Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Interrogation Room #36: Lamar Giles

That swishing sound you hear right now might be all of us at Sleuths Spies & Alibis rubbing our hands together with anticipation. Once again, the interrogation room spotlight turns to one of our own. This time it's Lamar Giles, whose long-awaited YA mystery/thriller FAKE ID releases from  Amistad/HarperCollins today!

Here's some facts we've pulled from the Lamar Giles case file.

He writes for both adults and teens; penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers to a magic-infused short story that was recently published at YARN, he's never met a genre he didn't like. 

He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife. 

He's the guy in charge of our blog design and technical issues. So he wields a certain power here . . .  I suspect we will have to tread carefully in this particular interrogation.

Now, about the book. That's what you really want to hear about, right?

FAKE ID is about a high school guy in a witness protection program, who unravels a murder mystery. Intrigued? Here's a teaser:

Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight…

My name isn’t really Nick Pearson.

I shouldn’t tell you where I’m from or why my family moved to Stepton, Virginia.

I shouldn’t tell you who I really am, or my hair, eye, and skin color.

And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about my friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy he was about to uncover when he died—right after I moved to town. About how I had to choose between solving his murder with his hot sister, Reya, and “staying low-key” like the Program has taught me. About how moving to Stepon changed my life forever.

But I’m going to.

It's time to put Lamar in the hot seat. Here's our interrogation transcript!

What was the inspiration for this book? Did you always know it was going to be a mystery?

FAKE ID was inspired by a non-fiction book called WITSEC: INSIDE THE FEDERAL WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM by Gerald Shur and Pete Earley. Mr. Shur founded the witness protection program and wrote about the difficulties in getting it started, which included difficult witnesses who didn’t follow the rules. This real life idea felt like fertile ground for a compelling story, so I sort of ran with that. 
I knew it would be a mystery, but it started out as a very different sort of mystery. Originally, the protagonist was an adult female, but it just felt flat. Around the same time I started writing it, I was reading some great YA fiction that inspired me to shake my story up. A teen instead of an adult. A male instead of female. Once I did that, it felt like the book wrote itself.

FAKE ID’s main character happens to be in a witness protection program. How did you go about researching what life would be like for him? Is there much information out there about witness protection programs?

At the time I was drafting FAKE ID (early 2009) I was not able to find much modern material on WITSEC, and for good reason. Lives depend on there being very little information available to the public (now, surprisingly, there are a ton of websites and articles about the program, even a lengthy CSPAN video featuring Mr. Shur himself). But, Mr. Shur’s book was an excellent resource. And, there’s a bonus to FAKE ID being fiction . . . I could make a bunch of stuff up.
That being said, I used a family dynamic I was familiar with as a template for Nick Pearson’s (the main character's) life. Military families. The Pearsons move frequently, similar to kids I grew up around when I lived near Fort Lee in Virginia. The difference is there’s nothing to be proud of when the Pearsons move. There are no orders, no pride in serving our country. So, add shame to the stress of constantly starting over (with new names and knowledge that gangsters want you dead) and I had plenty to work with without a lot of current facts about WITSEC.

What do you find to be the hardest part about writing a mystery/crime novel for a younger audience? Did you face any particular challenge  -- and if so, how did you overcome it?
The most difficult part about writing a crime novel for a younger audience was keeping any violence more implied than graphic. I started my writing career writing adult stories, which, obviously, allows for more explicit descriptions of a crime like murder. In the first draft of FAKE ID, I’d written some pivotal scenes to be more visceral than what’s probably appropriate for a younger audience. An easy fix once I revised, but I had to keep reminding myself that my goal wasn’t to give the reader nightmares. At least not this time. 
What did you find most enjoyable about writing a mystery for teens? 
I really enjoyed putting myself (back) in the headspace of a guy in his mid-teens. Of course fashion, music, and technology have evolved since the time I was Nick Pearson’s age, but what I came to discover through my own recollections and conversations with teens who are relatives and family friends was the emotions don’t change. I found myself digging out old yearbooks and playing the songs that were important to me at that age. There were a lot of fond, awkward, and horrid memories that mirror the experiences teens go through today (and probably throughout time). Really, I think it’s more accurate to call those experiences “human” experiences as opposed to “teen” experiences. But, yes, going there was the best experience. It felt a little like time travel.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

My most sincere hope is that readers can walk away from this book feeling like they’ve had a satisfying and entertaining experience (in other words, the same feeling I’ve felt upon completing some of my favorite books). Yes, I want FAKE ID to be your favorite book…I’m not afraid to admit it.

Are you an avid mystery reader yourself? (We hope so, since you’re on this blog!) What are some of your favorites, or some authors who have inspired you?

I do enjoy mysteries a great deal. I’ve said many times on this blog that I’m a huge Peter Abrahams fan (REALITY CHECK is one of my favorite YA books). Other mystery writers I enjoy include Barry Lyga, Dennis Lehane, April Henry, and, seriously, every single one of the writers here at Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis.

(Aw. Thanks!) Will you be a “repeat offender” and write more mysteries and crime fiction? Or do you see yourself writing in other genres as well?

Yes and Yes. I’ve already written another crime novel, tentatively titled ENDANGERED, and it’s about a teen photographer who exposes the secrets of her cruel classmates on the web and unwittingly inspires a killer to target the bullies. For my third book, I’d like to write a sequel to FAKE ID, but that’s all dependent on how much readers would like to see Nick’s story continue.
Regarding other genres, I have some things in the works. I’m not allowed to discuss details just yet, but I started in publishing writing horror and dark fantasy stories. Let’s just say I haven’t forgotten my roots. 
What writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh lights of this interrogation room?
Make finishing work a habit. It’s okay to start projects and abandon them from time to time (I sure have), but your M.O. should be more work gets finished than cast aside. If you’re a part of this business, you have to be able to produce complete (not perfect) drafts, sometimes very quickly. Develop the skill to finish constantly and the rest will fall into place. 

Want to win a copy of FAKE ID? (You know you do!) Lamar is giving away one hardcover copy here, which he will sign. This is a quick giveaway, so enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lamar Giles
Author of FAKE ID | HarperCollins Children's Books/Amistad | 1.21.2014 - order your copy today!

 What Readers Are Saying about FAKE ID:

Fast action, judicious plot twists, and sufficiently evil teens and adults should keep thrill-seeking readers awake long into the night. ” - Kirkus Reviews

“A taut, suspenseful thriller filled with unexpected twists. You’ll be cheering for Nick Pearson from the very first page. I loved FAKE ID! ” - Michelle Gagnon, author of  DON’T TURN AROUND and DON’T LOOK NOW

“...this mystery delivers code red, heart-thumping action..”  - Crystal Allen, author of THE LAURA LINE and HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA- SIZED TROPHY


  1. This book sounds great, and just right for my son (as well as the rest of the family)!

  2. Fake ID sounds so good! I love how Lamar actually changed the original story a bit, and I want to read it because I think he'll bring something new and fresh to YA lit! I feel like there's generally less books told in a male's POV, and I really can't wait to see how Lamar told this story! Thank you for the giveaway!



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