When I first started writing, this was the advice I received most often. The problem was I didn’t want to do that. After thirty years in law enforcement, I wasn’t thrilled about giving one more ounce of energy to it. Don’t get me wrong, it was an exciting, challenging, and profitable career (in that it allowed me to retire early and pursue my passion for writing, not because it paid extremely well) but I was over it! The job demanded more of me than I realized until I retired. I needed to do something completely different. So ‘writing what you know’ became a double-edged sword.
Law enforcement and writing romance novels seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, but would writing romantic books with a level of intrigue be enough of a separation? When I asked myself that question initially, I wasn’t sure of the answer. But when I thought about what I’d like to write, my life flashed before my eyes like an unfinished movie—a life complicated and sometimes devastated by a demanding career. What better way to work through it than writing? Thirty years of catch-up therapy was way too expensive. And how better to keep a story moving than with tales of a chase, a mystery, or a challenge?
So I had to acknowledge that all those years of walking a beat, patrolling the seedy sections of town, playing undercover druggie, and bossing people around might actually be good fodder for stories. Next I had to figure out how to write about it without sounding like a bad version of Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Police work was all about the facts and giving them as succinctly as possible, no frills and no embellishments. The edits for my first book, To Protect and Serve, were filled with comments like, “too many details, not enough description.” It’s a wonder the manuscript didn’t end up as a doorstop.
Another challenge proved to be just how deeply to delve into law enforcement procedures. How could I portray certain situations with authenticity without betraying trade secrets and/or giving the bad guys an advantage? Sometimes the things you see on television are true, sometimes not. Often the procedures are exaggerated for dramatic effect and some are deleted completely for obvious reasons. Writing what you know intimately requires a constant vigil to keep the extraneous bits from creeping in and putting readers to sleep—only you know if I’ve been successful.
My second and third books, Suspect Passions and Fever, were a bit less police procedurals, but still contained a law enforcement component with intrigue, and of course, romance. In my fourth, Justifiable Risk, out in January, I go back to the full-on police element. Hopefully I’m learning to balance writing what I know with writing what I love. Please send me your thoughts. We authors are all about the feedback.
Thank you for taking your valuable time to just relax and read!
(Rainbow Awards Best Lesbian Contemporary)
(Rainbow Awards Best Writing Style)
To Protect and Serve
Justifiable Risk, 2011