‘Stranger’ Danger: Williams’ crime thrillers earn high praise
Decatur’s Amanda Kyle Williams is riding a wave of good reviews and fan raves for her thriller series, which began with the Townsend Prize and Shamus Award-nominated The Stranger You Seek (out now in paperback). I caught up with Williams to talk about the second book in the series, Stranger in the Room (coming Aug. 21 from Bantam), and her decidedly flawed protagonist, Keye Street.
Tell us about your new novel, Stranger in the Room.
This is the second installment in the Keye Street ‘Stranger’ series. We find Keye managing her private investigator business, something she started after her dismissal from the FBI. She had a little problem staying sober as a behavioral analyst. It’s very dark work. After rehab, she was looking for a way to start over. Applying learned skills from the Bureau seemed a logical choice. In book two, Keye is investigating some very weird happenings at a North Georgia crematory – this with her pot smoking, freakishly talented computer hacker business partner in tow. Makes for some funny scenes in the midst of the creepiness. And she’s doing what she does best – using her profiling skills to consult with police on a violent serial offender case. This one involves a stalker who is escalating his violent behaviors, killing and leaving some unusually festive clues at crime scenes.
I wanted to write a strong female character with demons and addictions, with flaws. But I didn’t want to write a victim. These books are victim free zones. Keye owns her stuff. She tries to be a decent human. Sometimes she falls short. She’s also known to have inappropriate laughter. She knows the choices she made derailed her career. She’s making peace with that and pushing forward. Keye’s dialogue, the supporting cast, they all talk like the people in my life, the law enforcement pros I know, my potty mouth friends. I try to make them real. At the end of the day this series is about Keye (pronounced Key) and her life. She’s a recovering alcoholic, a Chinese-American adopted by white southern parents, a Krispy Kreme addict, and an unapologetic smartass who is less afraid to whip out her Glock then she is of having her heart broken in love. She had the experience of growing up in the South when diversity wasn’t always something to be celebrated. Keye and her African-American brother were the first kids of color in their Decatur neighborhood 30 years ago. She has always felt a little outside the circle. I think a lot of people have been able to find something in Keye that strikes a familiar cord.
Well, first of all I am an impossibly slow reader. I didn’t read my first book until I was in my 20s. I have a learning disability that wasn’t diagnosed until I was 22. My speed is better but still not near what the average person can consume. I probably read in a year what most people can read in a month. It’s work. A book has to really reach out and grab me for me to invest the time, which is part of why I wanted to write a series that felt real and creepy and funny. When I find a book that can hold me, I love, love, love it. At the moment I’m working on Dan Choan’s Await Your Reply. It’s fantastic! And an old Raymond Chandler called High Window. I will also read anything Pat Conroy writes. Anything. I have a bad writer’s crush on the guy.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on the third book in the series, Don’t Talk To Strangers, which will be out in the summer of 2013. My initial contract from Random House was for three books. But I plan many more in the series. Keye and her weird family have plenty of life left in them.
For more about Amanda, visit her website at AmandaKyleWilliams.com.