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Author Spotlight: L.R. Giles

February is Black History Month and currently there are some wonderful kidlit blogs highlighting African American authors and books featuring African American protagonists, such as Lee and Low's Black History Month Giveaway and The Brown Bookshelf. Here at the YA Highway, we thought it would be fun to take a look into the future and spotlight African American YA authors who have debut novels forthcoming. First up, we are so pleased to introduce Lamar "L.R." Giles, author of YA mystery FAKE ID, coming in 2014 from HarperCollins.  

About the author:  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, a Hopewell High Blue Devil, and an Old Dominion University Monarch. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife. Learn more about him at

About the book: A teen in witness protection investigates his best friend’s murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that may lead back to his own father.

1. What books did you read when you were a teenager?
My tastes were wide and varied, from Spider-man comics to Dean Koontz novels. But, some of the standouts from my teen years include BLOOD BROTHERS by Steven Barnes, MY SOUL TO KEEP by Tananarive Due, NIGHTWORLD by F. Paul Wilson, FEAR NOTHING by Dean Koontz, A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest J. Gaines, and OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck (those last two were high school assignments, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't dislike them).

2. Can you tell us anything about the main character in FAKE ID?
Nick Pearson is a 15 year old African American male who projects a rough/loner vibe but craves stability and lasting relationships more than anything. As the child of a career criminal, he's got a unique perspective, a handy (if not strictly legal) skill set, and a strong sense of morality that he developed, most likely, to piss off his oft-shady dad. He's not above some 'rule-bending' to accomplish a greater good. And if things get rough, he's more than capable of handling himself in a scuffle.

3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First piece of advice: don't call yourself 'aspiring'. Write, and you'll be a writer. Claim it. Tell anyone who'll listen that you're a writer. It's best to get used to suspicious looks from strangers early. Also, if your goal is to publish, forget about what's hot at the moment. Look for the gaps. What's NOT being published right now? If you can figure that out, and you can produce material that suits your brand of writing AND fills the gap, you'll be the one giving advice before too long.

4. What 3 words would you use to describe the publishing journey so far?
Glacial. Peaks. Valleys.

5. Are there any African American authors who have influenced your writing?
Absolutely. Brandon Massey, Dwayne McDuffie (may he R.I.P), John Ridley, Walter Dean Myers, Eric Jerome Dickey...really, the list goes on. In particular, I credit Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due for exposing me to the possibilities for my own writing. Their stories combined suspense and empowerment in a way that blew my mind when I was teen. Before them, I'd only read genre stories (science-fiction, fantasy, and horror -- my first loves, even though FAKE ID is a mystery) where minorities were secondary/expendable characters with little personality or aspirations. But, stories by Barnes and Due featured African American heroes with rich lives, motivations, and faults. I wanted to do what they did, and I've been working to live up to their examples ever since. 

Thank you so much, Lamar! We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us!
Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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  1. Love mysteries. This one sounds great!

  2. Agreed. I'm putting this on my To-Read list for the future! I love the advice for "aspiring" writers. It always boosts my confidence to think that I am a writer because I love to write, and what I have (or don't have) published doesn't make any difference. Thanks, Lamar!

  3. I love the advice to aspiring writers. We're NOT aspiring. ;) It's very meaningful. I'm off to check out FAKE ID further... looks great! :)

  4. Great interview! Excited to add FAKE ID to my TBR pile next year, Lamar.


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Item Reviewed: Author Spotlight: L.R. Giles Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn