So our final guest today is someone we had the pleasure of meeting @ BookCon during the #weneeddiversebooks panel. There were a lot of amazing authors there, including
the amazing Ellen Oh and Marieke Nijkamp from DiversifYA but it was this amazing man by the name of Lamar Giles who truly stood out with his musings on diverse books. If you have a chance to listen to the audio here, you'll know that this man means business!
*Guinevere with Lamar Giles @ BookCon*
First, thanks for inviting me over for a chat! I’ve been writing stories for nearly 30 years with varying degrees of quality and commitment. When I was a young writer—8 to be exact—I was less concerned with narrative structure, character motivation, and language. I wrote my books in crayon. I abandoned that experimental style when I hit my teens but didn’t have much discipline for stories and novels. Because I was girl crazy. I spent about six years working on one novel. It would’ve gone quicker, but I lost a disproportionate amount of time trying to say smooth things on the telephone in my room while keeping a watchful eye on my beeper and sampling fine colognes (Cool Water, anyone?).
I got serious about the work when I turned 21. I was reaching the end of my college career and had trouble accepting a few long decades in a cubicle as a corporate drone. I would spend at least one decade in that gray, felt-walled box, but I always wrote, always tried to get better. I had a few successes (like getting stories published in all 3 of Brandon Massey’s DARK DREAMS anthologies), and a lot of failures. My big break came at age 31 when Phoebe Yeh of HarperCollins Children’s Books wanted to buy my book WHISPERTOWN (you may know it as FAKE ID). And my journey continues…
2. We bought your book before we even knew who you were. It was awesome to find so much buzz around a book penned by an author of color. What gave you the idea for “Fake ID?” Has it been your love child for years? Or did you just have an amazing idea overnight?
It took most of 2009 to write a solid, showable draft of FAKE ID. It was the 5th or 6th novel I’d written. I got the idea from a non-fiction book written by the man who founded the Federal Witness Protection program (which is actually known as WITSEC, or Witness Security). He told a bunch of crazy tales about stuff witnesses would do to make things difficult for themselves and the federal agents tasked with keeping them alive. That planted the seed for the idea of a kid living with a criminal parent. It wasn’t necessarily overnight, but it was a pretty painless process.
3. Was it always your intention to write a diverse book?
This question’s a little tricky for me to answer. Yes and no. It was always my intent to write books, and because I write stories the point a dark mirror at the world I see, I don’t know if I could write a book that doesn’t feature diversity. I live around all kinds of people, and I try to make my characters as realistic as possible (even in very fantastic situations). In other words magic, and time travel, and monsters make more sense to me than a narrative world where all the characters are homogenous. I didn’t choose to write a diverse book as much as I HAD to write a diverse book.
4. Do you find that you face different challenges as a man of color in the publishing industry?
There are things about this industry that are inherently difficult. It’s hard to break in at all, some aspiring writers never do. I jumped that hurdle. Some people can’t sell books on proposal (meaning the book isn’t complete, an editor makes an offer based on a synopsis and a few sample chapters). I’ve done it three times. There are many writers who have an almost antagonistic relationship with their publishing teams. I’ve received very high levels of support from my teams at HarperCollins and Scholastic and truly love working with them. In those instances, I think I have less difficulty than many others.
There are some things that seem less accessible to me than some of my friends who aren’t men of color, though. To date, foreign publishers have shown no interest in my work. I hope that changes soon. I want to sell some film/tv options one day, but writing characters of color has, traditionally, made breaking into Hollywood prohibitive. Think about it…who could play Nick Pearson in a movie or show? I don’t know of many young, black, male actors who fit the bill. I could name a few, but even then, some production company would need to be willing to build a project, that’s not a comedy, around a male lead of color. How many times do you see that?
Sometimes I sense a perception that because my books feature diverse heroes, some readers feel they or their children would have a hard time relating to the story, which can be heartbreaking.
BUT, I don’t want this to seem like sour grapes. I’m answering the question, because I was asked. For the most part, I think I’ve had a good go of it, and I’m hoping my track record and my work with We Need Diverse Books might open the door for other men of color.
5. Who are the authors who’ve inspired you? Do you have time to read a lot?
Writers who inspire me: Stephen King, Brandon Massey, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Walter Dean Myers, Laini Taylor, Gillian Flynn, F. Paul Wilson, Barry Lyga, Christopher Golden, Kwame Alexander, Meg Medina, Ellen Oh…I could probably keep this going for a couple of pages.
Regarding reading time, I’m reading just about everyday, but not so much for leisure as of late. I’m often reading books for school (I’m a grad student), research, or review for some sort of blurb or recommendation. That’s no complaint, though. My literary life feels very rich.
6. Do you have a quirky writing process?
No. My routine is boring (sorry!). Usually, I get up around 5 AM most days, and depending on what’s on my to do list, I’ll write anywhere from 2 – 4 hours before getting on with the rest of my tasks. If I’m on a tight deadline, then I’ll write in the evenings, too.
I say usually because I had my first semester of grad school this past fall, and it was the first time in a long time I couldn’t maintain my routine. School was just too demanding. I’m making adjustments for Spring semester so that doesn’t happen again. It can’t happen again. I’m committed to school for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with, but writing is how I make my living now (which is amazing), so I have to honor the routine that got me here above all.
7. One of the most awesome things about you, is that you’re apart of the “We Need Diverse Books” Campaign. How did that come to play for you? Have you learned anything since being on board?
We Need Diverse Books is the brainchild of Ellen Oh, the author of the PROPHECY trilogy. Ellen and I have been friends for years, having been introduced by our shared editor Phoebe Yeh. Also, we live in the same region of the country, so we end up at a lot of events together. At one of those events in March of this year, she gave me a high-level overview of a plan she was putting together, and asked if I wanted in. Of course I did.
And…WOW! It hasn’t even been a whole year—which is hard to believe—and so many awesome things have happened. What have I learned? There’s so much power in taking initiative and not relying on some outside force to improve things you feel need improvement.
8. Describe yourself in 10 words or less!
Driven, goofy, geeky and proud of it!
9. What’s next for Lamar Giles!
There are several things in the works. My next book, ENDANGERED, will debut on 04/21/2015. It’s about a self-professed vigilante who makes it her business to photograph the mean kids in her school doing dirt, then exposes them on her very popular/anonymous blog. But her crusade inspires a crazy person to take her “karma personified” routine to the next level, leading to murder and mayhem. It’s a very different book than FAKE ID, but I hope readers will enjoy it just as much. It’s available for pre-order now and I’m looking forward to seeing reactions to it.
Right now, I’m writing a book for Scholastic called OVERTURNED, which is about a Las Vegas teen poker player who investigates the murder of her exonerated ex-con father. That should be out sometime in 2016.
After that—and there hasn’t been a big announcement about this, so consider this as sort of exclusive—I’m returning to the world of FAKE ID to write another Nick Pearson mystery, working title: AFTERBURN.
Busy, busy, busy. And that’s a good thing.
10. Lastly, where can new fans go for book updates, twitter rants, and everything related to Lamar Giles the author?
LRGilesWriter on Facebook and @LRGiles on Twitter are good starts. And I’ll be tracking more events and news on my website (www.lamargiles.com) so feel free to check me out there, too.
Today is one of the last days to enter our giveaway, that means after tomorrow the winners will be chosen. Lamar Giles has been oh so awesome in offering his ARC for his latest book, Endangered as one of the prizes in the giveaway. Wouldn't it be oh so awesome if you won? Don't let these last moments slip away!
a Rafflecopter giveaway