Tony Forder Interview

On 1st February 2017, Tony signed to Bloodhound Books, who will publish his new edgy crime thriller Bad to the Bone this spring. It is the first in a series featuring DI James Bliss. Tony J Forder has been writing stories since childhood, but it was only when he won a short story competition judged by an editor from Pan Books, that he realised he might actually be half decent at this writing business.

What inspired you to write?
Reading. Specifically, the world of fantasy. The book that did it for me was Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a tale of magic and mystery, of a world within our world, and a life anything but normal. I loved the unfettered nature of fantasy, the endless possibilities, where having an imagination was a plus rather than a minus.

Did the inspiration to write come to you suddenly, or had you been thinking about it some time?
I can't remember a time when I didn't write, because Weirdstone came so early in my life. I don't recall thinking about it - I just went ahead and did it.

How did you tell your story? In other words, did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
The nuts and bolts of my writing have changed over time. If I have a pattern, I think it is this: if I can see the story ahead, with the major parts of it all inside my head, then I don't use an outline other than to record what I have written - a log, of sorts. However, if I have only some aspects of the overall story, then I do find an outline helpful. I use it as a guide rather than a framework.

Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
In the early days I kept my writing to myself. The more confident I have become the wider the circle of people who have become aware. I have received a lot of support and encouragement, but I think all books are written alone - they may only become readable after a bunch of test readers and editors have pulled it into shape, but writing is by its nature a solitary way to spend time.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Pacing. By nature I am impatient. I was impatient to tell my story. But I realised that this story had to be teased out across perhaps 90,000 words, and not all of them can drive the story on. You have to take a beat now and then. My editor was great at being able to suggest when the story needed to take a breath. A good story requires troughs as well as peaks.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
I prefer to edit. My first draft is usually the bare bones, the skeletal framework upon which the flesh of the real story is hung. The first edit is where it comes to life for me, as by now I know the characters really well, and believe me they can take you by surprise and lead you places you had not previously considered. Knowing it's written, and that I can now mould it into shape, that's the real buzz for me.

Did you experience any personal transformation after the book was published?
Well, Degrees of Darkness is self-published, but Bad to the Bone is published by Bloodhound Books, and being told I had a contract for that (plus a second in the series) gave me a confidence in my work that I had never felt before. I began viewing my work in a completely different way.

What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
I am always creative inside my head - nothing gets in the way of that, not even sleep. Being physically creative - the act of writing - is a bit different. I have a part-time business working in IT consultancy for education, so that takes up a fair bit of time. I'm not always in the best of health, so sometimes that also gets in the way. On the other hand, until December 2016 I worked full time, so I feel hugely grateful that these days I do sometimes get to sit at my writing desk for hours at a time.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
So far I have not had to deal with too much criticism from readers. If it comes from an editor, publisher or agent then you have to take note. But I think if those same people believe in you enough to publish your work, then the odd criticism from readers should not be taken too seriously. If they all pick on the same issue, then yes you need to consider what's being said. I'm reasonably thick skinned, and I know that nobody has ever pleased all of the people all of the time, so I don't expect to either.

Where did you grow up and what is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
I grew up in the east-end of London. I grew up in a time when it was safe for kids to roam the streets, getting up to mischief but no real harm. My favourite time was being with my extended family, especially at Christmas. Worst - when my parents split up.

Do you have a favorite quote?
Footfalls echo in the memory.
Along the passage we did not take.
Towards the door we never opened.

What is your favorite show on TV?
Now there's a question.
Right now, This Is Us is simply the best thing since Breaking Bad. If it keeps up this quality for 3 seasons, then it may end up being the best ever.
The Sopranos just about pips Breaking Bad as my favourite TV show. Boston Legal is close to making the mix as well.

Favorite movie?
The Shawshank Redemption.

I loved the Stephen King novella, but the film blew me away - and still does. The final scene when Andy and Red reunite, the vast oceas stretching out behind them, is one of the all-time greats.

Favorite book?
The Silence of the Lambs.

I loved Red Dragon, but Thomas Harris wrote pretty much the perfect book here, featuring one of the most memorable literary creations ever created in Hannibal Lecter.

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
I met my musical hero - guitarist Steve Lukather. They say you shouldn't meet your heroes because they usually turn out to be awful, but he was a great, humble bloke.

I guess if I had to choose, it would be the bully who pushed me off my scooter when I was a kid and tore my new Batman mask to pieces. I'd like to think he turned out to be a better person than he was that day.

Is there a talent you wish you had?
I'd like to be more mechanically minded. An engineer would be nice.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I'm nowhere near as suave and sophisticated as I appear to be.

Seriously, I really don't know. Perhaps that I taught 3 terms of Business Studies to a bunch of 6 Formers despite being only the school's network manager at the time.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Pessimist
Psychopath
Loyal

Comments/suggestions
Here's something a lot of people who write don't consider: other than a few literary geniuses, perhaps, writing is a craft you have to learn. Forget the old cliche that everyone has a book in them - rubbish! Nobody should sit down one day to write for the first time and just expect to become a best-selling author at the end of it. For the vast majority of authors it takes time, experience, patience, and some education. Physically writing a book is easy - crafting a book that people want to read...not so much. But here's what I would really say to everyone who writes: enjoy it.