Name Amanda Kyle Williams
Where are you from –Born in Norfolk, Virginia, moved to Colorado when I was tiny, then to Georgia, my true love.
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc
AKW: I’ve spent most of my life in the American South. My family would have been considered middle class. That was when there was still a thriving middle class in America. My parents came from opposite ends of the political spectrum—a conservative father, a liberal mother. They divorced when I was nine years old. I have almost no formal education. I dropped out of school at 16 and joined the work force. I could barely pick my way through a job application at the time. But I could bluff. And that’s what I did. For many years. Forms, printed text, long texts, and instructions—it all threw me. Later in life I was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia. I have recognition and comprehension issues with reading. It didn’t play out well in school. At the time dyslexia was not something parents and educators were aware.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
AKW: Well I just finished revising book two in the Keye Street series, Stranger in the Room. I’m starting Keye three, Don’t Talk To Strangers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
AKW: I can tell you when. I was about 28 years old when I wrote down a few lines and got the writing bug. Why? I’m not sure. I learned to read late in life. I didn’t read my first book until I was 23. I wasn’t diagnose dyslexic until I was in my twenties. Once I had some tools for learning, once there was a name for what I had, a kind of love affair was born with words and with books. It wasn’t always easy going, a kind of love-hate thing. I’m still a slow reader. I still wrestle with words. Yet I feel compelled to write.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
AKW: After I wrote my first book, a small press book back in 1989. It wasn’t very good, to be honest. It was kind of practice writing. But that’s when I knew I could get better if I kept working at it and when I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
AKW: Reading writers that know what they’re doing. It’s what always inspires me.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
AKW: Hmm. I do. Like all writers do once they’ve found their voice. But I wouldn’t know how to name it. I want my characters and their dialogue to be accessible, to feel real.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
AKW: The Stranger You Seek came from a line in the book. The killer is writing letters and taunting police. The title came from one of the letters to my homicide Lieutenant from the killer.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
AKW: Not sure I’m really a message writer. I’d rather be a writer that keeps readers turning the pages. I guess if there is a message there it’s that you never really know anyone below the surface. And nothing is black and white. There’s a scene in The Stranger You Seek where the killer fills a cat food bowl to make sure the cat is cared for while the owner is tied to a chair in the basement half dead. It’s an example of that grey area. People aren’t all one thing. Not even the bad guys.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
AKW: My main character, Keye Street, is quite real. She thinks about things everyday people have to think about, paying bills, struggling with personal demons. She battles addiction. She has a sense of humor. She also has inappropriate laughter from time-to-time. I worked hard to make sure forensics in the books are as accurate as possible, though I never want to overload the reader with that. I’m not writing CSI. I’m writing about a woman who failed, who lost her career and her marriage because of some very poor choices. And because she wasn’t managing her addiction. When the series begins, Keye is four years out of rehab and four years sober. She picked herself up and found laughter again. Lots of it. And work, a business to keep her busy. She’s applying skills she learned in law enforcement to her private detective business and working as a consultant with local law enforcement on repeat violent offender cases.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
AKW: You mean in the book, The Stranger You Seek? Let’s say the characters are a compilation. Bits of myself, bits of everyone I know. As for storyline, I used some of my own experience as a process server working with an Atlanta private detecting company. It got interesting sometimes trying to serve papers to someone who doesn’t want to be served. We had to get creative. This job informed my writing in a lot of ways. Plus, I was all over town everyday and I learned Atlanta in a way I’d never known it. So when Keye’s out there on the streets trying to track someone down and get a subpoena in their hand, I’ve been there. I write a lot of fiction around it, of course. Keye’s much smarter and braver than I am. I also don’t carry a weapon. Keye does. She really likes her Glock. Maybe too much. Another way I am unlike my character is that she can eat Krispy Kremes every day. Her metabolism is like a buzz saw.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
AKW: Since I came to reading late, those first few books I read really rocked me. I fell in love with fiction. And just the concept that people actually read for pleasure. My relationship with words until then had been a wrestling match. Funny because the books that influenced me couldn’t have been more different. Jane Austen and Robert Ludlum. Put those two in a blender and see what comes out.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
AKW: Well quite a few writers have been very generous to me with excellent reviews and blurbs, Tess Gerritsen, P.J. Tracy, Karin Slaughter. Julia-Spencer Fleming, Eleanor Brown and Vicki Lane have been incredibly kind in helping to promote my book to their fans. But I’ve been closest with my editors. It’s where I’ve gotten the most wisdom and wise council. They are really exceptional people. Writers get the credit. Editors get the blame. They are as madly in love with words and books and writers as anyone I’ve ever known. They’re my rock stars. I get a little giddy when I’m with Kate Miciak from Random House. And if I get an email from Imogen Taylor at Headline, I get all a flutter. Totally star-struck. They are both brilliant.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
AKW: Several. This is normal. I usually have at least two books going. V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich and Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. Also on my bed table and yet unopened, Ann Patchett State of Wonder and Ridley Pearson In Harm’s Way.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
AKW: Tea Obreht captured everyone’s attention, didn’t she? I mean she has ridiculous talent. Writers all over have spent the year in bars weeping at finding out she’s like twenty-five and The Tiger’s Wife was a debut.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
AKW: Book 3 in the Keye Street series Don’t Talk To Strangers. Book 2, Stranger In The Room, will be out sometime in 2012, hopefully. Book 3 in 2013.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
AKW: Just one? Friends. But to be fair, animals have played just as big a role in my physical and mental wellbeing.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
AKW: It is my career. I do it fulltime. I’m living the dream.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
AKW: I am an obsessive reviser. I would probably change a million small things. I can rethink a sentence for hours. Makes me slow as hell. But the major thrust of the book pretty much landed right where I wanted it to.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
AKW: In Stranger in the Room Keye Street investigates a crematory where something is very off. The bodies are quite literally piling up.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
AKW: Being still. Seriously. Just having the discipline to sit down and do it every day.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
AKW: Pat Conroy is up there on my list. He has descriptive powers, that man. Doesn’t matter if you’ve ever been near the coast, you know when you read Prince of Tides what the sea smells like. He transports you into his world—the mark of a great writer.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
AKW: I had a brief tour after the US release of The Stranger You Seek. That was fun. I had an opportunity to meet readers and some other writers at conferences. I’ve never known other writers. They are an interesting lot.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
AKW: My publishers. Random House in the US. Headline in the UK. Rowohlt Verlag in Germany, etc, etc. We also currently have Dutch and Norwegian translations, a French translation is forthcoming as well from French publisher Albin Michel.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
AKW: Again, for me it’s just being still for hours. It’s challenging.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
AKW: Yes. Mainstream publishing is collaborative. My publishers, their editors and marketing and publicity teams are all vital to the success of a book, from the cover to editing to figuring out the best way to let the public know what’s special about The Stranger You Seek amongst a sea of other books. I also learned that these people are generally a lot smarter than I am.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
AKW: Don’t wait for the big idea. Just sit down and start building something brick-by-brick, word-by-word. Trust the process. Inspiration will come once you’ve started laying your foundation.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
AKW: I hope they enjoyed the first book in the series. I’m so grateful to the readers who bought my book and shared it with friends. I hope they will be onboard for the rest of the Keye Street series.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
AKW: I had a dog walking and pet sitting business for years. I loved it. I connect with animals. And I was always moving. It kept me fit.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
AKW: www.AmandaKyleWilliams.com . I have free sample chapters on my website. The book trailer is up as well, a Meet Keye Street section and my own bio. I worked hard with my web designer to make it an interesting and fun site to visit. I hope your readers will check it out. There’s also a link to my email. I read and answer my email. Love hearing from readers.