LG: Thank you for the congrats, and for the invitation to hang out with the YARN crew again. We go way back!
YARN: You are welcome–always a pleasure 🙂 So, the Edgar Award is one of the highest honors a mystery writer can receive; even making the short list is a great distinction. When you first came up with the idea for “Fake ID,” did you know it would be a mystery?
LG: As for whether I knew “Fake ID” would be a mystery, absolutely. I wrote mostly horror and fantasy stories before “Fake ID,” and for a long time I thought that’s all I would write. Then, two writers I admire a great deal (husband and wife team Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due) veered from their horror/fantasy roots and wrote a mystery called “Casanegra” that I absolutely LOVED! Because I was a young(ish) writer, I felt inspired to follow in the footsteps of my literary idols . . . with awesome results!
YARN: A second congratulations is in order for the publication of your second book, “Endangered,” which just released from HarperTeen on April 21. Many novelists find writing the second novel psychologically intimidating. Did you? And what strategies from writing and publishing the first book helped you with the second?
LG: I don’t mean for this to sound arrogant, but I was not intimidated by writing my second book. Probably because in terms of a real count, it was more like novel number eight for me. I started my first novel when I was 14, and wrote several more before I got to “Fake ID.” I was well-versed in the process of writing a long form piece of fiction from beginning to end. What worried me when I was writing “Endangered” was “Fake ID.” “Endangered” was essentially done (rough draft) before “Fake ID” debuted. I had no clue what people would think about my first “big” novel, and was terrified I’d be panned by critics and/or readers. So, “Endangered” was an awesome distraction. I was already looking at it like a second chance should “Fake ID” flop (yes, I was kind of “glass half-empty” at that point). Also, I still had a demanding full-time corporate job when I was writing “Endangered.” I’m talking 50-60 hours per week, so I was fighting perpetual exhaustion. I may have written “Endangered” in bit of a delirium. That’s probably not very helpful for anyone looking for tips. I do NOT recommend averaging three hours of sleep per night. Maybe my advice is the opposite. Get a lot of rest. Focus on the project at hand. Outside of those things, there’s very little you control. Do the same things you did to get Book One out in the world, because you must’ve been doing something right.
YARN: In “Endangered,” the parents of the protagonist play a key role. In many YA mysteries and thrillers, however, the parents are often very offstage and uninvolved. Can you explain why you made the choice that you did?
LG: Well, I always found it disingenuous when a young person finds themselves in a scary adult situation and they don’t EVER attempt to consult someone who’s older, with more experience, even if they eventually do the polar opposite of whatever’s advised. I know that it can happen; I’ve just read so many books where it does happen, that it began to feel like a trope. When I feel that way, I’m compelled to do something different, and see what problems a divergent approach generates. Problems move plot, and getting Panda’s parents involved created plenty of movement. Also, there was an added benefit that fit Panda. By telling her parents the worst thing she’s ever done, it’s easier to deceive them later. From the parents’ perspective, they’re like “She didn’t lie to us about X, so no need to question her on Y.”
YARN: Have you written any short fiction since the piece (“Long’s Division”) that you wrote for YARN? What was it like to write a short story after having been immersed in the world of novels?
LG: I’ve written a couple of shorts since “Long’s Division” but I have been occupied with more novel length stuff. It’s not that all my ideas come that way, but that’s what the job requires right now. I’m contracted for two more books (“Overturned” for Scholastic and the untitled follow-up to “FAKE ID” for HarperCollins), I’m in grad school, and I still work part-time. I’m the King of Overextending and there’s very little time to squeeze in short stories with my current schedule. I still want to write short stories. I also want to write short films, and features. I’ll get to all of them eventually, but I must take care of business first.
YARN: You’re very active with the We Need Diverse Books movement – in fact, you are their VP of Communications! Has your role as a literary activist changed your reading or writing, and if so, how?
LG: Ah, yes. WNDB. I do that, too! So there are no off days right now, but I love it. This is the best kind of busy to be. My experience with WNDB has changed the way I read and write. I’m more cognizant of how I portray anyone from a culture that’s different from my now. I think back on the mistakes I’ve made in the past. When I read, and a come across something that feels like a stereotype or poorly researched generalization, I investigate. Not to drag an author over the coals for it—that’s not what we do at WNDB—but to constantly educate myself, so that I can do better, and inspire others who are interested in getting it right, too.
YARN: Whew, you ARE busy! And so we’re extra happy that you found time to answer our five questions! We’re also very excited about all your new projects, Lamar, and wish you every success!
Lamar “L. R.” Giles writes stories for teens and adults. He’s never met a genre he didn’t like, having penned science fiction, fantasy, horror, and noir thrillers, among others. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife. You can find out more about Lamar and his books at his website: http://www.lrgiles.com.