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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!  😉

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Jess Molyneux

It's that time of the week again when I get to hang out with an author and today I'm chatting to Jess Molyneux.

Before we get started allow me to introduce you all to her and find out about her book and why she wrote it.

Photo courtesy of Jess Molyneux

Jess Molyneux is the alter-ego of Sue Bordley, a writer from the Wirral Peninsula. After a twenty-year teaching career, her first novel, 'X Y, Z' was published in 2017. With readers ranging from older teens to young adults, her novels are light-hearted and enjoyable, but firmly entrenched in the real world.

When asked why she wrote this book, this was her reply:

"During my time as a teacher, I realised that there was a type of book missing from the available fiction for young people: a story that depicted a sexual relationship based on mutual respect, that could give my intended readership (girls considering their first physical relationship) a realistic insight into what they could expect in a way no Citizenship lesson could do. Issues such as consent, contraception and safe sex are handled responsibly as the main character moves from being nervous about her first time to a young woman who is confident in her relationship."

I think this a great idea and it reminds me of books I read by Judy Blume when I was a young girl.


'Alex Ryan. The one thing that makes sitting through four hours of English Literature each week bearable. He's gorgeous, funny and talented, and I'm... well, I'm me.'

Being with Alex is all Zoe's dreamed about for the whole of Year 12... but when he gets the chance to realise his dreams, does she love him enough to risk losing him?

If you like those miserable stories where it's the end of the world and people are being forced to eat each other in a police state, then this book might not be for you. However, if you're looking for a feel-good romance where no-one's dead at the end, come on in.

This is a story of first love, including some mature content. Recommended age 15 and over. 

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Did you consider writing under a pseudonym?
Jess Molyneux is a pseudonym! My real name's Susan Bordley, but as my first name's been out of fashion for a couple of decades, I felt it 'outed' me as an older person (I was 44 when I wrote my debut novel, 'X Y, Z') and that a younger audience might be more attracted by a younger-sounding name. Molyneux comes from the name of the first road I lived on as a child.

What's your favourite under-appreciated book?
Can I be greedy and pick two, one YA and one for adults? 'Chasing the Dark' by Sam Hepburn is a brilliant YA adventure/thriller, and 'Sleb' by Andrew Holmes is a fantastic book that manages to create humour from some very dark subject matter. Both left me wishing I'd written them.

Humour and very dark subject matter 😏 – that sounds like just my kind of book! *Makes a note to check it out later*

Which do you think is more important, character or plot?
Character every time. I think it's really important to get the reader to care about your main character/s in the opening pages. If I'm reading a book and I don't care about the characters, it doesn't matter what events the author's devised.

Do you often hear from readers and what do they say?
As my novel, 'X Y, Z' is a YA/adult crossover, I hear from both teenagers and readers in their twenties. The teenagers ask me how I know what they're thinking, and the older readers say they wish a book like 'X Y, Z' had been around when they were a teenager!

What did you edit out of your last book?
Originally, my main character was something of an overconfident man-eater. I decided to change that and gave her some of the insecurities many girls have, making her more relatable to my intended audience.

Which character from your book would you be least likely to get along with?
That'd be Mr Burton, the headteacher of the school my two main characters attend. He doesn't bother to remember Alex's name on several occasions. I was a teacher for 20 years and always wanted to get to know the names of every students in my classes as soon as possible – it shows you care, which Burton doesn't seem to do.

You get an idea at an inappropriate moment, like driving or in the shower, what do you do?
I hold onto that thought! If I'm in the car, I turn the radio off and play the idea over to myself in my mind on a loop until I can get to a pen and paper. I often get ideas just as I'm about to fall asleep when I'm too tired to start writing, but I can't let it go. This is where the Memory Monkey comes in. He's a small toy monkey that I keep on the floor by my bed. If I get an idea, I reach out and put him on the bedside table to remind me there's something I have to do in the morning. He's never failed me yet!

What advice would you give your younger self?
Get started sooner! When I was 14, my English teacher told me that I should consider writing as a career. I've got there in the end, but I wish I hadn't waited so long.

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You can find out more about Jess, her book and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to thank Jess for taking the time to stop by and chat with me today, it's been a pleasure. Now I need to find out where I can get myself a troop of memory monkeys to put by my bed!