Santina recently released her book, “Dishrags to Dirtbags,” using her experience as a Washoe County Sheriff’s deputy to inspire the tale of her heroine, Beth Dolinksy.
Santina grew up in Sparks, attending Sparks Middle School and Bishop Manogue High School. She was majoring in speech communications at the University of Nevada, Reno when she took a career placement advisement test.
“The test told us what jobs we would be best suited for,” Santina said. “An attorney was the first thing listed; a police officer was second.”
Santina was a housewife, going to school and taking care of her two young children. No one in her family was in law enforcement but she thought about the exciting challenges being a police office would bring.
“I remember this female officer with the Sparks PD who was the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer,” Santina said. “She had the boots and the badge. I thought to myself, ‘I could do that.’”
Santina applied to the county in 2002. After passing screening tests and experiencing multiple physical and emotional trials at the police academy, Santina graduated and was officially hired.
She was placed at the county jail. Her experience working there was daunting but she soon learned the ropes of the local jail system and being in charge.
“The main thing is your presence,” Santina said. “It’s all about the way you carry yourself, and sometimes, that presence is the only thing you have. As a man, you can just yell at someone. That yelling has a great effect. As a small woman, I learned how to assert myself with my choice of words. I cursed a lot! I learned how to be authoritative yet professional. I got things done.”
Some think that police work is pompous but Santina noticed a lot of humor in her job. She cited a story about being in the Krispy Kreme drive-thru.
“That was hilarious. They called me and offered me a place in the academy while I was eating a donut,” Santina said.
Years later, Santina wrote her book, which took a span of more than three years. She wrote a little bit every day and went to a local publishing company, Lucky Bat, about getting it out to the masses.
“We think it has legs, but I want you to work with an editor,” publisher Cindie Geddes said.
She worked with her sister-in-law, Jessica, a copy editor at Lucky Bat, and with Dayle Dermatis, an erotica writer based out of Los Angeles, about improving the depth of her story and its characters.
“It was six months of edits and there were a lot of rewrites, but we just banged it out,” Santina said.
The book is fictional but realistic.
“When Beth shows up at the academy for her first day, she is 40 years old, driving a minivan. I was 38, driving a station wagon on my first day,” Santina said. “The academy is primarily filled with 20-something males. There is this old-school thought that women don’t belong there. I was nervous and excited about everything – I was so out of my element. I based Beth’s experience about everything I was feeling and going through.”
In “DTD,” Beth’s husband returns from a tour of duty with post-traumatic stress disorder. He squanders the family’s money, resulting in Beth looking for a job.
“I wanted the book to be realistic, especially about the PTSD Beth’s husband faces,” Santina said. “I did a lot of research about it, it’s symptoms and the effects it has on your family. I wanted to learn as much as I could about it.”
Santina is working on a second book, writing chapters when she can. The new book focuses on Beth’s home life with her gambling-addicted husband and young sons. Santina will not reveal the plot but she insists it will be a page-tuner.
“You don’t always know where the book is going to go,” Santina said.
She hopes to branch out, introducing readers in California and the rest of the western United States to Beth.
“DTD” is sold all over the Truckee Meadows, including Sundance Books and Grassroots Books in Reno, as well as on Amazon.com as an e-book and in hard copy. Her first book signing was held in August at Sundance Books, where she signed and sold 32 books. At the official launch party of “DTD” at Sierra Style, Santina sold 60 books. Fans lined out the door, waiting to meet the policewoman turned author.
“I’ve had great feedback,” Santina said. “I knew the book would appeal to women but there are a lot of guys picking it up and enjoying it. My husband’s friend is texting me about it, telling me that he can’t put the book down. It’s so great to have so many fans, men and women.”
For more information about “Dishrags to Dirtbags,” visit brookesantina.com.