I studied Mathematics and worked with computers for about 35 years before they found me out. Then I took a part time job as a car park attendant, and began to write. I first self-published a book (of short stories) in 2011 at the age of 65. I reckon my greatest achievement so far is getting to 70 without being run over.
What in particular fascinates you about the era(s) you write about?
I write about World War 2. The period is so full of possibilities: drama, espionage, intrigue, bravery, cruelty and unbelievable barbarity. If the War hadn’t happened and someone dreamt in up, I reckon readers would have said it was too far-fetched.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
A number of German spies were planted in Ireland during the War. Without exception they were incompetent and badly trained. The police had no difficulty identifying them and locking them up. This got me thinking that someone in the Third Reich wanted them to be caught. Could there have been a secret Resistance at work in Germany? That led me to Admiral Canaris, Hans Oster, and the Black Orchestra.
Are your plots and subplots completely planned from the start or do they change during the process, and if so, how?
I always start with a detailed outline in MS-Excel. That includes the major plot and perhaps 2 or 3 subplots. I like to have at least one paragraph in place per chapter in MS-Word before I start writing. As I write, however, everything changes. Chapters get lengthened, shortened or split. They change places. New characters appear, existing ones disappear, new subplots emerge, and so on. I adjust the outline as I go.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
I love to listen to the soundtrack from ‘Where Eagles Dare’, not while I’m writing, but in the car between writing sessions. It was written by Ron Goodwin and performed by his orchestra and goes perfectly with the period.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
Lucille Redmond is my editor. She is very exacting and very precise and keeps me on my toes. She is also very patient.
What is your favourite book?
I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Perfume by Patrick Süskind comes a close second.
Tell us about your other books?
I have written and completed seven novels. The first two will probably never see the light of day. One was a detective story/science fiction crossover, the second, a whodunit set during the First Crusade 1096-1098. The other five have all been self-published. There are two Irish detective thrillers, set in modern times, Houdini’s Handcuffs and Find Emily. Both feature DI Ben Jordan. I also write a lot of short stories. There are 4 on sale on Amazon right now, Including ZUGZWANG, a pre-war detective story which is free.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a new WW2 spy thriller with a provisional title of ‘The Red Orchestra’. I have outlined 2 books so far. The Red Orchestra was the name given by the Gestapo to the Communist Resistance to the Third Reich and the Soviet spy network in Western Europe before and during WW2. It’s a strong story, full of the sort of elements that I love to read.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
Intelligent criticisms or comments I take on board. I have corrected and re-published the Black Orchestra books several times. In a scene in the third book, for example, a reader pointed out that one character, Gudrun went into the bathroom and a different character, Erika, emerged wrapped in a towel!
Connect with J J Toner:
Get the books:
The Black Orchestra http://smarturl.it/orchestra
The Wings of the Eagle http://smarturl.it/eaglewings
A Postcard from Hamburg http://smarturl.it/JJT_PC
Bio: JJ Toner is a full time writer of short stories and novels. He lives in Ireland with his wife and youngest son. A significant proportion of his extended family lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.