I am delighted to have with me today Martin Roy Hill, author of The Killing Depths.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve been writing fiction and nonfiction since I was a teenager. After getting a degree in journalism, I spent many years as a newspaper reporter and editor, an investigative reporter, and freelance writer. I’m not in journalism anymore, but I still write articles on military and maritime history for magazines and websites – as well as fiction, of course.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I actually have a few projects going. I have another mystery novel completed, but I put it aside to simmer before tackling the final draft. Right now I’m working on a sci-fi story about a group of American soldiers in Iraq who stumble on an incredible ancient secret. It started as a short story, but it looks like it will be a novella.
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I write part-time. I work for the Navy as an analyst in battlefield medical capabilities. We analyze various military mission concepts and determine what kind of medical capabilities are needed to provide health care to sick and injured troops. I try to write a little each day and on weekends. I aim at 500 words a day. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I outline as much as I can before I start writing. It gives me a kind of road map to see where I’m going. But I find the story line starts to take detours as I start the actual writing.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Killing Depths is a military mystery thriller featuring NCIS agent-afloat Linus Schag. Schag is sent aboard the USS Encinitas, the Navy’s first attack submarine crewed by both men and women, to investigate the apparent suicide of a female crew member. But Schag already knows the death was a murder. As he investigates, he soon learns the murder was the work of a psychopathic serial killer who has already left a trail of dead women on shore. Before the sub can return to port, it’s given a covert mission to seek out and destroy a renegade Iranian sub. While the Encinitas’ crew fights a life-or-death struggle with the Iranian sub, Schag must identify the serial killer before his – or her – psychotic killing needs destroy the Encinitas.
What inspired you to write this book?
I originally created the Linus Schag character for the short story, Destroyer Turns, published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and re-printed in my first book, Duty: Suspense and Mystery Stories from the Cold War and Beyond. I wanted to take Schag into a full novel-size adventure. I’d been reading a lot of nautical history, and how in the Age of Sail men often found escape from their problems ashore by going to sea. That made me think of a serial killer who only kills while in port, and it just grew from there. I needed a contained environment where there was no way out, no way to call for help, etc. A submarine was the perfect environment.’
How did you come up with the title?
It plays off the term “crush depth,” the depth below which a sub can’t go without being crushed by ocean pressure. I probably played around with variations – The Crushing Depths, The Dying Depths, whatever. I remember settling on The Killing Depths because I felt “Killing” encompassed more of what was happening in the book.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I have 16 years of active and reserve service in the Coast Guard and Navy, but I had never been on a submarine. I had to learn how subs work, what were the battle tactics they used, what they looked like on the inside. I had to read dozens of books on subs, ask hundreds of questions of former and serving submariners. That last part wasn’t easy. They’re not called the Silent Service for nothing! I also had to get the Navy to give me a tour of a Los Angeles-class submarine. I did all that before I went to work for the Navy. Ironically, today I work on a submarine base.
If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?
I didn’t originally consider a Linus Schag series, but just a couple weeks ago an idea started buzzing around in my head and I started plotting it out. All I can say now is that Linus Schag comes face-to-face with some of the mysteries of the sea.
Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?
I originally had a different concept for the serial killer’s back story, but I didn’t like it. I had to do some reading on serial killers and, after finishing the first or second draft, completely rewrote the killer’s back story.
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
Believe it or not, I write sitting on the couch, my legs stretched out, with my laptop on my thighs, and with the TV on! As a reporter, I learned how to write in a noisy news room with teletypes clacking, phones ringing, and people yaking. Besides, when I’m on the couch, one of our two cats will usually join me. You can’t get better inspiration than a purring kitty.
A killer lurks beneath the waves of the western Pacific Ocean. The USS Encinitas, the first attack submarine crewed by both men and women, stalks the Crescent Moon, a renegade Iranian sub armed with nuclear-tipped missiles. But another predator hides aboard the American sub, a murderer who has already left a trail of dead women behind on shore. While the crew of the Encinitas plays a deadly game of hide-and-seek with the Crescent Moon, NCIS investigator Linus Schag must discover the killer’s identity before his – or her – blood lust leads to the submarine’s total destruction.
Martin Roy Hill spent more than 20 years as a staff reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines, before becoming a military analyst specializing in battlefield medical operations for the Navy. His freelance credits include Reader’s Digest, LIFE, Newsweek, Omni, American History, Coast Guard Magazine, Retired Officer Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion Section, and many more.
Much of his freelance work involves historical topics, especially military history. He was a lead contributor to the 1995 WWII anthology, “From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki: America at War,” published by the Retired Officer Association (now called the Military Officer Association). He also writes a blog on politics and history, “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,” for Open Salon.
In addition to writing nonfiction, Hill also writes short fiction. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, San Diego Magazine, and San Diego Writer’s Monthly.
A veteran of the Coast Guard and Navy reserves, he now serves as a medical service corps officer in the California State Military Reserve, a component of the California National Guard. Hill has more than 13 years experience in maritime and wilderness search and rescue and disaster response, and teaches wilderness survival and first aid.