With the DNA of a world traveler, D.J. Williams was born and raised in Hong Kong, has ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the slums of the Far East. His global travels have engrossed him in a myriad of cultures, and provided him with a unique perspective that has fueled his creativity over the course of a twenty-year career in both the entertainment industry and nonprofit sector. Currently based out of Los Angeles, Williams continues to add to his producing and directing credits of more than 350 episodes of broadcast TV syndicated worldwide by developing new projects for television, film and print. He is the author of The Disillusioned and Waking Lazarus.
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Did you like mysteries and thrillers when you were growing up?
At eight years old, I read Treasure Island cover to cover, lost in my bedroom living out an adventure in another world. From the first page I was captured by the story and characters. When I closed the book I was left dreaming of becoming a storyteller. I never imagined how that would become reality. Fast forward through the years to a season in life where I found myself transitioning out of the music industry into the second act of my career as an Executive Producer and Director in the TV business. Only then did that spark of inspiration return to pursue my dream to write mystery, suspense, and international thrillers. Even after all those years I was hooked by a spark of inspiration, and the chase was on.
What was the first story in that genre that you wrote?
I stood on the shores of the Zambezi River as that spark of a story pierced my soul. I'd traveled across Zambia for three weeks, producing a live music recording and filming a documentary. I witnessed the reality of those forgotten by the world and I knew that one day I'd write about this place. Little did I know that it would be a few years before I found the courage to write my first novel, The Disillusioned. After a year of writing late at night, I sent my novel to a friend in the TV industry with the disclaimer, "If it's not any good, the only two people who'll know are you and me."
In The Disillusioned, my main characters Sam and Daniel are propelled into separate journeys from Los Angeles to the heart of the Zambezi. On their adventures they find themselves in a place where death is one breath away, where thousands of children are disappearing into the darkness, and where the woman they are searching for is on the hunt for revenge. I was humbled when my friend, Judith McCreary (Executive Producer of Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds and CSI) was the first to endorse the novel, describing it as "a fast-paced mystery...you won't put it down until you've unlocked the secrets and lies to find the truth."
What is your favorite part of writing in this genre?
Chasing the story is what keeps me writing in this genre. Once that spark of a story hits you're on the hunt for answers. Often I've found that the outline I create in the beginning looks vastly different at the end of the first draft. I believe it's because as I'm writing, chasing down the story and characters, there are twists and turns that reveal themselves in surprising ways. For me, not knowing exactly what's going to happen next keeps me on the edge of my seat. I've always thought that if I'm on the journey guessing what's going to happen next, then hopefully, the same will be true for readers who enter into the world I've created.
What do you find most difficult about writing in this genre?
When I first began writing the Guardian Novels, there was only one story with one set of characters. But as I continued writing the second book, Waking Lazarus, the world expanded with new characters, twists and turns, and underlying secrets that needed to be revealed at just the right moment. Keeping track of all my characters, and their story arcs in the world, has been a challenge at times. And I'm not only chasing the next story, I'm also chasing after my favorite authors who inspire me to push my characters farther than I ever thought possible. In the end, I'd love for those I admire to be surprised by the stories I write. It's easy to start a story, but the real challenge is to finish with a bang!
Is there an author in this genre that you admire most?
John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Brad Meltzer, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Gillian Flynn, Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling, and Lee Child. It's impossible to pick only one.
What is up next for you?
At the moment, I'm writing an international mystery and thriller with the working title: The Auctioneer. After researching and playing with the characters and plot, I'm in the stage where the story is revealing itself one clue at a time. Even after writing other novels, I still feel fear when I stare at the blank page! It's a reminder of my three days on the Zambezi, when I wondered if I'd ever find the courage to become a storyteller.
Do you have anything to add?
With each novel, I create a music playlist that consists of soundtracks from various movies that I feel capture the tone of the story. Depending on what chapter I'm writing, I'll put certain tracks on repeat so that the mood of the music helps me translate the scene I'm writing on the page.
With my latest novel, Waking Lazarus, I went a step further by bringing in a composer friend who composed a full soundtrack to go along with the book. I'd never seen this done before with a novel, other than those books that were made into feature films. So, with Waking Lazarus you can listen to the soundtrack that fits each of the chapters you're reading. And we did it in such a way that it doesn't matter if you're a fast reader or a slow reader. You simply put the tracks on repeat depending on which chapter your reading and it fits the scenes in those chapters.
This Summer you can access the first 10 chapters of Waking Lazarus – the # 1 read for summer 2017 - for free. Head to www.djwilliamsbooks.com for more information. Waking Lazarus will be exclusively priced at just $10 from 12th June-31st August 2017, with both Waking Lazarus and The Disillusioned available together in print for just $16 (and e-books priced at $2.99 each) via www.djwilliamsbooks.com. The Waking Lazarus soundtrack is also now available for just $4.99 from June-August 2017. Don’t leave for your vacation without them!