Terrie Leigh Relf: What types of writing do you do?
Martin Roy Hill: I guess you’d call me a multi-genre author. I primarily write mysteries and thrillers, but I also write science fiction. In fact, my last book, Eden, was a sci-fi novella. My first book, Duty, was a collection of short stories wrapped around a theme of military service, but included suspense, mystery, espionage, and paranormal stories, as well as one story you could classify as literary. I’ve also written some alternate history stories, a sub-genre of sci-fi. One of them, “Hitler Is Coming,” was sold to ALT HIST: The Magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History a couple years ago and is now available as a Kindle Single on Amazon.
TLR: What is your area of subject matter expertise (SME), and how did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?
MRH: I don’t know if I can say I’m a SME in any particular niche of writing. I was a journalist for twenty some years before switching careers. I was a police reporter for a daily newspaper, an investigative journalist for a magazine, and an editor of a business newspaper. You can see how that experience influenced my fiction by reading my Peter Brandt mystery thrillers, Empty Places and The Last Refuge.
On the other hand, I also have twenty-six years of active and reserve service in three branches of the military. After I left journalism, I went to work as a Navy analyst in combat casualty care. You can see how that influences my writing in my books Duty, The Killing Depths, and Eden, all of which feature military personnel as the main characters.
TLR: How do you balance your creative and work time?
MRH: I don’t, unfortunately. It’s not balanced at all. It’s very lopsided on the side of work. If I’m lucky, I can squeeze in an hour a day for writing. I carry a Kindle Fire tablet and Bluetooth keyboard in my rucksack everywhere I go, and when I get a chance, I pull them out and do some writing. I have several writing apps on my iPhone, and I’ve been known to write entire short stories on it while sitting in conference rooms waiting for meetings to begin. If it weren’t for modern technology, I probably wouldn’t have any time to write at all.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?
MRH: Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. The art is not in the writing, but the rewriting.
TLR: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from? What inspires and Intrigues you?
MRH: My ideas come from what I read or see on television. Most of my books are rooted in some historical fact. Both Empty Places and its sequel, The Last Refuge, were inspired by corruption stories I covered as a journalist in the 1980s and 1990s. The idea for Eden came to me as I was watching an episode of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel, and it was bolstered when I read that some researchers had used satellite imagery to identify the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden in Iraq. I read or see something, and my mind starts thinking, “What if?” A story evolves from that.
TLR: Where have you been published? Awards and other accolades?
MRH: Duty was named Best Short Story Anthology / Collection for 2012 by the San Diego Book Awards Association. The Killing Depths and Empty Places were both finalists for the SDBAA Sisters In Crime Best Mystery Book in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
My short fiction has been published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, ALT HIST: The Magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History, San Diego Magazine, Plan B Mystery Magazine, and other publications. I’ve also published nonfiction in such publications as Reader’s Digest, LIFE, Newsweek, Omni, American History, Aviation History, and dozens of other magazines and newspapers. I’ve also done a lot of nonfiction writing for various websites, mostly about military history.
TLR: What are you working on now?
MRH: My latest book, The Last Refuge, comes out at the end of February. My current work in progress, The Butcher’s Bill, is a sequel to The Killing Depths, and features NCIS Special Agent Linus Schag pitted against a rogue NCIS agent who also happens to be Schag’s close friend. That will probably come out in 2017. I’m also in the plotting stages for a military sci-fi novel.
TLR: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did it make you a better writer and/or editor?
MRH: The biggest challenge about writing fiction is just not giving up. The publishing industry is fickle and mercurial. Sales go up, sales go down. Not too long ago, the market for short stories virtually dried up. Today, the short story market is growing. You just have to stick with it and ride the roller coaster.
TLR: Who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?
MRH: I think the best character I developed was Matt Banyon, Peter’s friend in Empty Places. Matt was inspired by two men I knew when I was a young journalist. One was a retired cop, just as Matt is. The other was a former Hollywood stunt man turned private investigator. Both were big men, tough, but gentle and kind in their own way.
TLR: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?
MRH: I haven’t been in a writing group since college. I simply don’t have time. I wish I did, but I don’t.
TLR: I know my readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.
MRH: Most of my networking is virtual—that is, through social media. I’ve come to know fellow writers around the world. I’ve never met them in person, but we support each other by helping to promote each other’s books, exchanging tips and information, and so on. And, of course, I’m part of the Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group.
My promotional efforts are quite extensive. I begin promoting a new book at least three months before its launch by offering book reviewers advanced reading copies, requesting author interviews on various web sites and podcasts, and listing it on book promotion sites like Goodreads. I described this process in detail in a blog post on my web site.
I also have modest pay-per-click advertising campaigns on Goodreads and Google. Occasionally, for special occasions, I purchase advertising on appropriate web sites.
TLR: Thank you so much for creating time in your busy schedule for this interview, Martin. Be sure to read his bio – and books!
Martin Roy Hill is the author of the military mystery thriller, The Killing Depths, the mystery thriller Empty Places, and the award-winning DUTY: Suspense and Mystery Stories from the Cold War and Beyond, a collection of new and previously published short stories. His latest book, EDEN: A Sci-Fi Novella was published in November 2014. All books are available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com. Find them here.