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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

For Action-Oriented Female Characters, You Can't Beat DV Berkom

DV Berkom loves strong, intelligent, smart-ass, and kick-ass female characters. So, it's not surprising that the USA Today best-selling author of two action-packed thriller series features impressive female leads: Kate Jones and Leine Basso. Her drive to create such women stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, mysteries, and thrillers—and longing to find the female equivalent within those pages.


After a lifetime of moving to places people typically like to visit on vacation, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and several imaginary characters who like to tell her what to do. Her most recent books include Dakota Burn, Absolution, Dark Return, The Last Deception, Vigilante Dead, A Killing Truth, and Cargo. She's currently working on her next thriller.

DV was happy to entertain some questions from us. If you enjoy reading (and perhaps writing) thrillers, you just might find her experiences and advice enlightening.

 

Thanks for playing along with us! Let's start with the obvious questions. What do you find most appealing about writing series? Do you think series are easier to write and market than stand-alone novels?

 

Other than short stories, I've only ever written a series—I really love them. The form gives me the ability to explore the main character much more in-depth than a stand-alone novel. Plus, I get to concentrate on the story, the setting, and the secondary characters since I'm familiar with the MC and don't have to build her from scratch. But easy to write? I'd have to say writing, in general, is about as easy as balancing on top of a unicycle in the middle of the I-5 during a Seattle rush hour, while sipping a cocktail and having a conversation with my editor.

 

As for marketing, I think having a series is definitely easier than writing one-offs. There are so many more entry points for a reader and, if they love a character, many will burn through the entire series, which helps tremendously.

 

When creating a series character like Leine Basso or Kate Jones, is the character growth and maturation planned or a natural progression?

 

To be completely honest, I started both series without a plan of any sort. At that point in my writing career, I was a pantser (seat of your pants writer). I'd sit down with a sketchy idea of what I wanted to accomplish, and then just have at it. While that was terrific fun, I ended up writing myself into so many corners that I would spend hours revising scenes so they'd work. Yeah, my novels used to take a LOT longer to write back then. Now, I usually work up an outline that I try to refer to when I get stuck. I say try because one of my later Leine Basso thrillers, Dakota Burn, went entirely off the rails because I got caught up in the storyline and completely forgot I'd written one. When I finally came up for air, I read through said outline and thought, "Huh. Well, that would have worked too."

 

berkom_dakota_burn.jpg

 

So, to answer your question, character growth for both Kate and Leine was a natural progression in the beginning (re: pantser days), then became a bit more planned as I worked my way through each of the series.

 

What do you think, will Leine and Kate ever cross paths?

 

Lots of readers have asked me that question. I've considered it, just haven't found the right story yet. It would definitely be an interesting encounter. They're so different—Leine is the calm, objective, capable professional, while Kate is an emotional, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kinda gal. But both are gutsy, independent women, so there is that.

 

Bourne or Bond?

 

Tough choice. I grew up reading Bond, and never miss a 007 movie, but I can say the same for Bourne. If I absolutely have to choose and we're talking movies, I'd say Bourne. The action scenes are soooo good (although I really like Daniel Craig as Bond). The books are a toss-up. I'd be happy with either.

 

Let's talk about Leine for a minute. She's a former government assassin. What research was required to develop her character?

 

If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Seriously, since I'm not exactly an international assassin, I had a lot of help. I'm fortunate to know several folks I can turn to for information who have been in similar situations as my character. First and foremost, I have a great relationship with a former Special Forces sniper. We met through a friend's Zoomba class if you can believe it. He made me meet him there (I'd never Zoomba'd in my life) and make a total ass of myself before he'd talk to me. It was great fun and soooo worth it J I'm also good friends with several law enforcement folks, and some people who possibly-might-have-been-okay-yes-they-were on the other side of that line. Then, once I've nailed down the human side of it, I dig deep and research as much as I can. I try to get to every place I write about, but if that isn't possible, I have friends all over the world I can rely on to help with logistics and setting.

 

I love to travel and have been to all kinds of places. So I can draw on those experiences, as well. I've also practiced with several different weapons throughout the years, so I have a familiarity with firearms.

 

As for her inner demons, we all have those to some degree. I'm great at playing what if and imagining how a character would feel if such and such happened (some call it empathetic, I say neurotic), but I also have a ton of experiences to draw from. One of the many perks of growing older…

 

Leine is something of a badass, no-holds-barred woman, with a bit of satire and dark humor mixed in. How much fun is she to write?

 

Way too much fun. My whole reason for creating Leine was to show that a woman can be a badass, but also have a human side. As one reader put it, she's effed up from her past but tries to work through that as best as she can—kind of like all of us.

 

Dark humor is second nature to me, so it had to bleed through into my books. Serial Date, the first novel I wrote with Leine Basso as the lead character, was intended to be a stand-alone thriller. I needed a strong female that could go toe-to-toe with a cannibal/serial killer. A former government assassin seemed the way to go. Both kill, but for different reasons. Are they really so different? I try to answer that question in the novel. The story itself came from a twisted dream I had, and I just let loose on the characters. The satire in the book (which is pretty much nonexistent in the later novels) was my response to the plethora of serial killer thrillers and reality shows on television at the time. Why not write about a reality show where ex-cons pose as serial killers and women vie for the opportunity to hook up with them? We're not that far from those kinds of "reality" based programs right now.

 

How much of Leine Basso is DV Berkom?

 

Good question. There's definitely some element of me in all my books—I don't think a writer can ever really erase that, and I don't think they should. It's what makes one book different from the others. That being said, Leine's tougher, more attractive, and a hell of a lot better shot than I am.

 

What is your most vexing problem when writing?

 

You'd think after 15+ novels, things would get easier. If anything, it's harder. I tend to jump into a book with great enthusiasm, then about 15k words in I wonder what the hell I was thinking. 20k to 50k I figure it'll be my last book, since I obviously don't know what I'm doing. 55k in and I'm finding it hard to dress—jammies and T-shirts all the way. At 60k+ personal hygiene takes a backseat, as does anything remotely resembling housecleaning. And then it's all unicorns and rainbows because I finished the book and I can start another one. Much champagne is had and life is wonderful. It's a wonder my long-suffering partner, Mark, doesn't just live at the nearest bar.

 

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

 

Work in finance? Seriously, I probably wouldn't change much. Every writer has to go through their own trajectory. Mine has been all kinds of fun, but also filled with challenges, which is the whole point, I think. I tend to remember the lesson more if it was difficult. Sad, but true.

 

Columbo or McGyver?

 

McGyver, definitely. Action, action, action.

 

You're planning a backyard barbecue and you can invite three special guests—authors or fictional characters, contemporary or from the past. Who do you invite? And what conversation would you hope to initiate?

 

Papa Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Miles Davis. Music, writing, and sarcasm—what more could a gal want? Of course, I'd ask them all to bring their friends. And, if I could have one more guest, I'd absolutely invite Amelia Earhart and ask her what happened when she and Fred Noonan disappeared.

 

Any new authors that have snared your interest?

 

I'm always on the lookout for new authors. Lately, I've been reading Gregg Hurwitz's Orphan X series (yeah, I know—I'm late to the party), but I also enjoy Tim Tigner, Carmen Amato, Andrew Warren, Kristi Belcamino, Mark Dawson, and scads of others that would take up way too much space to list here.

 

Who is your favorite superhero? And why?

 

Every woman I've ever met. From my mother and sister to friends and acquaintances to people I've only read about, women have proven to be resilient, fearless, and amazing. I am in awe of all of them.

 

Can you tell us about your current project?

 

I just published Leine Basso #10, Shadow of the Jaguar. This time, Leine's in South America in the Amazon, searching for a member of an expedition on the trail of a kind of El Dorado—a city of gold. I wanted to write more of an action-adventure similar to Cargo (Leine Basso #5), and the whole searching for a lost city thing really intrigued me. The entire time I was writing the book, though, I kept berating myself for attempting such a clichéd plotline (especially since so many other authors have already done it so well), so I worked hard to make the idea fresh rather than a rehash of the genre. From what early readers have said, I succeeded.

 

 berkomshadow.jpg

 

Thanks, DV, for a great interview. It was fun!

For more information, visit her website at www.dvberkom.com. To be the first to hear about new releases and subscriber-only offers, go to bit.ly/DVB_RL

 

(A version of this interview was published in the 2020 Spring issue of Suspense Magazine.)

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Alan Orloff: From Mechanical Engineering to Engineering Thriller, Mystery, and Horror Fiction

Alan Orloff has had a diversified career during his lifetime, far more than most folks. Lucky for us, he's now settled into writing awarding-winning novels and short stories. His debut mystery, Diamonds for the Dead, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. His novel, Pray for the Innocent, won the 2019 ITW Thriller Award in the Best E-Book Original category.

 

Alan's short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Noir at the Salad Bar, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and many others.  His story, "Rule Number One" was selected for the 2018 edition of The Best American Mystery Stories anthology. His story, "Happy Birthday" (published on Shotgun Honey), was a 2018 Derringer Award Finalist in the Flash Fiction category. And his story, "Dying in Dokesville" (published in Mystery Most Geographical) won the 2019 Derringer Award in the Short Story category.

 

Alan is always willing to chat with readers and fellow writers. So, it was no surprise when he agreed—without hesitation—to talk with us for Suspense Magazine.

 


Alan, thanks for chatting with us. You come from a diverse background. A degree in mechanical engineering, an MBA. You've worked on nuclear submarines, at a marketing research firm, and have even driven a forklift, among many other things. Now you're a full-time writer. How in the world did that happen?

A very good question, one that my wife asks me all the time. I wish I had a better answer, but one day I just decided to give writing a try. While I never (never!) had taken a creative writing class (or shown any desire to do so), I'd always been a big reader. I guess I finally got fed up reading other people's stories and wanted to write my own! I started slow, with a proof of concept. Could I write a short story? I did, it didn't stink (too bad), so I took a few workshops, then a few more, and kept at it. Still doing it, too.

 

 

Tell us about your thriller, Pray for the Innocent.

 

Don't hate me, but I woke up at 4 am with the premise for this novel fully formed in my head. I recommend this method very highly! (Although, every morning since, when I wake up WITHOUT a great idea in my idea, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed.) The book kicks off with a slight sci-fi twist and then it's off to the races. (It was fortunate enough to win the ITW Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original.) Here's a brief description:

 

In the shadow of the Pentagon, a secret DoD brain research experiment goes terribly wrong, and an ex-Special Ops soldier escapes, believing he is Viktor Dragunov, the Russian operative from the 80's thriller novel, Attack on America. To capture him, the Feds turn to the person uniquely qualified to predict his next moves, the man who created the fictional character, best-selling author Mathias King.

Now a reclusive English professor, King is reluctant to get involved, having sworn off the culture of violence after a deranged fan murdered his wife. But when innocent people start dying, King is thrust back into that dark world. With help from his enthusiastic graduate assistant Emily Phan, King must outsmart his own creation--while outmaneuvering the cover-up-loving Feds--before Dragunov succeeds in his hell-bent mission.

To destroy America.

 

 

Your first novel, Diamonds for the Dead, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. What was your inspiration for that book?

 

 Read More 

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The Glorious Fountain Pen: A Friend to Every Writer

Unfortunately, it's becoming a rarity to see handwritten anything these days, our society is so inundated with technology and driven by word-processing systems. Many deem handwriting inefficient. Why write longhand when you can pound away at a keyboard and watch your work magically appear on a computer screen?

 

Good question.

 

I work on computers, desktop and laptop, every day. My regular job as an editor and writer demands that I sit in front of a computer screen and churn out words. However, as a freelance author, I write my first drafts, fiction and nonfiction, using my favorite writing instrument, a fountain pen. Let me tell you why. 

 

I have many notebooks filled with potential story ideas, snippets of dialogue, random plot points, research—anything that can be put to paper. In fact, what you are reading now started as ink on paper. I find the fountain pen to be more fluid and less stressful on the hand than other pens, especially ballpoint pens that require more pressure on paper when writing. With a fountain pen, the thoughts stream from the brain straight to the page. It greases the "writing" gears.

 

I'm sure many of you have a similar process. From brain to pen to paper seems more creative and natural than pounding on a keyboard and watching digitized letters appear on a monitor. Don't you agree? Maybe I'm just old school and younger writers approach the creative process differently. But I think using a fountain pen is the better way to go. Hey, if ink on paper was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.

 

Writing is an art. Using a fountain pen with ink is like using a brush with paint. Writing with a fountain pen is much like freestyle "doodling." You can quickly draw diagrams in the margins to visualize a scene you're developing, even draw a simple illustration of the story as you move along. A fountain pen offers a freedom to release your creativity that you simply can't achieve using a computer. Using a pen in hand is a natural process. Transferring that work to the computer is a mechanical process. Huge difference. Working on a computer seems more of a commitment—and certainly less fun than using a fountain pen.

 

I used a fountain pen throughout high school and college. But, when I began working as a full-time writer, editor, and publisher, a computer became a necessity. Only recently have I returned to using a fountain pen—and now wonder why I'd avoided my old friend for so many years. I prefer a Pilot, but also occasionally use a Waterman pen. 

 

Long before the typewriter and the computer, writers depended on pen and ink. So, I feel a part of that honored tradition. I and many other lovers of fountain pens are in good company. 

 

Arthur Conan Doyle and Graham Greene preferred the Parker Duofold.

 

Neil Gaiman wrote his novel Stardust using a Waterman pen. He wanted to experience writing the book as a writer in the 1920s would. He also changed ink colors daily to track his progress.

 

In a 2001 interview, Stephen King said that he thought his Waterman fountain pen was "the world's finest word processor." His son, Joe Hill, also writes longhand with a fountain pen. Must run in the family.

 

Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, Salman Rushdie, Peter Straub, H.P. Lovecraft. I could go on and on. Many renowned authors over the years have favored fountain pens. 

 

So, are you looking to spark your creative writing? Grab a fountain pen and a notepad ... and let it flow!

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Chris Bauer Shares His Thoughts on Horror/Thriller Fiction

Chris Bauer is a Philly guy. It's ingrained in his nature and, not surprisingly, in his writing. Growing up in northeast Philadelphia—playing sports on blacktop and concrete, grappling with neighborhood kids, and enduring twelve years of Catholic education—flavors much of his work. His horror/thriller novels include Hiding Among the Dead, Scars on the Face of God, and Jane's Baby.

 

Chris took some time from his busy schedule to share some insights about his fiction, his writing strategies, and his thoughts about publishing in general.

 

Thanks for talking with us today, Chris. Tell us about your latest novel, Hiding Among the Dead.  What's it about?

 

So, this Navy SEAL named Philo Trout retires from the military and buys a small Philly business that specializes in commercial crime scene cleaning. He runs smack-dab into a local crime syndicate of unlikely pedigree: the Hawaiian mob. Thought to be eradicated in Hawaii, the mob family has resurrected itself in the unlikely confines of Philadelphia, its business model now including organ trafficking, preying on desperate immigrants for their raw materials.

 

Add to this, Philo is also a retired, undefeated, illegal bare-knuckles boxing champ. Plus, one of his employees is an amnesiac. Another employee, the former owner, a woman, needs a lung transplant from all the toxic cleaning chemicals and two packs of Camel cigarettes she's inhaled each day.

 

Great conflict, plenty of action, and a bit of gore—'cause, after all, they're crime scene cleaners, and some crime scenes have been known to make even the toughest of cops and EMTs lose their meals.

 

Yep, crime scenes can be nasty. How much and what kinds of research were required?

 

I followed a certain Australian crime scene cleaner named Sandra Pankhurst whose personal struggles have been chronicled by Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster (St. Martin's). I also did extensive research on grain elevator explosions in stevedore environments like in Philadelphia, where a few pivotal scenes are set in an abandoned grain elevator. I even researched Smokin' Joe Frazier's Gym, now a Philly landmark on the National Trust for Historic Preservation list. But the real question is, have I personally visited any bona fide gruesome crime scenes that needed remediation?

 

The answer is… drum roll please…

 

Nope. I pulled up pictures of many a crime scene online. I also looked online at what meth operations and hoarding can do to a private residence and checked into the cost of remedying murders and messy suicides and other destructive events. Plus, I looked into the illegal organ trafficking market to price some organs. Wanna buy a bowel?

 

When writing the novel, was there ever a point where you thought, "Wow, I've gone too far"?

 

Yes. At the beginning of the novel with the inciting incident, and again with the death of a hoarder while she was "indisposed" in her bathroom. The first trauma scene the Blessid Trauma Cleaning team (Philo's company) must remediate is a suicide by Amtrak—a mother and her two children, one an infant. It does push the boundaries a bit when having to deal with children as victims. Frankly, I think the scene sets a realistic tone for what real-life crime scene cleaners must frequently face—powerful images that convey the realism of how harsh these environments can be. Not gratuitous gore here. The demise of these characters is, sadly, important to the plot.

 

How is the book different from your previous novels, Scars on the Face of God and Jane's Baby?

 

Hugely different.

 

Scars on the Face of God is pure, unadulterated horror with biblical undertones and overtones. It's set mostly in 1964 but uses a real-life 13th century manuscript known as The Devil's Bible (also known as Codex Gigas or the Giant Book) as a catalyst. The Devil's Bible became the spoils of several European wars since its handwritten origin in Podlazice, Bohemia, by a Benedictine monk who, according to legend, finished writing it in a single night by summoning the Devil's help. It's on display online, and the original manuscript is housed in the National Library of Sweden.

 

The novel deals with a copy of the codex written in German (literary license: different European language versions were written around the same time) that terrorizes a small German Catholic parish outside the city of Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century before its rediscovery in the mid-sixties creates a panic in the same parish.

 

Stephen King once said, "We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones." Do you think that applies to your work?

 

With Scars, absolutely. The germ of the novel came from my experience with children my age born with birth defects in the Mayfair section of northeast Philadelphia. When I began writing Scars, I'd just read A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr, which highlighted a real-life leukemia cluster located in Woburn, MA that was caused by tainted water allegedly coming from local toxic waste dumping by Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace and Company. Outstanding, heart-wrenching, real-life story.

 

For me, a classic "what if" emerged. What if what I saw as a child in Philly was the result of a leukemia cluster coming from similar culprits and poor or nonexistent environmental practices in the 1940s and 1950s? Some significant research later, I discovered that my section of Philly had been a hotbed for the tannery industry at the turn of the twentieth century. The tanneries were notorious for burying their waste or dumping it into the local water supply like the Delaware River and various small creeks. This was how the novel started, but it took on an abrupt horrific edge when a) I saw the movie The Devil's Advocate (Pacino, Reaves) where Pacino's character talks about the Devil's writings and b) I discovered the existence of The Devil's Bible. I blended two stories, one about leukemia clusters and corruption and heartbreak of families losing children to disease, and one coming from a legend surrounding the potential birth of the Anti-Christ foretold in my reconstructed version of The Devil's Bible.

 

Jane's Baby, on the other hand, was not straight-up horror.

 

It's a political thriller that attempts to answer the question of what happened to the baby in the middle of the 1973 Roe v Wade landmark Supreme Court decision. Contrary to what most folks realize, the Jane Roe baby was born. She was put up for closed adoption, where neither party knew the other. She would now be in her late forties. The novel looks at what might happen if she became a prominent adult in the judicial system, then learned later in life that she was the Roe baby. Antagonists have learned her identity and intend to use it to their advantage. One antagonist intends to kill her.

 

Sounds again like an incredible amount of research. Plus, Roe v Wade is such a controversial topic.

 

I'm very proud of this timely, what-if novel about a woman's right to choose in that it does not try to solve the abortion debate. But it does use it to fuel a literally and figuratively explosive time bomb that threatens to overturn the 1973 decision.

 

You've been picked up by Severn River Publishing. What are the advantages of working with a traditional publisher?

 

Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible was first published by Drollerie Press in 2009. Drollerie Press went under, returned all rights to me, and I re-pubbed the novel myself in 2011.

 

When I closed the deal with Severn River Publishing, they wanted to republish Scars as part of it, which made me happy. It's a great sleeper of a horror novel, has been reviewed well on Amazon, received some nice blurbs, and it gained some notoriety as runner-up for the best in ebook horror per the 2010 EPIC Awards.

 

The advantages of working with independent Severn River Publishing vs. self-publishing are editing, marketing, and their interest in branding/re-branding their authors. I've received what I consider excellent content and copy editing from folks who are or have been Penguin Random House editors. Severn River also prides itself in understanding the Amazon marketplace inside and out, and is adept at strategically aligning novels within the Amazon genres so they can perform at their best. (Okay fine, we're still waiting for that spike in readership that other Severn River authors have enjoyed, but I'm hopeful this will happen with a few more books under my belt—and interviews like this.)

 

 

Do you have an agent? If so, what advice do you have for an author seeking one?

 

I'm currently unagented. I intend to get back on the agent query horse in 2020 after I fulfill my contract with Severn River Publishing. I like Severn River as a publisher and might stay with them if they'll still have me. But, regardless, I do hope to interest a new agent. I've had two already, and both relationships have been good experiences for me, but we weren't able to close the big-ass deals we were both looking for so we parted ways. My most recent agent and I severed our relationship just before I signed the Severn River Publishing deal.

 

My advice would be to stay vigilant and keep writing and querying. It took more than 75 queries to find my first agent. The door opened a little quicker when I queried re Jane's Baby, but it still took time.

 

How do you think your childhood on the streets of northeast Philadelphia impacts your writing?

 

Wow. I've been calling myself a "brute force" writer, a "wysiwyg" (what you see is what you get), meat-and-potatoes kind of storyteller. My byline reads "The thing I write will be the thing I write." I'd say that my attitude probably comes from my hometown environment.

 

My blue-collar machinist father, smart enough to have gone to a good engineering school but who never had the chance. My homemaking mother (three kids, beauty parlor on Fridays, loved drinking her Manhattans there). And a large extended family on my mother's side. This all provided the basics for my education—at Catholic elementary and high schools, and at Penn State and for entertainment. I did love my youth spent on the Philly streets and playgrounds, playing sports and watching my beloved Eagles and Phillies through some of the toughest years (60s, 70s).

 

I played rugby for my high school, Father Judge (go Crusaders!). Being one of the smaller guys on the pitch meant I usually took more of a beating than I could dish out. I really hated some of the opposition. As the "hooker"—or the "center" equivalent on a regular American football team—sans any padding, my face and shins took a god-damn beating. It's one of the reasons the protagonists I typically choose to write about, both male and female, are all good with their fists and can handle themselves when necessary. It's to provide a little payback, and some straighten-your-ass-right-the-fuck-out action for the underdog. Yes, extremely gratifying.

 

What author(s) do you most want to emulate?

 

Steve Shilstone (Chance, a baseball book); Dean Koontz for his Odd Thomas series, as much or more so than Stephen King; Elmore Leonard for his minimalism; Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn), Jennifer Hillier (Jar of Hearts). All wonderful voices. The thing is, I love using a hard-edged voice for my protagonists, and these writers have done such a great job in creating voices for their characters. Adding to this list, on the strength of one interview I saw in the International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine last year, I want to add Chantelle Aimée Osman, author, and an editor at Agora Books (a Polis Books imprint), who tells it like it is every time I see her quoted somewhere.

 

Do you read reviews of your books? If so, how does it (or does it not) affect your writing?

 

Yes. ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME. For me, it's a sickness. One way it affects my writing is, simply, it keeps me from doing it. I'll go searching for new rankings and reviews on my novels regularly (got three novels out there, will add two more attention-hoggers/personal distractions by the end of 2020). If I see unflattering comments, even though they may be very few, I do take them to heart, because I want EVERY reader to love the story.

 

Does it change my writing? It could, if it's very specific, if I missed something about the characters/plot/theme, etc. I have yet to run across one that made me genuinely stop and rethink my purpose in life, that I might have no idea what I'm doing, etc. Of course, I don't need feedback like that because I typically arrive at that conclusion all by myself at least once daily, then I talk myself back inside off the ledge.

 

Here, for example, is a review on Amazon for Hiding Among the Dead that, for this reader, genuinely reflected her feeling about the novel, but it made me question why she picked it up to read it to begin with. Her review title is "This book will keep you up at night." So far, so good, right? It's actually a flattering title, IMO. Then, "Unable to finish this book. Found the subject of cleaning up crime scenes and the criminal aspect of disposing of body parts to be too distasteful." Two stars. The more I thought about it, and in acknowledging that she'd invested some time in it, she was actually being nice by not making it one star. HOWEVER, potential readers, PLEASE be aware of a novel's content before you decide to post a poor review because the subject matter wasn't a match for you.

 

Do you participate in public readings, like Noir at the Bar?

 

Yes. I LOVE participating in Noir at the Bar readings and other public readings. I've done a few to large (80+) audiences and one to an audience of only two (excluding other readers), the latter a bust but still fun. I've sweated my way through all of them, literally, but I still love doing them.

 

What advice would you offer to writers who haven't done one yet?

 

First bit of advice is to do them if invited. You're probably reading your material out loud already (you need to do this as part of the manuscript review process if you aren't). So, these kinds of readings are as exhilarating for the author as doing a theatrical play vs. film is for an actor. Instant gratification from audience reaction.

 

The operational advice: Stay within the time allotted. Seven-to-eight minutes is usually best, and exceeding ten minutes is at your own risk. I don't care what you think about your material, it is NOT the exception, people's eyes will glaze over, so stay within the allotted times. The audience will thank you, and you won't piss off the organizer.

 

Practice, practice, practice. Get the inflections right, the gestures right if any, the facial expressions right (if any are necessary), the voices right.

 

Do not speed through the reading like you don't want to be there, or like it's 2 a.m. and you just heard "last call" at the bar. Slow down, enunciate your material, and don't slur through your words, which also means staying sober.

 

Make the font on the page large enough for you to read easily. Make your written page breaks occur at the end of paragraphs if possible, or at least not have you needing to turn the page in mid-sentence.

 

I like to bring more than one copy of the reading with me (for those of you who, like me, do not read from an electronic device). Some of us now have trust issues when it comes to doing readings because CERTAIN OTHER AUTHORS OUT THERE on occasion like to mess with your printed reading material if it's left unattended. 'Cause, you know, it can be fun watching someone scramble, blank out, get sick, or panic in front of an audience, right?

And don't forget your glasses if you need them. I did that once. What a disaster.

 

What's your next project? A Philo Trout sequel?

 

Next crime thriller, Binge Killer, releases later this year (2019). The protagonist is the younger sister to my well-received protagonist in Jane's Baby, and the novel is the start of a new series about her that I expect to call the "Lethal Women" series. After that, a Philo Trout crime scene cleaner sequel (Blessid Trauma Thriller #2, title TDB) moves into the rotation, due out mid-2020. It's my current WIP and I'm having a ball with it. It takes place in the Hawaiian Islands. I'm working on how to get someone else to pay for some research trips there. Not having any luck.

 

Last question: Quentin Tarantino or Francis Ford Coppola?

 

Tough call. I've liked more of Coppola's material, because he seems to get the best out of his actors almost every time he films. But damn, Tarantino has some really interesting, crazy, violent, in-your-face takes in so many films of his that I've liked.

 

My choice: Tarantino. His good stuff is consistent (IMO) and it's newer. Coppola's good stuff is off-the-chart incredible, but I haven't taken to his newer offerings. Yet. Because, see, I've been busy, doing a lot of novel writing lately, with deadlines and shit, and that's taking up so much of my time, you know, and yada yada, and so forth, etc., etc.

 

Thanks so much for the interview, Weldon.

 

Always great to talk with you, Chris!

 

You can find out more about Chris on his website, https://chrisbauerauthor.com/; check out his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/cgbauer; or follow him on Twitter, https://twitter.com/cgbauer.

 

This interview was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Suspense Magazine.

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