029I – Writing Law Enforcement Characters: An Interview with Janice Cantore
A retired California police officer, Janice Cantore writes suspense novels designed to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. When writing, she draws from her 22 years of experience to make her books feel realistic.
There's not a lot of difference, Janice says, when writing about police officers in one state versus another. (Some of her books are set in California, some are set in Oregon.) Police face a lot of the same challenges, and the basic foundation of police training is officer safety, so no matter where the story is set, a lot of the “how” is going to be the same. If you aren't extremely specific, that can be enough to make your novel believable.
The kinds of things that throw readers out of a story are things like calling it a police station when it should be a precinct, or not knowing an area has constables, etc. Be sure to look up these sorts of details.
In general, the state police or state highway patrol would have jurisdiction over the entire state. The sheriff's departments are responsible for each separate county. City police or municipal agencies are in charge of specific cities. In smaller populations, the county coroner would be under the the jurisdiction of the sheriff.
Janice shares a lot of great information, and helps us know when to look things up, and what errors to avoid. You can write it to make it more interesting than real life without making it unbelievable to a reader who knows the reality of how it really works.
A lot of law enforcement agencies have community academies that you can go to in order to learn more about what they do. Many agencies will allow you to do a ride-along to experience the work first-hand. You can also attend the Writers' Police Academy conference. (The 2018 conference features bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver as this year's Guest of Honor.)
A&E has a program on their channel right now called Live PD. That's exactly what it is, following real police officers on the job, and Janice says it's a good resource to see what really happens.
Janice kindly offered to answer questions if people want to contact her through her website! She also suggested you look up author Jordyn Redwood, a pediatric ER nurse who writes Redwood's Medical Edge blog to help authors write medically accurate fiction.
Follow Janice through her website, and on Facebook where she does giveaways (Janice Cantore Books).