I welcome M.K. Williams to my blog this week. She is the author of two extraordinary books full of suspense and mystery. Please welcome her and leave a comment or question. We both would love to hear from you.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first novel, Nailbiters, originated from a very scary and detailed dream that I had about an alien invasion. The book features several key scenes from that dream. As you read you’ll find passages that have added detail, this would be one of the original passages that I wrote when I was trying to get everything from the dream down on paper.
For my latest book, The Games You Cannot Win, each story had a very different inspiration. The first story, In This Business, was inspired by own struggle to decide whether to self-publish or not. The final story in the collection, Escaping Avila Chase, had multiple points of inspiration from celebrity headlines to my own concern that the people closest too me could read my work and try to find themselves in a story.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
The two authors who influenced me the most have been Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. I love how they tell stories and their published comments on publishing, persistence, and how to be a writer. In the last few years Margaret Atwood has had a large influence on my writing as well.
What would you say is one of your writing quirks?
When I first began to write stories in earnest, they were very dialog heavy. When I write now I try to keep that in mind so that I have the right balance of dialog and narration.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My parents loved to read and books were constantly available in my household growing up. From that I developed a respect for writing and authors and that lead me to aspire to one day write my own books.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes I worry that I’m not able to find right balance of building suspense and exposition. I often go back over chapters multiple times to make sure it is something that would keep me reading. It is a very delicate ratio and I usually spend most of my time worrying about this detail.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Have fun. If you are trying to be a writer to make a fortune, then you have picked the wrong hobby. Have fun, if you do that will show through in your writing and that will lead to success. Letting your passion drive your writing, not profit, will make for a more enjoyable book.
What book are you introducing to us today?
My most recent book, The Games You Cannot Win. This book is a collection of short stories. I always love to mix in short stories when I am in between larger books or series to visit several little worlds in a short time.
How did you come up with the title?
Each of the stories in the collection deals with characters who are trapped in some kind of systematic or interpersonal game. I wanted readers to come away with the idea that these situations do exist and can be frustrating, but only to the extent that we let them.
Tell us what you like about the main characters of this book.
My favorite characters are in the final story, Escaping Avila Chase. The title character, Avila, is only in the story for a very short amount of time when the reader gets to see who she really is. The majority of the story is told from the point of view of Trevor, her ex-boyfriend, whose memories of her are very warped and dark. So, there is the Avila that the audience hears about for most of the story based on Trevor’s perspective, and then there is the real Avila that we all get to see at the end. I also tried to make sure that the city of Philadelphia was as much a character of the story as any of the other people included in the tale. The city provided an excellent landscape and has a unique personality of its own that couldn’t be ignored.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I could write the stories that I really want to. It took a lot of effort, but I was able to do it. After writing Nailbiters, a sci-fi thriller, I worried that I might box myself into one genre. I wanted to see if I could test myself to write the stories that were in my mind the way that they needed to be.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
I hope that they remember the questions that linger in their mind. Each story tackles some complex social issues in addition to the daily troubles of the characters. I constructed each story to leave some questions behind, to keep people thinking. I hope that they all remember to ask themselves those questions and mull them over.
Please share an excerpt from the book.
This is an excerpt from Escaping Avila Chase, the final story in the book The Games You Cannot Win.
Without really trying to, I was walking by the book store. Closed and dark, the street reflected clearly on the slick glass of the storefront. I could see a stark reflection of my outline, with the empty park and the nearby lights. Behind the glass, separating me from the instrument of my insanity were the posters of Avila’s staring eyes and an artfully stacked pile of her book, Scarlett: Avenged. A thousand pairs of her eyes glared at me, like a giant arachnid with its prey ensnared. I was looking back into my doom.
I pondered my predicament for a while on that street. No one else was around, which was eerie and peculiar. I began to think of what last desperate acts I could make to stop the next day from coming. I could find a brick, a stray rock, or a heavy trashcan and throw it into the glass. I would shatter that clean and smooth poster and send the books tumbling. I could criminally maneuver a way into the back of the store and steal the volumes of the freshly printed novel and squirrel them away so that no one could ever read the words in my hoard. I could pile each of those books in the center of the store and strike a match to watch her words burn.
I went so far as to think of pulling a different book from the shelves. Perhaps one that had an inflammatory message, so as to avoid suspicion. If a crazed religious nut broke into the bookstore and burned every version of the latest romance novel or some magic-based series for children, and Avila’s book just happened to be burned up in the process, I would distance myself from suspicion. I envisioned the investigation that would follow and that the inspector would not be focused on those with a known aversion to Avila.
The plans unfolded in my head so easily, I could easily explain my alibi and make it home quickly to get a verified location at the time of the crime. I knew the master code to disarm several alarm systems. I figured that there would be a janitor’s closet or a storage room with some kind of combustible chemicals to spray over the books. I was skint on matches, but made a mental note to check for some in the drawers behind the cash register.
I would have gone through with it all too, if it hadn’t become abundantly obvious that I wouldn’t be able to destroy every copy in the city, let alone every copy in the state or country. The book would likely be available online as well; it would find its way into millions of homes on illuminated screens. I wanted to rip out the pages that would reference the fictionalized character that Avila had written to represent me. I wanted to read it now and brace for the impact. I was so certain that she would have used this opportunity to rat me out and write me in. My hands clenched into fists reflexively as my mind spun around this new idea. I began to look around me for something to throw at the window.
To my left and right the sidewalk was clear except for imperceptible pebbles trapped in the cracks between the sidewalk blocks. No large chunk of cement broken off, no slate rock to throw. No stray bricks from the road were popping up. The closest trash can did appear to be bolted to the ground, so I knew that would be a non-starter.
The lack of resources exasperated me and validated that this evil plan should not be carried out. I stuck my fists into my jacket pocket and turned to walk home. It was a day of ruined plans.
I turned the corner and kept my head down against the wind blowing between the buildings. I passed the alley that was lined with dumpsters, where the back door to the bookstore would have been. I passed the additional posters advertising the event and continued past other closed store fronts. I was almost to the end of the block, with a clear right-of-way to continue walking, when I almost tripped on it.
I was so eager to cross the street in time to make the light, that I missed the rounded and bulbous rock. It was sitting precariously in the middle of the sidewalk and appeared to have been carefully placed there. How could it have made its way onto that exact street and into that position otherwise?
I could have picked it up, ran back to the store, and hurled the object in a matter of seconds. It appeared to me as a gift from the universe, a chance to stop the clock on my deadline with perpetual embarrassment and shame. I pictured my arm arching back and chucking the rock. I could almost hear the last shards of glass tinkling as they rained down on each other. My arm muscles began to twitch, as though anticipating the force about to be exerted. But I couldn’t move. I was frozen between indecision and uncharacteristic action. Would my arm throw another blow to Avila, this time bruising and scaring her professional face? Would I find the strength to just walk away and move on?