Thank goodness for books! Seriously. With all of the buzz circulating about Abercrombie & Fitch and its CEO’s damaging messages, I’ve had youth on the brain. Mysteries and thrillers helped me through countless teenage hardships, and I looked up to their creators long before I imagined becoming one. In a world with too many villains (*clears throat* Jeffries!), I’m particularly grateful to my author heroes.
Today, I’m stoked to bring you one of my favorites, Amanda Kyle Williams. Her Stranger series, starring former FBI profiler, Keye Street, is captivating, witty, spine-tingling and inspiring. Now through Sunday, you can nab its first installment, The Stranger You Seek, for only 99 cents. (Total steal!) I hope you’ll pull up a chair, and a cup of java. This author is one you don’t want to miss.
AM: I first had the pleasure of “meeting” your work, thanks to a serendipitous galley copy of your series premiere. Now, you’re about to release #3. (Time flies!) How different is it, being a further celebrated veteran?
AKW: I can tell you the writing process is very different now. It took me a couple of years to settle into my job. Sometimes just being still is challenging. Learning a new job is challenging. But I’m in the groove now. I have a routine. I’m fairly disciplined and I’m enjoying writing again, remembering why I love it. I lost that for a minute while I was freaking out. I just finished the third book, Don’t Talk To Strangers, and it’s the first time I’ve finished a book without secretly believing I’d never write another one. I hear I’m not unique in this way. Writers, as it turns out, are neurotic as hell.
AM: As a traditionally published, Big 6 (well, 5) author, are you flown around the world with an entourage who wines, dines and does all of your marketing for you?
AKW: [laughing] You’ve been watching “Castle,” haven’t you? Actually, I am treated very well thanks to a great agent, publicist and publishing house. But it’s more like I’m flown to a few cities with mystery bookstores. Great opportunity to develop relationships with booksellers and to meet readers. My books have a few translations now and that means foreign publishing houses so I was very happy to be invited to London last year to meet my UK publisher and attend the Harrogate Crime Writers Fest.
But here’s the truth, or at least my truth and my experience at my level: There’s a big push just before and after a release. Tours and publicity. It’s this crazy blast of activity in the middle of a writer’s solitary life. It’s fun and exciting. And then it’s over. And if you want to keep the buzz going, you pretty much have to do it yourself because publicists and publishers are on the next bazillion new releases. Not that they don’t work hard for me all year. They do. But their attention shifts. They have other authors. Now, if I have a marketing idea or need help, I can reach out and they’re there. The team at Random House has been incredibly available and willing. But it’s up to the author to learn how to promote, attend conferences, meet people, stay involved in the community, keep your name out there, develop social media relationships, visit book clubs, develop a website…
There’s a financial investment associated with conferences, of course. Travel is expensive. But I see it as just that—an investment in my career. A lot of authors blog, as you well know. I don’t. It’s fraught with dangers for a dyslexic writer. I’d have to employ a full-time freelance editor. It’s not something I have any interest in at this point. And honestly, I don’t have that much to say. Some days I can’t even manage a status update or something cute for Twitter so…
(Psst! She’s actually a great Twitter follow. Check her out:
AM: What’s your funniest or zaniest fan story? (If your groupies are super normal, feel free to embellish.)
AKW: Oh sure. Everyone knows thriller fans are perfectly normal, right? All I will say is, my inbox gets pretty interesting. Funny story about my first tour: I went to Houston after the release of The Stranger You Seek. Murder By The Book petitioned hard for me to come to Texas and visit their store. My publicist was skeptical. First tour. No one knew who I was. Tours can be brutal anyway. It’s hard to get people out of the house and into a bookstore for a book signing even if they like the author.
So I go to Houston. Nice hotel. Good food. Published book. I’m feeling pretty important. Four people show up, including an older couple, white hair, sitting very quietly through my whole spiel. During the Q&A, I discover they’re only there because they think I’m a long lost relative from Mississippi named Amanda Kyle. [August falls over laughing.] Bless their hearts. More recently, I visited a local book club that chose one of my books as their monthly read and I was asked if I’d ever killed anyone. I took that as a compliment.
AM: Well they were lucky to meet you anyway. What lesson have you learned writing or career-wise, that you wish you’d learned sooner?
AKW: You know, I really wish I’d identified as a writer before I was a professional writer. I was writing on and off for 25 years before it was my full-time job. I think I would have found the confidence to go for it sooner. There’s value in speaking about things before they’ve materialized. It’s like looking like a success before you’re a success. Same principal.
When I began making lists of positive things to say to keep my mind for running negative loops, telling me I wasn’t good enough or talented enough, my life started to change very dramatically. It’s virtually impossible for your brain to get stuck on fear and worry when your mouth is saying something positive like, Everything I Touch Prospers and Succeeds. I’m creative. I’m talented. I have new ideas all the time. I write many books. I have these affirmations posted around my house—on the fridge, inside the medicine cabinet, over my bed on the ceiling with painter’s tape. Turning off that little voice that was holding me back infused my writing with some confidence.
AM: If you weren’t a writer, and could take on any skills/traits, what would your dream alternate career be?
AKW: Seriously, I have no skills except that I can write a little and I’m really good with animals.
AM: If you could have any celebrity endorse your book, who would you choose?
AKW: Um… Oprah. [August cheers too loudly.] I mean, come on. She sells the hell out of books. But seriously for me, for the big rush, I want one of the big boys. Right now Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Lee Child (Jack Reacher series) are my fantasy cover blurbs.
AM: Lee Child would totally blurb you! We shared smoothies once. I’ll put a word in. (Kidding—pretty sure he’s forgotten my name.) What aspect of the author’s life do you find most rewarding?
AKW: Besides typing The End? I guess reading back something you really struggled with, honed and revised, and discovering that you managed by some miracle to say what you wanted to say, or create the emotion or suspense you were going for. Because when I start a scene, it’s not like that. It doesn’t come rushing out of me, perfectly shiny and polished. It’s a painstaking process, word-by-word, building from the foundation up.
The other thing would be getting mail from a reader who really gets the character or was touched by something in a book. I talk a lot about addiction in the series. I hear from a lot of folks in recovery. I get mail from from former cops and private detectives and dedicated crime fiction readers. It’s really great when you’ve gotten it right for them. All the hours pay off in those moments.
AM: Beautiful. Tell us about your 99-cents promotion, and what we can look forward to next.
Great indeed. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll all race over to Amazon, B&N, or wherever else you e-book shop, and check out Amanda’s work.
Isn’t Amanda Kyle Williams fabulous? Any thoughts to share with her? Do you relate to her “neuroses” as much as I do??? Sure we’d both love to hear from you.