Today I’m pleased to welcome crime fiction/thriller author Matt Hilton to the blog. Author of the popular Joe Hunter series and Tess Grey thriller series, Matt’s fiction is all about thrills and action. Taking a break from writing the third in the Tess Grey series Matt has kindly agreed to answering some questions from me. Thanks for taking part today Matt, lets start the interview:
What inspired you to write in the crime action genre?
Back in my youth I read whatever books came into the house via my father. He was a huge fan of the men’s adventure books of the day, so these were the books I was picking up and reading too. I loved stories full of action and pace, and it didn’t matter to me if the protagonist was a spy (Nick Carter), vigilante (Mack Bolan), gunslinger (Edge) or barbarian swordsman (Conan the Cimmerian), as long as the story was fast and furious and full of hair-raising adventure. So, when it came to start penning my own tales, it was obvious that I’d try to emulate my literary heroes, and from all those genres I found the one that suited me best was crime action – which for me can encompass all the other genres mentioned above, as long as it’s in a relatively contemporary setting. These days when I pick up a book, I still reach for crime action (AKA crime thriller) first, so I suppose I haven’t changed much over the years. The other answer is that I write the kind of books I’d love to read.
On your website you say that you listened to your Dad tell stories when you were younger. What was your favourite, and why?
It’s difficult choosing only one, or even recalling any single story. Often the same story was told on different occasions and each time it took on a different slant, or had a twist, so they were ever changing, so kept on entertaining. If the stories featured action, there’d be a lot of play-acting (or role-playing) going on, with play-fights a must to get most enjoyment from the experience. But, I must say, my dad could tell a good ghost story, and from that I have also developed a lifelong love of a good spooky story.
What drew you to base your work in America rather than in the UK?
I’d like to say that I was being wise, and thinking from a marketing perspective and for selling my work into different territories, but to be honest those things happened after I set my first Joe Hunter novel in the US. At the time I’d never been to the States and wrote primarily from what I knew from reading books, watching movies, or what I could make up and still sound plausible. The genuine reason I chose to send Hunter off to the US was because I wanted a larger stage than the UK to set his adventures in, and the US gave me the ideal location. The US is part of a huge continent after all, and its terrain reflects that. You want mountains in your book, or a desert, a small town or a metropolis, a frozen north, a hot and steamy south, its all right there. Plus, being brought up on Hollywood movies, I bought into the idea that I could write Hollywood-style blockbusters but instead of setting them in celluloid I’d put them in the pages of a book, and these larger than life adventures would be accepted for what they were meant to be. I don’t think I could have done that if the books were set in the UK.
You wrote and submitted to publishers for 20+ years before being accepted by one. What was it that spurred you on and kept you trying to get a deal?
I started writing as a child, wrote my first novel at 13 years of age, and continued from there, writing numerous short stories and novels, and as you say from about the age of 20 was sending them out on submission, only for them all to be rejected. You might think I’m mad, and that after so much rejection I would have given up long ago, but in truth I was (and am) one of those people who has to write, so even if I weren’t getting paid for it I still would be writing now. Saying that, amid all the rejections there were a few occasions where I came close. I was shortlisted in a national ‘Write a Novel’ competition, shortlisted in a county-wide ‘Write a Novel’ competition, and came close to snagging a publisher back in 1999 with a crime fiction novel I’d written. Invariably I didn’t win either of the competitions, and the deal with the publisher fell through at the last hurdle, but it was enough to tell me that I was ‘almost’ there, so instead of being disheartened I took those near misses on the chin and looked to see what I could do better. After the tragic loss of my daughter, I went through a lot of soul searching, and almost gave up writing, but I decided that life was too short and if I wanted to be a writer I’d best get stuck in. Shortly after, I got a record breaking deal for a debut author with Hodder and Stoughton, who to date have published ten books in the Hunter series.
During your time in the Cumbrian police force, what was the most dangerous situation you found yourself in?
I was involved in a few scary situations, including huge bar fights, dealing with armed assailants, and such, but the calls that always gave me most pause was when attending domestic disputes. These usually ended up in kitchens with family members at war, but as soon as the police showed up, you were instantly viewed as the enemy and were suddenly thrust into the middle of another type of dispute where you didn’t know who was going to turn on you first. Kitchens are equipped with loads of sharp implements, blunt weapons, and scalding liquids, not the best environment to find yourself in when struggling with somebody determined to hurt you and sometimes joined by the person they were hurting moments before. Saying that, there were lots of laughs too, and sometimes a violent situation can be funny afterwards. I was once trying to arrest a guy who decided to hit me over the head with a large lump of wood. I managed to throw him over my shoulder to the ground, but he didn’t relinquish the wood and tried again to hit me with it. Suddenly a pit-bull terrier charged in and I thought it was coming for me, but it grabbed the wood, yanked it out of the guy’s hand and ran away with it. Try explaining that the desk sergeant back at the nick when he asked if I’d seized the weapon. I actually used a similar incident in one of my Joe Hunter books – No Safe Place – and even as I typed it didn’t believe it myself. But I swear, it’s the truth.
What do you find to be the best and worst things about being an author?
I love writing, so to write full-time is my fantasy job, so I feel very lucky. The biggest buzz I get is when a reader contacts me to say how much they’ve enjoyed my books. I’ve had people tell me that I have got them reading again after decades or inspired them to write, and there’s no greater accolade for me than that. I’m not the most outgoing person so don’t really enjoy marketing or networking: as contradictory as it sounds, I do like meeting readers and appearing at talks and events, but I’m not a person who is comfortable about making the first approach. The thing I don’t like is when negative reviews take a personal slant, or even become a personal attack on an author. There’s no need for it, but alas there are some nasty and vindictive people out there. I know some people love my books, and others hate them – I tend to divide opinion – but they’re books. Comment on them by all means, but please don’t make aspersions or unfounded assumptions about the author (or any author for that matter).
I see in other interviews that you don’t like flying, even though you do a lot of travelling. What is your favourite way to travel?
I’m a very nervous flyer. I was on an airplane flying out of Jamaica in a hurricane a few years ago where the plane got struck by lightning and had to do an emergency abort on take off. The plane swerved and tilted and spun all over the place and ended up on fire on the grass adjacent to the runway. It was a frightening experience, but that came after years of being a nervous flyer. I’ve actually become a bit calmer about flying since then. When you look at the odds of being injured in an air crash I’ve already won the lottery, so what are the chances of it happening again? I get bored on trains and in cars, but never tire of being on boats. I think I was a pirate in my previous life as I feel at home on the ocean waves. These days I prefer a cruise to a beach holiday.
Please would you tell us a little bit about your current WIP, and when it’ll be available?
I’ve mentioned my Joe Hunter series earlier, but I also write a second series for a different publisher (Severn House). It features a female detective called Tess Grey, who is partnered with a southern renegade ex-con called Nicolas ‘Po” Villere. My current work in progress just happens to be the finale of the third in the series (as yet untitled), and I’m just about to embark on book four. The first book was called Blood Tracks and was published last November, with book 2 – Painted Skins – about to be published on 31st August 2016. In Painted Skins Tess and Po are hired to look for a troubled young woman nicknamed Jazz. But if Tess is to have any chance of finding Jazz, she needs to know the truth about her past. There’s much she isn’t being told. Plus, they aren’t the only ones looking for the missing woman, with shady businessman Daryl Bruin and his henchman John Trojak also on her trail, as well as a mysterious and violent stranger. During their investigation Tess discovers a link to other missing women, and she finds herself in a desperate race to track down Jazz before it’s too late. Similar to my Joe Hunter books, the Tess and Po books are fast-moving action thrillers set in the USA.
Mark, let me thank you for giving me an opportunity to contact with your readers, and thanks for the fun questions. It’s been a genuine pleasure.
You can find out more Matt and his books across social media:
https://www.facebook.com/MattHiltonBooks Facebook official author page
As always, thanks for reading.
All the best,