Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your supernatural action/thriller novel, Kept from Cages! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Phil Williams: Thank you! Kept from Cages follows a gang of criminal jazz musicians who stumble upon a red-eyed child tied to a chair and get caught up in that mess whilst on the run to a hide-out in Louisiana. Meanwhile, an international agent investigating the massacre of an Arctic fishing village follows a trail into the heart of the Congo, with an erratic female assassin in tow. The parallel stories converge amid corporate conspiracy, mutant animals and a cult of sword-wielding murderers (to name a few things!).
It’s a story I first wrote when I was young and have rewritten many times since, before consolidating it into the Ordshaw series. It comes from a place of watching a lot of action and fantasy films in my youth, stuff like Tarantino or The Highlander, and wanting to merge those things into an adventure all of my own. For settings, I did a lot of reading around the Congo when I came out of studying History at uni, and I’ve always had a fondness for the American South, so they’re places I’ve wanted to explore in fiction for a long time.
BD: The novel is the first story in a new arc within your Ordshaw contemporary fantasy world. What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this new world to life, and what have been some of your creative influences?
PW: The world of Ordshaw is one that’s basically like ours, but with new locations and mythologies woven in. Impossible things lurking that few people know about. For the contemporary settings, such as non-incorporated communities in Louisiana, or the city of Ordshaw itself (a minor feature in Kept From Cages, but prominent in my Sunken City trilogy), I aimed at creating snapshots of familiar places with elements stretched to wilder eccentricities. My aim’s always been to combine the invented seamlessly with reality, to give a feeling that this is all possible. For my earliest inspirations in this, I should credit work such as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or Neverwhere, and the likes of outlandish-but-familiar imagery from Studio Ghibli films.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Kept From Cages’ story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
PW: Kept From Cages is the sort of story that’ll sweep you in and keep you moving, with characters that are easy to care about. My aim was to create something that is, at its core, a fun, wild ride – but at the same time one made real through a sense of character. I’ve lived with these characters for a long time myself, and I know an awful lot more about them than is in the pages of that book, so their wants, fears, and interactions are what it’s all about for me, exploring human nature through an adventure that’s worth reading. There are loftier themes, especially which come out in its second part, touching on social and psychological issues, but more than anything I hoped to build an adventure that felt real, eliciting with it all the emotion that entails.
BD: What can you tell us about your plans for any subsequent books in the Ordshaw series?
PW: Kept From Cages is the first in a two-part story, and I’m working on the conclusion right now. I think it’s important to get that out as soon as possible, because while I intended the first book to be satisfying in its own right, no one wants to be left hanging on the conclusion.
That’ll be a complete, self-contained duology, but it’s part of a greater scheme I’ve got with the wider Ordshaw series. I completed the first story arc in the series, The Sunken City Trilogy, late last year, and there’s already a short standalone novel, The City Screams, introducing another angle for that world. My next project will bridge those two projects, and after a concluding chapter in that saga I’ll be looking to tie the action of Kept From Cages back to those series.
All given, it’s a project with a lot of scope – I’d envisage at least three or four extended storylines in this world and a heap of accompanying stories; there are a bunch of standalones on the cards too, once I get round to them. As long as I can keep my bills paid, there’s plenty to come!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PW: Aside from that massive heap of work, I’ve got about the same amount again in unrelated projects, so there’s a hundred things I’d like to share! But for now, I’ll settle for letting you know about the Ordshaw audiobooks. I’ve been working through producing the Sunken City Trilogy on Audible, with two books already available (starting with Under Ordshaw) and the third going into production soon. I’ve been working with the wonderful Fran Burgoyne, an award-winning narrator, and she’s done such a good job bringing the stories to life, it’s like experiencing them through a totally different medium. If you’re yet to explore Ordshaw, they’re a great place to start.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Kept from Cages and your other work?
PW: You can find out about all my books and sign up to my monthly newsletter, and you can find me chatting more regularly on Twitter or Facebook.