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: Lily Black on Riding the Authorial Rollercoaster

storm-of-attraction-hi-resWelcome to Mystery Mondays. Today we’ll go on an emotional ride with author Lily Black.

Let’s give her a gift by sharing this post and helping her spread the word about her debut novel Storm Of Attraction!

Riding the Authorial Rollercoaster (without losing your breakfast) in three easy steps by Lily Black

As writers and authors, we’ve willingly stepped away from the midway games, with their big fluffy teddy bear prizes. We’ve scarfed down the last of our cotton candy, and asked someone else to hold our hat and coat. We’ve climbed on a rollercoaster, because that’s just what being a writer and author feels like.

Early on, I thought this was a temporary state. That once I got comfortable writing books, it would get easier. Once I had a solid critique group. After I signed an agent, or after my first book was published. But I’ve done all of the above (and undone some of them) and also watched as friends advanced their own careers, and I’m now confident that the particular swoops of the rollercoaster may change, but authors never get off for long.

So here are my suggestions for how to survive riding the authorial rollercoaster!
1–Ever notice how much easier it is to scream and wave your hands on a roller coaster when other people are doing it, too?  This applies to submissions—whether to agents or publishers as well!  Find other authors in the same stage you’re at, or only a little further down the path.  Having a group like that to hang out with socially is great, because the challenges you’re facing now go way beyond needing help with a manuscript and are hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there.

2–Promise yourself you’ll buy that cute little stuffed unicorn if you get on the ride and don’t jump off in the middle.  Why the reward?  Well, you’d celebrate if you got a contract, right? Probably rush out and buy yourself that fluffy unicorn you’ve been eyeing! But when you’re riding the submission roller coaster, getting a contract is beyond your control.  In fact–and this is important–the moment where you get a contract is actually a reflection of all the many things you did right up to that point. So isolate those things you did right/will do right to get there, and as you go forward, reward yourself in bite-sized pieces for taking those steps.

3–What about that writing thing you’re supposed to be doing?  How does that fit into this roller coaster riding?  You’ll spend a lot of time standing in line—that is, waiting on reviewers, publishers, and everyone else.  And when you’re doing that, it’s tempting to focus entirely on how nervous you are about the roller coaster, and how you hope this time you don’t cry and you’ll be brave enough to lift your hands.  But you’ve got to take your mind off the roller coaster and focus on your next book. So, one of your daily things you get rewarded for (like the fluffy unicorn, above) should be writing, revising, and working on the next book.

BONUS, because this particular section of the roller coaster has steep curves and someone just lost their hat: Once in awhile, remind yourself of all the rejections that world famous bestselling authors received.  I know, I know!  This will feel like an indulgence, and maybe a tad narcissistic since they’re all so amazing and you’re just you.  But you know what?  They were noobs once, too, and setbacks happen to the best of us.  A little reminder that rejection is part of the process, and not a value statement of your book can really help you survive those sharp turns.
After eight years of riding every rollercoaster in town, my first romantic suspense launched into the world just two weeks ago. Now I’m enjoying some new swoops and turns as the reviews come in. It’s already been quite the ride, but I promise to throw my hands up if you will. 😉

lily-with-zeke-largeLily Black believes in true love, but is also quite sure going after it is the scariest thing we’ll ever do!  She explores this dynamic in her romantic suspense novels, which are set in the small imaginary town of Willowdale, where people dream big, love deeply, and kick butt if necessary.  She has a black belt in Chung Do Kwan Tai Kwon Do, and has also trained in everything from judo to broadswords.  She lives in North Carolina, where she works as a content editor for a small publisher, and divides her free time between the mountains and the sea with her very patient and loving husband and their teen daughter. She is also the co-creator of the Book Ninjas’ Blush-O-Meter. Readers everywhere search the Book Ninja’s online catalog for romance, YA and chicklit novels in all genres, and find books that match their blush level!

Her debut romantic suspense–Storm of Attraction–launched February 13th, 2017 from Red Adept Publishing.  She welcomes you to join her on the journey!

Author website:

Book Ninja’s Catalog:





Storm of Attraction

storm-of-attraction-hi-resLove is worth fighting for.

Alexa Wolving has just one rule: never give a guy a second chance. That works just fine in the safe life she’s built. In the charming town of Willowdale, her day job as a librarian balances perfectly with her evening job as a black belt instructor. But when she attracts the attention of a stalker, Alexa’s carefully built world begins to crumble.

Drew Cosimo knows he broke Alexa’s heart five years ago when he took his first Ranger assignment and disappeared from her life. Now that he’s out of the army, he’s moving back home to Willowdale. He’s not looking for a fight, but making peace would be easier if Alexa hadn’t told the entire town he was a money-grubbing jerk. Despite the tension between them, Drew is quick to offer his protection when a stalker forces Alexa from her home.

As the stalker’s attacks escalate, Alexa and Drew are forced to face their painful past and the simmering attraction between them. They must fight to save each other before everything they care about goes up in flames.


Top 5 Reasons to Write with Pen and Paper

Summer is here, and I love to be outside. Even, or maybe especially, when I’m writing. I don’t want to take the beautiful days for granted. Now some of my friends laugh when I say that because I spend winters in the Bahamas, but I grew up as a Canadian conditioned that summer days are precious and not to be wasted. Do we ever forget lessons drilled into us when we were children?

The computer is usually my place of writing. The words may work their way onto a piece of paper, but somehow the scene doesn’t seem written until I type it in. Maybe that’s weird, but hey, everyone should be allowed a little weirdness now and then.

Top 5 reasons to write with paper and pen:

  1. Practice spelling – no cheating with spell checker.
  2. Create scene descriptions through doodling and drawing.
  3. Make notes in side margins when an idea strikes.
  4. Don’t get interrupted by social media – no announcements of email, FB messages, etc to distract you.
  5. Burn paper if writing is really terrible – this is particularly satisfying.

Does your imagination get sparked by using a new medium?

Thanks for reading . . .

Grammar: How to Learn What You Don’t Know

This is what I did.

In 2008 I attended the Humber School For Writers correspondent course. Joan Barfoot was my mentor.

The course is designed so a professional writer works with the student on a manuscript.

I thought I knew all about punctuation and grammar until Joan pointed out I didn’t know how to use a comma.

In my mind, I was using the pesky little mark correctly. But how would I know unless someone else pointed it out to me?

My point. You need someone your trust, who knows grammar and punctuation, to give you an honest review of your talent.

Then . . .


Perfection doesn’t come for free.

Do you have any tips for figuring out what you don’t know?

Thanks for reading . . .

Editing: Computer or Paper?

That is the question. #writetip

If you are editing your own work, I think it depends on where you are in the writing process.

If someone else it editing your work, I think it depends on what they prefer.

If you are editing someone else’s work, I think it depends on how they like to receive feedback.

So . . .

Editing your own work:

Early in the process, I like to edit on paper. I use the blank space for story ideas, for writing whole new scenes, and for research ideas. The flow of the pen feels good in my hand.

Late in the process, I like to edit on the computer. This is when I am checking grammar, format, repeated words, etc. All things that are easier to search for and do global changes on if you are working on your computer.

Someone else editing your work:

I like to ask what my reader prefers. Some think better if they can write on paper. I’ve had readers comment on a kindle copy. Others like software. Whatever they want is fine with me. If they are willing to comment on my novel, I’m happy to get the comments in any form.

Editing someone else’s work:

I decide this based on what the author prefers. Sometimes geography dictates how.

Do you have any preference for editing?