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.
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.
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.
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.
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.