For this post, I will take a refreshing break from writing about cancer. Today is the first Wednesday of the month. That’s the day when members of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh‘s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post an article answering the question of the month. This month, I will share about the importance of research as well as my recent interview of a Wisconsin conservation warden.
May’s IWSG Day Question:
What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?
Without further ado…My answer:
My interview of a Wisconsin Conservation Warden
I’m working on the revisions of my mystery novel, “The Nature of Murder.” One of the main characters in the book is a Wisconsin conservation warden. So, I wanted to interview a real-life conservation warden, to make sure I had all the details right.
Finding the Warden
The Wisconsin DNR website lists its wardens. After looking at the details for a few wardens in northwestern Wisconsin, I found one who specialized in law enforcement. That was exactly the kind of warden I needed to interview for my novel.
I emailed Warden Zebro with the details of my novel, as well as the questions I needed answers to. He was gracious enough to invite me to meet with him at the DNR headquarters in Spooner Wisconsin.
Heading to Spooner, Wisconsin
It was a day trip that felt like a mini-vacation for my husband and I. We had perfect driving weather. The ice had just cleared from the lakes and ponds, and the blue sky reflected in them making for picturesque scenery as we made the 2-hour drive from the Twin Cities to Spooner, WI.
When we reached the DNR headquarters, I was nervous. I always am, when I meet new people. Dan was tired, so he decided to lay the seat back and take a nap in the van.
I went into the large building. There were some offices and conference rooms to the left, and straight ahead was where people could buy hunting and fishing licenses. I decided that would be the best place to start. Unfortunately, there were also people there for legitimate DNR business, so I waited. One by one they were served and the line eventually shortened. As it did, I watched the minute hand on the clock push past the twelve, and then past the one, and then the two. I was over ten minutes late for my meeting with the warden by the time I reached the window.
“I’m here to meet with Warden Zebro,” I said.
“Oh, you mean David.” She smiled warmly. “What’s your name?”
“Heather Erickson,” I said. Then I stepped aside so other customers could be served. Soon, I saw the warden enter through the same door I’d used. As he did, several of the sportsmen in the room gathered around him and shook his hand. They knew him and it was clear he was well liked. After a few minutes of conversation, he noticed me standing there. I introduced myself to him.
Coffee and Questions
Warden Zebro led me back to his office and got me a piping cup of coffee. On the walls were pictures of magazine covers and newspaper clippings about the DNR, as well as a large Wisconsin map with dots on it that he later explained were the locations of ranger stations. He had lots of family pictures on his desk, as well.
He was prepared for the meeting, having already printed out some information about how to become a game warden. That was one of the questions on my list. Before we got into too much depth of conversation, he wanted to find out more details about what angle I was coming from. Was it fiction, or non-fiction? I got the idea that there was concern about the light in which I was going to portray the DNR.
I explained that I was working on a mystery and that the warden in the DNR was a heroic type character who would be helping the main character (the widow of a game warden) solve a murder. That interested him. He even knew of a situation in the 70’s that could give me some added insight into one of the sub-plots.
A Book Recommendation from the Warden
From there, the interview was incredibly interesting. One by one, he answered the rest of my questions. He confirmed my story ideas and gave me some detailed information that could help make the story more realistic.
He also loaned me a wonderful book called the Brush Cop by John G Marcon. I loved the book so much, that I purchased a copy for myself. That way I could highlight and make notes in it, as needed, and return the warden’s copy to him.
All total, the interview took about an hour. It was efficient, because of the questions I’d sent the warden in advance. This is something I like to do whenever I interview someone. Unless you are trying to do investigative journalism and need to see someone’s reactions to a question, it’s a courtesy to come prepared to an interview and to allow the person you are interviewed to feel prepared as well. I believe you will also get more thorough information this way.
A Restaurant Recommendation from Me
I thanked the warden for his time and help and went out to the van to wake up Dan. Before leaving Spooner, we stopped at Nick’s Family Restaurant for lunch. Their all you can eat fish and shrimp can’t be beaten!
As I drove home, my mind was swirling with ideas. I am incredibly grateful for Warden Zebro taking the time to help make my novel even better.
When writing anything that you aren’t an expert on, it’s a good idea to check with an expert. The details make writing come alive and if you’ve done your research, you can be confident you have those details right.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. My husband, Dan has battled stage IV lung cancer since 2012. I help cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, despite their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com.