Hunting For A Story: Writing Hunted by Simon Maltman

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Simon Maltman Death Notice

Simon Maltman

When I started writing Hunted, I didn’t know I wanted it to be the start of a series. But I don’t remember ever thinking it wouldn’t be either. With a lot of aspects in the writing of this book, it all just seemed to come together. Michael Walker feels to me like an amalgamation of characters I’ve written before. Where I don’t think I failed as such in the past, he just feels much more fully formed to me. I know who he is. I didn’t know really who he was and what he thought about everything when I started the book. I don’t know everything about him now, either. But I do know that if I ask him something, or put him in a particular situation, I’ll find out when the time comes. I know that I’ll be able to write him. And that I’ll have fun doing it.

How does a writer do that? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, what works best for me won’t necessarily be for you, but who knows. If you read writing books by the likes of Stephen King and Lawrence Block, they’ll often say; ‘don’t do what I do.’ I suppose most writers think there is probably a better way to go about things than the way they do it. I think the most honest and sensible answer to the question is to do what works best for you. The only way you’ll find that out is by experimenting. Try making up a character on the spot and seeing what they do. Does it work for you? Then try planning out a character in full and attempting a scene. Does that feel more natural to you? Try doing something in-between and then editing in what else you want later. There’s no right way. That’s the fun of writing and I guess it is one of the down sides at the same time. What I’m also saying is that you have to put the work in.

HuntedThis is my eighth novel and the first one introducing these characters. Walker has a lot about him that I can relate to and a lot that I don’t. Again, that’s half the fun. He’s a contradiction, an anti-hero. But he has a lot to admire, amidst his flaws and questionable choices. Of course there’s some of myself in there- good and bad. There has to be. Not all though. He was in the IRA, then he was an informer for the British. No tick for either. He’s sensitive, he’s much better read than me, he drinks much more than I do. Walker has a slick orange Hornet AMX. I own a battered orange CMAX. But he does have my same love of Irish whiskey with lemonade and ice. He’s also slightly embarrassed about it. I’ve never had a fight, but he can handle himself with ease, kill when he thinks he has to. But he also listens to a lot of Neil Young.

Walker finds two companions in the story and once they were all on the page, I knew that this trio was who I wanted to write about for a long time. I hope I do. Book two is almost finished and number three is roughly planned out. I’d like to think there’ll be many more.

The story is set in 1999. It was interesting to me to write about our recent history. The story is set in America, but it is rooted in Northern Ireland and The Troubles. I’ve always tried to shun The Troubles in my books, but I can’t ever really ignore it any better than Walker can. In many ways this book is about perspective. The character looks at his past actions and the fluid and unstable peace back home through a number of lenses. We all do that. I want to know what this man feels, what he tells himself and what he is brave enough to face up to. Hopefully I’ve managed to do this, wrapped up in probably the most action-packed book I’ve written to date.

I think that location was an important piece in the makeup of Hunted. Walker needed physical space from Ireland and maybe in one sense I did too. The whole story is played out in America, in various locations. But they are all far away from home and they are alien to Walker, which is another stress on his character. I believe where you set a book can be key and can be one of many devices to place your character in a setting that is both interesting and helps to drive the story forwards. Various tools should have an impact on your character. But this can certainly be used as one of them. This person is alive, make things happen to them. Then show me what the character does. How do they react? Don’t tell me, show me it and let me understand why it’s happening. Then make me care about it.

Books should be a lot of things. A novel should offer you personally more than any one thing, and it should do that for the reader too. This is a chase thriller about being tracked down and hunted. It’s about revenge, it’s about new connections, it’s about divisions. But more than anything else, I think it’s about starting a journey towards being at peace with the past. That’s something we all have to do at one time or another. I think it’s pretty universal. So, take stock of what you’ve done and achieved as a writer specifically, large or small. I hope I’m still at the early stages of my career. I learn with every book written and every book I read. You have to try. Then you have to be willing to learn. One piece of specific advice, if I have anything useful to offer, is to try and just do that.

(c) Simon Maltman

About Hunted:

Hunted1999.

Michael Walker – former IRA soldier, turned MI5 informer – is living in hiding in rural America.
A robbery at Walker’s home leads to his rare copy of the Irish Declaration of Independence being sold online. This proves to be the first link in the chain leading to his location being revealed.

Walker’s life is plunged into peril, as an IRA hit squad – led by Marty Sullivan – is dispatched to eliminate him. Sullivan, a former comrade, is out for blood.

Against the political backdrop of a struggling peace process back home, Walker goes on the run across the state of Pennsylvania and forges unlikely allegiances to survive.

Walker seeks help from his former British handlers, but he should have known that any assistance must come at a price.

Walker will not just remain a victim. He must fight back.

The hunted must become the hunter.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Simon Maltman is the author of crime fiction novels, novellas and short stories.
He is also a TV writer, reviewer, musician and the lead guide for the crime tour, Belfast Noir.
An established ‘Ulster Noir’ author, he also writes American-set high concept thrillers.

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