Saturday, June 17, 2017

Interview with Best-selling Author J.D. Barker



Today, I’m interviewing international-bestselling thriller author, J.D. Barker, whose novel, THE FOURTH MONKEY, releases June 27th. I got the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Barker’s new book and ask him a few questions about his latest novel and get some insight into how he writes. Here’s the synopsis followed by my book review and interview.




Synopsis:

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

My review: The Fourth Monkey is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in the last few years. The plot has so many twists and turns that the mystery kept me guessing. The characters are wonderful and well developed. I enjoyed the relationship between Detective’s Porter and Nash. What I love about this book is that there are two stories in one. The present day story is the police procedural story of a team of detectives trying find a missing girl before yet another innocent victim dies at the hand of the clever Four Monkey Killer. The second story is the back story from the killer’s diary, which details events from his childhood. Both interwoven stories are highly entertaining and kept me turning the pages eager to find out what happens next. Barker deftly unravels the mystery and builds up the tension to a satisfying climax. The ending, down to the last sentence, was perfect. I loved The Fourth Monkey. It was a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.

My interview with J.D. Barker:

BM: J.D., How did you come up with your idea for The Fourth Monkey?


JDB: The idea had been rattling around in my head for a few years but all it did was make noise. I knew I wanted to write a book about a serial killer, I also knew there were an insane number of books out there about serial killers. Killer grabs victim. Police chase killer. Police eventually catch killer. The formula has been done to death, then resurrected and done again. It’s not a bad formula. Criminal Minds is in it’s twelfth year and still going strong. We enjoy these stories. I couldn’t write that book though, I needed to do something different. So, the idea continued to rattle as I worked on other projects. It truly came to life one day where all the best ideas seem to surface and grasp at life - in line at the supermarket. There was a rather large woman two customers in front of me in one of those rechargeable carts, behind me was a father and his son. The boy couldn’t have been more than eight years old. He said something about the woman to his father, made a joke of some sort, and his father leaned over and delivered a line I would have never expected in a million years - “Speak no evil, son.” Who says that?!? The second I heard it though, that idea in the back of my mind poked up, its hand held high. I couldn’t help but wonder what life at their house was like. By the time I got home, I had a grasp on much of 4MK’s history, I immediately went to work on the rest.


BM: Which did you create first … the plot or the characters?

JDB: Oh, that’s tough. They go hand-in-hand. In this case, the plot came first but until I had the right characters, it didn’t go anywhere. Characters are truly at the heart of any good story. You can have a great plot, but without the proper people involved, you’re dead in the water. In most cases, I tend to come up with a plot/scenario, then I start to throw different characters/personalities at it until I find the right fit. 
 

BM: Did you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

JDB: In On Writing, Stephen King pointed out that if he doesn’t know where the story is going, there is no way the readers will figure it out. I completely agree with that. I’ll come up with a brief outline, basically major plot point I want to hit, but other than that, I let the characters drive the story. Years ago, I tried holding to a detailed outline and character conversations and actions kept pulling me in other directions. At some point, I learned not to fight that. In the thriller genre in particular, outlining is prevalent. So many plot points and twists to keep track of. Unfortunately, I think our subconscious sees through that, our minds figure out the story simply because the author knew where it was going. When I wrote TFM, I had no idea where the clues found on the body would lead. Discovering along with my characters is far more fun than following a predetermined path.

BM: I would agree. I’m always discovering the story as it unfolds, allowing my characters to take me whichever direction they decide to go. How do you edit?

JDB: I edit extensively and it’s my least favorite part of the process. After I write a first draft, I run back through it and clean up any plot holes, smooth out the rough edges, fix punctuation, eliminate unnecessary words and phrases…once I’m satisfied, my wife gets a copy and tears the thing to shreds. She pokes holes, kills off characters, tells me what worked and what didn’t – she’s brutally honest and I love her for it. I then take the book back into my office, close the door, cry for a bit, then address everything she pointed out. Once I’m done with that, the book goes out to my first readers. Again, they are asked not to hold back. If something doesn’t work, I need to know. Thirty days later, I get their copies back, full of notes. I have another cry, then go to work one last time. At the end of this process, the book goes to my agents and editor (who may offer additional insight) and we make final tweaks.

BM: I very much know the feeling of wanting to cry after getting brutal feedback.

JDB: There are no shortcuts. Best to work out the kinks, otherwise you’ll get 1000 emails from readers later. In my first book, Forsaken, my wife pointed out bougainvillea don’t have a scent. I told her nobody would care. Boy, was I wrong. I could wallpaper my house with the emails I received.


BM: That’s hilarious, and so true. So what’s a typical day like for writing?

JDB: When I still had a day job, I would either write early in the morning or late at night, but I always wrote. If I don’t write every day, I tend to lose my rhythm. Now that I’m doing this full time, I’ve got to admit, it’s gotten easier. I get up around 8am, get the first of many cups of coffee, and head straight to my desk. My total commute is about twenty feet. I keep my butt in that seat until I knock out 2-3000 words. I usually hit that goal by lunch time. After lunch, I tackle emails, phone calls, interviews, and editing. At 4pm, my Siberian Husky takes me for a walk, then I’m back at it later and wrap things up around 8pm. Rinse and repeat. Sometimes I’ll take Sundays off but I usually stick to this routine seven days/week. Technically it’s work but it’s so much fun, I can’t imagine doing anything else anymore.

BM: What is your creative process like?

JDB: At the end of a writing day, I don’t get up unless I know what my next sentence will be. When I start writing again the next day, I hit the ground running. Writing until the well runs dry, then staring at a blank screen – that may work in the short term but once you get a few books in, it’s tough to be productive. Those walks with my dog? That’s when I tend to work out problems and come up with new ideas. I use a program called SimpleNote to document everything. I love it because it syncs automatically between my iPhone and Mac. My phone is never far, I write down every idea. I probably have 100 books on my phone right now in various stages. As soon as I finish one, I can hit that list and find my next project.


BM: Anything else you would like to tell us?

JDB: Keep an eye on www.whois4mk.com - I’ve hidden a handwritten letter from the killer on the site which can be downloaded if found (actual prop from the movie). And please, if you plan to buy this book, get out there early! People who pre-order will receive something very special – more on that soon.
BM: J.D. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. It’s been great talking with you.

JDB: Thank you!


The Fourth Monkey releases June 27th. You can find it on Amazon and wherever books are sold.




J. D. BARKER is the international best-selling author of Forsaken, a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Debut Novel. In addition, he has been asked to coauthor a prequel to Dracula by the Stoker family. Barker splits his time between Englewood, Florida, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Twitter handle @jdbarker -- https://www.twitter.com/jdbarker

Interesting news:

J.D. Barker has sold publishing rights for The Fourth Monkey in America and other countries, and also has a TV and movie deal. “If everything plays out the way that it’s supposed to, we’re going to see a feature film followed up with a network television show,” he says.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Devil's Woods Published Again



I'm happy to announce that one of my most successful novels, THE DEVIL'S WOODS, published again this week and is now available on Amazon, in paperback, Kindle and KindleUnlimited.