Sherry: Michele thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to join us today. When I was writing Tagged for Death I had a question about divorce laws in Massachusetts. I turned to Michelle for advice.
Name: C. Michele Dorsey, but you can skip the “C.”
Area of Expertise: I am a Family Law Attorney, Mediator and Writer
I was a nurse before I became a lawyer. I think working with people in physical pain prepared me for representing people who are experiencing a different kind of pain. People who are going through a divorce face the loss of family and must grieve. My experience as a nurse taught me how to listen, be compassionate and when to tell someone it’s time to stop licking their wounds and start living life again. I use the same skills as a lawyer.
What is one thing we should know about your area of expertise?
Cases are often resolved these days through Alternative Dispute Resolution, “ADR” (mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, etc.), rather than litigation. If you are going to use ADR in your story, understand it is very different from litigation. The first scene in “The Wedding Crashers” is a mediation. It’s very funny, but it also gets it right.
What do people usually get wrong when writing about family law issues?
People often get a whole lot wrong when writing about family law issues, which is problematic because half of the population, including your readers, are divorced and will catch you if you are wrong. It’s easy to check the law for your jurisdiction with so much information available online. Knowing whether your state still has fault grounds, allows certain claims for alimony and how marital property is divided will lend credibility to your story.
Is there a great idea you’d love to share?
If you are a writer looking for ideas about conflict, human drama and relationships, spend a morning in your local family court listening. What unfolds every day in the courtroom is an amazing array of human tragedy, with an occasional triumph. Your notebook will be full in a few hours.
What are you working on?
My agent is closing a deal on a mystery I wrote set in St John, USVI, but for now my lips are sealed. I am working on a mystery about a divorce lawyer who returns home from court one day to find her husband dead in their bed with a pair of black panties between the sheets that don’t belong to her. I am also writing a nonfiction book to help people choose an enlightened path to divorce.
Do you use your expert knowledge in your writing?
Yes, in many ways. For one thing, I am always filling the well with potential stories when I am in court. I also listen to people, noting how they express themselves, to help with writing dialogue. A family law case is really a story unfolding with all of the elements of conflict evolving much like a plot in a book, which has helped me with structure.
Oh, and it always helps to include a nasty lawyer in a book. They make delicious and vicious villains. I wonder why. But that would be for another conversation.
Thanks for inviting me to your wonderful Wicked Cozy Authors Blog.
C. “Michele” Dorsey writes mysteries, romantic comedy, nonfiction and an occasional poem. She is also a lawyer, mediator and adjunct professor of law, who finds inspiration and serenity on the island of St. John, USVI, where her latest mystery is set. Michele was a finalist in St. Martin’s Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition in 2013 for No Virgin Island, in 2012 for Oh Danny Girl, and in 2004 for My Pink Slippers.
Readers: Do you have a question about family law for Michele? She’ll be stopping by throughout the day to answer them.