A Letter from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Lies Like Wildfire

Dear Educator,

I hope you enjoy my first thriller, Lies Like Wildfire, which is based on personal experience. Over the past several years, wildfires have burned and besieged my community in Northern California with unrelenting ferocity. Nothing has terrified me more in my adult life than wildfire, so writing about five friends who accidentally start one was a natural choice for me.

However, writing the book wasn’t the end of the story. Soon after finishing the first draft in October 2019, a Nixle alert pinged on my phone informing me that another massive fire had started, and it was headed directly toward me. I packed up my kids, horses, and pets and evacuated along with 200,000 other people. Cal Fire’s computer model predicted that my home, my town, and 90,000 structures would be destroyed. Wind gusts hit 93 miles per hour.

Thanks to an incredible show of spirit, 300 fire departments from around the nation banded together to fight this monster. The Kincade Fire burned for thirteen days and incinerated 77,000 acres, but against all the odds, my home and town were saved. No lives were lost.

While this story is about five teens who make a horrible mistake, first responders and inmate firefighting squads are the true heroes in the fight against wildfires. I am forever grateful.

Lies Like Wildfire is based on real research. I interviewed the deputy chief of the Sonoma County Fire District about wildfire, arson, fire investigations, fire laws, and red flag warnings. I enhanced the story with fictional Nixle alerts, press conferences, damage tallies, townsfolk reactions, and fire containment percentages to convey an authentic experience. The book also brings up important questions about climate change and depicts the lengths some people will go to keep a secret, which is perhaps even more terrifying.

At its heart, Lies Like Wildfire is a cautionary tale about how rapidly a spark can turn deadly, how swiftly one lie can turn into many, and how quickly best friends can turn into reluctant accomplices. My hope is that this story thrills and entertains, but also invites deeper reflection and discussion long after the book is over.

All my best,
Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of Lies Like Wildfire as well as two middle grade fantasy series, The Guardian Herd and Riders of the Realm, and she holds a degree in English from UC Berkeley. She lives in Sonoma County, California. You can follow her on Instagram @jennifer_lynn_alvarez or Twitter @Jenniferdiaries. Visit her online at jenniferlynnalvarez.com.

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