A Retrospective: A Guest Post by Tony J Forder, Author of The Huntsmen

It’s an absolute pleasure to be in at the start of a brand new series from Tony J Forder. As book one in Tony’s DS Chase Crime Series, The Huntsmen, is launched, Tony looks back on his writing career in a brilliant guest post for today’s blog tour stop here on Linda’s Book Bag.

Tony’s writing is so popular and it has been my pleasure to feature him here on the blog many, many times. You can find the following posts:

My review of Slow Slicing here

My review of Endless Silent Scream here

A guest piece from Tony about The Cold Winter Sun imperative you will find here,

A  moving post about becoming a writer here when Bad to the Bone was published

Tony also told us about writing outside his comfort zone here

His characters Bliss and Chandler from The Scent of Guilt introduced each other here.

A wonderful guest post to introduce The Autumn Tree here.

The Huntsmen is available for purchase here.

The Huntsmen

Multiple deaths following a road collision are hard enough to deal with. That the man responsible was the ex-Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police and a Knight of the Realm is worse still for those tasked to investigate the incident. But the real question they have to answer is: who was the now deceased naked female minor alongside him at the time?

DS Royston Chase is living life as an outcast in a small Wiltshire village, and is called to the scene. Paired with the bold and strident DC Claire Laney, Chase is given the task of closing the case quickly and quietly.

But when the minor’s DNA provides a familial link to a girl who vanished from her home twenty years earlier at the age of eight, Chase and Laney refuse to accept the coincidence. The pair start looking harder at the ex-cop’s life, at which point they encounter serious opposition. Perhaps deadly serious.

Because the establishment looks after its own, and soon it’s not only their bosses getting in the way of a thorough investigation. Chase and Laney find themselves seemingly at odds with everyone, fighting to save their own reputations as well as the case. But neither will rest until they identify their young victim, no matter what the cost…

A RETROSPECTIVE

A Guest Post by Tony J Forder

The first full-length novel I wrote was initially called Haunted Thoughts. Ultimately I decided that sounded too much like a ghost story, and so it became Degrees of Darkness. I wrote the first draft in around 1995. A sequel came next. This was called The Feather Man. I then wrote a third and final untitled book featuring the same cast of characters. All first draft. All with no ambitions for any of them to ever see the light of day. At that time, writing was a pleasurable hobby; writing because I couldn’t not write. Of the three, the first had something about it, so somewhere around the early noughties I edited and polished the book to the point where I was satisfied with how it read. All three books were set in London, where I was born and raised, though all of the writing occurred after I’d moved to Peterborough, where I still live.

I then decided to write a police procedural based in my new city. This was called Burnout. During the edits I realised the book was flat with little suspense, but the two main characters, DI Jimmy Bliss and DC Penny Chandler, felt real enough for me to want to feature them again. This led me to write Bad to the Bone in 2004-2005. Because writing was still no more than a hobby to me, and one I had increasingly less time to enjoy, I wrote the book with no thought of a follow-up or series of them. By this time I was quite ill (I have Meniere’s disease, a condition I gave Jimmy Bliss, something for which he does not thank me) and my hobby took a back seat.

In 2014 my dad, who was a huge fan of action-thrillers, was going through a reading slump. By this time I was feeling a little better, and so I embarked on a new journey – to write a book for him. I set sail with high hopes, and soon Scream Blue Murder was taking shape. About a third of the way through I realised I was stuck. That, combined with increased work commitments and my illness, meant putting Scream to one side. After all, a book takes as long as it takes. What did it matter? In the end it mattered a great deal because my dad passed away in the December of that year, having never got to read the book I wrote for him.

And so to 2016. In the autumn of that year I was given my redundancy notice. I immediately set about creating my own company so that I could continue working in the education sector, specialising in IT consultancy. My wife had the idea that instead of doing this full time, I should also take my writing seriously again. So in November 2016 I set about finishing Scream Blue Murder in honour of my dad, and I also responded to online requests for submissions to a publisher who specialised in crime fiction; I sent them both Degrees of Darkness and Bad to the Bone. I had no expectations of either being good enough for publication, but in my naivety I hoped the publisher might offer some guidance.

The first response I got back was to say they liked Degrees, but it would require the removal of some bad language for them to consider it. I set about making the changes and returned it to them. The next time I heard from them they offered me a two-book contract for both Bad to the Bone and, to my shock, a follow-up. Possibly terrified that if I didn’t respond immediately they might realise they’d made a mistake, I signed on 1 February 2017. This was followed swiftly by the offer of a contract to publish Degrees as well. Now, although I had this second DI Bliss book to write for them (with no idea whatsoever what it might be) I was determined to finish Scream Blue Murder. I made it clear to them that although they might have no interest in it themselves, it was a book I had to get out of my system.

Perhaps it was this distraction that caused the issues I later had transitioning from Bliss #1 to Bliss #2. The issue being, Bad to the Bone was written in and set in 2005. Yet here we were in 2017. I told my publisher I wanted to rewrite Bad to the Bone in order to bring it forward to the current year, but they told me they were already too far down the publishing road to turn back. So, I had to choose whether to continue along the original timeline for the second book and set it in, say 2006, or make it contemporary. Looking ahead for perhaps the first time, I felt a longer series would benefit from taking place in the here and now. All I had to do was explain away the twelve-year gap. After much thought, I decided I had an explanation that worked well, and might even be useful later on.

To my delight, following the release of Bad to the Bone and Degrees of Darkness, my third published book was Scream Blue Murder. Looking back, I realise these three books were so different from each other that I was hardly establishing myself as any one kind of writer. But I have to say, it didn’t matter to me at all. I was a published author, and I was about to have a series to my name. That came with The Scent of Guilt – Bliss and Chandler’s second outing. This was soon followed by the third book, If Fear Wins. And to finish off 2018, Cold Winter Sun came along. The creation of that book came as a surprise even to me, because Scream Blue Murder had always been intended as a standalone. However, I got so deeply involved with the characters that I slipped straight into a sequel and, although they hadn’t asked for it and really weren’t looking for it, my publishers released it as well.

In 2019 there were two more DI Bliss books – The Reach of Shadows and The Death of Justice. These two books helped to firmly establish the Bliss series, developing the characters and increasing my following. All seemed to be going so well. But then two things happened: firstly, I wanted to develop a standalone called Fifteen Coffins, but my publishers had other ideas; secondly, those other ideas included leaving the Bliss series behind and creating a brand new crime series for them. This left me in a real quandary. I wanted to write Fifteen Coffins, and I most certainly intended to continue with Bliss. In fact, I was already writing both new books. Eventually, my publisher told me they would take the next Bliss, but that it really ought to be the last as they wanted me to focus on something new. By the end of the year I’d decided I had more Bliss stories to tell, and I’d completed Fifteen Coffins. And so it was that I declined to hand over my new Bliss book and instead parted ways with my publisher.

Come the release of Endless Silent Scream in the spring of 2020, book #6 in the Bliss series and the first I had self-published under my imprint Spare Nib Books, I was a nervous wreck. What if my publishers had been right? What if the appetite for Bliss had waned? What if going on my own had been a terrible mistake? The proof, or so we are told, is in the tasting of the pudding. Imagine my delight, then, when Endless became my best received book to date. I achieved my best reviews and my best sales, and more than that it left the door wide open to carry on. Which came as an immense relief, because by then I had written the next, Slow Slicing. To my surprise, this book took everything up yet another notch. It was my seventh Bliss novel and it did incredibly well, ticking every box I could have hoped for.

Before the year was over, another two books hit the shelves. First there was Fifteen Coffins, a standalone set in northern California. It featured my first female protagonist, and a story set around the aftermath of a school shooting with what I hoped was a unique slant on such a tragic event. This was quickly followed by a Bliss prequel novella called Bliss Uncovered. The book came about after readers had wondered in emails and online what Bliss was like when he was younger. I didn’t like the idea of a full-length prequel as I must confess I’m not usually a fan of them, but the idea I had floating around inside my head was going to be too long for a short story. Having reached an internal compromise, I decided to write about Jimmy’s first case as a callow DC, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.

This year I have regained the rights to three books, which I have republished with new covers and minor edits. Also, I published what I consider to be my finest DI Bliss book yet, The Autumn Tree. I’m extremely proud of that one, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to top it. There will definitely be more Jimmy Bliss (I’m writing the next book now, in fact) but ahead of that I have just released the first book in a brand new UK crime series. It’s called The Huntsmen, and I think I’ve really hit the ground running with this one. At its core it is a raw, brutal, horrific story, yet I hope it’s told in such a sensitive way that the full weight of what you read creeps up on you steadily so as not to be overwhelming. Also, it was my intention for the lighter, more humorous moments to release the valve a little each time. This is a dark, dreadful tale of unspeakable tastes and desires, but told with compassion, without the more graphical element. The reader will discover the true nature of certain people, but they will not be forced to endure any of the events in graphic detail. I could have gone that way, could have put it all out there and made it a horribly twisted piece of work, but instead I chose to drip feed the revelations and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. I can only hope I have done so successfully.

****

I’m sure you have Tony. I love your writing and I know that readers are raving about your latest book. Good luck with The Huntsmen. I’m thrilled to have it waiting for me on my TBR. Thanks so much for such a fascinating guest post. It just goes to show that the route to publication isn’t all plain sailing and that determination is key. I am absolutely certain your Dad would have been beyond proud of you.

About Tony J Forder

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Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, were joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered. The series continued with The Autumn Tree in May 2021.

Tony’s other early series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder and Cold Winter Sun. These books were republished in April 2021, and will be joined in 2022 by The Dark Division.

In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a  dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins.

The Huntsmen, released on 4 October 2022, is the first book in a new crime series, set in Wiltshire. It features DS Royston Chase, DC Claire Laney, and PCSO Alison May.

Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @TonyJForder, visit his website and find him on Instagram and Facebook.

You’ll find all Tony’s books here and he’s also on Goodreads and Fantastic Fiction.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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