I’m pleased to be joined today by author J F Burgess whose latest novel A Place of Reckoning, the second in his Detective Tom Blake series, is available now as an ebook. he has answered my Author in the Spotlight questions so read on to find out about his latest book and the real life inspiration behind his writing. Thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour. You can order a copy of the book here: A Place of Reckoning
First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and spent many years doing less than ideal jobs in and around the Potteries’ five towns before finally taking the plunge and quitting work to follow my creative side. I started in 2007 self-publishing sports betting how-to manuals.
But my real passion is for crime fiction, both reading and writing.
Inspired by authors such as Peter James, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Kate Ellis, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin, and in need of a new challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing crime fiction.
After months of hard slog and sheer determination, I finished my first novel: The Killer Shadow Thieves, which has done really well on Amazon, and gained many five star reviews. This is the first in my series of gritty crime fiction books set in Stoke-on-Trent, involving charismatic DI Tom Blake and his larger-than-life sidekick DS Jon Murphy.
What inspired you to start writing?
Before I answer this question I’d like to provide some context and background to what has, and still does influence my stories and who my protagonist is.
There is a strong sense of place in my books. Stoke-on-Trent is my hometown and, since the 1980s, it’s gone through some very tough times with the loss of all its industrial jobs in the mines and steel industry. Famous pottery firms such as Royal Doulton, collectively shed another thirty thousand jobs in the 90s.That combined with ten years of austerity and local government cuts has led to a major rise in crime. This is reflected in Cops Like Us, a BBC2 documentary following the Hanley police force who are the inspiration for my series. These officers even used the same dilapidated 1960s station before moving into the fire station next door.
Staffordshire Constabulary is one of the most cut forces in the UK, with a loss of over 560 officers. Because mental health charities have had their funding cut by local government, Hanley’s officers are left to cope with issues caused by unemployment and addiction. Officers now find themselves dealing with non-police related problems, such as suicides and mental ill health, on top of tackling crime and the rising addiction to a street drug called Monkey Dust, which causes users to become violently unpredictable and gain extreme strength. It’s inspiring to see what a wonderful job the Constabulary’s depleted ranks do in the face of such complex challenges.
All this real crime and post-industrial dereliction have helped me to develop DI Tom Blake, his team and the crimes they investigate.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I tried, like other writers, to get a traditional deal and had my fair share of rejections but, after reading an online survey regarding the most successful self-publishers on Amazon, my mindset changed. The survey concluded that thousands of traditionally published authors don’t earn more than reasonably successful self-published authors, and, in the top 100k earning authors on Amazon, most make considerably less. Irrespective of earnings, all self-publishers can make 70% royalties on each book sale. Something unheard of in traditional publishing!
I’m firmly now in the self-publishing camp. You have 100% control over everything and the royalties are so much higher. And, given that a publisher expects an author to do most of their marketing anyway, I feel there’s a much better chance of succeeding as a self-publisher as long as you have the right mindset and plan in place.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
A Place of Reckoning is the second book in the DI Tom Blake series. Blake and his team, along with FBI profiler Lucy Stryker, are in a race against time to find the kidnapped wife of wealthy pottery owner Charles Lancaster. It appears at first to be a revenge kidnap by a devious criminal, Patrick Dunne, whose son tragically died in an accident at Lancaster’s factory. But is there a connection to a killer on the loose murdering women; their headless bodies turning up with cryptic tarot symbols tattooed on their backs? It seems the killer is part of a sadistic cult. Blake and Stryker are up against it, in this fast-paced crime thriller, to solve the murders before Lancaster’s wife becomes the next victim.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It’s difficult to come up with titles that resonate with the actual plot of any book. In A Place of Reckoning the hauntingly beautiful Staffordshire peaks and moors inspired me because the area is such a contrast to the gritty industrially scarred landscape of the five towns of Stoke-on-Trent. There is an ancient haunted ravine miles across the moors called Lud’s Church. Folklore says the daughter of the leader of a religious sect was murdered there by the Catholic Church during the Reformation years. So history repeats itself as this becomes the Place of Reckoning!
How do you plan to celebrate/did you celebrate publication day?
Publication day is very tiring as all the months of hard work and endless promotion lead up to this point. On the actual day, there are so many things to check and share with my readers’ newsletter: Twitter posts, Facebook posts, blog tours, author interviews, advance reader reviews, cross-promotions with other authors. This is only the second book launch I’ve done, but both launch days have been a solid fifteen hours of work, and at the end of each I drank a pint beer and collapsed on the bed, drained.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
DI Tom Blake Book Three sees the detective investigate the suspicious suicide of a seemingly happy middle-aged primary school teacher. When the post-mortem reveals a rare form of sea algae, only found off the North Wales coast, in her lungs, the police begin to question whether it is suicide. As they dig deeper into the woman’s life on social media, it appears she’s been liaising with men via a Facebook dating group. The trail leads DI Blake to an unscrupulous accountant living in the medieval town of Conway on the North Wales coast. Blake works with local detective Kerris Evans of the North Wales Constabulary. Soon they realise they are dealing with deviously cruel criminals running internet scams targeting specific groups of women, and anyone who threatens to expose them ends up murdered! I’m hoping to get book three in the series out by the end of the year.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I re-read The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid: a detective murder mystery involving the hunt for a priceless William Wordsworth diary containing conversations between the poet and the infamous Fletcher Christian from Mutiny on the Bounty. Set in the Lake District and urban London, it’s a classic in my opinion.
What are you reading just now?
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I couldn’t possibly take just one, there are so many, but I can drill it down to four of my favourites: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, Dead Man’s Time by Peter James and Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths.
[Eh, that’s four and that’s cheating! 🙂 )
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Connecting with readers is my number one priority. They are so important to me because without them I couldn’t do what I love.
They can connect with me on Facebook here or
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Most authors will tell you their protagonists are based around a heroic version of themselves. It’s almost impossible to write a protagonist from an entirely neutral perspective. And although we include character traits from other inspiring fictional characters, it’s always the self within us that we create and develop in each book we write.
I know that’s an indirect answer, so if I could be any character I’d choose Peter James’ enigmatic Roy Grace. He’s a calm, rational and intuitive detective who always manages to defeat the criminal fraternity regardless of the stakes. A very inspiring character!
From the back of the book
Three women. Two bodies. One deadly secret.
Pottery tycoon Charles Lancaster knows who kidnapped his wife.
He’s sure it was the brutally dangerous ex bare-knuckle fighter, Patrick Dunne. Patrick promised to avenge his son who died in a tragic accident in one of Charles’ factories. It’s an open and shut case…
…until a headless body turns up in a remote Peak District pool, its back tattooed with a cryptic Tarot card. As Detective Inspector Tom Blake and FBI profiler Lucy Stryker dig into the mystery, they unearth long-buried secrets about an historic conspiracy and a clandestine cult. But with a sadistic killer on the loose, and everyone hiding things, it’s not just the victim’s life that hangs in the balance. Will anyone get out alive?
Because when the powerful are pointing the finger, you’d better watch your back…