Thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker today with a BRILLIANT Q&A. I read The Fourth Monkey a few months back and really enjoyed it! If you want to check out my review, click the link below:
About the book:
Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.
That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.
Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.
But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…
Pre-order your copy here: The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker
About the author:
Barker was born January 7, 1971 in Lombard, Illinois and spent the first fourteen years of his life in Crystal Lake, Illinois. A staunch introvert, he was rarely seen without a book in hand, devouring both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series by the age of six before moving on to classics such as the works of Dickens and Twain. The discovery of Shelley, Stoker and Poe fueled a fire and it wasn’t long before he was writing tales of his own which he shared with friends and family. These early stories centered around witches and ghosts thought to inhabit the woods surrounding their home.
At fourteen, Barker’s family relocated to Englewood, Florida, a climate better suited to his father’s profession as a contractor. He attended Lemon Bay High School and graduated in 1989. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in the arts but unsure of a direction, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he later obtained a degree in business. While in college, one of his writing assignment found its way into the hands of Paul Gallotta of Circus Magazine. Gallotta reached out to Barker and asked him to join the staff of 25th Parallel Magazine where he worked alongside the man who would later become Marilyn Manson. Assignments dropped him into the center of pop culture and by 1991 Barker branched out, interviewing celebrities for the likes of Seventeen, TeenBeat, and other national and local publications. In 1992, Barker syndicated a small newspaper column called Revealed which centered around the investigation of haunted places and supernatural occurrences. While he often cites these early endeavors as a crash course in tightening prose, his heart remained with fiction. He began work as a book doctor and ghostwriter shortly thereafter, helping others fine tune their writing for publication. Barker has said this experience proved invaluable, teaching him what works and what doesn’t in today’s popular fiction. He would continue in this profession until 2012 when he wrote a novel of his own, titled Forsaken.
Stephen King read portions of Forsaken prior to publication and granted Barker permission to utilize the character of Leland Gaunt of King’s Needful Things in the novel. Indie-published in late 2014, the book went on to hit several major milestones – #2 on Audible (Harper Lee with Go Set a Watchman held #1), #44 on Amazon U.S., #2 on Amazon Canada, and #22 on Amazon UK. Forsaken was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (Best Debut Novel) and won a handful of others including a New Apple Medalist Award. After reading Forsaken, Bram Stoker’s family reached out to Barker and asked him to co-author a prequel to Dracula utilizing Bram’s original notes and journals, much of which has never been made public.
Barker’s indie success drew the attention of traditional agents and publishers and in early 2016 his debut thriller, The Fourth Monkey, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set to publish in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the UK. The book has also sold for both film and television.
Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
International best selling author Jeffery Deaver called me, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind!”
I’m a lucky guy. After writing my debut novel in 2014 (FORSAKEN), Stephen King read portions of it prior to publication and was kind enough to allow me to use one of his characters in the story (Leland Gaunt of Needful Things). I’m not aware of him ever doing this for someone else, it was a great honor. Although indie-published, the novel went on to hit some major milestones – #2 on Audible (I got stuck behind Harper Lee who wasn’t about to give up the #1 slot), #44 on Amazon US, #2 on Amazon CA, and #22 on Amazon UK. Forsaken was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (Best Debut Novel) and won a handful of others including a New Apple Medalist Honors Award. After reading Forsaken, Bram Stoker’s family reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in co-authoring a prequel to Dracula based on Bram’s original notes! Of course, I said yes. The book is going out to publishers in June 2017.
My debut thriller, THE FOURTH MONKEY, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide and will be published by HMH here in the states 6/2017, HarperCollins in the UK, and a series of others throughout the world. It’s about a serial killer in Chicago but with a major twist – the killer dies in the first chapter, hours after kidnapping his latest victim, and the police have to race the clock to try and find her based on the handful of evidence the killer left behind. He also taunts the police and readers from the grave with a diary weaved within the tale detailing just how he became a killer in the first place. It’s a fast, suspense-filled thriller geared toward mass market which has earned comparisons to Dexter, Se7en, and Silence of the Lambs. THE FOURTH MONKEY was recently optioned for film and television.
I spent the bulk of my adult life working as a ghost-writer and book doctor, helping others get published. That experience allowed me to learn what works and what doesn’t before venturing out on my own. Forsaken was my first novel published under my own name, The Fourth Monkey will be my second, and the Dracula prequel will follow. As a writer, I’m walking the line between suspense and thrillers with all efforts geared toward the largest possible audience.
How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I get asked this question a lot and I honestly can’t think of a time when I didn’t write. Growing up, we watched very little television. Our family spent time telling stories. If our parents weren’t telling us a story, my sister and I would make something up and tell each other. Once we learned to read, discovered books, writing those stories came swiftly after. The first were in crayon and heavily illustrated. It was obvious from the start I would never be an artist but I could spin a tale.
In school, teachers pushed me to write and while I complied, I never considered it a career option. English was the class I aced with little study, an hour I could goof off and have fun. I never considered these assignments work, they were my favorites among math, science, and all else.
In college I worked for RCA records and BMG distribution. My title was Promotions Director but in reality all I did was shuttle mega-star recording artists from one destination to another. It was my job to ensure they got from their hotel to the radio stations, to their concerts, and ultimately back on the next plane or bus. After a month or so I realized I spent much of my day surrounded by these people, why not talk to them and spin it into an interview I could later sell? After all, I had student loan debt to consider. I quickly did just that, writing for such publications as Teen Beat, Seventeen Magazine, Young People, and others. Non-fiction paid the bills while fiction became my oasis. I began work on a novel and several short stories. Over time, this evolved into a career as a ghostwriter and book-doctor – I spent the next twenty years helping others fine-tune their work and get published. In 2014, I decided to make a run at it under my own name and published FORSAKEN.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere; you only need to look for it. I spend a lot of time wondering “what if”. You can take any scenario, add a “what if” and find a potential story idea. For example, what if your sitting in a diner and you order a glass of milk. The waitress brings it to you, watches you nervously as she sets it on the table. What if you look up and find other people in the diner also watching you, some turn away, others don’t. What if you then look outside and see people across the street, a group gathering, also watching you. What if you then look up at a TV in the corner of the room and see yourself sitting there on the screen, your glass of milk in front of you. What if there is a timer slowly counting down…
The next time you’re in a crowd, pick a person at random and make up a back story for them. Where are they from? What are their hobbies? Could they be hiding from someone? If yes, who? Maybe that person walks in and they see each other.
There are stories everywhere, you only have to look. I’ve got notepads filled with ideas.
How would you describe your writing to anyone who hasn’t read your books?
I’m most compared to Stephen King and Dean Koontz. You’ll find I jump around a bit between thriller, horror, and suspense.
You’re not going to find deep meaning within the pages of my books. I’m not out to teach anyone a life-lesson. I try to create a distraction, a world readers can slip into for a few minutes out of their day. Once I’ve got your attention though, I’m not one to let it go. You’ll find I grab your hand and hold tight from the first page to the last. I hope to introduce you to people you’d like to meet and take you to places you’ve never been. Books are a trade off between writer and reader. A reader is willing to dedicate a small portion of their life to reading a novel, they drop their hard-earned money on that book. As the architect of that product, I feel it’s my responsibility to make sure that time and money is well spent. When you turn that last page, I hope to leave you with a smile, a desire for more. Maybe the need to tell a friend or two about it.
Do you think social media helps in regard to promotion and drumming up publicity for a new book?
Absolutely! There’s a huge shift going on from traditional media to blogs and websites. As an author who came up as an indie, I personally saw the power of social media. I feel a special kinship with bloggers and the people who take the time to post reviews on sites such as GoodReads. That’s one of the reasons why I try to host giveaways and promote contests; it gives me a chance to stay close to my readers. We’re all in this together; a best seller doesn’t make itself. Without social media, the readers, and the bloggers who support my work, I would have never hit some of the milestones I have in the past and I can’t wait to see what we all come up with next.
What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?
Now that I’m writing full time, it’s got to be my office. My daily commute is about twenty feet, longer if I detour downstairs for a cup of coffee. My wife is never far away and now that we have a baby on the way, I’m grateful for the fact that I’ll be around to experience much of it. My father worked about eighty hours a week and I lost him about a decade ago. I feel I barely knew the man. Knowing I’ll be there for my family is priceless.
What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?
Ha, probably that same commute. Now that I rarely leave the house, I lose track of the day of the week a lot. I also find myself exercising more to make up for all that time my butt is firmly planted in my seat. Luckily, we have a Siberian Husky who is very insistent on taking me for a run every day.
Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?
Hopefully, doing exactly what I did today. I started the day with 3,000 words on my latest novel, now I get to answer questions from people like you. Later today, I’ve got a conference call with a film studio.
I’ve been blessed. My second novel, THE FOURTH MONKEY will release in about a month. It was optioned for both film and television. Around that same time, my third novel, a prequel to DRACULA I co-authored with Dacre Stoker goes out to publishers. There is even a graphic novel coming soon based on my first novel, FORSAKEN. Life is good.
What’s next for you?
Nearly three years has lapsed between my first novel and the release of THE FOURTH MONKEY in June. I think you’ll find this is not the norm for me. I write, a lot. I’ve written three other books during that span. I see this period as a calm before the storm. Moving forward, you’ll probably see at least one or two books from me per year.
I often wonder are authors voracious readers. Do you read much, and if so, what kind of books do you enjoy?
I do read a lot and I read just about everything. I’m a sucker for a good story, regardless of genre. I recently finished THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Laura Mchugh and I’m currently re-reading GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens. At any given time, I usually have 2-3 books in play between physical copies, my Kindle, and audiobooks.
Can you tell me your all time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?
I’m a huge King fan and my all time favourite is one of his lesser known books, JOYLAND. The writing seems completely effortless and there is something about the story itself that resonates with me. I’ve also read and re-read all of Thomas Harris’s books more times than I can count.
Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you had written?
Oh, that’s tough, there are many. Most recently, I would say Justin Cronin’s latest series. THE PASSAGE (and the books that follow) are the perfect mix of horror, thriller, and literary fiction.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I think I’m always writing, even when I’m away from my Mac. I run or walk at least five miles each day but even then, I pass the time working out story ideas, figuring out what comes next in my latest project. There’s no on/off switch, if I ignore them, my characters tend to shout.
Have you any hobbies that aren’t book-related?
I love movies. I’m at the theater once or twice per week. I think I’ve been through damn near everything on Netflix too. With a baby on the way, much of our time has gone into planning, decorating, and pre-baby shopping too.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
I grew up in a small town off the west coast of Florida, we spend a lot of time vacationing there. Aside from that, my wife and I love to travel and have been all over the world. I’d love to revisit Italy and we hope to head to the UK next year.
Pierogies. Not the healthiest food though so I only eat them on my birthday.
Chocolate milk. I thought this urge would pass as I got older but nope, nothing like a tall glass of chocolate milk.
Huge thanks to J. D. Barker for taking the time to answer my questions! 🙂
Make sure to follow the blog tour: