Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Cousin Dennis the RCMP Officer

BY RM - Did you base any characters of your books off of friends or family?

I did not. My crime novels are free of anybody I personally know (aside from minor influences). If I was related to any cop or criminal, or even just somebody in dire straits of some kind, I might have some framework on which to hang a main character, but I don't.

Like, how great would it be to sit down with your cousin Dennis the RCMP officer who can tell you what it's really like behind the scenes? Does he call his superior "sir" after hours in the bar, or is "Ed" okay? What is the fear really like as he's approaching that SUV he's just pulled over on a lonely stretch of highway? Then there's your other cousin Valerie, with her two long stays in the pen and her underworld connections; she could probably add some great splashes of reality to your scenes. Where did it all go wrong? What's the true texture of trouble?

That kind of proximity would be useful. Us crime writers are fed so much of the milieu through novels, TV shows and movies, it would be nice to temper that hearsay -- most of the time it's double hearsay in fact -- with some solid first-hand knowledge.

On the other hand, we are all repositories of information, and when you get serious about writing, it's also time to get serious about research. Read books written by those with more exotic lives, or check out the case law, available to anyone via the CanLII website. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. Then throw yourself into the scene with all the power of your imagination. Take your own experiences of fear, guilt, sorrow and glory -- such as they are -- and overlay that on your fiction.

That's what I do as best I can, and really it's what I like most about writing: being there, not here, long enough to lay down another great scene.

Some may beg to differ about all of the above. How can you write about cops and killers when you've never even met either? What a phony you must be. I do worry about that sometimes. But not enough to cease and desist.

By the way, if you're in or around Nelson on Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m., I'm launching COLD GIRL, the first in my series -- set in northern BC, where I first began writing -- and would love to see you there.
And finally, a note of apology:  Neither of those two in the photo are Dennis, who doesn't exist. I just like to add a photo to break up the text. It's an older snapshot of my son and brother, and they're wearing shades, and that's about as close to edge as my family will - hopefully - ever get.


RJ Harlick said...

Congratulations on your new book, RM.

Cathy Ace said...

Lovely piece! Sorry I missed you at the weekend :-(

Unknown said...

Thank you RJ. Cathy, I so wanted to meet you but got whisked away by an unexpected friend. You were the perfect moderator. Will see you in April :)