Q&A with Matt Hilton
1. Q: Your name sounds like a thriller writer’s name, is it real or a pen name?
A: It’s real. I’m actually called Matthew, but that’s my Sunday name, or when I’m ignoring my wife and she has to raise her voice. I’ve been confused with the TV director (Coronation Street among other things), but we’re different people, and with the ex-world champion boxer who does happen to be my cousin. I’m not Paris Hilton’s brother and don’t own any hotels.
2. Q: Your Joe Hunter books are set in the USA but you’re not American are you?
A: No, I’m a Brit. I was born in Scotland, but have been raised most of my life in Cumbria. I currently live on the Solway Firth with my wife Denise and two large hairy dogs called Spooky and Akisha.
3. Q: Is Joe Hunter an American?
A: No, like me, Hunter is a Brit northerner, raised in Manchester who joined the army, and was later drafted into an experimental counterterrorism group called Arrowsake. After leaving the forces he fell into a vigilante mode in Manchester, before heading off to the USA in search of his wayward missing half-brother, and he has never come home. He now works for his pal Jared ‘Rink’ Rington’s PI outfit based in Tampa, Florida, where he is usually called on when his “particular set of skills” are required.
4. Q: If you’re a Brit and Hunter’s a Brit, why make things difficult for yourself and write books set in the USA?
A: To be honest, although I see myself primarily as a crime fiction writer, I’m not a big reader of British crime fiction. I grew up reading American thrillers, so when I started writing I gravitated to what I knew best. Also, because Hunter’s adventures tend to be slightly over the top action pieces, I wanted an arena large and diverse enough to contain them and the USA offered the choice of so many differing locations. Having Hunter as a Brit allows me to use his ‘an Englishman abroad’ attitude to lace some humour into the books, and to also cover for me when I get some of the details wrong – I can say Hunter made the mistake not me.
5. Q: You were a police constable before becoming a full-time writer; does your police background help you write the stories?
A: Not as such. I tend to steer away from police procedure and go for a more action driven element to the plots. However, I do rely on my experience to put myself in the shoes of those caught up in the action, and occasionally drop in a few anecdotal stories from my police background – suitably disguised – to add a little realism or dark humour.
6. Q: The Hunter books are often compared to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. Do you think they’re a fair comparison?
A: First off, it’s a huge honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as either Child or Reacher, both of whom I admire deeply. I’m pretty sure that many of Reacher’s readers will enjoy the Hunter books (but some may not). The comparison is made because both our characters are ex-servicemen righting wrongs in the US, but they’re totally different characters. Reacher is far more cerebral than Hunter, and often thinks and plans before he punches anyone whereas Hunter is more spontaneous and volatile and often falls into deep trouble because of it. Reacher is a loner, but Hunter works with his close friend Rink and various other supporting characters. The Reacher books tend to have mysteries to be solved, whereas Hunter is usually thrust into an adventure. Saying that, they’re both in the same genre, and will probably appeal to readers for that same reason, as long as you come into them with no expectations.
7. Q: Was Hunter influenced by the Jack Reacher character?
A: No. Hunter is the amalgamation of various characters I read about while growing up (Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, John Rambo, Saul Grisman, The Punisher, Joshua “Edge” Hedges, and even Judge Dredd), plus characters I wrote about and developed along the way in previous books. The similarities with Reacher could easily be attributed to any of those characters too.
8. Q: Can you tell us a little about your latest Joe Hunter book - Marked For Death - and where it sits in the Hunter series?
A: Sure. To date there have been eleven previous Hunter books, plus a bunch of short stories. Marked For Death is book twelve, but can easily be read as a standalone. I’ve kind of gone a little easy on Hunter in the last couple of books, but with this one I’ve thrown him headlong into what I believe is his most explosive adventure to date. When he intervenes in what first appears to be a domestic dispute he has no idea what kind of trouble he’s getting himself – and his friends – into, and is soon on the run from heavily armed killers and caught up in a plot ripped direct from today’s headlines.
9. Q: When you’re not writing, are you reading? And if so who are your favourite authors and can you recommend some lesser-known authors your readers might also like?
A: I’m an avid reader, and tend to go for thrillers or horror books. I’m a huge fan of John Connolly, Jack (J.A.) Kerley, Stephen Leather, Tom Wood, Mason Cross, Sean Black, Dean Koontz, Adam Neville, and Robert Crais. Authors you might not have come across yet but are some favourites of mine are Adrian Magson, James Hilton (yes, he’s my brother but a damned good thriller writer), Graham Smith, Mike Craven, Rod Glenn and Paul D Brazill – if you haven’t tried any of those guys yet, you’re missing out. There are so many other great authors I could mention, but would undoubtedly miss someone, so I’d best leave it there.
10. Q: What was the last book you read, the one you’re reading now, and what’s next on your TBR pile?
A: I’ve just finished John Connolly’s latest Charley Parker novel “A Game of Ghosts”. Currently – believe it or not – I’m reading my brother James Hilton’s latest Gunn Brothers thriller “Fight or Die”, and sitting tempting me on by bedside table is Mike Craven’s latest Avison Fluke novel “Body Breaker”.
11. Q: The Hunter books are often described as cinematic. Are there any plans for a movie?
A: I’d love to say yes. There has been some interest from TV and movie studios, but as yet there are no firm deals on the table, so if Hollywood wants to give me a call…
12. Q: Let’s play the dream cast game. If a movie was made who would you cast in the starring roles?
A: It’s always dangerous for a writer to mention specific names as sometimes that image isn’t the one in readers’ heads, but if pushed and was casting Marked For Death I’d go with Max Martini as Joe Hunter, Duane “The Rock” Johnson as Rink, Damon Wayans as Harvey Lucas, and Scarlett Johansson as Trey. Hopefully I haven’t just kicked off another Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher debate.
13. Q: So what can we expect next from Matt Hilton?
A: Marked for Death is published 17th July 2017 by Canelo, and the fourth book in another series I write – featuring Tess Grey and Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere – called Worst Fear will be published 29th September 2017 by Severn House. I’m currently working on an idea for a new crime fiction series, but it’s early days on that one yet, and also mulling over where to send Joe Hunter next. I’m pretty sure that it will be somewhere dangerous.
14. Q: What inspires you to write, and do you have any advice for wanna-be crime fiction authors?
A: I’ve been a writer for as far back as I can recall. I began as a small child at school, and one of my earliest memories is reading Bambi, and also seeing the movie of Watership Down. I immediately set out to write a story featuring baby deer fighting to survive when loggers threatened their forest. After that my next big inspiration came when I discovered that my favourite author – Willard Price – had died and there’d be no more of his animal adventure books, so I took it on myself to write a sequel called Antarctic Adventure. That I had a polar bear and penguins sharing the ice alongside a humongous mutant walrus doesn’t matter when you’re about ten years old. So, I could say that my inspiration has come from wanting to emulate the writers I admired. I started writing crime fiction after reading men’s adventure books and American thrillers, so the same could be said for my adult career too.
In regards advice, the best thing I can say is to follow your dream and never give up. I first planned on being an author when I was very young and didn’t give up, despite decades of trying and failing before I got my first publishing agreement. Write what you know – by that go with a subject you’re familiar with or have grown familiar with through research – and also write the kind of book you’d love to read. That way your voice comes across more naturally, and also you’ll enjoy the experience of writing your book more. I’m not saying anything is wrong with taking lessons or creative writing courses, or any other route, but the best thing I found for me was to write a lot and read a lot in your chosen genre, and learn through the process of doing. Also settle down for the hard slog because it takes stamina to finish a book, but when you do, boy was it worth it.
15. Thanks for taking part Matt.
A: It was a real pleasure. Thanks for having me.