The latest author to join us in Interview Corner is author Gray Williams. Gray is the author of supernatural thriller The End of the Line. Born in Glasgow and raised in Southampton, he studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and has had short stories published in Abyss and Apex, Electric Spec and the Something Wicked 2013 anthology. He devours both crime thrillers and fantasy, so naturally wanted to combine the two in his writing.
Q: Tell us about a great book you've read recently!
I recently finished listening to Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo on audio book. It’s a supernatural thriller set around the secret societies of Yale. I loved it. It had a great pair of central characters, plenty of depth and I loved the mystery. Apparently it’s a bit of a wait for the sequel but I’ll definitely be getting it.
Q: How long have you been a writer and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing on a daily basis since I was twenty, so over fifteen years at this point. I’d always want to be a writer and so when I went to University I took Creative Writing as my Minor. Couldn’t really tell you what I learned there, but it helped get me into the habit of writing every day. I’d written seven novels before The End of the Line got me my agent and a publishing deal.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your books?
That’s a tough one. It comes from the things I read, watch, listen to. It comes from the history and subjects I’m interested in. I read a lot more non-fiction than I used to and that has certainly taken me and my writing in new directions. I try to write the books that I’d love to read myself. For The End of the Line, the idea came to me years ago in a small bedsit kitchen. What if some people had to contend with a psychic Hannibal Lector? The story grew from that single thought.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?
I can only pick the one? I think staying positive. Writing a second book (now with added deadlines!) while people are making their thoughts known about the previous book, sometimes you read something online that you really shouldn’t have and it’s hard not to let that echo in your ears as you’re working on something new.
Q: If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?
Don’t spend so much time on it! Not every sentence has to be perfect. I’m half-convinced I’d have been published five years earlier if I hadn’t spent so much time picking at things.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a bit of both. I can see a few chapters ahead. I plan a bit, then write it and find the story shifts under me as I type, then I’m out in the wilderness, beyond the plan and making it up as I go. Then I get stuck and I sit down and begin to plan again. I generally repeat that process until I reach the end.
Q: How do you develop your plots and characters?
I like to start with where I see a character, where they are in their lives and where they’d like to see themselves. Then I think about where I’d like to see them. How are they going to change during the story and how might the plot facilitate that. For plots, I generally come up with all the characters and their agendas and try bashing them together to find out how the story goes.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring or up and coming writers, right now?
As ever, it’s getting noticed. There are a lot of books out there and more every day. Getting people to pay attention to your work in particular is a constant battle and I don’t think it ever gets easier.
Q: Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?
I work in publishing marketing in my day job so I get asked this a lot. To be honest, I don’t think it does. Some of its down to the book itself, some is down to the way it’s promoted by the publisher, the rest is luck. I’ve seen great books slip by unnoticed and average books become bestsellers because they have a great pitch or the author is just in the right place at the right time. Social media can help with a few sales, but it’s not one of the most central tools.
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Walks help. I get different kinds of block so have to diagnose myself. Am I just tired? Is an idea not working? Do I just need to sit back and think things through? I have to figure out the underlying problem and respond accordingly. It all boils down to figuring out if I need to power through the block or just step back and rest.
Q: What is your favourite part of the writing process?
I like different parts for different reasons. Writing a first draft is exciting because you’re discovering something new. Editing is fun because you’re making a shoddy first draft into something sharper. Events are great because I get to meet new people, have a drink and talk about myself. Simultaneously, I’m sure many authors would agree, all of these things are also awful.
Q: If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?
Oooh, that’s a tough one. Not sure if I play well with others on this kind of thing. If I could work alongside anyone, it would probably be with Mike Carey, just to learn at the feet of a master. I love his work! I’ve just read Book of Koli and its *chefs kiss*
Q: Can you tells us what you are working on at the moment?
For a few reasons, I’m afraid I can’t at the moment. I’ll just say it’s a project very close to my heart.
Q: Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?
I honestly have no idea. I’d like to have a few more books out. Beyond that, so long as it’s still making me and readers happy, I’d be content. I think.
Q: Have you ever considered writing in another genre?
I’ve occasionally wondered about writing a straight thriller. But I haven’t had any ideas for one. But I read plenty of them, it’s a genre I enjoy, so if I end up writing something that isn’t SFF it’ll most likely be that.
Q: Pen names – yay or nay?
My real name is Graeme so Gray is a bit of a pen name…? I don’t have much of an opinion beyond that. If a pen name works for an author, great! If they use their real name, that’s good too!
Q: What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?
Do what your marketer and publicist tell you. But don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if what they’re asking really does make you uncomfortable.
Q: What (or who) are your most significant influences?
Mike Carey, Joe Abercrombie, Libba Bray, The Outsider (TV), Fringe, Supernatural, the list is endless. I like good story arcs, and rich writing and things that make me cry. If I can achieve even one of those in my own writing, I’m happy.
Q: Would you be so kind as to give us an elevator pitch for one of your books? Why should readers check out your work?
The End of the Line is Reservoir Dogs meets American Gods. It’s criminals trapped on a train with a demon in chains. They have to get it to a magic stone circle to kill it, if they can survive its tricks on the journey. Everyone has an agenda and there’s plenty of action.
Q: Of all the books you have written, which is your favourite and why?
It’s got to be The End of the Line. It’s the first book I’ve had published. It’s changed my life!
Q: How can everyone find out more about you?
You can find me on Twitter @gray_books. You can also find my website www.graywilliamsbooks.com where you can sign up to my newsletter. Signing up gets you a free short story!
Many thanks Gray! It's been great to chat with you