Every week we feature a Q&A session with one of our Crime Cymru authors. This week, GB Williams describes her writing process and talks about how she copes with keeping up with ideas.
Give us a brief introduction to you.
I’m GB Williams. I write contemporary crime. I’ve originally from Kent, however, I’ve lived in Wales for nearly 30 years now. I work full time (not as a writer), I’m married, two children and seem to be rather bossed about by the world’s most imperious cat.
Do you read other novels while you’re working? If so, what is your preferred genre?
Oh yes! I have in the last couple of years I’ve really got into listening to audible. The thing is, I spend my days staring at computer screens, and then when I’m writing it’s usually directly on the laptop, so my eyes get very tired. This means that of late I’ve mostly listened to books, which really works for me, when not in lockdown I spend two hours a day in a car, and often listen to books when commuting. I also find that because my work is mathematically based, I can listen to books while working, and I enjoy that. So, I often listen. I listen to loads of different genres, crime does feature heavily, but sometimes that gets a bit much, so I’ll listen to steampunk, comedy, self-help, and this year I’m making a conscious effort to catch up on a load of classics, Austen, Bronte, Woolf. In fact, the only time I definitely won’t listen to an audio book is when I’m writing. At the moment I am actually reading, as in the physical sense of reading, “The Invisible Man” by HG Wells.
How would you describe your writing process?
Erratic. I have just too many books in my head. Right now, I’ve about ten different book plots rattling around and vying for attention, and I know them all reasonably well. Because I’m thinking of all these different things, I’m often picking up research for them as I’m writing other books. Right now, I’m picking up a lot of stuff on the Knights Templar and Joseph of Arimathea, because I have a book on that theme that I’m planning to write in the not too distant future. What happens is that I’ll get scenes come to me as to what I want to write in any of these different books. I may make a note of such things, but don’t often write the full scenes down out of order, not for crime anyway. But I’ll play them over and over in my head. Then I get a total blank when I get to that scene to write on the page, and make something else up. Because of the way I live with a lot of time at work, I will write pretty much anywhere at any time. Most of the time I’ll write in the evening, but if I’ve got a long protocol running in work, I’ll jot down a few sentences. I usually have a notebook with me, and if not, I always have a phone, so I’ll type stuff out. I’ve also found a free to use speech recognition system which is pretty good, so I use that to dictate stuff. The oddity is that I also write in another genre and I write that very differently. When I write crime I write from the start to the end, linear as the reader would read it. When I write steampunk, I literally write the scenes as they come to mind, which means the I spend a lot of time editing and stitching things together. It’s harder to write that way, which is, I think why I don’t do it with the crime writing. Oh, and I’m often writing several books at the same time. Right this second, I’ve got on deliver on a steampunk book I’m contracted for, which means I’m concentrated on writing that, at the same time, I’m writing a police procedural, and planning the next standalone. So yeah, my writing process is erratic.
Do you think of the twists first then the story, or does this change every time?
Changes every time. Every book. Every time I give the plot any sort of consideration. What I find is that my characters will not behave themselves, they do what they want, and I often let them, so I go with that which in turn, turns the storyline. Sometimes I’ll hear something on the news and decide to incorporate that. My usual thing is to get the over-arching storyline and write that, then the characters throw in the subplots and I like to play with that.
If you’ve spent time researching for your book, how difficult is it to not overload the reader?
Actually, fairly easy. As I said in a previous answer, the major plot drivers, I research in advance, so it tends to be the big things that stay in my head and therefore hit the page. When I’m writing I might come across something I suddenly need to know and I’ll Google it. So when I was writing Locked Up, I suddenly needed to know how wide a standard prison cell was, so I looked it up (6 ft by the way) but because I was in the middle of actually writing something I was distracted by the usually rabbit hole of research, but not for long as I wanted to get back to the writing. I did go back after that scene was written and check out some more of the details, but they didn’t all go on the page, because there was never any reason to put them there.
What’s coming up for you this/next year?
I have a standalone novel coming out this year – I hope! The novel, “The Chair” has been accepted as a standalone by Welsh Publisher Black Bee, and was due for release Autumn this year, but with the pressure of covid-19 lockdown affecting everything, I’m not now sure when exactly it will be out, still hoping for 2020 though. Like most people all my plans for conventions et al have gone out of the window, I have a couple of weeks off in September, so if Bloody Scotland is on this year, I may go, but at the moment everything is up in the air. So most of my plans this year is to write. But there again, that’s the fun bit anyway, so I’m happy.
Do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how/where?
Oh yes. And it’s not just about the country. All action takes place somewhere, and I want the reader to feel that. In “Locked Up”, there’s a real sense of the claustrophobia to reflect the nature of prison. With the rest of the Locked Series, there is also the sense of where things are. I draw out street plans, keep notes on what directions things are relatively to others so that I’m consistent. I also try to bring in the weather a lot. Parts of “The Chair” takes place on Cader Idris, so the height there has quite an effect on the weather, and that had to be brought in, especially with the description of the mountain, and the shelters there.
Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?
“The Chair” is more of an ensemble cast than any other book I’ve written before, but the real leads are Branwen Jones and Cobb. Cobb does have a first name, but he doesn’t talk about it. Branwen Jones grew up in Pen Y Cwm, leaving only long enough to become a qualified vet, she’s haunted by the past, the past of her family, her life, the darkness she hates about herself, and she’s rapidly reaching the end of her patience with the isolation of the area. Cobb came looking for the mountain life, choosing to isolate himself from the world. He needed to leave behind the pain and troubles of a life that had taken such a toll on him.
What their friends think of them: Loyal, intelligent, strong, reserved, loving
What their enemies think of them: Dogged, ferocious, unrelenting, unforgiving,
Their most dreaded thought: Murder of a loved one
Their perfect partner (at work): Someone mindful of his talents and pain
What their friends think of them: Intelligent, oddly reserved, loving, capable, lonely
Their most embarrassing moment to date: Getting caught in flagrante in the backseat of a car
Their office: Tidy, efficient, open to animals
Their perfect partner (sexual): Cobb
Will there be a sequel?
No. I was thinking about it, but the story sits so completely in and of itself, what happens to each of the character is wrapped up so well that I felt any additional book would actually dilute the joy of this novel. Sometimes things are best left unextended.
What’s next? A series or something entirely different? Continuing to build the portfolio?
One of the books that I’m working on is the first of a series, but right now I’m finishing a steampunk series, then I have this new standalone that I just can’t wait to write, and no, not the Knights Templar one, that will come after. See, too many ideas in my head.
Read more about GB Williams
To discover GB Williams’ books, follow the link here to her Amazon page