Mystery Mondays: James Hilton on The Writing Process

Another author’s writing process always fascinates me. Today on Mystery Mondays we have author James Hilton here to share his process. Let us know how your process differs.

My Writing Process

I guess every writer both amateur and professional follows their own path. Some just set off writing and see where the story takes them, others are meticulous in their outline (some nearly as detailed as the finished novels). There is no right or wrong way, only what works best for you.

I like to sketch out an outline in the barest of detail, kind of like a film storyboard but much less exact. Each ‘block’ lists the major event or scene in the chapter. This helps me navigate through the riptides and marshes as I get down to the physical task of writing. 

The overall theme and inspiration of the book differs each time. My first Gunn Brothers novel Search and Destroy was written with the theme ‘how far would blue collar tough guys go to stay alive?’

Once the general theme is in my mind then comes the details. I sketch out the storyboard, usually about two sides of A4. When I’m happy that I’ve got a definite direction, then begins the writing. I keep all of my notes and storyboards after the novel is finished and compare them with the finished draft. Sometimes they are almost the same in detail and direction but sometimes during the writing process the story changes.

A good example is in the storyboard my first novel, the character Tansen Tibrikot was to have a fleeting mention, just a convenient guy to help the story along. Yet sometimes, as other writers will tell you, your character can grow legs. This was definitely the case with Tansen. Suddenly his back story grew, as did his quirky penchant for old west memorabilia. The drama just seemed want to follow him onto the page. Who was I to stand in his way? 

Any ideas or scenes that I discarded (or were exorcised via Holy Water by my wonderful editor) are filed away for future consideration. I think of them as deleted scenes, again much as in a movie production. Sometimes these are best left on the metaphorical cutting room floor and other times they get filed away for possible future use. 

When I finally get down to the day to day business of putting words on a page, I often do so while listening to music (via headphones so as not to disturb the neighbourhood). I am a big fan of movie scores and as these often last up to two hours they fit my writing sessions well. I have unbridled respect for composers and musicians.

The skill and effort that must go into composing a film score is, to me, nothing short of miraculous. The music of Basil Poledouris, Hans Zimmer, Bryan Tyler, John Williams and Ennio Morricone is timeless. Occasionally I will switch it up and play some frenetic tunes, thrash metal, techno rave and the likes. Like my characters on the page, I am a man of contrasts.

When I have finished the first draft, I step away from the book for a week or so then read it through and make notes of any glaring errors or inconsistencies (they pop up in the unlikeliest of places). Then begins the hard work; getting it ready to submit to your editor. 

Then like the Greek king Sysyphus who rolled the stone uphill for eternity, we get to do it over again, albeit with a nervous smile.

Who Is James Hilton?

20160529_124553 (2)James lives in the rugged but beautiful North of England with his wife Wendy.

He is the author of various genre collections plus has been published in various fan favourite anthologies. Not to be confused with the beloved author of Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizon.

Alongside his older brother Matt Hilton (author of the bestselling Joe Hunter Thrillers), James trained in the martial arts since the age of 11, first in the strict routines of Shotokan Karate then later in the very effective combat style of Kempo JuJitsu. James is currently ranked as a 4th dan Blackbelt.

His love of martial arts in all of their variations, both eastern & world arts has driven him to study arts from Europe, Japan, China, Indonesia and America.

His other passions include visiting Florida and the Caribbean, reading horror, suspense and action thrillers. 

He is currently working on the next book in the ‘Gunn Brothers Thriller’ series from Titan Books and also researching material for the first book in a new YA series.

Fight Or Die by James Hilton

Fight or Die
When the Gunn brothers Danny and Clay answer a call to help old friends, they are plunged into a volatile and deadly situation. Larry and Pamela Duke own one of the most popular nightclubs in the Spanish resort town of Ultima, but a local gang known as the Locos are determined to take it. Danny and Clay are hired to protect the club, but new adversaries enter the game. Against such odds there are only two choices: fight or die…

Mystery Mondays: Damon L. Wakes on Planning Your Novel

It’s Monday again, and we’re here with Damon L. Wakes author of Ten Little Astronauts.

Planning Your Novel by Damon L. Wakes.

Personally, I don’t like to plan my books in too much detail. Knowing (at least in your head) how you get from beginning to end is essential, but for me summarising individual scenes seems excessive: I feel as though I might as well just write the scenes themselves.

What I find does help is to take a pack of record cards and note down all the major plot points, one per card. This makes for a really quick way to put together an outline of the story, and you’re free to add or remove cards as necessary, even while you’re working. There are other advantages to this sort of plan too, but I think those are best left for another post.

I first tried this approach when writing my prehistoric fantasy novel, Face of Glass, but it proved especially handy while plotting out the twists and turns of my sci-fi murder mystery, Ten Little Astronauts, which has since been accepted by Unbound!



engine-roomThe U.N. Owen is adrift in interstellar space. With no lights, no life support, no help for ten trillion miles, it seems as though things can’t get any worse. Then, Blore finds the body.

Ten Little Astronauts is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None set in space. The novella takes the essence of Christie’s murder mystery and condenses it down into a tense, hard sci-fi thriller.

Ten astronauts are awoken from suspended animation to deal with a crisis on board their ship. Selected from a crew of thousands, none of them knows any of the others: all they know is that one of their number is a murderer. And until they work out who it is, none of them can go back to sleep.

With the environment of the ship itself acting as an added threat, the story progresses at a faster pace with a more rapid series of twists. Setting the mystery in interstellar space – where a radio message could take years to reach anybody – also offers an immediate explanation as to why the characters can’t simply call for help, eliminating a lot of the introductory scene-setting of Christie’s original.

Despite the futuristic setting, the world of Ten Little Astronauts conforms as closely as possible to the scientific understanding of the present day, based on extensive research drawing on everything from the ion thrusters of NASA to the vessels preserved at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. Grounded in reality, the science fiction acts as a backdrop to a mystery that can be broken down and solved by conventional means. The characters and premise will be well familiar to fans of Agatha Christie, but the story itself is brand new.

Pledging to support Ten Little Astronauts at Unbound is more than just buying a book: it’s an opportunity to bring that book into the world. The novella is already written, but it needs your help to make it into print. Of course, there are also rewards for supporters, ranging from digital copies of the book all the way up to a writing workshop with the author.

Book Cover:

Not available yet, as that’s one of the things that the crowdfunding campaign aims to cover. However, there is this video filmed on board HMS Alliance: .


WHO IS Damon L Wakes?

unbound-portraitDamon L. Wakes was born in 1991 and began to write a few years later. He holds an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Reading.

Every year since 2012, Damon has produced one work of flash fiction each and every day during the month of July. He usually writes humour and horror, occasionally at the same time. Tackling so many stories with such a short word count has given him a knack for well structured narratives formed of tight prose.

When he isn’t writing, Damon enjoys weaving chainmail. He began making chainmail armour ten years or so ago, but quickly discovered that there was no longer much of a market for it and so switched to jewellery instead. He now attends a variety of craft events, selling items made of modern metals such as aluminium, niobium and titanium, but constructed using thousand year-old techniques.

Damon’s other interests are diverse. He has at various times taken up archery, fencing and kayaking, ostensibly as research for books but mostly because it’s something to do.








Ten Little Astronauts: