Saturday, 11 November 2017

Diana talks to the writing team of Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly

I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!

Hello! I am pleased to welcome you both to 'Diana Talks' ... I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
We’ll pose a question that we get asked often. How do two people write as one? Contrary to what folks might think, we don’t divvy up chapters. Gary doesn’t take all the odd numbered chapters; Vicky all the even. Our process starts with an idea that we discuss turning into a story. Next, we create a chapter outline, which includes story timing, characters, mysteries revealed, mysteries solved, etc. We do initial research if needed. From there, we move to writing. Gary generally takes the first pass, then Vicky makes a second pass. Thus, our writing is layered. In this manner, we maintain a consistency of story flow and pace.

What is the genre you are best known for? Thrillers. To date, we haven’t strayed from this genre, although sometimes they border on mysteries and have been known to have a supernatural element to some of them.

If your upcoming book, provisionally titled Blood Legacy, was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Blood Legacy, releasing early in 2018, marks our second full-length novel with American CIA Agent Samuel Tolen. We first introduced Tolen in the short story, Before the Proof, and he was subsequently featured in our best-selling novel, Indisputable Proof. We once had Denzel Washington pegged as our perfect actor to play Tolen, an African American in his mid-40s. Since a few years have slipped away, we feel either Shemar Moore, most recently of the American television series Criminal Minds, or Idris Elba, star of many popular movie thrillers, would be more age-appropriate choices.

What made you choose this genre? For Gary, it’s what he most enjoys reading. It’s the action, mysteries, deception, clues, and treasure hunts that appeal to him. Writers such as Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Matthew Reilly, Steve Berry, James Rollins. For Vicky, who has a love of the English language and teaches business writing to sometimes unwilling students, it’s about the escape into realms where action, adventure, and plot lines take precedence over form, style, and function.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters? Mostly from uncovering or learning about a historic mystery or some nugget of historical information that we find fascinating and that’s not general knowledge. In this way, it gives us an opportunity to educate our readers. We always make sure to include Authors’ Notes at the end of each novel to specify what information in the story is factual and what comes from our imagination.

Favourite picture or work of art? Gary: I consider manmade structures a work of art. With that said, I’m going with the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Vicky: One of my all-time favorite (I’m using the American spelling of this word!) paintings is by Salvador Dali.  It’s titled Lincoln in Dalivision, and it incorporates a number of themes into a single image. It’s a brilliant piece of work.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Funny you should ask. As a side project, we’re working on a humorous book. We haven’t even mentioned it to our publisher, so we’re not sure when it will be finished or who might publish it, as our publisher specifically handles thrillers and mysteries. We have no timeline for completion, so we’ll have to see what happens.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously?
For both of us, it was a later-in-life decision. Gary was in his mid-forties, still working full-time in the corporate business world, and had self-published some books, one of which Vicky read. While she liked the story, they needed rewrites and editorial work. This was how we met, when Vicky gave Gary feedback on a novel in late 2007. From there, Gary suggested that we team up. Even though we’ve never lived in the same city, by early next year we’ll have published our 8th novel.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
Gary: I had to look it up. Never heard of it. Based on the description, I think I’ll pass. Vicky: I tried Vegemite when I was in Australia, and it was ok.  I’ll try anything once!

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
Gary: Not really. I just need quiet, uninterrupted time. When figuring out the plot, especially if there’s a snag, I tend to do it while highway driving, or some other rote activity that frees my mind. I think more clearly.
Vicky: Since I work a full-time job at a university, teach as an adjunct professor, and am currently a doctoral student working on my dissertation, writing is my “me time,” so it happens in the evenings and on weekends, and like Gary, I prefer chunks of quiet, uninterrupted time.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Gary: I’m not answering this on the grounds it could incriminate me. Vicky:  Haha, I have to agree with Gary on this one, but just so you know, I’ve cried when we kill off a character in previous novels.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Gary: I think I’d like to own a bar as long as I had enough capital not to worry about slowdowns in business.
Vicky: I’ve always wanted to grow grapes and make wine in Italy (when I retire).

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Gary: Definitely coffee. Not a big wine drinker; I prefer craft beers. Vicky: Coffee in the morning, hot tea in the afternoon, and red wine at night.  They are the elixirs of life!

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
As mentioned before, once we have an idea and characters, we outline each chapter. Although, truthfully, it’s a loose outline that we continually adjust as we write. Sometimes, it’s because we think of a better way to accomplish a scene. Sometimes, it’s because we learn a fact (maybe historical?) that we realize we should integrate into the plot. Because of how we create mysteries and sometimes lead our characters to incorrect assumptions, an outline is critical to keeping us sane as we write.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
It’s done in Times New Roman 12 pt. It works for us.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Gary: I would love to get my hands on the historical documents that were lost in the fire that consumed the Library of Alexandria nearly 2,000 years ago. The amount of historical records lost was staggering. Vicky: The original of the U.S. Constitution.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
No, can’t say that’s happened to us. The outline prevents it, although they may occasionally make odd comments or do quirky things.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Research? Tons and tons. We ingrain history into every novel, so research is paramount. We have taken a few trips to scout out scene locations or attend academic lectures.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
We tend to keep real characters at bay. Although, for mild comic relief, we have named fictional characters after real people. For example, in our trilogy (Death in the Beginning, Evil in the Beginning, and End in the Beginning), one of the star players is named Curt Lohan. On multiple occurrences, he is forced to deny any ancestry to an actress bearing this same last name.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Absolutely. In our eyes, the best fiction takes something real, something tangible (place, people, history) and then bends the events into an interesting story. We constantly take those tangibles and ask, “What if?” to extrapolate possible scenarios that might have been or might be. The trick is to do so in a way that makes the story believable, unless you’ve already identified the plot as “beyond the realm of possibility.” This is the reason we specify at the end of each story what is real and what is fiction.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Yes, and that’s a good thing, since that’s how we make our living.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
All writers tend to fall in love with their protagonists and antagonists. You love them for their good and their evil. It’s like a parent will always love their children no matter what they do. The hardest part is killing off a protagonist that you’ve grown especially fond of. It’s like losing a family member.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Gary: Same as what we write: thrillers & mysteries. I do enjoy the occasional biography or non-fiction work based on some historical incident. Beyond that, I enjoy researching the Internet for articles on new historical finds.
Vicky: Reading for pleasure? What’s that?

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
Gary: I’m always partial to a good IPA beer. Or maybe a red ale. Vicky: Whatever one’s favorite beverage of choice might be.

Last but not least... favourite author?

Gary: I think I’d have to say Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Vicky: That’s a tough one, because I love so many.  Other than that dynamic duo, Williams and Knerly, I’d have to go with Stephen King for the sheer variety and deliciously bizarre plots that come out of that man’s brain.

Books by Williams and Knerly are available here

You can catch the duo at their Facebook page or Twitter @WilliamsKnerly

About the duo:

Gary Williams was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and resides in St. Augustine, Florida with his wife. He attended Florida State University and has a bachelor's degree in Business Marketing from University of North Florida. Once a corporate manager, he now writes full time. His hobbies and interests include reading, fishing, history, and football.

Vicky Knerly is a native of Syracuse, New York. She has two sons and currently resides in Melbourne, Florida. She has a bachelor's degree in English and two masters' degrees, and she has won awards for her research-based writing. She currently works as the Assistant Director of Student Services and is an adjunct professor for Florida Institute of Technology.

Gary Williams and Vicky Knerly partnered in 2008 and, in 2011, they signed with Suspense Publishing based in Los Angeles, California.

In August 2014, Amazon Publishing relaunched Williams and Knerly's digital titles: Death in the Beginning (The God Tools: Book 1), Evil in the Beginning (The God Tools: Book 2), Before the Proof, Three Keys to Murder, Manipulation, and their best-selling title, Indisputable Proof.

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly 2017

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