Sunday, December 10, 2017

Growing Up as a Cop's Kid: Information for Writers and Curious Minds

Growing up as a C.K. (Cop’s Kid) and How It Led to a Love for All Things Mystery

Our guest Heather Weidner and I have know each other for years through Sisters in Crime. She always has wonderful stories about the dinner conversations of her youth. I asked her to spend some time talking about her experience and how being a cop's kid shaped her writing.

Heather, If you'd please...

Thank you so much for letting me drop by ThrillWriting and talk about my mysteries. I'm a “C.K.” (Cop's Kid). I had a great, but sometimes unusual childhood. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. And it had a huge influence for my love for all things mystery. It also affected my writing and perspective. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized that not every family talked about crime and murder at the dinner table.

As a small child, I'd go with my dad to the shooting range. One of my first jobs was to collect shell casings in a metal peanut can when he was done firing. Those suckers were hot. You had to let them cool off before you picked them up.

He was the SWAT commander in the 1970s, and they needed practice bullets. I sacrificed a ton of crayons for practice ammunition. What other elementary school kid knew how to melt crayons and fill shell casings? I learned how to use a night scope by playing with his on summer nights in the backyard. It was fun to watch the neighbor's dog illuminated all in green.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in his office or the “mustard” (Muster) room. Back in the 1970s, it was the neatest room I’d ever seen. It had wall-to-wall chalkboards. My sister and I drew murals on all four walls. And handcuffs, utility belts, and squawk radios were just part of everyday life.

In first grade, my dad was the BEST for career day. He arrived in a police car, and then he had the police helicopter fly over and land in the field next to the school. He was way cooler than the insurance salesman. I still owe him for that one. He and the helicopter pilot were a hit with my classmates.

But NEVER watch police shows with law enforcement professionals. There were very few police dramas that my dad liked because most were too “Hollywood,” and they didn’t get the law enforcement techniques correct. I loved “CHiPs,” and he railed constantly about all the mistakes and that Ponch and Jon didn’t even ride their own motorcycles. (I didn't care that they were towed behind a truck.) The only police shows that he liked were “Hill Street Blues,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Barney Miller.”

But all of this stuck with me through the years, and as a mystery writer, I do a lot of research to make my stories as accurate and plausible as possible. And my dad, now a retired police captain, is my resource for police procedures and crime scenes. I call him all the time with questions like, “Hey, Dad, what does a meth lab smell like?” or “If I submerge a body in water, how long will it take for it to resurface?” It’s important for mystery and suspense writers to have law enforcement and other resources like ThrillWriting to make the scenes precise. Your readers will spot the mistakes. A lot of research goes into fiction writing.

In my Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries (Secret Lives and Private Eyes
and The Tulip Shirt Murders), my sleuth is a private investigator. For these novels, I’ve had to do a lot of research on ballistics, meth labs, bootlegging, larping (live-action role playing), and roller derby. My private eye gets in way more trouble than I do, but she always finds a way out of the interesting situations.

As a C.K., I learned respect for guns and law enforcement. I am still a fan. Our police, fire, and first responders are heroes. They risk everything every day. I too vividly remember when my dad was called out for emergencies, and I wondered whether or not he'd come home that evening. These men and women (and their families) give up a lot in service for us. He worked just about every holiday, and we were right in the middle of every emergency or crisis in his forty-six-year career.

While it wasn't a “normal” childhood, we had some interesting dinner conversations, and it was a wonderful time that I wouldn't trade for anything. It gave me a unique perspective that carries over in my books and short stories.

Author Biography
Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She blogs regularly with the Pens, Paws, and Claws authors.

Synopsis for The Tulip Shirt Murders
Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a local music producer hires the duo to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads. And they must put the rest of the missing pieces together before someone else is murdered.

The Tulip Shirt Murders is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations such as larping and trading elbow jabs with roller derby queens.

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