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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

New Release Q&A with Phil Williams, the author of the Dyer Street Punk Witches

About Phil WIlliams: Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English, two of which are regular best-sellers on Kindle. As a long-term teacher and tutor of advanced English, he runs the popular website “English Lessons Brighton”.

Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

Dyer Punk Witches linksAmazonGoodreads

Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Phil; how have you been?

I’ve been sweltering in the sun, growing concerned about the oncoming demise of our species, but otherwise toddling along rather well, thanks.

Please tell us about your new writing project; how did it all come together?

The latest book is Dyer Street Punk Witches, the 7th instalment in the Ordshaw universe but a totally standalone tale with the city as a backdrop. This one involves a punk magazine editor, local gangs, and a touch of witchcraft. It leans into crime thriller territory, as we dig up secrets of past crimes with a supernatural edge.

I’ve had this on the backburner for a long time, as I wanted to bring a classic witch-themed arc into the Ordshaw series, but of course these aren’t typical fairy tale witches. Ordshaw in general leans towards the shadows of society, and I always had in mind that these witches would be on the wrong side of the tracks.

I drew on elements from my own influences to flesh this out, including the times I’ve spent working with magazines and reflections on ’90s Fem Rock and classic Brit crime films.

How would you describe the plot of Dyer Street Punk Witches if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

Punk feminism and colourful characters collide with urban gang warfare and illicit magic in this contemporary fantasy thriller mash-up. Kit is forced to face the secrets of her rough past when an old enemy and a new witch both turn up to threaten her stable life.

What subgenres does it fit?

Urban fantasy is the main umbrella, but I prefer to say contemporary fantasy as it doesn’t fit the typical frame. It’s also a crime thriller, with a character-driven story that also leans towards general contemporary fiction.

What inspired you to write this story? Was there one “lightbulb moment” when the concept for this book popped into your head or did it develop over time?

This one has been germinating for a while; the initial idea came as part of my vague long-term plan for different storylines converging in the Ordshaw universe, to give regular tropes that Ordshaw twist. Witches, haunted houses and others were always pegged for different stages of the series, and my intention was to start on these once the Sunken City Trilogy and the Ikiri Duology were done.

Here, I wanted to create a story that didn’t directly impact the wider series, and it made sense to relegate witches to the backstreets and alleyways, caught up in the gritty, forgotten realms of Ordshaw crime.

In terms of the specific story, I spent a lot of time establishing the witches’ entire lives. The details aren’t all in the book, but I have timelines of life events for every major character in the book, and the more I established their backgrounds the more the story itself almost jumped out at me.

If you had to describe the story in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Raw, exciting, emotional

Would you say that Dyer Street Punk Witches follows tropes or kicks them?

I aimed to hit some particular tropes, which are in there, but not perhaps in their typical guise. We have, for example, a coven of three witches that roughly fit the crone, mother and maiden model, but seen through a narrative split over two timelines. More apparent, perhaps, are the tropes of crime fiction, with duelling gangs and rough characters. The twists come as the two aspects collide, so your typical gang war gets twisted up with magic, and your typical witches get bent out of shape by gangs. Things then go in rather unexpected directions!

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Dyer Street Punk Witches’ protagonists/antagonists?

The bulk of the story is split between two people. First, it follows Kit “Fadulous” Hamley, a former punk rocker/political activist turned magazine editor. She now makes a living by riling up local politicians, campaigning for her poor neighbourhood; a rough, tough, no-nonsense woman. But she also has a chequered past involving criminal gangs and magic gone wrong.

On the other hand, we meet Aaron Wise, a timid graduate who’s been struggling to find work. When his path crosses with Kit’s, he’s drawn into her world and starts uncovering her grim background. That, obviously, puts him in terrible danger.

They’re joined by Kit’s magazine staff, particularly diligent Ellie, and Kit’s estranged friend Big Mad, an Australian witch-turned-working mum. The conflict arises from the appearance of Terry Goddom, an ex-convict who has it in for Kit – as well as from a mysterious woman stalking through the shadows, stirring up magical energy. Then there’s also Kit’s old criminal friends to consider, including Oscar Tallice, an unstable thug who she never really got on with...

Have you written Dyer Street Punk Witches with a particular audience in mind?

I was aiming at fans of witch stories with a shared interest in something gritty and urban, providing crossover towards darker crime fiction. People equally at home, say, with Alix E. Harrow and James Lee Burke. I’m not sure what that audience looks like overall, but I know I’m in it.

Alright, we need the details on the cover. Who's the artist/designer, and can you give us a little insight into the process for coming up with it?

The cover design came before the book. I’ve been building a cover portfolio myself, and while I was scheming over producing urban fantasy designs I came across this image that gelled perfectly with what I had in mind for Dyer Street. I created the design to capture the feel of the book I intended to write, combining this female punk image with a pulp crime look. It’s been great to have the image to reference from the start; while I was writing the book, I used the cover to keep me in the mood!

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“It wasn’t all because of me!” Kit snapped, knowing she shouldn’t, but unable to stand there and take it. “They all knew what they were getting into.”

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

In these difficult times, stay punk.



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