write themselves. I like to put in enough detail so that it doesn’t sound like an encyclopedic regurgitation, or like a destination travelogue, but provides readers with several ‘aha’ moments, and has them emailing to ask if I visited Montana or Ireland.

A final word. Some readers won’t give a hoot about research. They read to be entertained, and don’t let inaccuracies bother them. However, if you, as a writer, don’t care about historical accuracy, you may not continue to reach those pickier readers, and they are the more rewarding audience; the ones who can’t wait for your next story to release.

Tagline for The Witching Moon: When a Native American renegade, a cowboy and a witch are the main characters, readers get a plot that offers unexpected and unique twists of paranormal and western romance.

Blurb: Sheen O’Reilly considers her gift of second sight a curse. Branded a witch, she wears a rope burn around her neck as a reminder of what happens to people who are considered different. Now settled in a remote homestead where she tends her animals and concocts herbal remedies, she knows “he” is coming but is powerless to stop him.

“He” is Guthrie Tanner, who blames himself for the murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his young daughter. After an unsuccessful year of tracking his enemies, he has heard about a witch who lives alone on the prairie. While he doesn’t believe in supernatural nonsense, he is willing to do whatever it takes to hind his daughter. What he doesn’t count on is the effect Sheen will have on his heart.

How to find Loretta:
* Twitter – Loretta C. Rogers@BooksbyLoretta
*Website link:
* Facebook: Author, Loretta C. Rogers aka L. W. Rogers | Facebook…LorettaCRogersRogers/1515247149186…
20 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2014 6:34 AM

    Thanks, Loretta. Reading this reminded me how much I enjoyed The Witching Moon.

  2. March 17, 2014 10:43 AM

    Sandy, thanks for hosting me today. It’s always music to an author’s ears to hear someone say they enjoyed reading your novel. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  3. March 17, 2014 11:10 AM

    Loved your post! And your book sounds great. I’ve always been enamored with Ireland and the mysticism from the area. I think research is super important in giving a book it’s authenticity, but it’s also the main reason I will NEVER write historical. There’s research, and then there’s research! I tip my hat to anyone who writes historical because not only are there so many facts that require accuracy, but there’s also so many experts out there! I guess that’s why I like writing Paranormal/UF–it’s probably the genre most open to making stuff up! Anyway, I’m babbling. Witching Moon will definitely be added to me TBR pile! Great post. 🙂

    • March 17, 2014 12:34 PM

      J.C. I enjoy reading paranormal, but always thought it took tons of research to get ‘it’ right, especially if writing about werewolves and shape-shifters. Goes to show how much I know. I’m so happy you stopped by and left a comment. Happy Writing!

  4. March 17, 2014 11:22 AM

    I enjoyed your blog entry on researching a novel. It offers easy to follow models for making the best of research as well as an enticing tale of your personal research journey. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing. Fortunately, I’ve been able to learn about topics I am interested in personally, so it’s fun.

    • March 17, 2014 12:35 PM

      I hear what you’re saying, Judy. I love research to the point of procrastination. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!

  5. March 17, 2014 11:30 AM

    Great Interview. I find research a treasure trove of ideas. Thanks

    • March 17, 2014 12:36 PM

      Hi Louise, I’m with you. Research is like a treasure hunt, and so much fun. Glad you stopped by. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

  6. Marian Fox permalink
    March 17, 2014 11:46 AM

    Thank you, Loretta, for your generosity in sharing your expertise about the research that goes into novel writing and “keeping it believable.” I’m looking forward to reading “The Witching Moon.”

    • March 17, 2014 12:37 PM

      Hi Marian, I always enjoy reading your comments. Thanks for your continued support.

  7. Katherine Smits permalink
    March 17, 2014 2:01 PM

    HI Loretta, I loved “The Witching Moon”. The research supports the story but doesn’t get in the way. I enjoyed your post very much. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

    • March 17, 2014 6:08 PM

      Hi Katherine, I’m so happy you enjoyed “The Witching Moon.” It was an interesting book to write. I’m glad you found the post interesting.

  8. March 17, 2014 2:17 PM

    Hi Loretta, You outdid yourself on this one. Loved the way you weaved together your specialty genres. Your characters sound luscious from the start! Best, Ronnie

    • March 17, 2014 6:09 PM

      I appreciate you dropping by and leaving a comment, Ronnie, especially since we’ve had stormy weather all day. I always fall in love with my characters–even the bad guys ;p

  9. March 17, 2014 4:53 PM

    Loretta, Thanks for telling how much you enjoy the research. I know that the time you spend on this research hasn’t slowed down your production of the story. How you do it is beyond me. In truth, I feel guilty that I have chosen historical periods that require only limited research because they are so far back in the past, or because what is known about the place is limited. At least, that is what I used to think. Actually, the more research I do, the more I realize how much I need to learn. Thanks for showing how the elements of the story required specific searches.

    • March 17, 2014 6:12 PM

      Carol, research is half the enjoyment of writing. Never feel guilty about learning new information. You never know when you’ll need it for another book. Keep writing, and have fun doing it. Thanks for your support.

  10. March 17, 2014 6:43 PM

    The Witching Moon is one of my favorites, and I enjoyed hearing how you went about finding all the information needed to make the novel authentic. Research is an enjoyable aspect of the writing process for me. It’s amazing how little tidbits can be slipped in here and there to enrich the story.

    • March 18, 2014 10:15 AM

      Flossie, so happy you stopped by. I love research. It’s like being a detective and trying to figure out how to fit the clues together to make them work in a novel.

  11. Rhonda Kauffman permalink
    March 18, 2014 8:00 AM

    Thanks for sharing some behind the scene information about how your research. I love that you sprinkle historical tidbits into your fantasy worlds.

    • March 18, 2014 10:17 AM

      I appreciate your kind words, Rhonda. Thanks for stopping by and lending your support.

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