Sexy Pumpkin Cookies and a #GirlBoner Contest!

Contrary to what pop culture suggests, treating ourselves to tasty vittles is extremely sexy! Depriving ourselves, on the other hand, not so much. Even sexier? Courage, wit and authenticity, even (or especially) in the face of adversity.

When I learned that Amanda Kyle Williams was preparing for a second round of cancer treatment,  I wanted to share with her a smidge of the humor and kindness she provides her many friends and fans. (If you haven’t read Amanda’s books or followed her on Facebook, you’re missing out!)

So I did what any Girl Boner-loving improvisational baker would do: baked her a batch of butt cookies.

butt cookies 1

While I’d seen cookies shaped like bums and cleavage, I hadn’t encountered any with healthy ingredients or that celebrated more underwear types than thongs and G-strings. With a bit of experimentation, I came up with Sexy Pumpkin Butts, which provide more fiber, protein and antioxidants than typical cookies, come in many shapes and sizes and have a nice bronzy hue, making them, hmm… either tanned or multi-ethnicity.

Sexy Pumpkin Butt Cookies

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients, then sift them together with a  fork.

2 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium-size bowl, cream the following ingredients together well.

1/2 cup organic butter, softened*
1 cup raw brown sugar, packed
1 cup canned, pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*For wheat- or gluten- free cookies, use half almond flour, half chickpea flour — or your favorite gluten-free flour blend.

*For vegan cookies, use Earth Balance. The cookies will be softer, and may require a few more minutes in the oven.

Butt cookies 2

Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Once the dough is firm, roll it out on a floured surface. If the dough is sticky, add flour. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water.

Cut heart shapes using cookie cutters, then cut the tips off to make sexy butts!

Bake on un-greased baking sheets at 350 degrees F. until golden—or about 10 minutes.

Let butts cool, then frost as desired! Makes about 3 dozen 2 – 3″ cookies.

butt cookies 3

If you’d like a sexy dessert recipe designed for YOU, specific to your taste buds and dietary needs, here’s your chance!

I’ve decided to reward Girl Boner Radio listeners for their support by offering monthly drawings for prizes. Anyone who posts a review of Girl Boner Radio on iTunes or Stitcher Radio by November 15th will have their name added to the drawing. If you’ve already posted a review, your name will go in twice!

I’ll announce the winner on the air in late November. Since you don’t have to use your actual name when you post, I’ll read the identifier you use. I’ll also tweet and post the winner’s ID here, so if you miss the episode, no sweat! And no need to get fancy; reviews won’t be judged.

***IMPORTANT: Please don’t post a review if you haven’t listened to the show or pretend to like it! Honest, positive ratings and reviews from regular listeners really help–and those who post them deserve sweets o’ plenty. 🙂

Never posted an iTunes review? Here are some tips:

How to Rate and Review a Podcast on your iPhone or iPad via iMore.com

How to Rate and Review a Podcast on iTunes (video by Jeff Sanders)

What desserts do you find sexy? What’s your favorite kind of cookie? I love hearing from you!

Don’t forget to tune in to Girl Boner Radio for today’s episode. I’ll be interviewing adult star and professional escort, Sarah Vandella! So excited. 🙂

What’s REALLY Thrilling About ThrillerFest: Fabulous Authors Weigh In!

“An artist cannot fail. It is a success to be one.” – Charles Horton Cooley

What do you get when you put a bunch of story lovers with dark imaginations together in one of the world’s most dazzling cities? Besides Sharknado. (Kidding. I have no idea what that is.) I’m sure some of you guessed right: ThrillerFest. “Thriller” may be intended to describe the book genre, but the biggest thrill of the annual conference is undoubtedly its people. I’ve honestly never encountered such a warm, supportive crew—and I’m not talking blood-curdling, criminal heat.

I first attended two years ago, namely for AgentFest. (Think speed-dating with agents.) I hadn’t read the “how to pitch” tips on the website or attended the pitching preparation panel. Sitting outside the agent-filled room, internal butterflies spasming, a fellow writer who’d done his due diligence voluntarily filled me in. I used a couple of his tips and ended up meeting my agent that day. Then last year, I met Lee Child for the first time. Thinking I would shake his hand and scurry off, letting him get onto whatever it is that super famous authors do, he shook my hand and said, “August McLaughlin. Now that’s an interesting name. What do you write?” (Huh?!?) We chatted for a bit, as though we were from the same planet! 😉 Whether a writing newbie, a volunteer or a librarian, bookseller or agent, ThrillerFest folks are truly that congenial.

I really should've offered him my smoothie.

I really should’ve offered him my smoothie.

Rather than share my own ThrillerFest experiences this year, I thought I’d give you a glimpse through the eyes of some of my favorite attendees. I’m so honored to share their thoughts, and hope you’ll not only read their words, but visit their websites. I suspect that you’ll be grateful you did.

*****

JOHN DIXON, Author of Phoenix Island (Simon & Schuster / Gallery, February 2014), inspiration for the upcoming CBS TV series Intelligence, starring Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger:

“This was my third and favorite ThrillerFest, partly because I came to it loaded with happy news—my first book deal and the stop-the-presses announcement that CBS TV ordered the show based on my debut novel—but mostly because of the people with whom I could share it: excellent friends, some old, some new, all of them smart and charming and practically glowing with good energy. That’s the magical thing about ThrillerFest; everyone, from bestsellers to aspiring authors, comes together in the spirit of celebration and support. I’m already looking forward to next July!”

Twitter: @johndixonbooks
Facebook: John Dixon

Left to Right: Todd Gerber, John Dixon, Kyle Steele and Peter Aragno

Todd Gerber, John Dixon, Kyle Steele and Peter Aragno

JON McGORAN, Author of Drift

“I didn’t get to many panels, but the ones I went to were excellent. The YA panel was particularly good. R. L. Stine did a great job moderating, hilarious as always, but he also managed to keep things moving and informative, with lots of great insights from Barry Lyga, Michelle Gagnon, Lissa Price, Kat Rosenfield, Linda Gerber, and Allen Zadoff. The best part, of course, was seeing old friends and making new ones. It’s not always easy being a writer, and you definitely make sacrifices, but once again I was reminded that one of the best perks of being a writer is being able to hang out with such amazing, smart, warm and hilarious people.”

Twitter: @JonMcGoran
Website: http://www.jonmcgoran.com

AUSTIN S. CAMACHO, author of the Hannibal Jones thriller series:

“ThrillerFest was one great moment after another. The highlight for me may have been seeing Ann Rice interviewed by her son (Christopher is the best interviewer EVER!) But my favorite memories are meeting with so many Facebook friends I’d never met in person before. Yeah, turning those electronic pals into 3-dimensional friends that was a series of favorite memories. And many will join me at the next great conference, Creatures, Crimes & Creativity.”

Twitter: @ascamacho
Facebook: Austin Camacho / Mystery Thriller Author

Austin S. Camacho

Austin S. Camacho and Maria Hudgins

D.P. LYLE, MD, ITW VP Education/Member Services; CraftFest Director; Author of the Edgar-nominated author of the Dub Walker Thriller Series:

“ThrillerFest was very special this year and I have many great memories including being ravaged, or is it savaged?, by a host off insane vampirettes, dinner with the wonderful R.L. and Jane Stine at their marvelous home and again at the Awards Banquet, and the opportunity to interview my friend and Spotlight Guest T. Jefferson Parker. And of course hanging in the bar with August as well as Heather Graham, Jennifer Hughes, Kathy Antrim, Twist Phelan and her husband Jack, Hans Watford, Phil Donlay, Bob and Pat Gussin, Tony and Tori Eldridge, and many others.”

Twitter: DPLyleMD
Website: www.dplylemd.com

D.P. Lyle and his throng! (Me, Amy Shojai, Carol Shenold, Twist Phelan)

D.P. Lyle and his throng! (Alexandra Sokoloff, Me, Amy Shojai, Carol Shenold and Twist Phelan)

 DANIEL PALMER, author of Delirious, Helpless and Stolen:

“Interviewing my father in front of a packed ballroom during his Author Spotlight appearance was a highlight, as well as an honor and a privilege.”

Twitter: @DanielPalmer
Website: http://www.danielpalmerbooks.com

Daniel and Michael Palmer

Daniel Palmer and Michael Palmer

BOYD MORRISON, Author of the Tyler Locke Thriller Series:

“Because the Yankees catcher Chris Stewart is a fan of my books, he arranged for me and my wife to get field passes and tickets to the game on Saturday. We had a fantastic time meeting him and watching the game from great seats. Not a bad perk for being a writer!”

Twitter: @BoydMorrison
Website: www.boydmorrison.com

IMG_0598

AMANDA KYLE WILLIAMS, Author of the Key Street Thriller Series:

“No one understands the panic of blowing a deadline or the fear of dry days like another writer. This is one of my favorite things about conferences like ThrillerFest. It’s one big therapy session. Usually in the bar.”

Twitter: @AKyleWilliams
Website: http://amandakylewilliams.com

Amanda Kyle Williams, Carla Buckley, Julia Heaberlin and Stefanie Pintoff

Amanda Kyle Williams, Carla Buckley, Julia Heaberlin and Stefanie Pintoff

ANNE RICE, Internationally Celebrated, Award-Winning Author of the The Vampire Chronicles (and so much more!)

“What I loved most about ThrillerFest was the generous high spirits of the top flight professional authors who’d come there to host and to mingle with all sorts of up and coming and aspiring writers. I mean the whole atmosphere was hospitable and fun, from start to finish, and it gave aspiring writers a chance to connect with professionals, to learn from them about craft and to connect with top flight agents. It was a terrific event. I felt so welcome. I want to support the International Thrillers Writers in any way I can.”

Twitter: @AnneRiceAuthor
Facebook: Anne Rice Fan Page

This year Anne was awarded the International Thriller Writers Lifetime Achievement Award! Congratulations, Anne!

Christopher Rice and Anne Rice, holding her brand spankin' new award!

Anne Rice with her son and fellow author, Christopher Rice, holding her brand spankin’ new award!

I have chills thinking of how inspiring these folks, and many others who attended ThrillerFest, are. I could go on and on and on… Instead, I’ll pass the mic to you. If you attended ThrillerFest, what was your favorite part? Are you thinking of going next year? Any questions for me and/or other attendees? I always love hearing your thoughts. ♥

A Peek Inside ‘Big 6’ Author Life: Amanda Kyle Williams

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.

Cup of coffee and book

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: @AKyleWilliams.)

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.

AKW: My publisher decided to run a nice little promo on the eBook edition of the first book in the series, The Stranger You Seek—$0.99 wherever eBooks are sold in the U.S. The promotion runs through May 19th.The 3rd book in the series, Don’t Talk To Strangers, is scheduled to release February 11th. We thought this would be a great way for new readers to discover the Keye Street Stranger series and jump in at the beginning in advance of the 3rd release.

*****

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.

Image
In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer is pushing the city to its breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer, A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: Keye Street, an ex–FBI profiler and former addict who now picks up jobs where she can get them. But the last thing Keye wants is to be pulled into the firestorm of Atlanta’s worst nightmare. And then it suddenly becomes clear that the hunter has become the hunted—and the stranger she seeks is far closer than she ever dared imagine.

Available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N and more.

IN HER SHADOW Thrill-fest and Release Party!

When I finished the first draft of my novel, I called my mom, sniffling. “You should rest,” she said. “You just birthed a novel.”

baby book names

Yes, as a parent and poet, Mom gets it. I hesitate to draw many parenting/writing comparisons, not having kids myself. Judging from what others who do have shared, however, numerous parallels fit. “Birthing” a book is intense, exciting, gratifying, sometimes painstaking and frustrating work, all made more enjoyable, manageable and profound by the support of others. So I suppose I should now welcome you all to my “baby” shower. May the diaper games begin! 😉 Kidding. As bizarre fun as that sounds, I think we’ll venture elsewhere, starting with what matters most at this party: you all.

I can’t thank you all enough for joining me in my journey this past year-plus, in whatever capacity you have. I wish I could list everyone I’m grateful to by name, but that would be about as breezy to read as one of those “old fashioned” phone books. Here are the highlights:

I’m particularly grateful to my parents for never saying “don’t” and always saying “dream;” my husband, for reading nearly every word of my every draft and tolerating my maniacal writer-dom in ways even I sometimes can’t; my friend and mentor Mike Sirota, for running my pages through the Simon Cowel-like ringer and being there through days dark and bright; my agent John Rudolph for believing in me, thinking outside of the box and helping me become a stronger writer; digital publishing manager Yassine Belkacemi for uploads, formatting and fielding my endless questions with considerable patience; Steena Holmes for her beautiful work on my cover and tireless support; and my furry and feathered office pals, Zoe and Wombley, whose animal-love I thrive on.

To my blogging friends, the WANA crowd and Jedi master Kristen Lamb, fabulous folks I’ve met through Bouchercon, ThrillerFest and the Southern California Writers Conference and friends I’ve fallen in writer-love with through words and pages, THANK YOU. I hope you know you’re like permanently implanted in my heart. 😉

Now for the FUN STUFF!

I’m stoked and honored to invite you all to the IN HER SHADOW Thrill-Fest Giveaway raffle. Some of my favorite thriller authors have joined in by offering up some spectacular prizes. Up for grabs include signed books by Amanda Kyle Williams, David Freed, DP Lyle, Donna Galanti, Stacy Green and Amy Shojai. I’ll be giving away three copies IN HER SHADOW, hot off the presses in a couple of weeks, each accompanied by an interview with me.

A lowdown of the prizes:

Each prize includes a signed book and, in most cases, an interview with the author. The interviews may be conducted by phone, Skype or email and, potentially, shared on your blog or website. You can also gift your prize to a thriller-loving or “writerly” friend. The interview details will be worked out via email, based on the author’s preference and what works for you, at the raffle’s end. Check out these tantalizing covers:


raffle books

How to enter:

Hop over to the GIVEAWAY tab on my Facebook page, using this link. The raffle widget will guide you through a variety of simple ways to support participating books and authors. While not necessary for the raffle, I hope that when you visit the authors’ Amazon pages, you’ll click that little “like” button if you indeed like what you see. You can also gain raffle points by commenting on this post. (See below.)

The raffle ends this Saturday, January 12th at midnight. You can utilize every raffle option once daily, today through Saturday, for a maximum of 50 raffle points per day. Not too shabby, right?

For even MORE fun, join me and my friend Karina, the Goddess of Terrifying Trivia, tonight for a virtual launch party on Facebook. We’ll be giving out more prizes and having a heck of a lot of goofy, thriller-related fun. The party goes from 5pm to 9pm PST, and you’re welcome to pop by for a virtual drink or linger all party long. You can also join us on Twitter: #InHerShadow. For further details, visit:

IN HER SHADOW Thrill-Fest Launch Party on Facebook

In Her Shadow - Finalx2

I hope to see you there! So much love and gratitude,

August

*Using the following prompt, post a comment below between today and Saturday for another chance to win. I’ll give 10 extra points for the most creative comment. Ready…set…GO!

How is writing like or unlike childbirth or parenthood?

Amanda Kyle Williams on Writing, Inspiration & Her Latest Hit

I was packing my bags in New York after attending ThrillerFest this past summer and nearly left Amanda Kyle Williams’ The Stranger You Seek as the hotel maid’s gift. Don’t get me wrong. The cool-book-take-away is a major perk of writer’s conferences. But I was using all of my might to close my overstuffed suitcase and refused to pay the $30 fee for checking it. (A matter of principle. Besides, wouldn’t you prefer books in lieu of cash tips?)

But then I read the first page. And the next and the next… I couldn’t put it down. The “stranger” I nearly abandoned kept me enthralled through a subway ride, airport security lines, a layover and a lengthy flight to Los Angeles, so much so I jumped when the flight attendant asked whether I’d like a beverage.

If you love thrillers, mysteries, suspense, captivating characters, supreme wittiness, great stories and great writing…Heck, if the last book you read was that dilapidated phone book in the back of your closet…I suggest you read this book. It’s so fantastic, I feel guilty having not shared it with the hotelkeeper and my bookworm heart aches at the thought of nearly missing it. (Reaches for a tissue. ;))

What others are saying about The Stranger You Seek:

“An electrifying thriller debut, The Stranger You Seek introduces a brash, flawed, and unforgettable heroine in a complex, twisting novel that takes readers deep into a sultry Southern summer, a city in the grips of chaos, and a harrowing cat-and-mouse game no reader will ever forget.”—Random House

“This is a character-driven, nonstop thriller with flashes of wit and romance that builds to a harrowing climax; fans of the genre will want to get in at the start.” —Booklist

“An explosive, unpredictable, and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction cliches inside out….Those looking for a strong female protagonist not a sexpot and as intelligent, tough, and flawed as any male thriller hero will be richly rewarded.” Publishers Weekly 

Now, without further ado, Ms. Amanda Kyle Williams…


AM: THE STRANGER YOU SEEK is what one might call your “breakout” novel. How does it feel to move from pre-published mystery novelist to celebrated author?
AKW: Well, it is my first major market novel so I’m pretty excited.  It’s okay to walk up and down the street wearing a sandwich sign advertising it, right?   To be honest, I’m still a little amazed. I’m a new name in mainstream crime fiction, but I’ve been blessed with some really fabulous reviews from Publisher’s WeeklyKirkusBooklist, and The New York Times. And some wonderful established writers have taken me under their wing and been very kind in helping to promote the book. I have a great publishing house that supports me and is willing to invest in the success of this series. We’re hoping word will spread about a new kind of thriller with a very different kind of protagonist.

AM: Your main character is unique and likable. We really feel as though we’re in her head. How did you come up with Keye Street?
AKW: She’s in my head too.  Can you make her go away? Seriously. Okay, I’m kidding. Kind of. Truth is, Keye sort of just arrived on my doorstep fully formed. It’s the only experience I’ve ever had like this in creating a character. I heard her voice, her irreverent tone; I saw her face.  I knew a whole lot about her without doing any of the preliminary work I would normally do in sketching out a character. I really have no explanation for this. Keye was handed to me. But it took a bit of inspiration to get to that point.

I knew I wanted to write crime fiction. I’d been doing my homework for years to prepare to write a criminal investigative analyst intelligently. I wanted to understand how an analyst or profiler would approach a crime scene, an investigation, how one might work with a police department, and how a police department would work with a consultant. So all this had been running through my head, but I hadn’t found that voice, that right character. I ended up finding it in the most unusual place.

I was at my brother’s house one Thanksgiving. He had adopted my niece Anna from China as an infant. She was four or five that year. So this gorgeous Asian child looks up at me and says something. I don’t even remember what because I was so knocked over by her accent. She’d learned her English in the hills of North Georgia and she sounded like Ellie May Clampett. I started thinking on the drive back to Atlanta that night about what it would be like to grow up looking different from the neighbors in the South, while being a full-fledge Southerner.

I began to envision a character with these differences: Chinese, adopted by white southern parents. I pulled over that night on the Interstate and wrote the early lines for the book.  Everything else about Keye Street just landed on me. Her insecurities, her sense of humor, her propensity for inappropriate laughter,  and her Krispy Kreme habit.  And the dark side— her other addictions and demons, her past with alcohol, intimacy issues,  and her ability to make sense of behaviors evidenced at a crime scene. I was working two and sometimes three jobs at the time so it took more years to finish the book, but it began for me that night when Keye was born on I-75 South to Atlanta.

AM: What’s your writing process like?
AKW:
Well I can tell you that it was much more disciplined before The Stranger You Seek was released. Publicity is a welcome distraction. I’m so grateful for it. But it is certainly a distraction.  I’m fighting now to get back to my usual, which is treating it like a job, showing up after morning dog walks and chores by about ten a.m., and putting in a minimum of six hours, more if I have it in me. I’m a slow writer and a relentless content editor. I’m that writer that will spend an hour tweaking one sentence and feeling unable to move forward until it’s tweaked. This slows the process. It’s not recommended. I’ve read all kinds of books about silencing the editor within but it’s not happening for me.

AM: Please tell me you have a cat named White Trash! 😉 What role do animals play in your writing? 
AKW: That’s so funny. Actually, my first cousin had a cat named White Trash many years ago. I thought it was hilarious. I was committed to bringing her to the page one day, this cat with the bad attitude and a mighty sense of entitlement. Animals are part of my life and, in fact, every one of my friends has animals. I had a pet sitting and dog walking business before I was a writer full-time, and I’m a founding director at a local no-kill shelter, which I link to on my website www.AmandaKyleWilliams.com. When I’m traveling, I miss my dogs and my cats. Besides bad coffee, I’m finding it’s the hardest part of leaving home.

It feels natural to bring this to my writing in small ways. Keye’s mother, Emily Street, has been working in the humane community for years and is kind of the crazy cat lady on the block. I will bring a dog into one of my character’s life by the end of the second book, Stranger In The Room.  I don’t want to distract from the fact that I’m writing a thriller series. The books are creepy as hell. But it feels natural for my characters to have to think about getting home to feed a cat or hire a dog walker or whatever.  And I will never, ever harm an animal in fiction. Never. I heard writers on a panel not long ago saying they do this to illustrate the disposition of their killer. Whatever. I’m not doing it.

AM: What do you find most challenging about writing?
AKW: 
Just f-ing doing it, man. (Laughing) Sitting down. Being still. Being calm. Clearing out the cobwebs.  Listening to the story, to the characters. Slogging through the first few hours of writing total crap to get to the good stuff.  The good stuff will come if I just trust the process and nail myself to the chair. Some days this is easier than others.

AM: What do you love most?
AKW: Reading back through something and discovering it works, that it flows, that it’s smarter than I am, that somehow my writing took flight.  That and hearing my editor say the draft was approved.

AM: Any tips for up-and-coming authors?
AKW: Don’t wait for the big idea. Don’t wait for a rush of inspiration. Just sit down and start building a foundation brick-by-brick, word-by-word. The inspiration comes for me after I’ve pushed through building some kind of framework. That’s when you get to write the fun stuff.

AM: Can we look forward to more Keye Street adventures soon?
AKW:
Absolutely. Stranger In The Room is being polished up right now and will be released sometime summer/fall 2012. The third book in the series, Don’t Talk To Strangers, comes out in 2013. Bantam will publish the next two. I have many more books planned in the series. And we’re fielding offers to adapt The Stranger You Seek for a television series… Did that sound cool or what? Like this kind of stuff happens all the time. I’m practicing being all casual. Apparently squealing like a little girl and jumping up and down is embarrassing to my friends and family. Go figure.

******

CONTEST! Purchase The Stranger You Seek and email me a copy of your receipt. I’ll place your name in a drawing for a $15 Amazon.com gift card.

Any thoughts to share with the fabulous Amanda Kyle Williams? Favorite books you almost didn’t read? I always love hearing from you.