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.