Detective Sandy investigates life as a chick-lit writer
David Clensy meets the Avon and Somerset detective turned romantic novelist
THEY say "write about what you know", and as a police officer with the Avon and Somerset force for 22 years, when Sandy Osborne decided to try her hand at writing – it made sense to write about police life.
"It always annoyed me when I watched television police dramas, because they never resembled the real life of a police officer," Sandy says."You watch CPS lawyers interviewing suspects, for example, and find yourself shouting 'that just doesn't happen!' at the television screen."
"I certainly hadn't always wanted to be a writer, it's an idea I had five years ago when I started to realise I had some amusing stories from my own time with the police, and thought it would be fun to put them together in a story.
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"I'd written a few pieces for magazines – just light-hearted articles about being a police officer and about running a half marathon, so I thought I could have a go at a novel.
"I never wanted to write a book directly about my own experiences – as a police officer the natural thing to do is to keep a low profile, not to promote yourself."So it made sense for me to include a few of my own stories in a fictional account of a young police officer joining a fictional West Country force."
Sandy herself joined the Avon and Somerset Constabulary as a probationary officer in 1991 – two years before her fictional heroine joins her fictional West Country force.
"The 1990s doesn't sound that long ago, but it was a totally different era for women in the police," she says. "We were seriously in the minority back then – these days a third of officers joining the force are girls.
"When I started it was very difficult to make your mark as a woman in the police, but thankfully things have evened-out a lot.
"When I started it was compulsory for women police officers to wear skirts. You had to ask colleagues to avert their eyes if you were scaling a wall. How many women police officers do you see in skirts these days?"
Sandy admits that some of her own experiences as a green probationer have crept into the novel.
"There was one occasion when I took down a suspect's name as Mr M. Mouse," she laughs."It took a while for me to live that one down – and that made it into the novel."
After three years of writing, Sandy spent two years searching in vain for a publisher, before finally self-publishing with Silverwood books.But she hopes the success of the first novel might attract the interest of publishers and agents in taking on the characters for future novels.
"I can see it making a trilogy," she says."In a way it would be nice for the character to follow my own career path – so following the opening book about her probationary period, I would like to see one with her as a uniformed officer, and then a third where she moves on to being a detective."
Sandy, who still works as a serving detective with the force, says colleagues and the constabulary have been "hugely supportive".
"They've backed me all the way," she says.
Sandy also wanted to pay a tribute in the book to a former colleague, Sergeant Andrew Cuff – pictured above right – whom she worked alongside at Keynsham, and who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 44 in 2011.
"He was such a great guy, and lots of officers raised money for St Peter's Hospice where he spent his last days after his death."I wanted to donate a percentage of the profits from this book to the hospice in his memory, as well as some to the Police Dependants' Trust, which supports the families of officers who have died or been injured in service.
"I contacted Andy's mum and asked her if she would allow me to use Andy's collar number as the collar number of the police officer in the story who becomes the heroine's love interest. I was delighted when she said that would be fine. It's my little way of paying tribute to him."
Girl Cop, by Sandy Osborne, is out now, published by Silverwood Books, priced £9.99.