While it’s incredibly difficult to believe this time is upon us already, we have come to our final ¡Mira, Look! post of the school year. For this climactic moment, we are proud to feature an equally climactic author: Nick Lake. Not coincidentally, one of his most recent books, In Darkness, is also our featured title for May.
Nick Lake was born in Britain, but he grew up in Luxembourg because his father was on assignment as a civil servant of the English Parliament. There is not a lot of information available about Nick Lake’s upbringing and background, but we do know that he currently lives in England with his wife and daughter and that he presently works as the Editorial Director for fiction for Harper Collins Children’s Books.
Lake is perhaps best known for a vampire ninja trilogy called Blood Ninja that he wrote in the early 2000s. More recently, however, his work has fallen under the genre of what Lake describes as “literary thrillers.” In Darkness was released in 2012, and Hostage Three was released in 2013. In Darkness was Lake’s first book written for young adults. In an interview with School Library Journal (SLJ), he said his impetus for writing it came from “two separate strands. The first: I did a Masters in linguistics and one of the modules was on Creole and those kind of languages and so that got me interested in Haiti and reading about people like Toussaint L’Ouverture, and reading Wade Davis and Zora Neale Hurston. That was 10 years ago but that fascination with Toussaint L’Ouverture was kind of percolating at the back of my mind….The second thing was the earthquake—and the utter horror that most people felt, that this terrible humanitarian tragedy happening to a country that had already had such a bad history. And particularly, it was when two or three days later, the news started doing stories on people who had dug out of the rubble. I saw one of them being interviewed on TV and they said, “There was a point there where I couldn’t tell whether I was thinking thoughts or speaking aloud.” And I thought that was just the most extraordinary thing for someone to say. In fact, I stole it and used it for Shorty in the book.”
While Lake acknowledges In Darkness is a work of fiction, he took great care to both explore Haitian culture and describe its historical roots. He conducted a great deal of research to draw historical parallels between his main character, Shorty, and prominent Haitian figures of the past such as Toussaint L’Ouverture. This particular work also engages the notion of foreign aid, what it means to Haitians, and how outsiders can (or cannot) help — a powerful topic around which to engage students. And, if time permits, the book can also spawn a provocative conversation that considers the historical and contemporary relations between the U.S. and Haiti (see the BBC’s article on “The long history of troubled ties between Haiti and the US“, for instance).
Well, I hope you will all check out this book–and perhaps some of Lake’s other works as well. It has been a great year, and I am signing out for the summer.
Until Next Year,