Author Spotlight – Gray Williams
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Gray Williams!
Gray Williams was 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 now lives in East London with his wife, who fell in love with him after reading an early draft of one of his short stories. The End of the Line is his first novel.
Welcome to the Hive, Gray. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’ve just finished The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding, the first of his new series The Darkwater Legacy. His Ketty Jay series are among my top ever books and Ember Blade didn’t disappoint. Chris writes great characters and really knows how to put them through the wringer. Absolutely loved it. I’ve also just finished Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh, a great thriller with a great hook. The serial killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury!
Ooh, that sounds intriguing! Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’ll always go for rogue. So many options! I stay and fight, great! That’s what I should be doing. Run away and abandon my party? Well, he is a rogue after all. Come back and save the day at the last minute with a well-timed backstab? What a hero! He’s like Han Solo! Narrative is always forgiving of the rogue.
Of course the Cloak of Invisibility would always be my weapon of choice but if the dungeon had a forgiving DM and I had a particularly good Bard on the party, I’ve always wanted to deploy the Peasant Rail Gun.
Ha! When you’re not trawling through dungeons with thousands of hired peasants and a dismantled ladder, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I prefer to type. My handwriting is so awful and I think it gets worse the longer I leave it. If I make a note to myself, the words tangle together on the page like leaving wires in a drawer for too long so when I come back to them a week later, they’re even more illegible than before. So I always try to type but I will bite the bullet and make handwritten notes when I’m planning / plotting a book, if only to get away from a screen and its accursed internet access.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I usually work in silence but if my wife is watching TV or listening to the radio I have a website that plays ambient noise like wind and rain. I crank that up when I need Extra Silence. My work also requires a lot of pacing when I’m thinking. I’ve worn out the heels of many a pair of slipper socks, which is impressive when you consider all I do in them is write and watch television.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
The shortest amount of time is measured in how long it takes for me to get home and put on my pyjamas. Comfort is important! I suppose I do a bit of both plotting and pantsing. I like to know where I’m going with something and try to plan but I can usually only see five or six chapters ahead. And, like Morpheus said, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path so I find the plan changes anyway as I’m writing it. There’s always a detail or two that occurs and bends the story off-course. If I’m lucky, the path presents itself ahead of me as I write but sometimes I reach a wall and need to return to the notebook and plot out the next few chapters on paper. Though sometimes, you just need to take the jump and pants the hell out of a story, just start typing and find out where it takes you. So I find pantsing and plotting are both viable methods and it’s up to each writer to know which to use and when.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
I used to read a lot of RPG manuals when I was a kid! My uncle in Scotland had a lot of them lying around when I visited and I have fond memories of pouring over the different creatures and reading the start-up adventures in D&D, Call of Cthulhu and the Warhammer RPG books while an old grandfather clock ticked away the hours. I loved that those books offered templates for worlds and characters and I think that was a huge influence on me wanting to become a writer. I love a TV show with big plot arcs – Buffy, Fringe and Supernatural to name a few – anything with great characters and writers who know what they’re doing and aren’t afraid to play the long game. The Thief games were a huge influence too, I loved the steam punk vibe and that level ‘The Cradle’ scared me absolutely shitless.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I’ve just finished Good Omens because, well, it’s Pratchett and Gaiman isn’t it? It’s kind of compulsory viewing. Plus it’s David Tennant as a demon. What’s not to love? The series I’ve just finished that I loved most was Pose, about the transsexual Ball scene in the 1980s. It had an absolutely stellar cast and I always like it when a TV programme shows me a section of life that I might not otherwise see. Being a writer means being open to that, I think. It’s like adding new colours to your paint box, more ways for characters to feel and to think. I highly recommend it.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
An ideal day would involve starting off with reading a book or a comic then a walk along one of London’s canals with my wife. I absolutely love the Regent’s Canal and find it very good for getting my creative juices flowing, there’s this brilliant mix of old, new and repurposed, city and nature and there are some lovely cafes and pubs on the route. Then maybe go and see a film or a play if there’s anything good on (I love any format that tells me a good story). Then finish off the day with a few friends, some drinks and a board game or two. Our current weapons of choice are Arkham Horror and Betrayal at House on the Hill.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Whichever one of the dashes editors don’t like. Em dash? En dash? I never remember. Basically, if they could outlaw the one they hate so I no longer have to go through an MS changing them that would be great.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
It’s set on a prison island for dangerous magic users. There is a lot of action and drama. I’m looking forward to finding out how it ends.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I feel deep in my bones that I’m not suited to co-writing with anyone. Part of the fun of writing is that it’s something I’m in control of and I don’t have to listen to people. But, if you twisted my arm, it would be great to work with Lin-Manuel Miranda because he seems lovely. He’s producing the TV series for Patrick Rothfuss’ books at the moment, maybe he’d like to write a paranormal detective series or something with me. That would be fun.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t remember where I heard it but someone once advised writing out little interviews with your book’s characters. But you only ask them questions about the other characters and get to know how they perceive one another. Such a simple idea and great for when you’re shifting POVs and learning your character’s foibles.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Give me the US in the 1920s. I love a bit of Art Deco and jazz and the early Hollywood films.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Generally there’s not that many times in a week when I do want to write. But write at the same times each day and so that’s what happens. That’s my schedule. Sometimes writing is painful but I always love having written so I always know that even if I don’t feel like it, once I sit down I’ve started the clock on having finished. And having a deadline looming over me is definitely a motivator.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I don’t get discuss Libba Bray’s The Diviners series with people. I absolutely love it and love talking about it! It’s set in New York in the 1920s with supernatural goings on, psychic powers, ghosts, science experiments, it just ticks all my boxes. The characters are well drawn, they all have great arcs and Libba’s prose is to die for. She’s writing the kind of books I want to be good enough to write. And she’s just announced the final book in the series The King of Crows is out next year. I can’t wait! Maybe time for a reread, methinks…
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
It’s a supernatural thriller with magical criminals that would give Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant a run for his money. They’re trapped on a train with the magical equivalent of Hannibal Lector. There’s magic, heists, action, emotion and it’s only £1.99 in ebook!
Fantastic! Thanks again for joining us, Gray, and good luck with the release!
Gray Williams is the author of THE END OF THE LINE, a fast-paced thriller set on the streets of London rife with undercover magic.