I’ve been side-stepping interviews a bit recently in order to bring you articles of interest, but this week, I’m back at it and I have a wonderful guest.
Please help me to welcome Martin Hill, author of ‘Empty Places’, ‘The Killing Depths’, and ‘Duty’.
IDI – Martin, when did you have your Eureka moment? When did know that you were born to be a writer?
MH – I came to that conclusion in high school. An English teacher enjoyed my essays and encouraged me to write. I joined the school newspaper, started studying journalism, and started writing short stories and sending them out to publishers. It was years — no, decades — before I sold one, though I did sell a Humor in Uniform snippet to Reader’s Digest when I was 19. That was my first professionally published piece.
IDI – Believe it or not, the humor sections of Reader’s Digest have always been my favorite! Tell us, within your writing, what are you the most passionate about? What is it that keeps the fire burning?
MH – I enjoy the act of writing. I feel dread each time I sit down to write, consumed by all those insecurities that every writer probably fears. Can I pull this off? Who am I to think I can write a book? Will anyone buy it? But when I finally get into the act of writing, it’s wonderful. When it’s going really good and the words are following, it’s like a high. That’s what keeps me going.
IDI – Something every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?
MH – I get ideas from reading newspapers and magazines, and asking “What if?” The idea for The Killing Depths came about when I read several articles about men and women serving together in the first Gulf War and Bosnia. I started wondering, “What if men and women served together in something as confined as a submarine?” Then I thought, “What if someone didn’t like the idea of men and women serving together?” Finally, I thought, “What if that someone was a serial killer?”
Eden, on the other hand, was conceived after reading an article that said recent satellite imagery may have confirmed the location of the Biblical Eden in Iraq. I started thinking, “What if American GIs stumbled on proof of Eden? What would they find?”
IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
MH – My next book is in production and should be out in the fall of this year. It’s a sci-fi novella called Eden, about a group of American soldiers in Iraq who stumble onto an ancient secret about the origins of mankind.
I am also in the process of writing a sequel to my first novel, The Killing Depths, featuring NCIS special agent Linus Schag. Schag made his first debut in a short story published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and The Killing Depths has been selling very well. In the sequel, Schag has to try to stop a good friend and fellow agent who has gone rogue.
IDI – When people say ‘why do you write’, I reply ‘I’m either creative, or a pathological liar. I haven’t decided yet’, just for shock value. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being schizophrenic, but without the personalities coming out verbally. Seriously, we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think, and know what they know… so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?
MH – Oh, I definitely agree we become our characters sometimes. And sometimes our characters take on a little of us. I often lie in bed at night and think through scenes and, suddenly, I’m in the story, sort of as if I were dreaming the scene. I think we become our characters even more when writing in the first person narrative. When you write in the first person, you have to sort of get into character the same way an actor would before a play. That happened with me with my latest novel, Empty Places, and my novella, Eden, both of which are first person narratives.
IDI – Everyone has their own dream. What’s yours… best seller, feature film adaption, fame, riches, Oprah, Pulitzer?
MH – To be honest, I’m too old and too cynical to have dreams anymore. I have enough awards from my journalism career to cover three walls in my home, but they don’t mean very much to me anymore. I just want to write books people will buy, read, and enjoy.
IDI – Online cafés or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?
MH – I really have no opinion on writers groups or forums. I haven’t belonged to a writers group since college. I know many writers who swear by them, and that’s great. But I have so little time to write that I can’t spare it going to meetings or whatnot. I do, however, have a small knot of author around the world that I keep in touch with, and we provide each other with a mutually supportive network.
IDI – Which is it, a laptop or desktop computer for writing?
MH – I actually do most of my writing on a Kindle Fire HD tablet. I carry it and a small Bluetooth keyboard in my backpack wherever I go. When I get a chance, I bring them out and pound out a few lines.
IDI – I envy you. I use a 23″ screen for my heavy writing and still have trouble with blurred letters from time to time. Tell me, i your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
MH – I think it’s the idea that writers get rich and famous. I recently read David Morrell’s excellent book on writing, The Successful Novelist. He points out that only a handful of novelists can support themselves on their writing alone, let alone get wealthy. It took Morrell decades to get to the point he could support his family on writing alone — and this is the guy whose first novel created the character Rambo (as in Sly Stallone’s movies) and who is considered by many to be the father of the modern thriller.
Morrell also points out that no matter how popular your books may become, most people still have no idea who you are.
IDI – That’s true. There are very few authors with ‘household names’. What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
MH – The advice came from my late father-in-law Robert Wade. Bob wrote some 40 mysteries under his own name as well as the pen names Wade Miller (with writing partner H. Billy Miller) and Whit Masterson, as well as others. He gave me a great deal of help on my book Empty Places, which I actually wrote before my first published novel, The Killing Depths. In fact, I dedicated Empty Places to him. Among the things he told was this: You’ve got to create characters that the reader will like, even the bad guys, even just a little. He also said in the end, you have to give the reader a little hope for a better world, either for the protagonist or the readers themselves. As originally written, Empty Places had a kind of downer ending. I did a major rewrite of the book after that, changing some of the characters’ motivations and creating a completely different ending.
IDI – Besides writing, what other interests do you have?
MH – I have a background in emergency and disaster response. I served 13 years of active and reserve duty in the U.S. Coast Guard doing small boat search and rescue, or SAR. I was also a medic with the local Sheriff’s wilderness SAR unit as well as with a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team, and I currently serve on a local county disaster response team. I’m also a medical service corps officer with a small component of the California National Guard called the California State Military Reserve. I hold a national certification as a homeland security specialist, too, with an emphasis on medical response. And, until readers start buying my books by the thousands, I make my living as a Navy analyst in combat medical operations.
IDI – Wow, quite a list of credentials. It just goes to show that you never know who the writing bug will bite. Martin, I’d like to thank you for appearing on Ink Drop Interviews and wish you the very best of luck in all of your writing endeavors!
If you’d like to know more about Martin and his work, or contact him with your questions, he’d love to hear from you!
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning LILY WHITE LIES, THE RED STROKES, and MISSOURI IN A SUITCASE. Keep up with books, interviews, and upcoming contests in any one of the following places:
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