I have always been an avid reader of thrillers and mysteries. Particularly anything by Nelson DeMille, John Sanford, John Grisham and yes, Stephen King among others. While still a policeman I started writing a story that I never intended to get published. I wanted to see if I could write an entire book. In three months I had over three hundred pages. It was all bad, but I’d finished the story. Then it sat forever because, like I said, I had no intention of trying to get published.
In 2000, I was working as a detective in White Collar crime. I had worked three months in Motor Patrol previously. Working in White Collar crime I had a lot of contact with other federal agencies such as the DEA, ATF, FBI and U.S. Secret Service. I assisted on their cases when financial elements and local knowledge were needed.
In 2000, a “check kiting” case turned into a missing person case, which turned into a gruesome murder and then into a serial killing. Although I worked in White Collar Crime, I had particular knowledge of the suspect so I was assigned to investigate the murder. I was with Evansville, Indiana police but caught up with the suspect in Ohio. I had to go there, interview the suspect, and arrange to have him extradited to Indiana. The case caught a little bit of state and national attention because of the extradition issue. His defense team accused me of kidnapping him in Ohio and were considering federal charges against me.
This case broadened my understanding of the law and the court system. The knowledge I gained from my job helps me put realism into my writing.
Previous to my 20 years on the police I was a deputy sheriff and primarily worked the jail. Once again it gave me invaluable insight into the people charged with crimes, their family, relationships, likes, dislikes, habits, even what they liked to eat or watch on television.
My experience with suspects and interviewing helps me create characters that you can understand, feel and in some cases, smell. As a detective I had several snitches, both on the street and in prison. Each felt like they owed me something.
I had no intention of being a published writer. I wrote because it was good for stress, and I got to say what was really on my mind. As a policeman you are not allowed to have an opinion. Your personal life is also under scrutiny.
In 2004 I was contacted by Kensington Books to write a story about the serial killer. After that I was hooked on writing for real. (Still fun but for pay.) I wanted to change genres and three years later I was contacted by Kensington again to start a series of fiction thrillers. I cleaned up the book I had started writing long ago, and it is included in my series. My ninth thriller novel was just published.
Most writing tips include, “write what you know” I would go further and say study people, places, subject matter, maps, businesses and watch people in coffee shops, and restaurants; learn from mistakes; use anything that will help your story come to life and breathe published air. I’ve been writing for fifteen years for Kensington Books. In that time I’ve made many mistakes in my writing style, and my editor beat me into a real writer. What matters is my writing style.
I can’t tell anyone how to write or what to write. It’s your story. Your feelings. Your characters. My only advice is to write every day, or as often as possible, learn for your surroundings, and advance your story before worrying about changes. You are not writing on a typewriter. You can go back and delete, cut, paste, add to, or change your story. You are not stuck with the first idea you had. Listen to your heart and your characters.
Rick Reed is the author of the nine Detective Jack Murphy thriller series and one true crime book. He has experience as a homicide detective and gained a unique perspective when he caught a serial killer in 2000. He retired from law enforcement after 26 years, earned two Masters Degrees and was an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at an Indiana College. He has developed and taught a course titled Serial Killers. You can reach him through his website at www.RickReedBooks.com or through www.KensingtonBooks.com.