OSWEGO, NY – Between being a wife, mother and teacher, a former Fulton resident has somehow found the time to become a published author.
Carolyn LaRoche was born in Rochester and relocated to Fulton when she was 10. She still has family in Central New York.
In the beginning, she thought an agent was the only way to go until a writer friend kept prodding her to seek out small presses that don’t require them.
“I joined an online newsletter and late one night I was cleaning out my email when I opened up the weekly newsletter. My publisher was open to submissions so on a whim I sent Witness Protection (which I had sort of pushed aside for a while) and less than a week later, I received an acceptance email from my now editor,” she said. “So, I don’t for a second believe that the only way to get published is with an agent. I am also finding that I like the small press atmosphere. It’s very close-knit and supportive. My editor and I work really well together also. She is a published author and an excellent editor.”
Right now, Carolyn is working on two different series.
Witness Protection is the first book in the Defenders of Love Series and is currently available in both e-book and paperback. The second book in the series, Homeland Security is in the edits phase and will be released later this year.
The third in the series will be called Border Patrol, but that one “is still in the works.”
“As you may have guessed, they are all based on some facet of federal law enforcement. The second series is called The Secret Lives of Police Wives. The first in that series, Undercover in Six-Inch Stilettos, is in the final preparation for its release in early April. This series has already been a lot of fun – it’s based on the premise of a group of women – all married to cops – that have a tendency to find trouble and end up getting involved in some mystery or crime,” she explained.
Her love for storytelling probably began in grade school when she participated in the annual storytelling contest every year, she said.
“I made it to the city level one time, taking second place. The stories were usually fables or fairy tales. I loved that contest and looked forward to it every year,” she added. “In high school, I was very involved in the drama club as the costumer for the yearly musical (she was too shy to be an actor, she admitted). My senior year, I took Mr. (Len) Senecal’s journalism class where I wrote regular feature articles for the school paper and recorded the weekly radio show.”
After graduation, she attended SUNY Oswego and went on to earn her master’s degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven in West Haven, Conn.
“My husband is a police officer in a city in southeastern Virginia (near Virginia Beach) where we live with our two sons. Both of my boys play baseball, which is a huge sport in this area. We currently have at least four local boys playing in the Major Leagues right now,” she said.
She has been a high school science teacher for 14 years and is currently part of a special academy program for gifted students who have an interest in science or medical careers.
“I teach electives such as forensic science, anatomy and pathophysiology and health, wellness and disease,” she said.
She became interested in writing fiction about 15 years ago.
“My husband works nights, so I don’t sleep much. I get a lot of writing done at night. My books fall in the mystery/suspense category but I like to add in a touch of romance to keep it interesting,” she explained. “I’m pretty sure I read every single Nancy Drew mystery book! I love mysteries. Actually, as a child I read all the time. I still do. When I get writer’s block, I pick up a book.”
As a child, she wrote down everything, “And I mean EVERYTHING, in diaries and journals,” she added emphatically. She still has most of them and it makes her laugh at how extremely detailed she was at the time.
“My first teacher when I moved to Fulton was Mrs. Konowich. She taught fourth grade at the old Philips Street School. She was the one who introduced me to the city’s storytelling contest where we had to choose a story, learn it and then tell it in front of the class and judges,” she said.
In high school, she kicked it up a notch and ventured into news writing.
“In the journalism class with Mr. Senecal (he was a great teacher – he never gave a perfect grade on anything because he felt there was always room for improvement), I had at least one story in every paper,” she said.
The one that she remembers most was a feature on the skateboard culture in Fulton.
“I had a friend who was my ‘in’ and he took me to a couple of the popular skating places, introduced me around and helped me get the information I needed,” she said. “We also recorded a radio show each week, which was a great experience and a lot of fun. I loved that class; but at the time, I had the goal of becoming a doctor so I never considered majoring in journalism or a related degree. Even so, whenever I could fit it in, I took writing classes as my electives.”
She graduated in December of 1995 from SUNY Oswego with a major in Biology and a minor in Forensic Science. In January 1996, she accepted a live-in nanny position with “a great family” close to where she wanted to go to graduate school. They were very flexible with her course schedule, she took classes at night mostly, and it was a great arrangement. She started in the Forensic Science/Criminalistics program about a year after she moved to Connecticut and graduated in May 1998.
“While working and going to school, I met a girl about my age through the agency I worked for. She was from Massachusetts and invited me to make a trip home with her for the weekend. She said she knew a great guy with a criminal justice background and wanted to be a cop. She thought we would have a lot in common,” she said. “He also turned out to be her ex-boyfriend! For that reason, I had no interest in him but apparently he asked her for my number and after dodging several of his phone calls, I agreed to one date. Thank goodness he was persistent – we have now been married for 15 years and two sons.”
After finishing grad school, she moved to Massachusetts expecting to get into one of their crime labs.
“What I didn’t consider was that the crime labs in Massachusetts are very small and NO ONE ever retires! I was unable to get into the system so I worked in chemical engineering for a while,” she said.
In 2000, she got a phone call from a friend. Her father was a high school principal in desperate need of a chemistry teacher and she wanted to know if Carolyn was interested.
“I laughed and said, ‘No way!’ After talking to my husband about it, I reconsidered and decided to give it a try for a year,” she said. “Three years later, I was licensed and we moved to Virginia for my husband to pursue a job in law enforcement.”
The district where she now teaches opened a new academy program (like a school within a school) for students who excel in the sciences and want to pursue a future in science or medicine.
It’s called The Science and Medicine Academy. An announcement came out looking for someone to write the curriculum for the forensic science course and she responded.
“The next year, I was offered the job to teach it. It’s been a great position,” she said.
She really began writing seriously around the time her husband got on the police department 10 years ago and started working the graveyard shift. She didn’t sleep much in those early years, so the thing that she had only done occasionally became a regular way to pass the long, sleepless hours, she said.
As her books have some sort of law enforcement officer in them, her husband “is a fabulous resource.”
“I often ask him random questions about weapons or tactics or the facets of a crime. He also says a lot of funny things/has interesting experiences that I often include in my books,” she said. “Last year, I won a ‘best first line of a book’ contest with something my husband said in all seriousness. ‘Honey, does this gun make me look fat?’ I kid you not, that really happened!”
When she was just writing and not having to worry about deadlines, edits and blog tours and marketing it was easy to work it in around her day job.
“Now that I have one book out, another being released in April and a third in edits, it is really like having two full-time jobs,” she told Oswego County Today. “Now I spend a lot of evenings and weekends working on book things. My boys are old enough where I can do that, so it works for now.”
Was it difficult to get published?
“Once I found the right publisher, it was a piece of cake. I experienced a lot of rejection from agents and publishers. But, I now know it was because I hadn’t found the right match for my particular talents. I love mysteries, can’t write a book without some kind of crime and there has to be a cop in it,” she said. “Taking all of that and spicing it up with a little bit of chemistry between my characters lets me also have a happy ending. I don’t really write romance in the traditional sense, but there is some in my books. Think Castle and Becket in the Castle television series.”
Ideas come to her “randomly,” but in general her interests lie in crime and crime solving – “so I think it is only natural that I love to write about it.”
She’s tried, unsuccessfully, on many occasions to be a good writer and plot out a story ahead of time, but it never, ever works, she admits.
“My characters are way too bossy. So, I am definitely a ‘pantser’ (one who writes by the seat of their pants instead of a set plot). I usually write a book start to finish and then send it to my good friend who has an eye for finding everything wrong with it. Coincidentally, she is a retired police officer so she also helps with those details also,” she said.
“My advice to would be writers comes in two parts. First, write what you know (and love). And, secondly, don’t let rejection get you down. Publishing is a tough business but persistence pays off and if it is your dream don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” she said.
For more information, check out Carolyn’s blog: http://carolynlarocheauthor.blogspot.com/