11 Things to Know About ‘Strange Ways’

Following the tradition established by my first book, I thought I would compile a quick list of things you should know about Strange Ways, my upcoming novel. Have a read through and if it gives you the reading tingles, go ahead and pre-order it!

1. Strange Ways is a sequel

My first book The End of the Line came out on 8th July 2019, and with Strange Ways coming out on 22nd June 2020, that means I’ll have had two novels out in the space of a year! This story takes place two or three years after the first book. Suffice to say, things have moved on for the characters since then (those still alive at least). I’ve been told by some readers that you don’t need to read the first to enjoy the second (and that was what I was aiming for) but, if you don’t want to take that chance, go on and treat yourself and read The End of the Line first.

2. It will be available in ebook and as an audiobook

Like the first book, Strange Ways will be published worldwide in ebook by the wonderful people at Canelo, meaning it’ll be available across Amazon, Apple , Google and Kobo. It will be published worldwide in audiobook by the fabulous folks of Bolinda Audio a little later this year. I’ve had no word as yet on who will be reading it, but The End of the Line was read wonderfully by the brilliant Nneka Okoye.

3. I had research help from someone who has volunteered her time in a real women’s prison

I wanted to do the prison setting some justice to lend it authenticity, not wanting to fall back on the perpetuated tropes and cliches of prison life (which gets very mixed up in the media, especially if you’re writing about a British prison and most of what you know comes from American television). To do this, I reached out to fellow author Mim Skinner, who wrote the non-fiction Jail Birds, which chronicled some of her experiences volunteering in a women’s prison. She was happy to help and kindly looked over relevant scenes. I learned so many things from reading her book and from her helpful notes on my inaccuracies. Anything I got wrong in the finished book is entirely my fault, however, and left in for the DRAMAAAA!

You should all get her book, which is both eye-opening and wonderful.

4. I wanted the idea to be equally as high-concept as The End of the Line

After straining my brain for months on the idea for a sequel to The End of the Line, it finally hit me as my wife and I were walking along a canal in East London, on our way back from seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I’d wanted to come up with a premise that was equally as high-concept as The End of the Line, while opening the world a little and allowing me to put my characters through the wringer. And there it was staring at me in the face, if you write about magic criminals, then its only fair that at some point you have to place them in magical prison.

5. Strange Ways took 18 months to write

Many writers will tell you this: after having spent 10 years writing my first book, having to produce a second one, from idea to finished copy, in a fraction of that time was a bit of a shock! But I’ve always had quite a regular writing schedule and once the idea was in place, the words started to flow. Ideas were explored, characters were better defined, others cut, my wonderful editors (I had two, one left for a new job and a new one came on board) gave me their opinions and, together we polished it to a high shine. Then, bloody hell, look at that, I’d written another book!

6. I wanted to expand the story’s wider world

Many people had said after reading The End of the Line how they wished that they’d had more of an opportunity to see the world in which the book was set, where magic was real and where anyone could do it. Granted, setting most of a book in a sealed box in Siberia wasn’t the best vantage point to showcase it! But the story came first and the world filled in as I wrote it, so there you go, sometimes writing a book is about compromise.

But with a second book, a blank canvas, I had more scope to listen to some of the desires of my readers so a good part of Strange Ways is set in London. Readers will finally be able to see more about the city and the underground trade of magic that flows through it, leading to the powerful criminals who profit from its illegality.

7. There’s even more character drama

If you’ve read The End of the Line, you’ll see that quite a bit happens to the main character, Amanda Coleman. I wanted to pick up on the actions and consequences of the first book and run with them. James Bond might be able to shake off fighting for his life but not Amanda Coleman. Get ready for guilt, anger and a quest to reconnect with what she fought so hard to salvage in The End of the Line. it’s totally emotional.

8. Strange Ways has a great set-up (at least I think so)

As I’ve mentioned before, Strange Ways is set a few years after The End of the Line. We rejoin Amanda as she continues to deal with the traumatic death of her family (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, its in the blurb!) and the consequences of the decisions she made on the train in Siberia.

Thrown in prison for a heist gone wrong (or did she self-sabotage?), Amanda receives a mysterious package. Though she’s in prison under an assumed identity to protect her from those looking for her after TEOTL, someone out there knows who she really is and her connections to the demonic carnage that transpired in the previous book. To keep herself and her remaining daughter safe, she has to accept the blackmailer’s mission, get transferred to Coldwater, the notorious island prison for magic users, and assassinate one of the inmates.

But the problem with having screwed over half of the criminals in London? She might just be about to meet an old enemy who has plans of his own.

9. It’s for people who like some magic in their thrillers

If you’re a fan of fact-paced supernatural thrillers like Ben Aarnovitch’s Rivers of London series, the Felix Castors by Mike Carey, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City then this is for you!

10. You’ve likely seen the cover designer’s work before

The cover is once again designed by Tom Sanderson, who also designed the cover for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth!

11. It’s already out in the world and readers are loving it!

The book has already had some great reviews. The first from a fellow supernatural thriller author, Phil Williams (no relation, I swear!):

Strange Ways is a great example of contemporary British fantasy; a gritty page-turner packed with creative twists on criminal magic.”

And readers have loved it too. Check out these two early reviews:

“Powerful character portraits… drive the reader through a rollercoaster of threat, suspense and engagingly weird stuff. Top notch and worth a read, an exuberant bit of escapism much-needed in these trying times.”

“[A] fast moving thriller that grips you from the start… outstanding characters… A hard hitting novel that is fast-paced. One of the best books I’ve read this year.”

So there you have it. If that tickles your fancy, please do consider getting Strange Ways in ebook or audiobook. And if you’d like the set, The End of the Line is already available in the same formats. You can even read some things to know about that book in my previous blog post 13 Things to Know About The End of the Line.

Big changes

It has been three months since the publication of The End of the Line. Where did the time go?! I always knew being published was going to be a life changing event but even three months ago I wouldn’t have been able to guess how life-changing it was going to be. For example…

I’ve quit my job!

Being published has been a life goal of mine since I was a teenager and once it was achieved it comes with the question ‘what next’? It prompted me to look at my life and consider what else I wanted to change, where did I see myself in the next few years? And after some thinking I came to a decision.

I went freelance!

I’ve been working in publishing for over twelve years. I’ve worked on some HUGE campaigns for AMAZING authors like Keith Richards, Linwood Barclay, Erica James and Anthony Horowitz to name but a few. I’ve run social media and newsletter campaigns, I’ve written great copy, helped make great advertising and pushed books up to No.1 in the Sunday Times bestsellers. And I want to keep doing that. Working with books and authors and taking on those challenges has long been something that’s made me happy and it’s something I want to keep doing and the only way to do that in an effective way was to head out on the road and become a gun for hire.

I made my own fancy freelance website (www.graemewilliamsmarketing.com), I’ve had business cards printed and now I’m having lots of meetings with lots of interesting people. I’m offering them campaign and project management, consultations, copywriting, web design, the lot and hopefully they’ll all start biting soon.

But I’m not only offering my services to publishers, I’m offering my services to individual authors as well. I’ll be advising on marketing strategies, running book promotions, helping authors with agent submissions and even offering author mentorships.

So wish me luck and if you need an extra pair of hands, then get in touch!

Seven things I’ve learned since Launch

It’s been over a month since The End of the Line was released! It’s out now! At this very moment, you can buy them herein ebook and audio. In my day job, I’ve ushered perhaps hundreds of debut authors out blinking into the sunlight. I’ve helped them make names for themselves, soothed their concerns and run their marketing campaigns to sell their books. Now I have a book of my own! They always say that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes and I have to say that there are a few things I understand a lot better now I’ve been the author instead of the marketer in the equation. More than can fit into a single blog, most likely, so let’s start small and look at things I’ve learned in the past month or so.

  1. Launch is a great feeling

Launch day was essentially like having a birthday. It was one of those days where you get lots of well-wishes, everyone is a bit nicer to you and you feel that, for just a smidge, the Universe revolves a little more around you. And there was a party at the end of it. It was a great day, knowing that (hypothetically) people you’d never met or even heard of were now able to pick up your book and read it. Not only that but they’d willingly parted with some of their hard-earned cash to do so and you were going to get some of it. Where it doesn’t quite feel like a birthday is that, to you, the book has been out for ages. On launch day I was only two weeks from handing in Book 2. I hadn’t even looked at The End of the Line for a month or two, I’d finished it. So it was a bit strange to be surrounded by people so excited about your book and part of you is ‘What? That old thing?’ To me it was something I’d had in my life for years but friends and supporters it had popped into existence that very day. Me, I was excited about Book 2. I suppose that makes it more like the Queen’s Birthday? Nevertheless, it was a great day, fueled by the love and support of those around me and such a nice way to celebrate what was, in the end, a big achievement years in the making. So launches are great but in a way they’re not for you, they’re for everyone else. Can’t wait for the next one!

        2. … and then silence

And that was it! The book is out! The party happened. Everyone went home. And so did I. Plonked down in the sofa, ordered a pizza and watched Deadpool 2. The next day it was back to normal. Everyone else had other things to be doing, they have their own lives to be getting on with. After all the excitement, I was back at my desk with two weeks to get the first draft of Book 2 to my editor. Though I’m now a published author, there’s still writing to be done, dishes to wash, errands to run, work to go to. Getting published is a great thing but in many ways it’s not as transformative as you might imagine. I’m a published author… but most of all I’m still a writer and a person.

     3. Amazon rankings are a rollercoaster

They change by the hour and watching my book weave up and down the charts as I sell another copy, someone else sells another copy, I sell a copy could probably consume most of my waking life if I let it. One moment my book was sitting up next to Stephen King, then it dropped off the first page. Then it was back again! It is tremendous fun to see my book rubbing shoulders with some of my literary heroes but I quickly realised that it’s the same as watching the ripples in a lake, it’s pretty, but I’m not getting anything done staring.

    4. Then there’s reviews

Authors will tell you not to look at reviews. They are right. They also, all do it themselves. I can go a week without looking, two-weeks, but it’s always there, the whisper of temptation wearing away my resolve. Then a few moments of boredom and there I go, I’ve looked and I can’t unsee it. That’s not to say they’re terrible. I’ve had some great reviews! But the bad ones cut deeper than the good ones. I’ve often talked to debut authors who have spiraled at the sight of a bad review. I’ve talked them down, explained that better ones are just over the horizon, that every book will have its fans and detractors. You can’t please everyone. BOY, is it different when it’s your book. The book is out there, it’s getting read but people I’ll never meet and they have their own tastes. I’ve had bad reviews calling it ‘too dark for a YA’ (it’s not a YA, never has been and has never been called one), or simply someone has read it, given it a low star rating and the comment ‘I don’t like fantasy’ and I’m left thinking ‘so why read it in the first place? Didn’t you read the blurb?’. People are strange but being a human being, you can’t help but let them get to you. That’s why you should never look at your reviews. When I see a five star review I might smile, might nod and think to myself ‘great, another satisfied customer’ but that moderate high is nothing to the devastating drop when I see a low rating. Humans have a primal instinct to look out for danger and attack, it’s what kept us alive in the savannah or on the beaches. It feels the same way about shifting grass and a low throaty growl as it does about a one-star review on Goodreads, apparently.

     5. Events are wild

I’ll admit, I have loved doing events so far. I’ve attended enough of them as a reader and know what they look like. I’d expected to be nervous, even terrified, but so far that’s not happened. I’ve arrived, stepped up, talked, read and stepped away from the microphone to some applause and thought to myself, ‘Oh, I forgot to be nervous’. Maybe it’s because I’m the eldest child, used to being the centre of attention, but turns out having lots of people listening while I talk isn’t that bad. You meet some lovely fellow authors, you get a beer, so far I’ve been enjoying them.

6. You have less reading time

Let’s be honest, time that I would have spent reading has taken a hit this year. There have been a few ‘life’ things involved in that, but lunch breaks at work these days are for blogs, newsletters, website updates, Q&As for blogs, podcast recordings, and of course there are events some evenings. So free time has had a bite taken out of it  and I haven’t read nearly as many books at this point in the year as 2018. But the work is worthwhile and I’m not complaining.

     7. It’s only the beginning

I’ve got a book out! It’s a nice warm feeling and in the end, I’m really pleased and proud to have made it this far. But here’s the thing, I’ll have another book out next year and hopefully another the year after that. This is only a step along the journey. And what’s more, this might one day be the book people go back to and make a face and say ‘It’s a Gray Williams but it’s rough’. This is my Colour of Magic, my Knots and Crosses (the Ian Rankin book, not Malorie Blackman’s). This is potentially not my BIG book, this is my debut and so many authors don’t hit their stride until they’re a few books in. There’s something comforting to that, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Nine Things to Know About Gray Williams

It’s almost time for The End of the Line to come out in ebook and audio. Here are a few things to know about the author…

  1. I’ve been writing every day (well, almost every day) since I was 20. So that’s over 15 years!
  2. I minored in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. This helped get me into the habit of writing every day, which is probably my most valuable takeaway for writing. I majored in Geographical Information Systems & Remote Sensing. I’m probably the only person in the UK to have that combination!
  3. I wrote six novels before The End of the Line. All of them are terrible but one of them did get an offer of representation from an agent but they wanted me to tear the book down at start from scratch.
  4. I have written a dozen short stories, most of them never got published but they sure attracted a lot of rejection letters from magazines and websites.
  5. I passed an early draft of one of my short stories to a colleague. She liked it so much she asked me out! We’re now married.
  6. I love stories. Give them too me in books, on the stage, in the cinema, as comics, as video games, even board games. If a medium tells a good story then I am there for it.
  7. My first short story was published in 2008. They even paid me £10 for it. I don’t dare go back and read it.
  8. It was May 2017 that I sent The End of the Line to agents. I sent to 27 agents and had 19 requests for the full manuscript and five offers of representation! I signed with my agent, Juliet Mushens in June 2017.
  9. During the day, I work in marketing in publishing. Having worked for Usborne, Orion and Bounce, I have worked on campaigns for some of the UK’s biggest crime authors, including Ian Rankin, Michael Connolly and Linwood Barclay. I even did the marketing for the paperback of Keith Richards’ autobiography!

Thanks so much for reading, remember, you can have these links delivered right to your inbox by signing up to my newsletter. It even comes with a free short story!

13 things to know about ‘The End of the Line’

Hello! Welcome to the inaugural Gray Williams / The End of the Line blog post. I plan to update this on a monthly basis and I’ll be filling it with things about me, the book, as well as writing tips and, well, anything else that’s on my mind.

But let’s start with the essentials. If you’re here, it’s probably to do with the book, so here’s a few things you should know about it…

  1. The seed of the book came to me when I lived in a bedsit in Wood Green, London. The idea was ‘what if you were trapped with a psychic Hannibal Lecter?’.
  2. It will be available all around the world in English in ebook from 8th July 2019 from Canelo with an audio book from Bolinda Publishing to follow. The ebook is available to pre-order now on Amazon and Apple, with more retailers coming up. News on the audio is very TBC at the moment but when I know, you’ll know. I’m afraid I don’t know who’s reading it yet.
  3. The End of the Line took me roughly 10 years to write – though between the first draft and the last I have written a screenplay, a few other novels and a few short stories that were published.
  4. It’s set in our world, but not as we know it. The book is set in the modern day with one small difference: magic is real and anyone can do it. Magic in TEOTL is like anything else in our world, like computer hacking or chemistry, anyone can do it and do it well if they take the time to learn it, but since it exacts a terrible cost and technology does many of the simpler things that magic can, most people don’t use it and don’t need to. Magic to these people as as real and ubiquitous as learning a second language. It is currently illegal to use in the UK but as the internet makes sharing spells and wards more easy, the issue is back on the debate table.
  5. The main character is Amanda Coleman. Notorious in the criminal underworld, Amanda is known as one of the best heist-artists and con-women in business. She has an even bigger rep amongst illegal magic users (Abras) for killing her father, the legendary gangster David Coleman, when she was barely in her teens. Thanks to her father, she hates magic and would do anything not to use it. Not that she needs it, she’s smart enough to run rings around anyone who thinks they can take her on.
  6. The story follows Amanda and the remnants of the gang she ran with. On the gang leader’s instructions, an ambitious Abra summoned a demon to help them pull the biggest of robberies. She quickly lost control of the creature  and now most of the gang are dead or in hiding. With so few left, it’s fallen to Amanda to kill the thing – a task that everyone would say is impossible. With the thing in chains (how she did that is revealed later in the book), she and the dregs of the gang are taking It to the only place it can be banished, a ring of stones in the middle of nowhere of Siberia. But as the wards that keep the thing’s power in check, she and her crew have to wonder, is it trapped on there with them? Or are they trapped on there with it?
  7. The book has been described as Reservoir Dogs meets American Gods, which I love. There are a lot of magical police and PIs out there. I wanted to write about the opposition. I would also compare it to Jim Butcher, John Connelly and Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City. Amanda Coleman would definitively give Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant a run for his money. 
  8. If you like books with heists, cons, magic, drama, arguments, action, demons, swearing and pace, I would say this book is for you.
  9. The cover was designed by the amazing Tom Sanderson, who has also designed covers for Philip Pullman, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Charles Stross, Charlie Higson, Douglas Adams and more.
  10. There will be a follow-up book set in the same world. I’m writing it right now and we hope it’ll come out January 2020.
  11. There’s a short story available. A prequel of sorts, it follows another of Amanda’s jobs that didn’t entirely go to plan. You can download it right now, all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter.
  12. It’s already proving popular! On submission to agents, I had five offers of representation before signing with the brilliant Juliet Mushens. Some lovely writers have already given it glowing reviews, including Linwood Barclay, Steve Cavanagh, Mason Cross, Mark Stay and Michael Miller. 
  13. Reviews copies are ready to go to those who want to read it. You can request it on Netgalley, or if you’re not on Netgalley, you can get in touch with me or Ellie at the Publicity department of Canelo.

If you have any more questions, then get in touch with me via the contact page or on Twitter. I’m more than happy to talk about my book, rather than bother people in the line at the coffee shop.
If getting on the blog was too much effort, as I mentioned, you can get links delivered to your inbox by signing up to my newsletter.

Did I mention there was a short story in it for you?