#AuthorInterview: DV Berkom

Jeri Walker
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Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
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The writing of DV Berkom caught my eye a while back when I downloaded the box set of her Kate Jones Thriller Series. As with many authors I make the acquaintance of online, her writing journey has been an intriguing one to watch. As always, I am happy to introduce you to her work and hope you will also become a fan.

 

Official Bio: DV Berkom is a slave to the voices in her head. As the bestselling author of two award-winning thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones), her love of creating resilient, kick-ass women characters stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, mysteries, and thrillers, and longing to find the female equivalent within those pages.

 

Raised in the Midwest, she earned a BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several cross-country moves later, she now lives just outside of Seattle, Washington with the love of her life, Mark, a chef-turned-contractor, and several imaginary characters who like to tell her what to do. Her most recent books include Cargo, The Body Market, Bad Traffick, A One Way Ticket to Dead, and Yucatán Dead.

 

1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.

Cargo is A Leine Basso Crime Thriller. Money—the universal merchant. Anyone can be bought, anyone can be sold. Anyone.

 

Haunted by memories of an op gone bad, former assassin Leine Basso travels to Bangkok in search of a missing backpacker. With help from an old contact, she discovers the man responsible for the girl’s disappearance is connected to a violent Hong Kong triad and is the linchpin of an extensive trafficking network—both animal and human.

 

Making enemies isn’t new for Leine, but making one in the triad is—she soon finds herself a prisoner on board a cargo ship headed for sub-Saharan Africa. To ensure her survival and to continue her hunt for the missing girl, she must join forces with Derek, an ivory poacher who promises to help her. For a price.

 

DV Berkom Cargo Book Cover

 

2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.

My motivation/inspiration to write is usually based on what pisses me off in the headlines. For instance, I wrote Cargo after I’d read an article on the use of drones (UAVs) in identifying and catching ivory poachers in Africa. Killing elephants for something to be used to make trinkets pisses me off. Since my main character, Leine Basso, is a former assassin who now works for an anti-trafficking agency, dealing with other forms of trafficking within the series seemed like a natural progression. In the book, Leine searches for a missing backpacker in Bangkok and finds herself on a cargo ship headed for Tanzania where she goes up against a trafficker named Victor Wang. Wang is an equal opportunity trafficker who deals in humans, endangered species, ivory, and whatever will bring him the best return on investment.

 

The Body Market (the third book in the Leine Basso series) came about as a result of reading two news items: the first being the arrest of a seventeen-year-old hitman, or sicario, for a drug cartel in Mexico who confessed to over 800 murders, and the second was the discovery of a refrigerated truck filled with children who were headed for a “body market” of sorts, where they’d be killed for their organs.  Often, anger fuels my writing, giving me the impetus I need to finish a novel. Not to mention the free therapy.

 

 

3. Writing aside, what passions drive your life?

I’m passionate about empowering others to stand up for themselves (especially women, but men are definitely in that mix), to stop thinking of themselves as victims, and to work past bad decisions to become who they were meant to be. I’m also intensely passionate about second chances: giving them as well as getting them. Look, we’re all works in progress, right? Just because you made a bad decision (or two, or twenty) doesn’t mean you can’t learn from that mistake and move on, hopefully to a better rendition of yourself. Certainly, you should make amends if you’ve hurt someone with your choices, but forgive yourself and move on. I’ve found that while many people will offer a second chance to someone else, sadly many don’t believe they’re entitled to their own.

 

DV Berkom Author Photo

 

4. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?

My favorite novels change with my life stages. What may have once been a story that resonated with me might not now because of changes I’ve made/experienced in myself. So, for instance, Out of Africa (Isaak Dinesen/Karen Blixen) resonated strongly with me when I was younger because of the lessons the protagonist learned while she was in Africa: self-sufficiency, learning to trust, learning to let go, the beauty of the natural world, etc. (I also loved the movie with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. My favorite line was when Redford’s character told Streep’s “I don’t want to find out one day that I’m at the end of someone else’s life.” Now THAT resonated.) Even though I still love the writing, that book is like a favorite old sweater. Comfy, but doesn’t fit the way it used to. In my experience, stories tend to show up when I need them.

 

I need a protagonist I can somehow relate to. The recent surge in popularity of the unreliable narrator in fiction isn’t really my cuppa, since I don’t identify very closely with that kind of protagonist. I want a character with flaws, certainly, but I also want there to be redemption of some sort, some quality the character gains because they conquered formidable obstacles (be they physical, emotional, or spiritual). I read one popular book recently to find out what was so brilliant about it, but was not at all impressed with the protagonist at the end of the story. There was no arc, no learning curve. Meh.

 

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with a heart-pounding, escapist read with no reason other than to entertain with twists and turns like the road to Hana.

 

5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

My posts at DV Berkom Books are random bits from my already overactive imagination. Mainly writing/reading related, but I like to throw in posts about research and other stuff that particularly sparks my interest. I haven’t been able to force myself into a set posting schedule, even though everyone tells me I ought to. Seems like that would take all the fun out of it, so I just ignore their advice.

 

DV Berkom Blog Banner

 

6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?

When I’m writing a novel, I’m pretty self-disciplined. I’ll write every day for several hours and then work on answering emails and promotion. Weekends I don’t always write both days, but I’ll be thinking about whatever scene I’m working on in the manuscript ALL. THE. TIME. I start the process by drawing a timeline on a sheet of paper and scribbling a bunch of scenes for a loose road map to the story, and then abandon it about halfway through and wing it the rest of the way. Then, if I get stuck, I haul out the timeline again and see if I can fix things. It usually works out. As I’m crafting the story, I send it to my critique partners—these are writers I’ve known and worked with for years. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so each session (we meet every two weeks) is lively and we get down to essentials pretty quickly.

 

 

Once I’m finished with the manuscript and it’s been through critique, then I work on polishing it up a bit before I send it out to my first set of readers. I’ve worked with these folks for years, too, and they’re phenomenal at finding any unclear or confusing sections, plugging plot holes, and looking at the big picture. As soon as I get their suggestions back I revise at least once more, sometimes twice, and then I send it off to my editor. She usually has it back to me within a few weeks.  I’ll incorporate her suggestions/corrections before going through it all one or two more times before I send out advance reader copies. Every now and then the ARC readers will find something I missed—they are so invaluable to the process—and there’s the added benefit of having several reviews ready to go when the book launches.

 

7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?

Self-published. I found that my temperament isn’t well matched to the time involved in traditional publishing. That’s a roundabout way of saying I’ve got a bad case of impatience. I also prefer to have final say over my covers, which I used to do on my own, but found hiring them out to be a much less angst-ridden endeavor. I do my own formatting, since I’m persnickety enough to enjoy it, and do almost all of the promotion myself. I hired a PR firm for one book, but didn’t find the ROI acceptable. All in all, independent publishing is a full-time job plus, but I’ve run my own small businesses for years so it’s not as daunting as it might be to someone who hasn’t. And, I actually enjoy it. Shocking, I know.

 

DV Berkom Kate Jones Thriller Box Set Book Covers

 

8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?

How about a bunch? (I like to give!) 1. Write a series. 2. After you’ve written at least 3 books in that series, make the first book free or at least run regular sales. 3. Take advantage of every free promotional opportunity you’re comfortable with to get your name out there. 4. Have an easy to navigate website showcasing your books and buy links. 5. Engage with readers and other authors. Comment on blogs and build relationships with bloggers. 6. Join a group specifically in your genre (e.g., Sisters in Crime, RWA, ITW, etc.) Most of the time, you will receive invaluable help from members. 7. Have someone other than your mother/brother/sister/uncle read your book and give you honest feedback. A great book is the best marketing I know. 8. Write. A lot. 9. Read. A lot. Bonus tip: HIRE AN EDITOR. I guarantee you will not be able to catch every mistake without one.

 

9. What future projects can we look forward to?

I’m currently working on a prequel to the Leine Basso series about her early career as an assassin that deals with a couple of seminal events mentioned in the first book, Serial Date. After that, I’ve already created an outline for the next book in the Kate Jones thriller series, and will start writing that one. I’ve received several emails from readers asking when her next book is coming out, and I’m eager to get back into Kate’s head again!

 

10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?

In a recent podcast the interviewer implied that my life mirrored my books: Like my character, Kate Jones, I’ve lived in Mexico (and yes, I knew some shady characters then, but don’t keep in contact), and, like Leine, travel quite a bit and know how to take care of myself. My real life, however, is not nearly as exciting, although I still love to travel and will go just about anywhere (give me a minute to pack my bag…) I’ve written posts on my blog about how much I didn’t know before sitting down to write specific books like Yucatán Dead, A One Way Ticket to Dead, and Cargo, but was able to find just the right contact who did. There are a couple of themes running through my books that I will cop to as being a tad too similar with my life: impatience and the problems that can crop up because of it, and a willingness to defend myself and others when pushed. That alone can have some interesting repercussions…

 

You can connect with DV and her social media sites via her author website.

 

 

Is there anything else you would like to know about DV Berkom?

 

 

Permission must be granted by DV Berkom to use the author photo featured in this post.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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56 Comments

  1. Loing been a fan of DV. Love the Kate Jones series and will be getting into the Leine Basso series soon. I am woefully behind, having been hijacked by my own book:) Loved learning more about he here… my admiration grows!

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    • Thank you for the kind words, Jacqueline! I feel the same about you (mutual admiration society 🙂 ) Good luck with your new book-I can’t wait to read it!

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    • DV, and thank you for such great answers and giving generously of your hard-earned knowledge. Your kick-ass female characters are the icing on the cake 😉

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  2. Jeri — thanks for featuring a writer of thrillers, which I think is a bit unusual for you. I’m a thriller junkie. They’re fun and I don’t need to fret about needing to learnig anything! DV, I confess I hadn’t heard of your series, but I am going to dive in soon. Love the plotlines.

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    • Great to meet you, Jeannette! I’m definitely a thriller junkie, too, so work hard to skip the “boring bits” in my writing 🙂 Enjoy the books!

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  3. What a great interview – I always love thrillers with a strong female lead, but I was particularly interested once DV said that she is prompted by news items. Issues like trafficking are important for people to know about & I think fiction is a great way of getting the word out about what’s happening. How great to discover a new author. Thanks to both of you.

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    • Hi Kathy! I certainly agree with you about the importance of getting the information out there about the issues. Once I realized I could have fun writing about what moved me the most and entertain readers while doing it, well, let’s just say I was hooked 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  4. Wonderful interview as can be expected Jeri. DV Berkom is real and l like that! She has no airs and graces. I am intrigued by her book Universal Money – everyone can be bought and sold. What a frightening prospect.

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    • Hi Phoenicia–Yes, it is a frightening prospect and it continues to happen every day, all over the world, including here in the US. If there’s a market for something or someone, you can be sure somebody somewhere figured out how to sell it/them. Awareness is key to eradication, which is one of the reasons I write what I do. Thank you for your comments!

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  5. I like kick-ass female protagonists as well. I guess because in real life I’m rather mild-mannered and shy. I also find anger motivates a lot of my writing – when I’m not unleashing my inner wise ass!

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    • LOL Jan 🙂 I’ve gotten quite a few emails from readers who consider themselves mild-mannered and shy who say they live vicariously through my characters–but in my experience it’s the shy ones you have to watch out for. They’ve usually got a reserve of some amazing kick-assery that can come out of nowhere, especially when things get scary…

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  6. I really enjoyed this interview. DV Berkom sounds as kick-ass as her characters! I must admit I was not familiar with her and have not read any of her books. I will change that. I enjoy mysteries and thrillers and will look for her books.

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    • Thanks for stopping by, Donna! I love the questions Jeri asked. And, I hope you enjoy the books 🙂

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  7. Interesting interview. While I was unfamiliar with DV…no longer so! Thanks to Jeri.
    I love those books, which portray strong female characters. This interview brings to my mind the captivating series…The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo by Larsson. DV, You are my reading list now.

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    • That was a great series, Balroop. Lisbeth Salander is an iconic character–strong, and hugely flawed with her own sense of justice–which, of course, makes for the most interesting protagonists! I’ve tried to do much the same with Leine Basso (and Kate Jones). Thank you for commenting. I hope you enjoy the books.

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  8. I’ve been a fan of DV’s Leine Basso for a while now. I love that she’s a kickar$e character who is still recognizably a /woman/. Some strong female characters come across as guys in frills. We have our own amazing strengths and it’s great to see them brought to the fore. Go, DV!

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    • Hey AC–good to see you 🙂 I agree with your comment that some female characters come across as guys in frills (love that line). Unfortunately, that’s the case with many in the thriller genre, and a big reason I wrote both characters the way I did. We do have amazing strengths–why not celebrate that with a kick@ss story line?

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  9. Great interview, dear Jeri… I especially enjoyed the part in which Berkom makes reference to the fact of finding inspiration for her books among controversial (*) headlines …. and also those excerpts referred to the editing process with its consequent adventures and misadventures 😉… thanks for sharing… best wishes. Aquileana ☀️

    PS. (*) The word “controversial” above is just an understatement…

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  10. Great reading Jeri and of course since my t-h-i-n-g is resilience I especially appreciate DV’s focus on resilient characters. The book sounds wonderful and it’s been awhile since I read a good mystery/action/thriller so I will definitely check it out!

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    • Hi Marquita! Thank you for your comments. Yes, resilience is most definitely a great quality to have in a protagonist (and an antagonist). Happy reading!

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  11. “Even though I still love the writing, that book is like a favorite old sweater. Comfy, but doesn’t fit the way it used to.” This resonated with me. It’s so true about books. Books fit or don’t fit the stages in our lives. Tastes progress and mutate into what we need at that time. Thanks again for another great interview.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Denise. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an old favorite and remember how I felt about my life the time I first read it. Like old friends, I suppose.

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  12. There definitely can’t be enough strong female protagonists. Hollywood so often portrays women just as girlfriends, mothers or helpless things that need to be saved. I love it when I hear of women writers showing that women can be strong and powerful too.

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    • Me too, Erica 🙂 And *yay* we’re seeing it more and more. What gets me are the women that perpetuate the fallacy of helplessness or powerlessness–and won’t fight to change perceptions.

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  13. Hello DV and Jeri – what an interesting write-up. DV, I love how your writing is inspired by real life events, as sad as those events are. What beastly people share this world. Of course, we’ve seen that again the past few days in France.
    I’m not a thriller reader – I can’t turn off my mind when I go to bed which means what I’ve read replays all night long, not a pleasant experience if the subject is horrible. After reading this interview though I wish I was. The books and the author sound fascinating.
    BTW, that was a great suggestion – after three books in a series, offer the first one free – what a super way to get people hooked.
    Jeri, I really enjoy this ‘meet the author’ series. I wish both of you the greatest success, doing what you obviously love to do.

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    • Thank you for stopping by, Lenie. I sympathize with your mind replaying events–this happens to me more often than I’d like to admit, especially when I’ve uncovered something really horrible in my research. That’s probably why I make sure to give the characters their due…makes me feel at least a tiny bit better 🙂

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  14. Hi, great post! I love crime thrillers and murder mysteries. I also love reading about the Mexican cartels. I know I need to go to a writing group but I am scared that people will judge me . lol I have only been writing diligently for three years. I think that I need more time and need get better. How did you find your critique partners? It is inspiring that you are living out your passion by writing your books. Great advice. 🙂

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    • Hi Crystal! The drug cartels are certainly great fodder for novels 🙂 Finding the right critique group took some trial and error. You want to be sure they’re helpful, and not so insecure as to be mean/judgmental. My first group had a really toxic person as a member and I left within a couple of months. Luckily, I persevered and helped create the group I’m in now. There are five of us, which is just about right. I’d suggest finding one or two writers you trust at first. They can be at any level–if you’re at the same point in your writing journey, then you can learn together. If not, then you can learn from their experience. That’s much easier than finding a whole group. You can add more later on.

      As for fear of judgment, we all have to push through that. This business can be rough–you have to develop a thick hide. Sure, you’ll get some scars (we’ve all got them!) but if you don’t put yourself out there, how will you learn? It’s scary for sure, but in the end so worthwhile.

      Good luck on your journey!

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  15. Jeri & DV, thanks for the great blog-interview! I have already added books to my Amazon wish list (it’s a long queue!). As others have noted, I like the kick-ass women as well. I got a bit dismayed last year when I read a new author and in both series her female lead was on the verge of being raped when (alas) she was saved by someone else. UGH.

    Like DV, my Musings blog cannot seem to be tamed into an editorial/planned calendar. I just tried again this morning. Sigh. The characters in our heads sure do run things!

    Best of luck with the continued success of your books.

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    • Double ugh, Rose. I think it’s fine to have the female character receive some help, certainly, but that whole, “Here I come to save the day!” man-thing really irritates me. Give me a woman who can get herself out of a predicament by her wits and abilities. And can we please have a woman who’s EQUAL to her partner?

      Thanks for your comments.

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  16. Hi DV, nice to meet you here! I’m taking note about how you channel your anger at the world’s injustices into your plots and characters — a productive place to release it. I have recently been inundating myself with puppy videos, but that isn’t going to pay the bills, you know? Also, I don’t know where you are “outside of Seattle,” but I’m in Burien. <>

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    • Hi Laura- I’m on the Kitsap Peninsula, so in the same part of the state. And yes, puppies and kittens most definitely have their place. After the attacks in Paris, I spent a bunch of time on Facebook watching funny cat videos. Eventually, I’ll write through my anger at the senselessness of it all, but for now, kittens! 🙂

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  17. Wow, this book sounds fascinating! Another great interview. I really like the marketing tip about joining a group specific to your genre. I can see where that would be helpful.

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    • Thank you, Meredith. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview! When I first began writing novels I was talked into joining RWA (I say talked into because I don’t write romance and assumed it wouldn’t be a good fit) and was I ever glad I did. At the time I knew next to nothing about the publishing industry — the members of RWA were so helpful, and most were welcoming. So even if it’s not your genre, finding an engaged group of writers is key. Plus, a majority of romance writers kick ass in marketing–I learned a lot from them.

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  18. Wow, this book sounds fascinating! Another great interview. I really like the marketing tip about joining a group specific to your genre. I can see where that would be helpful.

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  19. Wow, what a great interview, Jeri. I really like the sounds of this lady author!! I want to read your books, DV. Your writing tips are fantastic and I will put some into action. I also self publish and yes, it’s a lot of work but very fun work that I enjoy as well! I like your attitude, DV.

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    • Hi Lisa! Greetings to a fellow self-pubber 🙂 Even though it’s a lot of work, I wouldn’t change what I do for anything–and ditto on the great attitude! Pessimists don’t tend to stay focused long enough in this business to succeed (although, I guess that could be said for most endeavors). Good luck and happy reading!

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  20. DV, not only do you seem like an interesting person your books are to my liking as well. Personally read everything from Cicero to Ludlum and it’s nice to find a female Jason Bourne. When I am old I intend to write that kind of books based on my life in politics and the jet set all over the world. Will keep me happy and busy in old age.

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    • Oooh–that sounds tantalizing, Catarina! That’s the great thing about writing–you can do it anywhere, any time. I plan to write as long as I have something to say 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

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    • Hi Jason! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview/tips. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  21. Another great interview you have posted. I enjoy reading these each month. Every author has a different insight, Thanks for sharing these with us.

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  22. Loved this interview – thanks Jeri! Totally agree about the unreliable narrator – even when it’s done well I find myself marvelling at the author’s cleverness rather than being lost in their world. And GREAT indie publishing tips – have taken notes!

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    • Good point, Claire. Anything that takes the reader out of the story is a lost chance to connect. IMO. Glad you found the tips helpful!

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    • Good point, Claire. Anything that takes the reader out of the story is a lost chance to connect. IMO. Glad you found the tips helpful!

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  23. Jeri and DV, great interview. I loved the fact that you write on topics that a) piss you off and b) are ripped right from the headlines. What better way to engage people and get them taking about it than hitting on topics that are already on everyone’s radar. Your books sound fascinating, intense and like real page turners. They are definitely being added to my reading list ASAP.

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    • Thank you, Susan. Inspiration to write is certainly easy to find these days. The therapy’s a bonus 🙂 Enjoy the books!

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