Tony is an author I met at Market Deepings Literary Festival. He was one of the authors taking part in the Read Dating Event. It was just ending when I got to Tony, so I’ve been meaning to catch up with him and to find out a bit more about him and his writing.
Q. Your latest book, The Death of Justice, has recently been released. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. At the conclusion of the previous book, I had tied up several loose ends which had been flapping around DI Bliss and tying him up in knots. Having done so, I thought I could afford to attempt a slight change of style and pace in his next outing. The Death of Justice, therefore, pretty much focuses on a single case – albeit a case within a case – and is a bit more linear in its approach. Early reviews suggest it worked out well, but I did regard it as a bit of a risk while I was writing it. The inspiration was a bizarre unsolved case I read about which took place in a small town in the USA. Much had been written about it, but what captured my interest was wondering what had led to it, and what had come afterwards. I then took that basic concept, transplanted it to a fictional town in Lincolnshire and let Bliss and his team loose on it.
Q. The Death of Justice is the fifth book in The DI Bliss series. How hard is it to write a series?
A. In some ways harder than a stand-alone, in some ways easier. Harder, I think, in respect of keeping the cases fresh and the characters interesting. So far I’ve been able to do that over five books, because I’ve made sure that the cases are not only very different but also complex. I’ve been at pains to develop the characters and have them reveal themselves more as the series progresses. The other thing I’ve done is to condense the last four novels into a timeframe of just over a year, which I think has allowed me to maintain momentum and a sense of togetherness in respect of the team.
Q. How did you first get the idea for DI Bliss and how has he taken shape as a character over the five books?
A. I had an idea for a crime procedural set where I live in Peterborough. I wanted the main character to be an outsider, posted to the city under a bit of a cloud from London. My wife tells me there’s a lot of me in him, but in my head he is an amalgam of a number of people I have known or have seen on TV or in movies. Most of all I wanted him to be human, with human foibles and concerns, but also human in a bit of an old-fashioned way. Over time he has become less of a hot head, a little more tolerant, a little less insular. However, much of this took place off page, as there is a twelve year gap between book 1 and book 2. The reason for this is the condensing I mentioned earlier – not much room for growth in a year, so I had a lot of thinking to do. Basically, this all came about because when I submitted the first book, Bad to the Bone, I had not anticipated writing a second. And because the first was set in 2005, I had to make a decision as to whether to continue along that timeframe or bring it up to date. I figured out a feasible way of doing that, and so went with the latter.
Q. You’ve also written two Mike Lynch books. How do these differ to the DI Bliss books? Which do you prefer writing?
A. Mike Lynch is, I guess, a bit of an author’s folly. I wrote the first, Scream Blue Murder, for personal reasons. It’s an action-adventure thriller, a real shoot ‘em up-blow ‘em up book. Thing was, I loved writing it. I changed POV and wrote Mike from a first person perspective, and I think that plus the broader genre gave me real scope and freedom to have fun. My publishers really didn’t want me to write a sequel, but I had to, even if they didn’t want it. Cold Winter Sun is the least successful of my books, but oddly one of my favourites because of the sheer pleasure it gave me creating it. I love sitting down to start a new Bliss, Degrees of Darkness – my only stand-alone so far – was the first book I wrote, and although it’s very dark I really enjoyed writing it and I’m extremely fond of it. But I’d have to say, the two Mike Lynch books gave me the most pleasure overall during the writing process.
Q. What do you most enjoy about writing in the crime genre?
A. I guess it’s being able to take an active role in perhaps the oldest struggle of all – good vs evil. You’re on the side of the good guys, but the bad guys have to have their moments. And I have to admit, I like to pull on the skin of the bad guys and test the fit. I know how I want my good guys to behave and react, but when you’re wearing that black hat you can explore your dark side without any repercussions.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. In most cases I honestly don’t know. The source of my latest has already been explored, and my next Bliss novel was inspired by a news feature I saw on TV about county lines drug couriers. The others have all just been sparked by the proverbial lightbulb snapping on inside my head. It’s that ‘what if’ moment, and it can begin with a character, a line, a scene, or even an entire idea, but I can’t honestly say I know the origin of any of them. If I did, I’d bottle it and sell it on street corners to authors seeking their ‘fix’.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. Probably the weight of self-doubt. I can cope with the solitude, have a thick enough skin to ignore ill-informed criticism, but irrespective of how sales and reviews go, I start each new book riddled with gnawing doubts about my ability to pull it off again.
Q. You’re with Bloodhound Books. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. I wrote Degrees of Darkness – or a version of it, anyway – about 25 years ago. Having had some decent success with short stories, I had hopes of publishing my first novel. I came close, with both a publisher and an agent, but ultimately it fell apart. For a while life and ill-health took over, but when I was made redundant in 2016 my wife suggested I started taking my writing seriously again. The result was that by February 2017 I had a two book contract with Bloodhound. With The Death of Justice, I’ve now seen 8 books published, and I still pinch myself every day. I’ve now reached a bit of a crossroads, and the time has come to have a long, hard think about where I want to take it next.
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. Not as often as I would like, and I seem to have lost my reading mojo. However, I still have my favourite authors. John leCarre is one, but my favourite current author is the creator of LA detective Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly. I think he’s the best living crime writer on either side of the pond, and I admire him enormously.
Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?
A. That’s both tough and easy. And it actually depends on how they regard themselves and see their place in the literary world. Traditional publishing remains the big league, the world of hardbacks and publicity and the full weight of major publishers behind you. Which is why it remains the toughest nut to crack, requiring getting past an agent gatekeeper first. But there are many more opportunities now, due to ebooks and print on demand. There are some cracking indie publishers out there, and though the pool is getting bigger every year, you can become one of its small fish and try to grow. And then, of course, there’s self-publishing. No longer dismissed as vanity, doing it yourself is a business and it offers a great deal of flexibility and control over your work. Many people are selling millions of books that way. Ultimately, you just have to make up your mind which way you want to go and then put absolutely everything into achieving it. But, and here’s the tricky part, you also have to learn your craft and look to improve at every stage.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TonyJForder @TonyJForder
Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01N4BPT65
Fantastic Fiction: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/tony-j-forder/
Tony can also be found on Instagram.