Monday, December 29, 2014

Tough Female Characters by DV Berkom

Not long ago, I had an interesting conversation with a male reader about women characters taking the lead in the thriller genre. He’s been around the block a time or two, and is a voracious thriller reader who has read tons of both traditionally and indie published thrillers, and I value his opinion. He’d just been introduced to Leine Basso, the protagonist in my second series, and mentioned in passing that Leine was what he deemed a “tough broad” and, although the protagonist’s domain in traditional thrillers has typically been a men’s-only club, he thoroughly enjoyed reading about a woman who was as tough and accomplished as any male character.

And that got me thinking.

I write strong female characters because I haven’t found that kind of protagonist in the books I like to read. Yes, I’ve read action-adventure novels with female protagonists written by both male and female writers, but of those I’ve read I always seem to come away with two main complaints: either the character is some guy’s fantasy where, for all intents and purposes, she’s a man in a woman’s body and has the emotional depth of a teaspoon, or she’s tough as nails and self-sufficient until a good-looking man comes along. Then she turns into starry-eyed goo, or worse, lets the guy take over the fighting/sleuthing/whatever. Personally, I’m looking for a strong female action-adventure protagonist who kicks people’s asses without apology but also acts like a real human being, with all the inherent flaws. And don’t get me started on the air-brushed babes who can run in heels without falling and who are never without their lipstick. Ugh. Who can identify with that?

Obviously, not me :-D .(Seriously. You do not want to see me try to run in heels. Or maybe you do–it’s pretty hilarious…the things I do for research.)

The Body Market, my third Leine Basso thriller, ticks all those boxes. Like I said, I want to read about women who can take care of themselves physically as well as mentally, and I figured a former assassin would be an intriguing character to explore. In the first book of the series, Serial Date, we’re introduced to Leine as she’s trying to escape her old life and live a somewhat normal existence. Of course, I couldn’t let that happen and she’s dragged back in, having to fall back on her “talents” in order to save her daughter.

The second book in the series, Bad Traffick, brings her more in line with finding her true calling when she joins forces with an anti-trafficking organization, and The Body Market (#3), takes things even further. In all 3 books, I delve into how difficult it is for Leine to let go and love someone because of the guilt she feels for having worked as a hired killer by exploring her relationships, including her attraction to LAPD homicide detective, Santiago Jensen. Leine has her own reasons for mistrusting pretty much everybody, and Santiago has a hard time reconciling the fact that she used to kill people for a living.

Yeah, there’s a little tension there.

When I put out the request to my friends for a recommendation on strong female leads who kick butt (call me twisted, but I LOVE it when a woman defends herself physically in books and movies, and comes out on the winning end of things) and are as accomplished as a traditional male thriller character but has some depth, I got several recommendations. From the ones I’ve researched so far, only a couple of them meet the criteria. But, I’ve still got a few to look at, so I’m hopeful. My dream is that soon, that kind of female character won’t be so elusive.

What about you? Do you have a favorite female lead in a book you’ve read who can stand toe-to-toe with the Jack Reachers and Joe Pikes of the genre?
The Body Market is available for pre-order and will be released January 8, 2015. Currently on sale for $0.99, after publication the price will increase to $3.99.

Everything’s for sale…

Former assassin Leine Basso is hired by a wealthy Beverly Hills power couple to find their missing daughter, Elise, who was last seen partying with her boyfriend at a club in Tijuana. At first, police believe the two teenagers are the victims of a carjacking. But when Leine finds their missing vehicle with the boyfriend’s mutilated body inside, and the local cartel warns her away, she knows if Elise isn’t already dead, she will be soon, or worse.

In the lethal world of organized crime, there’s always a worse.

As Leine races to uncover the reason behind Elise Bennett’s disappearance, she must also battle the powerful interests fighting to keep her from the truth.

The man in the passenger seat emerged first. Dressed head to toe in black, his Fu Manchu mustache and goatee gave him a mildly evil appearance, although a beer belly the size of the Bronx somewhat ruined the look.
Herrera turned toward him, hands at his sides where both men could see them. The driver hopped out of the jacked-up truck and stood near the golden front grill, leaving the door open. Several inches shorter and just as heavy as the other man, he wore a Hawaiian shirt, black jeans with spit-shined cowboy boots, a flashy watch, and a major attitude. Leine deepened her breathing in order to slow the adrenaline dump into her veins.
“Ignacio,” Herrera said, acknowledging Fu Manchu. Ignacio inclined his head but didn’t smile.
“Who’s your friend?” Ignacio asked, nodding at Leine. The driver leaned against the fender, silent.
“The parents of a missing girl hired her to investigate her disappearance.”
Ignacio’s lips curled into a smile. “An investigator, eh? Maybe she’ll want to investigate this.” He grabbed his crotch and leered.
Leine cocked her head but didn’t say anything, gauging the distance between them. The guy would be easy. Herrera could take out the driver. Plausible scenario, but she wasn’t excited about the fallout. When Ignacio didn’t get the reaction he was expecting, his mouth curved down into what could only be described as a pout.
“Our mutual friend is not happy,” he said, speaking to Herrera but still looking at Leine. “Just this morning he said to me, ‘Ignacio, you must be sure that this woman is escorted safely from our city. We wouldn’t want something terrible to happen to her while she is here.’” Ignacio removed his sunglasses and stared at Leine. His gaze held the hint of menace.
“Tell our mutual friend that he has nothing to worry about,” Herrera replied. “As I said, she is here at the request of the parents of a missing teenager. Nothing more.”
“Why doesn’t she speak?” Ignacio asked, irritation apparent in his voice. “Doesn’t she understand Spanish?”
“I understand Spanish very well,” Leine answered. “I just didn’t feel the need to add to what he said.” Or antagonize an asshole who clearly doesn’t respect women.
“You are wise, señora.” Ignacio brushed his hand against his hip and briefly lifted his shirt, flashing the butt of a pistol.
“I hear the lines are very long at the border,” he said, watching her intently. “You may want to get there early so that you have no problems returning home.” He turned to Herrera with a smile and saluted. “Have a good day, my friend.”
Ignacio returned to the Suburban and climbed inside. His silent sidekick did the same. The driver revved the engine, turned the SUV around, and slowly drove away. Leine and Herrera watched them leave.
“Well, that was enjoyable,” Herrera said.
“I assume the mutual friend he referred to is Otero?”
Herrera nodded. “Yep.”
“You did say he’d have me watched. I’m surprised he sent someone to warn me away.”
“Me too.” Herrera frowned. “In fact, I’m more than surprised. Otero isn’t usually so ham-fisted.” He glanced at Leine. “Santa never did give me your background.”
Leine shrugged. “I worked security for a low-level diplomat for a few years, but that shouldn’t have raised any flags.” There was no way that Otero could have found any information about her previous profession. She’d had a friend in her old agency do a series of high-level background checks on her. Nothing had come up. At least that was one thing Eric hadn’t lied about. Her old boss had promised to scrub her past when she left the business. Apparently, he’d kept his promise.
“Obviously, Otero feels threatened by my presence. How far do you think I can push things without turning this into an international incident?”
“His sending Ignacio and his BFF tells me there’s more to the story. I’d watch your back from this point on.” Herrera scanned the development. “I think we’ve done all we can do here.”
Leine sighed. “I really hate it when someone threatens me.”
Herrera squinted at her. “Santa told me you had a rebellious streak. I’d be remiss if I didn’t strongly advise against antagonizing Felix Otero or Ignacio. But, you gotta do what you gotta do. Just don’t make my job harder, okay?”
“I’ll do my best.”

Pre-order links for The Body Market:
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DV Berkom is a slave to the voices in her head. As the author of two popular thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones), her love of creating resilient, kick-*ss female 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 received her BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Many, many cross-country moves later, she now lives near Seattle, Washington with the love of her life, Mark, a former-chef-turned contractor, and writes every chance she gets.

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DVBerkom said...

Thanks for having me on the blog today, Paty! I hope you have a fabulous New Year :-)

Diana McCollum said...

I love strong heroines! Your book sounds really good. Interesting blog post.

DVBerkom said...

Thanks for stopping by, Diana :-)

karla eakin said...

Leine seems like my kind of it when they are as quick on their feet and strong. You don't get to see too many strong female characters. Thanks for sharing this seems like an interesting story.

Paty Jager said...

Glad you could be here, D.V. Have a wonderful New Year!

DVBerkom said...

You're welcome, Karla! And the same to you, Paty! May 2015 be filled with people you don't want to kill off in your books :-)