Amanda Kyle Williams is a contemporary American crime writer best known for her Keye Street series of novels.
Welcome Amanda, we are delighted to have you here today and since it is cold outside we’ve made a delicious hot flavored coffee for you.
Vanilla-Ginger Café Latte.
2 teaspoons finely chopped candied ginger or ginger syrup, 4 ounces espresso, 2 tablespoons Vanilla Flavor NESTLE COFFEE-MATE NATURAL BLISS All-Natural Coffee Creamer, 1 cup steamed low-fat milk. Place 1 teaspoon of ginger in each large mug or tall heatproof glass. Brew 2 ounces of espresso over ginger in each cup; stir well. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Coffee-mate in each cup; top with ½ cup steamed low-fat milk in each cup. Serves 2. (go to https://www.coffee-mate.com website for this recipe.
Thanks for having me.
I have to tell you I like your book covers. Even if I didn’t know you as an author, I would grab your books. Now, I understand that you took some courses to prepare yourself for writing in this particular genre.
Well, I knew I wanted to create a character with some layers, a past, some wrong turns, a trained criminal investigative analyst now working in the private sector. I needed to understand how a behavioral analyst might approach a crime scene and how they might work with law enforcement. A year before I started the series in earnest, I found criminal profiler and forensic analyst Brent Turvey, who was teaching basic criminal profiling courses geared to law enforcement. I took his course and it was incredibly helpful, and, I thought, fascinating. I then took a course called Practical Homicide Investigation from a seasoned cop named Vernon Gerberth. I wanted a foundation in procedure, a sense of how local homicide investigations work. I also worked with a PI firm here in Atlanta, and I was a licensed process-server. All of that informed my writing in a real way.
Wow, no wonder your writing is so good in this genre and so believable. I noticed on your website, http://www.amandakylewilliams.com that you actually have a page that gives your readers Keye Street’s complete bio. That is truly one of the reasons I think she seems so real to your readers. It is for me.
What was the one thing that stood out in your mind about this field?
About writing? It’s harder than I thought it would be. I’m usually the one rolling my eyes when I hear someone who has the privilege of writing full-time say something like that. Who was it that said, “It’s not the writing, it’s the thinking”? It’s also the discipline and the focus, and if you want to produce, it’s about silencing that internal editor. I have one of those on my shoulder every day. I’m that writer who obsesses on a page for three days. I don’t think I realized there are all these internal psychological battles waged just to sit down and write, or paint, or whatever you do. I remember reading a little book called The War of Art that talks about all the ways your flesh and your mind will rise up against you when you begin to create—you’re hungry, you’re thirsty, you’re thinking about that spot on the window, whatever. I’m getting better at being still. And I’m getting better at pushing through to the next scene and promising that little editor on my shoulder we can go back to it later.
I know you spend a great deal of time writing and researching, but what do you do for fun?
I spend time with my animals. They’re always good for a laugh. If I can scare myself enough when I’m writing that I have to get up and walk my dogs, I’m doing my job. My 3 rescued mutts and 5 cats enjoy having a writer at home. And I cook. It’s therapy. Unfortunately, I have a talent for baking, which is catching up with me. I’m going to need to walk the dogs a lot faster.
I know you are passionate about animals and have been active in the humane community for a long time and also one of the founding directors at Lifeline Animal Project, a nonprofit, no-kill animal welfare organization. (To learn more about this organization go to http://lifelineanimal.org/.)
Yes, Lifeline Animal Project is an Atlanta-based non-profit organization working on collaborative solutions to end pet overpopulation and stop the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats in shelters. Lifeline’s focus is to promote the adoption of homeless pets and to initiate and support effective spay and neuter programs.
Your book that released this year, Don’t Talk To Strangers is really a grab you and put you on the edge of your seat book. Just reading the description makes you want to find ou more. Tell us a little about it.
It’s about two bodies found tin he woods of Whisper, Georgia. One recently dead, the other decayed from a decade of exposure to the elements. The sheriff is going to need help to track down an experienced predator—one who abducts girls and holds them for months before ending their lives. Enter ex–FBI profiler and private investigator Keye Street. Though reluctant to head out into the country, Keye agrees to assist Sheriff Ken Meltzer. Once in Whisper, where the locals have no love for outsiders, Keye starts to piece together a psychological profile: The killer is someone who stalks and plans and waits. But why does the sociopath hold the victims for so long, and what horrible things must they endure? When a third girl goes missing, Keye races against time to connect the scant bits of evidence. All the while, she cannot shake the chilling feeling: Something dark and disturbing lives in these woods—and it is watching her every move.
It’s amazing how you can write words that grab your reader and take them into the world you are writing about and feel the emotions of the people in the story. Your other two books with Keye Street are just as explosive. Strangers in the Room andThe Stranger You Seek.
I know your research is intensive. Tell us about it and also what is the scariest research you’ve ever done?
Preparing to write the series took some focus and work. Not having a background in law enforcement or in criminal profiling, I had to make sure I could reach down into that world and pull out something authentic. But this is where my interests lie, so I enjoy that kind of research. For the individual books, it’s really specific. For example, I needed to know if tear fluids would fluoresce while I was working on one of the Keye Street novels. I was having a tough time finding an answer. I reached out to the GBI’s Coastal Regional Medical Examiner, Dr. Jamie Downs and to criminologist, Brent Turvey who always reminds me that nothing is certain that circumstances—humidity, light, temperature—are different in every case, at every crime scene. If you’re interested, the right answer was it’s possible for tear fluids to fluoresce with an alternate light source under the right circumstances. Truth is, most fiction writers don’t use a 10th of their research. We’re not writing technical manuals. But understanding a subject gives you the confidence you need to put believable language in your character’s mouth and the self-assurance to place that character in whatever environment you choose.
What frightened me most during the research process? Studying real cases, violent serial offenders—the crime scene reconstruction, blood spatter, wound analysis, the criminal analyst’s interpretation based on the physical evidence, interviews with offenders. That’s when I began to get a sense of what it’s like in those terrifying, chaotic moments for a victim. Real life monsters, the ones that have no capacity for empathy, that remain unmoved regardless of victim suffering. That’s what scares me. And, oddly, it’s what draws me to crime fiction. Maybe there’s power in writing what frightens you.
Name a few fun facts you learned while researching some of your books.
Since my research tends to run on the dark side, there’s not a lot of laugh out loud moments, but my books are peppered with them. Keye Street has a deeply irreverent (and sometimes inappropriate) sense of humor. And I love the idea of a very dark thriller having those light moments. It’s a tightrope for a writer. You never want to slow the pace in crime fiction. I remember when my Random House editor read my revision of the first book, The Stranger You Seek, she commented on these transitions in the book from light to dark. She thought it worked. I was thrilled. I absolutely love the idea of pulling a big laugh out of someone, then wiping that smile off their face in the very next scene. Is that wrong?
Not at all, and you do it so well!
Some of your readers would love to know what you did before becoming a writer.
I was a house painter, a property manager, a sales rep, a commercial embroiderer, a courier, a VP of manufacturing at a North Georgia textile mill, and owned Latch Key Pets, a pet sitting and dog walking business. I also worked with a PI firm in Atlanta on surveillance operations, and became a court-appointed process-server. I contributed to short story collections, wrote small press novels and worked as freelance writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We do what we have to do to keep the lights on while we’re waiting for that big break. Working as a process-server and with PI and courier firms in Atlanta was wonderful preparation for developing the Keye Street character. It takes time and work to find that unique voice as a writer, and for that voice to reach pitch. And more time to then develop a character that’s the perfect vehicle for that voice.
Tell us about developing Keye Street.
She’s slightly damaged, seriously flawed; a sober alcoholic with a mighty Krispy Kreme doughnut addiction. She makes jokes to avoid intimacy. She’s more afraid of heartbreak than she is of whipping out her ten millimeter Glock. She feels real to me.
I know it takes time to develop a character and how important it is to make your protagonist likable yet flawed without turning anyone off. You have done a great job in creating her. She is very likeable, and says what we would love to say sometimes yet she feels so human because of her flaws. Thank you for perfecting your craft and writing these thrillers. Look forward to the next one.
You were just in Southern Writers Magazine, the September/October issue. I wrote the interview piece. I really enjoyed writing that interview. In there you went into discussion on Find The Right Voice. If you readers want to read that interview just go to this site to get a copy of that issue www.southernwritersmagazine.com/subscribe.html.
I want to thank you for visiting today. I’ve enjoyed it.
And for our readers, we are so glad you joined us today. Be sure and email Amanda when you read her books. She is always glad to hear from you and if you have questions, be sure and ask them. Check out her website to learn more about her upcoming books for next year.
Follow her on her website, Facebook, twitter. If you are in a book club, go to her website www.amandakylewilliams.com and click on book clubs.