"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose."My guest today, M. C. V. Egan, is the author of the book The Bridge of Deaths, which is a blend of fact and fiction, based on a real mystery. Published in 2011, the book centers around a 1939 plane crash which took the lives of five people, including the author's grandfather, told from the perspective of a modern day couple in London researching their past lives.
~Nora Zeale Hurston
Originally from Mexico City, M. C. V. Egan is the chosen pen name for Maria Catalina Egan. She's fluent in Spanish, French, Swedish, and English, and has also lived in various parts of the U.S., France, and Sweden. The author's initials form the Roman numeral 1105, but her friends call her Catalina. She said she finds inspiration for her writing (and probably other creative pursuits as well) everywhere. Very recently, Catalina was inspired to write this post by Kathy Leonard Czepiel's guest post, The Perspiration of Writing.
The Question: A Guest Post by M. C. V. Egan
I recently attended an event for the South Florida Writer’s Network. All attendees were writers with a few spouses in supportive tow. I was surprised in such company to encounter yet again ‘the’ question I have heard from almost everyone familiar with The Bridge of Deaths.
"How did you find the patience, persistence or determination to research for almost two decades?”
This time the question came from a man in his forties who explained that he began to research something as complicated to put together as the story of the 1939 plane crash of the G-AESY. I listened to his story and the description of incomplete files and contradictory evidence sounded very familiar.
He smiled and said, “I devoted about four years to the story and then realized that it would take at least ten more to put it all together and just walked away. How did you manage to stick it out?”
My mouth was full of food so my husband answered, “She did try to walk away, but the story sort of followed her.”
The finished product has now become such an inherent part of my life that at some level I forget how hard I fought and tried to escape the story. I stored safely away somewhere in my mind the curious manner in which the story always found its way back to the top of my desk.
I have come up with a clever answer or two as to how the story was so important even though I was never as obsessed as the Catalina in the book.
The truth is that the story crept itself back into my life in different ways. With perfect timing, always when I had a sort of soft spot ready to react and reopen the quest. Some moments were movie-like as if planned by a greater force, others more mundane, but impacted me just as much.
One such moment was on one of my parent’s visits from Mexico: house guests watching a documentary on PBS on the origins of WWII or The Munich Pact.
I entered their room to kiss them goodnight, smiling, absolutely absorbed in breast feeding my one and only baby. I was done with corpses and intrigues, I just wanted to learn how to sing lullabies, indulge in all the other sweet uplifting things that accompany a much desired and wanted baby.
Had I entered that room a minute earlier or a minute later the story would have stayed locked in the back of a closet--I entered that room at just the right moment.
I looked at the TV screen and there for the very first time I saw the Lockheed Electra G-AESY from British Airways LTD. Whole, flying right behind Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and there was no doubt but that I needed to dust off my research and plunge into it again.
On another occasion a good friend from Denmark was moving; to her surprise she discovered copies of Danish Newspapers from 1939 that she had neglected to send me years earlier. Again, the moment I saw the large over stuffed manila envelope in my mailbox I almost heard the propellers of the Lockheed Electra heading my way.
In retrospect, eighteen years does not feel like an enormous amount of time to spend on something that you develop strong feelings for. I think that strong forces nudge all of us from time to time; it is simply a matter of being receptive and responsive when we feel the nudge.
I finally finished chewing the enormous appetizer I had stuffed in my mouth and looked at the young writer and said, “It is a pity you gave up, especially today with so much information available online; perhaps you should give your story a second chance again." He smiled, shook his head no, and moved on to mingle.
Catalina, thank you very much for your wonderful guest post. 18 years of work on a book shows tremendous tenacity on your part! My stepmother-in-law, Patricia Ortlieb, devoted about ten years to research and write her book on the life of Eliza Tibets, Creating an Orange Utopia, after she discovered that she was the great-great grandaughter of this pioneer. I'm certain that the time and dedication you put into the research and writing of your book were very worthwhile, and I look forward to reading The Bridge of Deaths when my reviewing schedule becomes lighter. Thank you for being my guest, Catalina!
Reader comments welcomed.