KIRKUS REVIEWS said of FAKE ID, Lamar Giles’s debut Young Adult thriller: “Fast action, judicious plot twists and sufficiently evil teens and adults should keep thrill-seeking readers awake long into the night.”
Published in January 2014 by Harper Collins, FAKE ID focuses on a teenager, Nick Pearson, who gets caught up in the death of a friend and in the federal government’s witness protection program. The book so impressed its publisher that it bought a second YA thriller, ENDANGERED, on the basis of a summary and a couple of chapters.
Giles, who holds down a full-time job, lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife. He recently answered some questions for THE BIG THRILL:
What is the genesis of FAKE ID?
It started when I read a mystery/thriller by Steven Barnes titled CASANEGRA. I loved it and started brainstorming some ideas that would fit the genre. At the same time, I’d stumbled across a nonfiction book called WITSEC: INSIDE THE FEDERAL WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM by Gerald Shur, the man who founded the program. Mr. Shur tells a number of tales about the very first witnesses to join his program. The stories that stood out to me were the ones about criminals who couldn’t follow the rules, thus blowing their cover and forcing the program to relocate them again. A seed of an idea sprouted, but I still didn’t have what would eventually become FAKE ID. Not Yet.
I spent a lot of time writing adult dark fantasy and horror novels but, around 2008, I read some article about the “Rise of YA” and saw some interesting titles. I picked up UNWIND by Neal Shusterman and was hooked. I read a few more YA titles and something just clicked, a whole world of possibilities opened up. I’d been working on my adult WITSEC thriller about a crime lord’s adult daughter who’d turned rat against her own father, but it wasn’t right. Nothing about it sang! But, as I became more enthralled with various YA titles, I started to think, “What if it wasn’t an adult, but a teen? And maybe not a girl, but a boy?” I tossed my first thirty pages, started writing from the perspective of Nick Pearson, and, let me tell you, that boy’s got a voice on him. I had a clean draft in about a year, an agent six months after that, and a book deal within another year. So, I don’t think I chose YA. It chose me.
Why do you enjoy writing thrillers?
There’s something compelling about exploring the dark side of people who could be your next door neighbor or pastor or your child’s teacher, then pitting a hero (traditional, dark, anti, whatever) against them with real world stakes. It just appeals to my sensibilities. I got my start in this business writing about monsters and, in a way, I still am. Now, I’m just focusing on the human kind.
Your writing schedule? Discipline: Hours or pages a day? Write fast or slow? Much rewriting?
Because I have a day job, I’m usually up around five a.m. (cue the coffee maker)—my thinking being I’d rather be as fresh as possible when I’m writing, even if it means I’m dragging at the end of the business day. It’s better than the alternative of coming home after a long day and having to slog through the writing. When I keep this schedule, I can get anywhere from 750-1,000 words in about 90 minutes, which equals a novel in roughly two to three months. I prefer to write first drafts fast because those are the hardest for me. Then, I’ll rewrite as much as necessary. I’d say I average three to five drafts on any given project with each draft going faster than the last.
Do you do much research?
I do, but I’m not married to whatever I find. I like to know a lot about whatever subject I’m exploring, but I tend to only put enough in the book to make the plot plausible. For example, with FAKE ID, I researched the first two decades of the WITSEC program, but at no point in the book do I go into a history of rowdy witnesses retrospective. I over research so I can comfortably embellish without crossing the line into unbelievability.
Some writers you enjoy reading?
Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Peter Abrahams, April Henry, Stephen King, Michael Grant, Laini Taylor, Dennis LeHane, F. Paul Wilson, Christopher Golden…really, I could name names until my hand cramps, but that’s a solid sampling, I think.
Have you ever taken writing classes? If so, how helpful have they been?
I have but it’s been quite a bit of time since my last class. I DID find them helpful, though. Literature classes helped me escape my reading comfort zone so I could find books I never would have stumbled upon on my own. OF MICE AND MEN, for example. Workshops helped me learn to take criticism quietly and graciously. And the instructors offered perspectives different from my own and helped me understand that author intent and reader interpretation won’t always align, and that’s probably the way it should be. So, yes, a lot of helpful lessons have come out of writing classes and I encourage other writers to participate if they can.
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 other things. He is a Virginia native, Hopewell High Blue Devil, and Old Dominion University Monarch. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife.
To learn more about Lamar, please visit his website.