Author Interview: Martin Hill

And the giveaway is over! Candace will be sending me the winners’ names and emails and I’ll be contacting them to send out the prizes. Thanks for all your support!

This week I’m interviewing Martin Hill, who specializes in military and mystery fiction. (Which I like–see my review of First to Kill.) He has a very interesting background working for the Navy. You can find more about him on Goodreads here:


1. What led you first to writing?

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who thought my book reports were well written. She encouraged me to explore different writers and to try writing fiction myself. I started writing short stories and joined the school newspaper staff. After high school and a stint in the service, I studied journalism in college. I worked my way through college with a variety of writing jobs. After graduating, I spent a couple of decades as a newspaper police reporter, magazine investigative journalist, and newspaper editor before switching careers and becoming a military analyst. During that time I wrote many short stories, most of which never saw print – probably rightly so.

2. I see that you have a combination of novels and short stories. Which do you like writing more? Why?

It’s not a matter of liking one over the other. It’s a matter of which is more difficult. Novels take longer to write, but you can expand on a number of thoughts and premises. Writing a true short story is much more restrictive and, in my opinion, much more difficult.

3. You write thrillers and military fiction. How does your background influence you in these genres?

I believe my experiences in the military and as a police reporter greatly influenced my writing. Obviously, military themes can lend themselves to action scenes, though not always. Look at James Jones’ From Here to Eternity. There are no battle scenes in that story line. The same is true about the short stories in my first book, DUTY. Though there’s some suspense and mystery – and violence ¬– in the stories, the continuing theme through the book is about service and what it means and does to people who serve. Having served in the reserves of three branches of the service myself, I think, helps me bring a little more realism to my military fiction.

Of course, as a former police reporter, I’ve seen crime and its victims up close and personal. I’ve drawn on that many times in my fiction writing. In fact, my next novel, Empty Places, draws very heavily on my years covering cop shops. I also spent several years on the local sheriff’s search and rescue reserve detail, and I draw on that for my writing, too.

4. Tell me about your latest book.

The Killing Depths takes place on the USS Encinitas, the first American killer submarine to be crewed by both men and women. When, while on patrol, one of the female crew members is found dead of an apparent suicide, Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent Linus Schag is sent onboard to investigate. Schag quickly realizes the death was not suicide but the work of a serial killer who has left a trail of bodies ashore. At the same time, the Encinitas is ordered on a covert mission to seek out and destroy a renegade Iranian submarine equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles. While the crew of the Encinitas fights the Iranian sub, Schag must struggle to uncover the identity of the serial killer who now is threatening to destroy the American sub from within.

5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?

It’s hard for me to say I have a single favorite writer. I’ve enjoyed so many. Certainly, Hemingway had a large impact on my development as a writer. So did H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe. I still read their works. Among more modern writers, I’ve read everything that Patrick O’Brien and Tony Hillerman wrote. Current authors I read regularly include Nevada Barr, David Morrell, Douglas Preston, Whitley Streiber¬—and Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series is incredible. You can see my reading tastes are eclectic.

6. What are you working on next?

I hope to have my next novel, Empty Places, out by the end of this year. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in the California desert in the 1980s. War correspondent Peter Brandt returns to the States after his ex-wife is killed, and becomes involved in the search for her killers. In the process, he discovers a murky world of murderous anti-communists, smugglers, and repugnant pornographers.

I’m also working on the third draft of a sci-fi novella called Eden. A group of American soldiers in Iraq stumble onto an ancient secret that could destroy the fabric of society. That should be out next year sometime. And I am in the plotting stages of another Linus Schag mystery thriller.

7. How important is research in your writing? What kind of research do you do?

Research is everything. Without research everything you write will lack verisimilitude. While writing The Killing Depths, I read numerous books about submarines and submarine warfare. I acquired and studied the schematics for the Los Angeles-class attack sub. I even managed to convince the Navy to give me a tour of a L.A.-class sub. I asked questions of serving and retired submariners, and had a retired submariner read an early draft of the book and recommend changes. Certainly, I took literary license with some details in writing the book. It is fiction, after all, and if I hadn’t, it would have been a pretty dull read.

8. What advice do you have for writers?

Just keep working at it. Write, write, write, and when you’re tired of writing, write some more. It’s been said that the art in writing fiction is not in the writing, but the rewriting.

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