Written by Deborah Bostock-Kelley

Author JC Gatlin, a fifteen-year resident of Tampa has prominently featured Tampa Bay as the backdrop of a series of murder mysteries. H_NGM_N: Murder is the Word, his fourth book features a supernatural edge. 

Any Tampa Bay resident can recognize the locations described in his books, from downtown Tampa and Ybor City to the buildings on Kennedy Boulevard and the Skyway Bridge, making the stories hyper local.

In 2016, JC’s book 21 Dares topped Amazon’s Suspense and Teen & Young Adult charts and he hopes to repeat that accomplishment with his newest release.

Published by Millford House, available in paperback and as an ebook, H_NGM_N: Murder is the Word is the first of this series.

H_NGM_N: Murder is the Word tells the tale of Tampa Features Reporter Tori Younger, a fan of true crime books and a frustrated journalist who works for a morning news program.  When she returns home to for the funeral of a childhood friend who committed suicide, she receives cryptic text messages from the departed friend’s cell phone. When murder is suspected, Tory uses her skills to try to solve the case, proving her worth as a “True Crime” journalist, the job she aspires to.  To solve the murder mystery, she’s assisted by her irksome, younger cameraman RJ. 

JC finds it both surprising and humorous when readers ask where to find copies of the books Tory reads in his murder mystery.

“They don’t exist. They’re all fictitious. I made them all up,” he said.

When asked if he has the character or story figured out first when he creates a story, he responded,
“It may sound gruesome, but I usually have the murder in mind first. I start with murder then work my way backwards. Depending on what’s going in the book, I try to determine what type of character might be interesting, might learn something or be changed by these events.” 

Writing came naturally to JC. A voracious reader as a young child and actively involved in his high school newspaper, he always knew writing was the career he wanted to pursue. 

“I started reading at a very young age and loved mysteries, but my favorite books growing up was ‘Encyclopedia Brown.’”

Dean Koonz, Mary Higgins Clark, and Steven King were influential on JC’s path to becoming a murder mystery writer.

“My absolute favorite writer is Steve Alten who wrote ‘Meg,’ the shark movie that came out last summer. He was very influential,” he said. “Back in 90s, he was very supportive and responsive in nurturing other writers. I’ve very much always loved Steve Alten. He’s one of my favorites. I think I’ve read every one of his books.”

Though JC’s characters are sometimes inspired by real people, once the story gets to a certain point, JC said that the character evolves and takes on his own life.

“I’ve never had anyone read my book and go, hey is that about me?” He joked.

The process from concept to completion averages 6 months to 8 months and book two in the series will continue with the paranormal edge, delving into RJ’s past. Tori and RJ will have to solve a mystery involving his family.

For now, JC is already entrenched in writing Darkness Hides, completely unrelated to his current series. It’s another murder mystery for Millford House. Set in Tampa, a Fish and Wildlife officer is tasked with solving murders as a hurricane looms in the Gulf.

JC regularly attends book fairs and library events in the Tampa area and enjoys when the fans seek him out. 

“I love when students come back and say they read the last book and ask if I have a new one. They want autographs and pictures taken,” he paused and said. “It makes you really feel like a celebrity.”

Find JC at 5th Annual On Point Book Fair at West Shore Mall on September 21st and the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading at the USF campus in St. Petersburg on November 9th. H_NGM_N: Murder is the Word is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! Learn more about JC at http://jcgatlin.com.