What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I’m kind of widely published now, with a few short stories in anthologies, a few self –published ebooks – Darkest Hour, Dominion, Confetti For Gabrielle and Deliver us From Evil (A YA horror adventure under the pen name J A Norton), and one that I collected and edited called Action: Pulse Pounding Tales, but am probably best known for my Joe Hunter thriller series, which have been published internationally by Hodder and Stoughton and in the USA by Harper Collins. To date there are seven Hunter books on the shelves, a collection of short stories called ‘Six of the Best’, and a standalone short story called ‘Dead Fall’. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve only been writing professionally since 2008, before then I was writing in my spare time while holding down various jobs in the security industry and police.
I can trace my writing right back to when I was a small child. As a kid I’d always be drawing, making Plasticine models, reading and latterly writing my own short stories. I’d an early ambition to make stop-motion animated films (like Sinbad, King Kong etc.) and would often plot out storyboards on the back of discarded rolls of wallpaper. I think this helped spur me on as a storyteller and I moved on to writing from around the age of nine or ten. I attempted my first book around that time, writing a novel called ‘Antarctic Adventure’ having sadly discovered that my favourite author, Willard Price, had died and there’d be no more books from him. In my child-like wisdom I thought I’d be able to keep the series going. I dare say the book was awful, but once I caught the writing bug, there was no stopping me. I wrote a coming of age novel called ‘Aggro’ aged around thirteen then moved on to write pastiches of Conan the Cimmerian novels, before progressing to crime and thriller fiction. I wrote seven novels, numerous shorts, and many articles before finally getting a publishing deal when I was 42. You might say that it took me thirty years plus to become an overnight success.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I’m lucky in that I’m able to write full time, but that doesn’t mean I can be blasé about it. I’m a terrible procrastinator and if I didn’t force myself to sit down and write I’d spend too much time navel gazing or skipping around the social media networks. I try to write every day, and stay long hours at the keyboard. Not all of the time is spent writing though, I have to do loads of marketing and networking so there’s a lot of time spent where I’m not adding to the word count of the latest novel. I also travel quite often on the publicity trail and don’t get much writing done when I’m out and about. All that said, I aim for around 2000 words a day, and when that target isn’t achieved will try to make up the difference the next time I’m at my desk. I try to write a rough draft in about 3 months, but often work on other projects while I’m at it. I love the writing process, though, and don’t see it as a chore. Even if I weren’t making money, I’d still be writing. The urge is in me and won’t let me go.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
The Joe Hunter books are a cross between crime fiction and action thrillers (I call them crime thrillers), and those are also the genres I love to read and write. But I equally love horror and weird stuff, noir and humorous crime fiction. I’m happy to write in any of those genres as the mood takes me. Because I’m committed professionally to the Hunter series, I like to move away from it between books and write something totally outlandish in a different genre. It was through these sessions that I penned the self-published books I mentioned earlier, and it isn’t unknown for me to submit stories to collections, sometimes under pen names, or to place them on the webzine I created and now edit alongside Col Bury, Lily Childs and David Barber, called Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers.
What draws you to write in those genres?
I grew up reading pulp fiction, heroic fantasy, horror and what are now termed ‘Men’s action books’, so was drawn to write in a similar fashion. I love anything that is slightly over the top, or has a weird or creepy edge to it, and therefore it gives me most enjoyment writing in similar styles. Even my Hunter books have seen some of my other influences creep in, and though they are very much contemporary thrillers, very occasionally they can verge on horror. Because I write similar themes, many readers compare the books to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, and they assume I was inspired to write by Lee, but I think my real inspirations are Robert E Howard, H P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Dean Koontz, Don Pendleton, and George G Gilman. I very much admire Lee Child, Robert Crais, Jack Kerley and John Connolly – my present favourite crime fiction/thriller authors – and I guess they do influence me somewhat now, but my writing in this style began way back before I discovered any of their books. I actually wrote the first Hunter book – Dead Men’s Dust – without having read any of theirs beforehand.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I’ve just finished writing a standalone, high-concept thriller, which is now with my editor awaiting a decision (fingers crossed), and have just started the tenth in my Joe Hunter thriller series. Because I’m ahead of the game, I’ve some months free before I need to hand in any of the current works, so am thinking of pulling together another volume in the Action: Pulse Pounding Tales series, and is my attempt at bringing back the action-style books I used to love reading. Also, I’m working with an independent movie company – Third Act Montage – to bring to screen a movie based on one of my unpublished short stories called ‘The Day’. It’s a post apocalyptic tale about the final man on earth. I was lucky to play a cameo role in the movie (in a flashback sequence and also as my dead-self) and now feel I’ve come kind of full circle since my early movie making aspirations as a kid. The film should be out some time next year. On the short story front I’ve a Roman Dalton story scheduled for inclusion in Paul D Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon 2, and also have another Joe Hunter short coming out soon called ‘Red Stripes’.
What are your writing plans for the future?
The next Joe Hunter book called ‘Rules of Honour’ (JH8) will be published in February 2013, so I imagine I’ll be on the road once again to publicise it, but in the meantime I’ll get on with writing book 10 in the series, along with a few other short stories and stuff. I’m fully invested in the Hunter books and continue to try to establish myself so I can keep writing them for years to come. I’d also like to start bringing out a few standalone books, maybe in different genres, or get a second unrelated series going. And I’ll probably write something original for inclusion in APPT2, and maybe look at rewriting one of my unpublished supernatural novels with a view to publishing it. I know I sound greedy, or insane, but you have to dream. If not I wouldn’t be doing what I love doing so much now.
Where can people find out more about you?
I have my own website at http://www.matthiltonbooks.com.
Oh, and if you see me out and about, come on over and say hi. It gets lonely sitting at my desk all these long hours.