Thursday, November 29, 2012

SSA Greatest Hits - At Home in the Dark

SSA has been around for over a year now, and the Sleuths having been digging in the crates, pulling out some Golden Oldies for all of you loyal readers out there. Here's one of my favs from last year...
I started out as a horror writer--I'm talking monsters, ghouls, and such--and I'm very much at home writing in the dark. Now, while I may have stumbled into mystery writing, I came with baggage. I never let the monsters go...or maybe I've got that backwards.

Some of my horror sensibilities still  rise up regardless of what I'm writing. In my YA debut FAKE ID the darkness seeps out in the context of the inciting crime, the villain, and the general disposition of some characters. I won't give specifics (hey, you've got to wait to read it just like everyone else), but I will talk a bit about motive. WHY am I at home in the dark?

Over the years I've often heard the question, "Where do you get such crazy ideas?" I've found in many cases the person asking is being polite, and trying to find a PC way to ask, "What's wrong with you?"  Don't worry, I'm never offended. If anything, I feel I'm disappointing those with inquiring minds. I didn't have a terrible childhood. To the best of my knowledge, there was very little trauma. I simply like dark tales as metaphors and coping mechanisms. Sadly, everyday life can be so much worse than anything I could ever dream up.

Almost any dark tale I've written or read is an examination of a real world phenomenon, a way to understand some social ill or heinous crime. Doesn't matter if it's horror or mystery, a werewolf or a serial killer. All of it represents the thing you never see coming...that's why darkness is ideal, to conceal movement and spring the trap.

As a writer, I've trained my mind to pick up on events that are unique. In our cynical, desensitized world where 'if it bleeds it leads' and infamy is only a Google-search-for-chloroform away, 'unique' is often synonymous with 'awful'. If you think my ability to distill stories out of the woes of the world makes me the most desensitized of all, I'm sorry to say, you've got it backwards.

My sensitivity leads me to want reasons, a logical chain of events that somehow explains (not justifies) a child's death at the hands of her mother, or an esteemed institution's cover up of a decade's worth of abuse and exploitation. I'm at home in the dark because someone has to be.

During my habitation, I've found that the darkest crimes and villains can be glimpsed on your evening news, not on the covers of books in your local B&N. When you see what they've done, you can't help but be pulled into the mankind's ultimate mystery: Why?

I'll keep looking for the answer, keep going room to room with my notebook tucked under my arm, and a pen clamped between my teeth, while I smack my flashlight hoping to get a few more minutes out of the weak battery and flickering bulb. I'll stay in the dark despite my worst fear...that I'll get to the final room in the House of Night, open the door, and find it empty. No answers, no rhyme, no reason.

The darkest possibility of all.


Lamar "L. R." Giles is the author of FAKE ID, coming from HarperCollins in 2014. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. 

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