How being a journalist made it easier to become an author
I started my first job as a reporter July 10, 1989 in a small town in northern New Mexico. I had only been on the job for a week when I covered my first murder story of a man who had shot and killed a convenience store clerk as he robbed the store. He was found a short time later. He was arrested, eventually tried and sentenced to life in prison. Three months later, I covered another murder—a rancher had shot and killed another rancher over a land dispute. He was convicted of manslaughter. Both incidents, though unfortunate, allowed me instant and early access to police procedures and court proceedings.
In those early days, I didn’t realize how invaluable my profession would become for me as an author. Now, more than 25 years later, I have worked in six newsrooms in Denver, Seattle and Albuquerque, and have written thousands of articles. I have won numerous writing awards, including two national awards for editorial writing.
I am also the author of The Friday Edition, Revenge is Sweet and Dead Wrong, an award-winning mystery series featuring reporter Samantha Church as well as a new legal drama, An Invincible Summer.
Being a journalist has been the perfect profession for me. In addition to developing my writing skills and a strict discipline of meeting daily and weekly deadlines, my profession has satisfied my curiosity, and has allowed me access to people and places that I would not have otherwise had.
When I came to Denver to work for my second newspaper, I covered the city of Arvada, a suburb of Denver and its police department. One feature in our newspaper—Cop Shop—required the reporter to visit the police department to review hundreds of police reports before selecting a handful of reports to be published in the coming week’s edition. Doing Cop Shop gave me an intimate knowledge of how and why these reports are completed. Also, one of my best stories was an article I wrote about the department’s property and evidence room, where I learned how illegal drugs were stored and eventually destroyed. I also went on ride-alongs with police officers. It was at this Denver newspaper that the ideas for my mystery series began.
My main character Samantha Church’s experiences in the first three books and in the ones that will follow are taken from my many personal experiences as a reporter. In The Friday Edition, Samantha must get through a corrupt police department to discover her sister’s murderer. I modeled my fictional police department after the ‘real’ ones I covered. I also met and became good friends with Russ Cook, who was at the time I worked in Denver, police chief of the Golden Police Department (he has since passed away and one of his last jobs was as the sheriff of Jefferson County when the Columbine school shootings occurred.) I asked Russ countless questions that related to police procedures for The Friday Edition. He also read the book to make sure the story was realistically told from the police procedural standpoint.
I got the idea for my new book, An Invincible Summer, AIS, after a meeting and becoming good friends with a woman at my first newspaper in New Mexico who had a severely handicapped daughter. AIS is the story of Jaime Monroe, a young attorney who accepts a case of a young woman with a mild mental disability whose mother, a journalist, wants to have her forcibly sterilized. It was the close relationship I formed with that mother and her daughter that became the impetus for AIS.
While working in Denver, I was also fortunate to meet an attorney and another woman who had a child with a disability and shared my thoughts and ideas for AIS with both of them. She had several good ideas that I believe improved the story, especially how I should portray the mother in AIS. The attorney also answered many questions that related to the hearing and read that section of the book to make sure it was accurate.
I continue to work as a journalist today—always prepared (and hopeful) that with the next story I cover, I am going to stumble onto another (great) new idea for another book.