While in the throes of revision, I’m resurrecting this interview by Paul Agostinelli; CEO of Find My Audience. Originally published December, 2013.
Hi Micki, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I recently concluded a twenty-two year career in law enforcement that started in California as a patrol officer and ended in Colorado as a commander. During my career, I served as a hostage negotiator, led the Detective Bureau, managed Records, the Property & Evidence Bureau, Training, and Internal Affairs. I trained as a SWAT commander, and served as an agency Public Information Officer. Now, I split my time hiking in the Colorado Rockies and scuba diving off the Florida Keys.
You have a fascinating background, one that includes a stint with The FBI National Academy. How has that influenced your choice of genre and subject matter for your books?
We’ve all heard the adage that authors should write what they know. After 22 years of being a cop, I know the culture inside and out. I also know that nothing is black and white. Criminals do things for a variety of reasons — not all of which are nefarious. One of my favorite stories is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It explores issues of blind justice and redemption. Jean Valjean is an ex-convict, Inspector Javert a dedicated law officer. Both have secrets, both have good intentions. The story challenges assumptions. Crime sets the stage, but the story is ultimately about people. As a cop, I’ve seen amazing and horrible things. These experiences color everything I write. Of course, having Sue Grafton attend the Citizens’ Police Academy I coordinated was also inspirational!
You offer consulting to writers who are writing about crime and want to get the details correct. What does a typical consult consist of?
I’ve discovered there is no such thing as a typical consult. People are at different stages in their manuscript. Writers may have a simple question about protocol. Sometimes, an author will describe a scenario and want to know if A leads to B, will (or can) C happen? Others have written multiple chapters that they’d like me to review for authenticity and technical oversight. Ultimately, I offer suggestions to ensure accuracy and increase the author’s credibility.
Quite frankly, it’s often unexpected details that trip up crime writers. For example, I just critiqued a scene where a teenager looks back at a car that’s following her and sees a New Mexico license plate. The problem? New Mexico only issues a single plate and it’s affixed to the back of the car. Or one author wanted to arm her protagonist with a sawed-off shotgun. She didn’t realize that possession of this type of modified weapon is a felony and thus turned her law-abiding heroine into a felon.
Fortunately, it often only takes a few tweaks to turn a glaring mistake into a realistic scenario.
You have a BA in Medieval Studies. How has that impacted your own writing?
I obtained my degree while working full-time. I knew the degree wouldn’t have a direct impact on my job, but the classes fascinated me. In the process, I learned time management skills and the importance of research. Every story or article requires research. The trick is deciding what details to include overtly, what to layer in discretely, and what facts should be quietly forgotten. Now that I’m “retired,” structuring my time has become even more critical.
Perhaps someday I’ll be able to use my knowledge to pen a mystery series as engaging as Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael!
Can you tell us a little about your books and what writing you are doing now?
Up until lately, my writing was predominately nonfiction. I’ve written for magazines, newspapers and textbooks. Since retiring from law enforcement, I’ve shifted to fiction. Like many of the authors I help, I’m currently in the query process–and doing my best to develop patience. In the meantime, I’ve received recognition for several short pieces I’ve submitted to contests, and I’m hard at work on my next crime novel.
Thrillers, detective series, espionage — these genres (most of which revolve around a crime) are attracting some of the best writers today. What do you attribute that to?
Regardless of genre, the best writers have always spun tales that illuminate the human condition with great specificity. I find that the most engaging crime fiction lingers not on the crime itself, but rather its impact. How does if affect a person individually? How does it ripple through a community? Jodi Picoult and Dennis Lehane are masters at detailing the repercussions that reverberate through lives.
Do you see a difference in approach to a crime novel by authors from different nationalities?
Funny you should ask this question. The more I travel, the more I’m convinced that people are people are people. Yes, there are cultural differences, but ultimately, we all love, we all have regrets, we all dream, we all feel violated by crime. So while there may be stylistic differences in the execution, the germ of the story originates from the same wellspring.
If a writer would like to get in touch with you for a consultation, what should they do?
It all starts with an email, micki (at) mickibrowning.com. Once I know what an author needs, together we’ll devise a plan to achieve it.
Originally published at FindMyAudience.com.