Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Tony Forder

Today's author is popping his blog cherry, I'm thrilled that it's here on The Hippo and I'm delighted to welcome Tony Forder for a chat. So let's dive straight in but first I'll let Tony introduce himself.

Photo courtesy of Tony Forder

Long ago, back in the mists of time, when I was filled with ambition and brimming with ideas, I wrote a short story for a national competition. The competition was judged by an editor from Pan Books, who liked it enough to choose it as the winner, and to also publish my work in the forthcoming Dark Voices series, which had replaced the famous Pan Book of Horror Stories. And so it was that Gino's Bar and Grille became my first published piece, in Dark Voices II.

Over a short period, three more stories of mine were published: Character Role, in Fear magazine; A Grim Story, in Rattler's Tales; and then Book End, my second story for Pan in Dark Voices IV.

Following a conversation with author Brian Lumley, at a book signing for Dark Voices II, I began to feel as if I belonged amongst the writing fraternity. I also started to think that maybe, just maybe, I had a novel in me.

What followed were two horror/dark fantasy novels of moderate quality. But, I told myself, I am learning my craft. The first book of mine I even came close to liking was Degrees of Darkness, and I delighted in scaring the crap out of friends and family who read it. A follow-up never really saw the light of day.

On 1st February 2017, Bloodhound Books announced they had signed me to their stable of writers. On Saturday 29 April they released Bad to the Bone. Bloodhound have also signed me to write a second title in the series, which will be available in February 2018 and is called The Scent of Guilt.

With Degrees of Darkness published on 19 September 2017, and Scream Blue Murder following swiftly afterwards in November, I am currently busy working on book three in the Bliss & Chandler series, as well as a follow-up to Scream Blue Murder.

Tony's next book, The Scent of Guilt is released on 17th of February, as it's the sequel to Bad to the Bone, I thought it would be a good time to talk about that book so that you'd have time to read it before the next book in the series comes out.


A skeletal body is unearthed in a wooded area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. DI James Bliss, together with DC Penny Chandler, investigate the case and discover that the young, female victim had been relocated from its original burial site.

A witness is convinced that a young female was struck by a vehicle back in the summer of 1990, and that police attended the scene. However, no record exists of either the accident or the reported victim. As the case develops, two retired police officers are murdered. The two are linked with others who were on duty at the time a road accident was reported.

As Bliss and Chandler delve deeper into the investigation, they start to question whether senior officers may have been involved in the murder of the young women who was buried in the woods.

As each link in the chain is put under duress, so is Bliss who clashes with superiors and the media.

When his team receives targeted warnings, Bliss will need to decide whether to drop the case or to pursue those responsible.

Will Bliss walk away in order to keep his career intact or will he fight no matter what the cost?

And is it possible the killer is much closer than they imagined?

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Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, very much so. Initially this was when my publisher contracted me to write a sequel to my first book for them, which was Bad to the Bone. They saw that as my stock series, as it were. Yet I also had other tales to tell. I knew that my next two books would be very different from my ‘series’ and so considered publishing them under a different name – or even two different names. I wasn’t at all sure how my books would be received, and I did wonder if it would harm my chances of being successful if I didn’t slot into one particular pigeon-hole. I then considered it again when Bloodhound signed up Scream Blue Murder, but dismissed the idea as being unnecessarily complex. Some readers have commented that they appreciate the fact that I have been able to produce a procedural crime story, a dark, psychological serial-killer novel, and an action-packed adventure book as if three different authors have been involved. I guess I’ll never know if I made the right decision in respect of the pseudonym, but there’s no point in second-guessing myself now.

What’s your favourite motivational phrase?
‘Footsteps echo in the memory.
Down the passage we did not take.
Towards the door we never opened.’
This is, I think, the more verbose equivalent of ‘carpe diem’ and I wish I had taken it to heart much earlier in life. It’s about not having regrets, and there was a time when I had many. I have since tried to take the passages offered and to open those doors, so as not to have those footsteps rattling around inside my memory. It’s just unnecessary baggage.

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
It’s a close run thing, because I think a good story requires both. Ultimately, however, I think memorable characters can carry an iffy plot, and I don’t believe it works the other way around. I like hearing from readers who like my storylines, but I love it when they become attached to my characters. However, I also think a combination of plot and character can jointly overcome poor writing.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself. Have confidence. Feel that you belong, that there is a place for you in this world. Of course, had I done so then I probably would not be writing now. I’d almost certainly be a professional musician, which is what I wanted to be when I was younger. I play a variety of instruments – although guitar is really my thing – and I also sing and write songs. I gigged around a bit back in the day, but I was never able to overcome my nerves, never able to convince myself that I was good enough. Looking back, I think I was wrong. I don’t mean I could have been a star or anything like that – just a jobbing axeman.

If you were a superhero what would you be called, what would your super-power be and what would you wear?
Captain Puntastic. I’d have the ability to create a pun on any subject at any time, to make people laugh no matter what the circumstances. I’d have to wear a cape – my own favourites were Batman and Superman – but I don’t think tights or a lycra suit would be a good look on me these days.

I love a good pun, so here’s one of mine, but I’m sure yours are much better Tony!

What is your guilty pleasure?
I know it’s cool to say you like The Clash, or Floyd, or Led Zep, or The Who…and in fact, I love them all. I’m also a huge fan of bands like Barenaked Ladies and Guster, plus more generic favourites like Crowded House. But my guilty pleasure is that I love 80s AOR music. My favourite bands are Toto and Steely Dan, and I also enjoy Journey, Heart, Foreigner and Pat Benatar, etc, etc. I guess I’m a sucker for melody as well as musicians with real chops. Some say these bands have no real feeling or musical soul, that they are just great technicians. To their detractors I would say: go watch them live, then tell me they have no feeling or soul.

Do you have any bad habits?
I veer towards CDO (that’s OCD of course, but I prefer to see it in alphabetical order) and as a consequence of that, plus my anxiety over getting things right, I tend to dwell too long on the editing stage of writing. Sometimes I think I edit my way out of a perfect sentence and that’s a habit I would really like to break. Outside of my writing world my worst habit is, I think, not living in the moment.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated writer/book?
David Harsent. Writing as Jack Curtis he delivered three terrific novels in Crows’ Parliament, Glory and Conjure Me. Then as David Lawrence he produced four cracking psychological crime thrillers featuring DS Stella Mooney, before moving on to screenplays. I loved his books, but whilst some people have heard of Jack Curtis very few seem to have heard of David Lawrence. When I discovered they were one and the same, I was amazed, but secretly thrilled.

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You can find out more about Tony, his books and connect with him using the links below:

Bloodhound Books
Barnes & Noble

I'd like to thank Tony for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope that you enjoyed being here as much as I've enjoyed having you. Hopefully it was a painless as I promised it would be!  😉


  1. what a beautiful quote by T S Eliot, I shall remember that , thank you

    1. I agree Mary and it's not one that I'd heard before.

  2. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. Love the pun :-) And yes, I love that quote.