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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Post: Dianne Emley and "Love Kills"

Today we welcome guest author Dianne Emley, best-selling crime novelist. Her Nan Vining "thrillogy" is set in Pasadena and features a female Pasadena Police Detective. Dianne was the first author I interviewed for PDP and she's been a friend of the blog ever since. I always wondered how she researched the books and today we get to find out.
Hello Pasadena Daily Photo readers. I'm delighted that Petrea invited me to contribute some words to her blog space. My current series of suspense novels features Nan Vining of the Pasadena Police Department—homicide detective, single mom to a spirited teenage daughter, and survivor of an ambush by a knife-wielding assailant who got away.

I'm often asked whether I do a lot of research for my books. Yes, I do. Research is fun. And since I'm writing about the life, work, and mindset of a police detective and her colleagues, it was absolutely necessary because before I began the series, I had virtually no experience with the real world of law and order. So why did I decide to write about cops?

I had the first glimmer of the idea while attending the Pasadena Police Department's Citizen Police Academy (CPA)—a wonderful program available to anyone who lives or works in Pasadena. I found that I was fascinated with police work, from the tactics and procedures, to the psychological aspects, to the politics. I wondered, could I pull off writing a novel about cops? I knew if I did it, I'd have to nail it. Frankly, I was terrified.

Of course, I read books: cop novels, cop non-fiction books, and police science and forensics textbooks. The books were valuable, but they weren't enough to help me give my story the colors, textures, and emotions necessary to make it seem real. For that, I needed first-hand experience.

The CPA gave me a head start because the program includes a patrol car "ride along." Boy, was that eye-opening. I arranged more ride alongs, with a male rookie recently approved for patrol, a female seasoned officer, and a veteran officer who'd seen it all. A helpful lieutenant let me shadow her. I probed friends and family for other connections, leading me to a prosecutor in the L.A. County District Attorney's Major Crimes division, the first female LAPD Deputy Chief, the first female FBI Executive Assistant Director, and the LAPD Robbery Homicide detective who led the task force that nabbed the notorious "Grim Sleeper" serial killer. Yes, there's value in studying how Joseph Wambaugh's cops talk in his novels but it's richer to hear it firsthand.

A great place to meet real law and order professionals is at conferences. There's a terrific one, The California Crime Writers Conference, on June 11 and 12 at the Hilton Pasadena. It's only held every two years, so don't miss it. Those folks I mentioned are going to be present there, plus several more, as I organized most of the Forensics track. Keep your pen and notebook handy.

22 comments:

Shell Sherree said...

Hi, Dianne ~ I thoroughly enjoyed your guest post here, thank you! I've often wondered how crime writers do their research. The Citizen's Police Academy programme sounds fascinating ~ I must see if we have anything like that here. {Not that I'm planning on writing a murder mystery, but I'd love to know more about how police work.}

Dianne Emley said...

Thanks, Sherree! The Citizen Police Academy was one of the best things I've done. I neglected to mention that completing the Pasadena PD's program allows one to become a citizen volunteer at the PD, which I've done for the past seven years. Thanks for commenting.

Margaret said...

I always like these guests post. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing, Dianne.

Petrea Burchard said...

I didn't realize you volunteered at the PD, Dianne. Very cool. I've met a couple of these volunteers and I think the police really depend on them. And I'll bet it enhances your work.

Deborah J said...

Hello, Dianne--Great post. Thanks for sharing your experience. I attended the Scottsdale Citizen's Police Academy a few years back and, like you, found this to be invaluable in my writing. I'm still in contact with a couple of the officers who are kind enough to answer law enforcement questions when they arise. The ride along was quite helpful in conveying “night in the life” elements. My favorite presentations were from the forensics team leaders, and the police dog handlers.

Craig Faustus Buck said...

Hi Dianne -- Did you ever talk to Patty Smiley about police volunteering? She did it for over a decade and worked her way up to actually being a volunteer detective with her own assigned cases! Now you've motivated me to look into it in L.A. Looking forward to seeing you at the Conference. CB

Dianne Emley said...

Thanks, Margaret.

Petrea, you are correct about the value of the PPD's robust volunteer program. They value an hour of volunteer time at about $23 which adds up to thousands of dollars in tax savings per year. Plus volunteers free sworn officers to do more critical police work.

Dianne Emley said...

Thanks, Deb. Isn't it eye-opening to go on patrol? I always dressed in a button-front shirt and dark slacks. People my cops would talk to (and sometimes arrest) always wondered who I was. In typical cop humor, they'd poke fun: "She's a detective. She doesn't do anything but gets paid twice as much." Or "She's the Chief's daughter. I have to take her with me." Priceless and you can't learn it from a book.

Craig, I do know about Patty Smiley's police work. Good for her! Thanks for commenting and see you soon at the conference.

Steven said...

Hello Dianne. The book looks like a great read. I love the book jacket and the name "Nan Vining." She is almost as good looking as you. Best of luck with the book. I hope you win a Pulitizer Prize.

Bellis said...

I'm impressed by how much research you've done. How did the Pasadena police like your first 3 Nan Vining books? I'm glad there's finally a new one to read.

Dianne Emley said...

Steven, you are too kind. Thanks for commenting.

Bellis, the Pasadena Police have been very supportive. I've taken care to portray the PPD in a good light. My research is an ongoing project as each book takes a new twist. Thanks for your comment.

Petrea Burchard said...

I just saw this: Dianne has a great post on her blog today about the conference.

Sally Carpenter said...

Hi Dianne! Great post. I completed the Citizen's Academy program in Moorpark, a must for anyone writing about police or law enforcement. And yes, I'll be at CCWC. Hope to meet you there!

Susan Campisi said...

Hi, Dianne - what a great post. Your hands-on research sounds fascinating. I never considered such a program but hey, I work in Pasadena so maybe I'll become a citizen volunteer too. I will definitely add your books to my list of must-reads. They sound like real page-turners.

Thanks, Petrea, for introducing us to another local author.

Dianne Emley said...

Sally, look forward to meeting you at the conference. Thanks for your comment.

Thanks, Susan. Hope you do get a chance to check out the Pasadena PD's program and my books. :-)

Petrea, thanks for the link to my blog.

Katie said...

Dianne what fun to read more about your research! I think spending time with at the Pasadena CPA sounds very exciting and a very good way to get some inside views of how things work. I very much enjoyed The First Cut and now need to catch up with Nan in your other books!

Petrea Burchard said...

I just tweeted about your post again, and I hope more folks come by. I've loved learning about your research, Dianne. Thanks for guest posting (and guest hosting) today!

Dianne Emley said...

Thanks, Katie! Hope you enjoy Nan's other adventures.

Petrea, this has been great fun. Thanks so much for letting me participate in your blog one more time.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I thot I was on Dianne's blog for a minute.

The best thing I can say for Dianne de Lady Katarina Spooky of Lombardy is she's hilarious, loves to eat, and is a wunderful blogger.

Ck out her blog here: Diane's Plot Points

I wish she'd blog more, but, so do I!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Dianne. I'm sure there will be more.

And Cafe is right. It's a little-known fact, but Dianne is hilarious. Watch for her here on the occasional Zen Monday.

Dianne Emley said...

Yes, Cafe, that's me--Lady Spooky of Lombardy. That's my result from a Facebook game where your royal name is the name of your first pet and first street. Somehow, it's apt! Thanks for your comments about my infrequent blog. I have the best intentions for it and yet...

Petrea, thanks again. I am fond of jokes and find humor in many things. And so do you, given many of your Zen Monday selections!

Desiree said...

CPA is the best! I did it in Pasadena and loved it.
Great post, looking forward to reading this.