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Interview With an Author: Lamar Giles

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Lamar Giles and his latest book, The Gateaway
Author Lamar Giles and his latest book, The Gateaway. Photo of author: Adrienne Giles

Lamar Giles writes for teens and adults across multiple genres, with work appearing on numerous Best Of lists each and every year. He is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and resides in Virginia with his family. His latest book is The Getaway and he recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for The Getaway?

A number of things. Most prominently was a well-known story by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff regarding a surreal experience with billionaire doomsday preppers concerned with how to best manage their bunkers in the event of societal unrest combined with my own experiences as a young resort worker. I’ve found two discordant ideas crashing into each other can create such interesting stories.

Are Jay, Zeke, Connie, or Chelle, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

No. I try not to base characters on real people and instead go for traits that we all may recognize within ourselves or others. The best example is Jay, who’s fighting an internal war between selfishness and selflessness. How many horrible things can he overlook if he and his family are safe? How many horrible things do we overlook in our own lives?

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I’ll answer the second question first…no. There’s nothing or no one I wish had made it because I think the final revised version is indeed the best version. The book evolved and changed as most of my novels do. Bloated at first. Maybe a little nonsensical. Then each draft chips away the extra weight. I’ve compared it to eliminating the weight in a racecar to make it faster.

It seems clear that Karloff Country was inspired, at least in part, by Walt Disney World. Are you a fan of theme/amusement parks? Do you have a favorite one (Disney or otherwise)? A favorite attraction or ride?

I do like amusement parks, and my favorite is probably Universal Studios Orlando. I’ve spent a lot of time there; I think they have fantastic rides. My favorite is either the Incredible Hulk coaster or the Spider-Man ride.

What inspired you to name the resort Karloff Country?

Karloff Country is named after Boris Karloff, the classic film actor who played Frankenstein’s monster. It felt appropriate because I consider Karloff Country to be a monster made up of many parts.

The Getaway also seems to indicate that you are a fan of both the films and the music of the 1980s. Do you have a favorite 80s film? A favorite band and/or song?

It would be difficult to name a favorite 80s film because it’s my preferred decade for all things. I’ll throw a few out: Back to the Future, Aliens, Coming to America, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. As for songs…I could go for hours, but I’ll give you my daughter’s (she’s one) absolute favorite: "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins. Kenny Loggins if you’re reading this I oscillate between loving you and hating you.

How close do you think we are, both nationally and globally, to a group of rich people giving civilization that “little nudge” into oblivion?

Too close. That’s all I’ll say about that.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Tananarive Due
N.K. Jemisin
Steven Barnes
S.A. Cosby
Stephen King

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss. There are times I’ve read it, and it felt like a whole horror story if you think of it from the perspective of the Whos.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

No. Never. My mother was happy to see her children reading and was never bothered by any books in our possession. I’m here talking to you today because of that freedom.

Is there a book you've faked reading?

Naw. I’ll just tell you I didn’t read it.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Sure. I recall Robert R. McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour drawing me in with its image of a wolfman howling at the sky. Reading the description later and discovering he was a Wolfman Secret Agent only confirmed you CAN judge a book by its cover!

Is there a book that changed your life?

It by Stephen King when I was 11 years old. Because it felt like a magic trick. How’s this dude making me scared just by the way he arranged the words? I wanted to learn the trick and have been trying ever since.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. Read it. NOW! Trust Me!

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Nightworld by F. Paul Wilson. It was an Avengers: Endgame level crossover of Wilson’s horror/fantasy universe and I was INTO IT. I was a big fan of those characters and connections. It’s a big influence on how I structure my story universe. It’s all connected.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

Jordan Peele’s Nope. I think he’s working at a super high level and not falling into any ruts. I want to be like him. I want you to be surprised by the swings I take.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

A quiet, fun day with my family. No outside stressors intruding.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked but never have been? What is your answer?

I wish more people would ask me who’d win a fight between Batman and Superman so I could rant for three hours. The short answer is Superman.

What are you working on now?

Another scary book that I can’t talk about yet. But if The Getaway doesn’t scare you away, I’ll have another treat for you soon.

Book cover for The Getaway
The Getaway
Giles, Lamar

In The Getaway, Lamar Giles tells a terrifying, near future tale about a world on the brink of dystopia and how easily it can be coaxed over the edge. He illustrates the wide range of reactions people exhibit when confronted with systemic societal collapse and existential threats from pride in having participated in the creation of the chaos to those who refuse to acknowledge the truth and danger right in front of them.

Giles’ depiction of the end of civilization as we know it is horrifying and it seems all the more believable because he never asks readers to suspend their disbelief by portraying the events in the novel over- or melodramatically. Instead, Giles creates a fascinating exploration of privilege and class, examining how they intersect with race, age, and ideas of servitude in which some horrible things happen, but are all believable because they reflect behaviors that were once considered normal. Giles illustrates just how far segments of our society will go in pursuit of power and greed.

The Getaway is a 21st century Masque of the Red Death where, as Poe before him, Giles warns us of the dangers that are lurking in the future and the lengths some among us are willing to go to save themselves.