Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DV Berkom - Guest Author

Please welcome guest author DV Berkom to our question and answer session today. She’s a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She describes herself as impatient, determined, involved, passionate, and kind. Her writing is action-packed, kickass, contemporary, exciting, and about truth. I’m wondering how she’s going to decide her third guest, have the contenders shoot rock, paper, scissors?

You have a table for four at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you eating (and why)?

Only 3? Ack. Okay, how about war correspondent Martha Gellhorn for advice on writing and to hear some great war stories, Dorothy Parker for her wit and sarcasm, and, although I’m not particularly religious, either Jesus or the Buddha for their insight into spirituality and modern life. The restaurant would be outside of a crumbling villa in Umbria on a warm spring day, with copious amounts of fabulous Italian food and wine…because Italy.

What makes a great short story?

Pacing, and the ability to cut out everything except the most essential information and still have a complete story with character arc and a compelling narrative.

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

Morning, and yes, I most definitely require caffeine. Lots of caffeine.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I usually read 3 or 4 thrillers a month, combined with a non-fiction and maybe a historical, so about 5-6. It’s been a long while since I’ve read a book that knocked my socks off, although I thoroughly enjoyed Tim Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty character and plan to read more of his work. I have become quite a bit more circumspect in my praise since becoming a writer. I’ve tried reading the big bestsellers and have been underwhelmed, especially the more recent novels incorporating unreliable narrators. Just not my type of main character, I guess.

What themes do you regularly employ in your writing?

Redemption, empowerment, fighting injustice, and family. The main theme that keeps cropping up for me deals with empowering women to take care of themselves, to stop allowing anyone to victimize them. I feel strongly about people (not just women) taking the reins in their lives and making choices that empower, rather than diminish them. That being said, I also strongly advocate an action-packed, kickass read where good almost always triumphs over evil J

What motivates you to write?

What doesn’t? Seriously, though, all I have to do is read the headlines and something will piss me off enough to want to write a book. If I’m passionate about an issue, then I know my interest will be sustained over the course of writing the novel. If I get bored writing about something, then I assume it will bore the reader, and that’s never good.

 How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

Cargo is the result of reading an article about ivory poaching in Tanzania, and how several groups are working to stop it. Anywhere from 25-65 elephants are killed per day for their ivory, and it’s conceivable that at that rate, elephants could be extinct in this century. As if that wasn’t enough to piss a person off, during the course of researching the book I also discovered several other practices that exploit wildlife, such as tiger and lion bone wine (apparently it’s used for medicinal purposes), and canned lion hunts (where a human-habituated lion is stuck in a pen with anywhere from 2-5 “hunters” with rifles who have paid upwards of $40k for the opportunity).

Another shocker was learning that the body parts of albino children are thought to be “magical” and have, among other properties, the ability to ensure a successful election for the purchaser. There are documented cases of albino children being murdered in Tanzania for just that reason.

Pissed off yet?

What motivates your protagonist (if not a series, then use the protagonist of your most recent novel)? What influenced who they are today?

Leine Basso is a former assassin who decided to quit the life after her boss used her for a job he shouldn’t have. Although she was an assassin who only took out the bad guys, throughout the series the guilt from killing so many drives her to find a way to make up for her past profession and become the mother she wants to be in the eyes of her daughter. In Bad Traffick, the second novel in the series, she finds herself working for an anti-trafficking agency, which ticks all the boxes for her—she’s able to use her considerable talents to look for the victims of human trafficking, as well as fight bad guys when they get in the way.

To find out more about DV Berkom and her writing, check out her website: http://www.dvberkom.com. And while you are at it, here’s a teaser for Cargo:

Money—the universal merchant. Anyone can be bought, anyone can be sold.

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 onboard 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.


  1. Thanks for having me here today, Jim. I enjoyed our chat :-)

  2. Great interview, Jim and DV! I always love the way you weave issues facing the world today into your fiction, and particularly the fact that you never sacrifice pacing or come off as preaching to readers. It's clear, however, that the topics you write about are ones you're passionate about. Can't wait to read Cargo -- though I suspect it will most definitely piss me off!

    1. lol Jen. Yeah, I pretty much guarantee it. Thanks for the comments :-)

  3. Good interview. Cargo was my favorite story because of the light it shined on wildlife exploitation in a way that was fun and interesting without being preachy. Great story
    Chris K

    1. Thanks, Chris. I'm not a fan of preachy in fiction, so I try hard not to go there. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Love the way you channel your outrage into compelling reads!! -kate collier

  5. Cargo sounds like a great story. Will have to put it on my must-read list. I also highly recommend Tim Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series. That man can write!

    1. Yes, yes he can. After meeting him in Portland at LCC I had to read his books. He's a truly lovely and humble guy :-)

      Enjoy Cargo!

  6. I really enjoyed this lively interview, DV and Jim! Love the concept of a former assassin seeking redemption by doing good deeds. Also love the theme of taking the reins and making choices to enhance our lives. Looking forward to adding Cargo to my TBR list. Thanks to both!

    1. Lida -- thanks for your comment. I find it interesting that many of us are interested in the redemption of the dark side. I address that issue as well in the Seamus McCree novels. Why to you think that's the case? I wonder if we all try to appease our personal dark sides.

      ~ Jim

    2. Thanks, Lida! I appreciate your comments. I'm a big believer in second chances/redemption--it tends to be a major theme in my work. I hope you enjoy Cargo!

  7. I am in awe that you read 5-6 books a month. I'm doing awesome if I can read four, and one is always an audiobook. Lately, I'm lucky to read two a month. I think I feel a New Year's Resolution coming on...

    1. lol Jeri! I'm consciously trying to read more, and more widely. It doesn't always happen, but it surely is fun trying :-)