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.
Today Irene Hannon, best-selling novelist and RITA Award winner will be visiting with me.
She’s a Christian Fiction Writer who knows how to grab our attention with her complex characters, and unexpected twists. To welcome her and make her feel at home. I’ve prepared…
Apple Tea. If you would like to join us, the recipe is below.
1 cup water,4 whole allspice, 2 individual black tea bags, 1 cup unsweetened apple juice or cider,2 tablespoons honey. In small saucepan, bring water and allspice just to a boil; add tea bags. Remove from heat; cover and steep for 3 minutes. Discard allspice and tea bags. Stir in apple juice and honey; heat through. Yield: 2 servings.(recipe and picture from http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/apple-tea) We searched several places and found this recipe delightful. Go to their website and try it.
Thank you for coming today, Irene. I want to go behind the scenes of your writing. I know you spend a lot of time researching information you need to write your books. In fact, they are research intensive. What would you say is the scariest research you’ve experienced?
Two experiences come to mind. The first happened early in my writing career. One of my characters was a student pilot, and I needed her to lose power during one of her solo flights. So I went to a small local airport and talked to a flight instructor, then had him take me up in the plane he used with students. First scary thing—the plane was so small he pulled it out of the hangar by hand. Second scary thing—he had a hard time getting it started. Third scary thing—once we were airborne, I asked what a person would do if the engine stopped. He said, “You’d use the plane like a glider. Here, I’ll show you,” and proceeded to TURN OFF the balky engine! I had no idea if it would restart—and I didn’t want to actually live through my heroine’s frightening crisis—but thankfully, it did kick back in.
How about more recently? Anything scary happen?
Branching into romantic suspense a few years ago I needed to get up to speed on law enforcement. I took the local Citizen Police Academy, which included an optional ride-along with an officer. I signed up for it, mostly to hear the radio lingo and see the equipment in the car. I picked a “safe” part of town and an early evening shift. Well, in the first hour the officer got a domestic disturbance call which was very, very tense. I was afraid the guy was going to pull out a gun and start shooting. No sooner did my heart settle down after that call than the officer got summoned to an in-progress burglary. He hit the lights, turned on the siren and zoomed off, weaving in and out of traffic. The poor guy had to practically peel my fingers off the dashboard when the whole thing was over. I learned a lot on that ride-along, but what I learned most of all is that I much prefer my suspense between the pages of a book!
How about some fun things?
Since I research constantly, no matter the genre, I learn something funny, strange or interesting every day. Sometimes multiple things. For example…did you know that ripe cranberries bounce (Hope Harbor)? Or that most symphony orchestras don’t include a saxophone (That Certain Summer)? Or, on a more serious note, that you can kill a person suffering from hypothermia if you don’t rewarm him or her properly (In Harm’s Way)?
When I finish researching a suspense book, I usually have more than 100 single-spaced typed pages of research notes and citations. For my average contemporary romance/women’s fiction novel, I have about 50 pages. I only use a tiny fraction of that in the book, but I need the background to ensure the factual parts of my book are accurate.
A lot of our readers don’t realize you use to do something else before becoming a best-selling author. In your prior life you were a Communications Executive with a Fortune 500 company and you walked away from that to write full-time. That must have been a difficult decision.
Very. I had the kind of job a person might kill for in one of my suspense novels! No exaggeration. I oversaw three departments, was the managing editor of the company’s global magazine, and was a speechwriter for the top executives, including the chairman of the board and CEO. My job took me all over the world, from winging down to the Caribbean on the corporate jet with the CEO for lunch on a cruise ship, to soaring over the Alaskan glaciers in a float plane, to exploring the back roads of Ireland. For most of my years in the corporate world, I wrote fiction on the side. But eventually my day job became 24/7, and I knew I either had to put writing aside until I retired (many years down the road) or leave the job. I struggled very hard with this—and prayed a lot. In the end, three things happened that gave me the nudge I needed—I won a RITA award, my publisher offered me a three-book contract, and the management in my division changed, bringing in a new…and less palatable…operating philosophy. So I walked away. And I can honestly say I have never looked back or had one regret.
Irene, you’ve said coincidence sometimes plays a role in your books. What’s the strangest coincidence you’ve experienced in real-life?
I’ve experienced enough “coincidences” to believe an anonymous quote I once read that says, “A coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.” There are too many to list here, but I’ll tell you about one I incorporated into my latest book, Deceived.
In this novel, an older friend of the heroine tells her about a time years before when she and her husband were hiking in a very remote area of Ireland. It was a misty day, and they were having trouble finding the trailhead, when another couple emerged from the fog. They struck up a conversation—and discovered that not only were they all Americans, but they lived ten minutes apart. When they returned home, they became fast friends.
Some readers may think that coincidence far-fetched and simply the product of a writer’s overactive imagination. But it happened to me and my husband—with one caveat. We didn’t end up becoming friends with the couple we met.
Speaking of your book Deceived, tell us a little about it.
Deceived was released this month, October 2014 published by Revell. It is book 3 in my Private Justice series. It’s about Kate Marshall has been grieving for three years the loss of her husband and their four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was dead. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious but agrees to investigate. Digging into the case he discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Kate’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden–and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.
In other words, this is another one of your books that will keep me up past my bedtime to finish it. You have a way of writing that pulls me into the lives of your characters. It feels like I know them personally and therefore I have a hard time putting the book down until I find out what happens to them. Not that I am complaining, I enjoy your books and your writing style.
You just celebrated your 25th wedding anniversary. What’s the secret to a happy marriage?Especially since writing takes up so much time.
Juggling the demands of being a full-time writer (and I do mean full-time!) with all my other roles can be a challenge. But I think the secret to a happy marriage is actually pretty simple. Don’t take each other for granted. Let your spouse know he or she is important to you and appreciated. And make time for each other. For example, my husband and I have a standing coffee date every Saturday morning that is sacrosanct.
Since I write romance, I’m sometimes asked to define that term—and my answer isn’t always what people expect. Yes, romance is soft music and candlelight and roses—but it goes way beyond that. It’s also the things you do in the course of everyday life that let the person you love know you care. Washing the dishes or running an errand or taking out the garbage on a snowy night may not be glamorous, but I think those little gestures of kindness and caring are what build the foundation for lasting love.
Some people may not know, but Irene sings and dances in musical plays. Here she is on stage in the leading role in Anything Goes.
I love performing in musical theater. I’ve had a number of readers ask if I still do stage work, given my busy writing schedule, and the answer is a resounding YES!—when time permits. The performance you mentioned above benefited the Catholic Youth Apostolate, which sponsors numerous worthwhile programs for teens. So not only did I have fun singing and tap dancing and acting, it was all for a good cause!
You said you love to sing and perform in community musical theater. Do you think it has had an impact on your writing?
Yes! I don’t do it because of the impact it has on my writing, but the fact is when I’m playing a character, I have to get into her head. To think about how she might move on the stage, her gestures, facial expressions, the cadence of her language. Where might her words falter? Where might she be strong? How can I convey her mood simply by body language? As it turns out, all of those performing skills help me write scenes that show, don’t tell.
Irene Hannon was showcased on the cover of Southern Writers Magazine in our September/October 2014 issue. Irene talked about her writing, her techniques, beginnings and the uniqueness of her abilities has an author. If you haven’t seen the article, be sure and pick up an issue by clicking on the magazine.
In July of this year, Irene’s book, Vanished, which is Book 1 in her Private Justice series, won the Booksellers Best Award in the inspirational category. And no wonder it won the award. It’s full of shocking secrets. It’s about…
Reporter Moira Harrisons is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a confusing detour places her on a rural, wooded road, she’s startled by the sudden appearance of a lone figure caught in the beam of her headlights. Though Moira jams on her brakes, the car careens across the wet pavement–and the solid thump against the side of the vehicle tells her she hit the person before she crashes into a tree on the far side of the road.
A dazed Moira is relieved when a man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then everything fades to black. When she comes to an hour later, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person lying on the side of the road. But she can’t forget the look of terror she saw on the person’s face in the instant before her headlights swung away. The person she hit had been in trouble. She’s sure of it. But she can’t get anyone to believe her story–except a handsome former police detective, now a private eye, who agrees to take on the case.
Looking forward to your new book coming out next year. Can you tell me a little about it?
It’s the first book in my Men of Valor series, Buried Secrets and I am thrilled to share it with you here. It will release April 2015. This series features three brothers who have Special Forces backgrounds. After seven years as a Chicago homicide detective, Lisa Grant has hit a wall. Ready for a kinder, gentler life, she takes a job as a small-town police chief. But the discovery of a human skeleton by a construction crew at the edge of town taxes the resources of her department. A call for assistance brings detective Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL, to her doorstep. As they work to solve the mystery behind the unmarked grave, danger begins to shadow them. Someone doesn’t want this dead person telling any tales—and will stop at nothing to make certain a life-shattering secret stays buried.
Well, sounds like you will have another hit on your hands. Thanks for sharing that with us about your upcoming book.
I want to thank you so much Irene for stopping by today and visiting with me. It makes reading an author’s book so much more enjoyable when you know the author.
Thank you for having me, I’ve enjoyed being here and especially enjoyed the delicious Apple Tea. Thanks for the recipe!
To our Readers:
We especially thank our readers for joining us. We hope you have enjoyed the time spent visiting with Irene Hannon .Be sure and let Irene know when you read her books. She loves hearing from her readers.
Irene is one of the authors who loves to interact with her readers. So don’t hesitate to let her hear from you.
It is always helpful to an author when you let them know you’ve read their book, what your thoughts were. And when you finish one of her books, stop by on Amazon.com and post your review of the book. In fact join her team and tell your friends about Irene and her books.