Today I’m happy to host DV Berkom and her book Serial Date. She is also offering up a giveaway to one commenter, so make sure to leave your comment to win. DV is going to give us a little insight to how the character of the killer in the book evolved, and then you can find out more about the book.
Inside the Mind of a Killer: Researching your Antagonist / by DV Berkom
So there I was, minding my own business writing one of those truly twisted novels that grabs hold of you and has to come out when I came to the killer’s debut. I’d never attempted to write a character quite so creepy and wasn’t relishing that first passage. In fact, I continually wrote around him, putting off the scene until I felt I could do justice to him instead of creating a killer cliché. Yes, I could have abandoned the effort and gone on to something else, but a disturbing dream I’d had several months prior provided the inspiration for the story and I felt compelled to follow it through. The result was my novel, Serial Date.
How do you write a fresh psychopath? Readers today have been clubbed over the head with serial killers (pardon the pun) to the point that it’s become a joke in many literary agencies and publishing houses. The only way I could think to do it was to go to my default: research. I love learning new things. Researching has a way of surprising you with oddball connections, often to be used in ways you’d never expect. A reference here, a notation there, it’s similar to a treasure hunt. Like I said, I love research.
Until I started to investigate killers.
Now, I haven’t lived what anyone would call a sheltered life, but I’d so far avoided learning specific details about the habits of serial killers. The information I came across in my search made my skin crawl.
Reality is so much more frightening than fiction.
The information creeped me out to the point I’d find myself vacuuming the living room, unsure how that Hoover ended up in my hand. One thing to understand about me: I don’t like housework. I’ll let dust and dirt accumulate until I can’t find the couch or someone decides to visit. Apparently, I found something I like even less.
I followed this routine whenever I delved into the bizarre world of a psychopath, and though you could eat off my living room floor, my manuscript was going nowhere. No closer to fleshing out my killer, (I know- another pun. Sorry) he wouldn’t budge from the twisted caricature of a human being I’d created and I was close to giving up. Sure, I could give him odd quirks and mannerisms, but it felt as if I was making him play dress up: all show, no substance.
That is, until I dug a little deeper and discovered the science behind the psychopath. A series of articles on NPR.org (http://n.pr/vVfWlF ) discussing the biological basis for psychopathic behavior led me ever deeper into the complexities of a killer’s mind. Fascinated, I began to read white papers on personality disorder, multiple personalities, cannibalism and the like. Where once I’d been stymied by what motivated someone to kill, an ocean of ideas began to form around what my antagonist’s early life was like, his taste in music, food, what made him tick.
Soon, I had seventeen pages of articles, notes and sketches, all revolving around my antagonist. I knew him, knew what made him get out of bed in the morning, why he chose the victims he did. Most importantly, I knew how he justified killing. That was my ‘eureka’ moment.
Understanding my antagonist helped me move past the visceral recoil from the heinous crimes I read (and wrote) about and gave a more human face to the killer. I learned there’s an entire area of scientific inquiry emerging that uses genetic testing and MRIs to map the brains and biological processes of psychopaths, on occasion admitting the results of these tests as evidence in court trials.
Can the fact that a person has the genes and/or brain structure associated with violent behavior be enough to reduce a defendant’s culpability in a trial? It’s a new take on an age-old question.
Whatever the answer may be, for now I can’t wait to write the killer’s scenes and try to work in some small kernel of research to help the reader understand him better. Yeah, still pretty creepy, but it worked.
Now, where the heck is that couch?
A retired assassin. A serial killer with a social agenda.
A politician with a fondness for free-range livestock.
Determined to leave her old life behind, retired assassin Leine Basso accepts a job working security at one of television’s most popular reality shows, Serial Date. When a contestant is found dead in the prop closet, it appears the killer is one of the ‘bachelors’ on the show- an ex-con billed as a serial killer- but the detective in charge of the case isn’t so sure.
Santiago Jensen, a homicide detective with a playboy reputation is assigned to the reality show murder case. There’s instant attraction when he meets Leine Basso, but until they catch the murderer, he has to keep his distance.
When Leine’s estranged daughter is abducted by a man claiming to be the real killer, she’s forced to rely on old skills to find her, and must come to terms with who she really is. She soon realizes the murderer may be a grisly remnant from her past and she’ll need to use all of her cunning to stop him and rescue her daughter.
Peter Bronkowski peeled himself away from the prop closet. He needed air. The onlookers parted to give him space.
Oh my God, oh my God, they’re going to shut us down. When this gets out the motherfuckers are going to crucify me. All the hard work, the hustling, the endless lunches listening to that blowhard Senator Runyon, all of it would be for nothing. Peter shook his head to clear it. His breath came out in fast gasps, threatening to hyperventilate.
At first, Peter thought it was a grotesque looking mannequin with fake blood stains down the front and side of its torso. The moment reality clicked, a jolt of shock split him, pooled behind his eyes and slid to his gut. With dawning comprehension, Peter realized the blood was real. And it was no mannequin.
It was Mandy.
Peter turned back to the prop closet. Everyone stared at him, as if he had the slightest idea what to do now. Fuck. He couldn’t see a way out of this. Too many people had seen the body. He thought of his brother, Edward, but brushed the idea away.
Mandy was dead. Murdered. Sweet, small-town-sexy Mandy. Who would want to kill her? Now Tina, yeah, he could sort of see that, she could be quite the bitch. But Mandy? And which one of the cons did it? No getting around it, he’d have to call LAPD. They’d be swarming all over the place. Better find another home for Edward. He wasn’t going to like that one bit. Edward didn’t do well with change.
Gene Dorfenberger walked toward him, pushing people out of his way.
“Give him some room! The man can’t think with you crowding him like that.” Reluctantly, the small crowd began to disperse, a few stealing one last look at the gruesome sight.
Gene glanced at Mandy’s body and shook his head. “Now why would somebody go and cut off her arm?” He edged closer, squatting to take a better look. “And an ear? What kind of sick fuck would do that?”
Peter froze. “Her ear’s missing?”
Peter shook his head to clear it. It can’t be. He took a deep breath to try to stop the dizziness. Everything was spiraling out of control.
Originally slated as low-cost filler for summer, Serial Date had turned into the most watched reality show on television. Less than a year and a half ago he couldn’t get the mailroom clerks to return his calls much less the now regular invitations to private parties and dinners with the network brass. They all wanted a piece and Peter had happily parlayed the lust for the extraordinary profits generated by the show into extra bargaining power.
This is it. It’s over. We’ll never recover.
“It’s going to be rough. You’re going to have to do some major damage control.” Gene’s sharp gaze traveled from the massive amount of blood soaked into the costumes scattered around Mandy back to Peter.
Peter nodded, his expression grim. “We’ve got to get somebody legit in here so the cops’ll think we’re taking steps to keep the contestants safe.”
If Gene took offense at the comment, he didn’t show it. “I think I know just the person. It’ll take some doing, but I hear she’s strapped for cash.”
Peter looked at Gene with disbelief. “She? Gene, we need somebody who’ll keep the fucking cops at bay, not another broad on the set.”
Gene shook his head. “Oh, this one ain’t just another broad, believe me.”
About the Author
DV Berkom grew up in the Midwest, received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes whenever she gets a chance. You’re welcome to email her at dvb @ dvberkom.com or chat with her on Facebook and Twitter- she loves to hear from readers as well as other writers.
For more information, you can visit her website at www.dvberkom.com.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/DV-Berkom/e/B004EVOYH6
Smashwords Author Page: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dvberkom
Bad Spirits Book Trailer http://www.blazingtrailers.com/show/1615/
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