Tuesday, May 31, 2011


So yeah: I'm beginning a weeklong contest today. The rules? They're simple.

Either in the comments section of this post or on my Facebook page, leave me a few words about your favorite mystery/thriller writer. One sentence, two sentences--it doesn't matter. Just tell me who you love to read and why.

I will pick three winners, and they each will receive an advanced copy of DOMINANCE. The novel will be released on July 5th, so you will get it more than a month ahead of time. Can't beat that.

The contest will run from Tuesday May 31st to Tuesday June 7th. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mysteries, Thrillers, and the Land in Between

Alfred Hitchcock hated mysteries. He said he would never film a mystery because too much relied on the final reveal. He of course made suspense films that were twisty enough to hold the viewer's interest, but many times in a Hitchcock film the killer is revealed early but motivation and method are revealed late.

I want both. DOMINANCE is both a mystery and a thriller, and that's the way I like it. I want my books to exist in that in-between world that will appeal to readers of whodunits (and DOMINANCE is definitely a whodunit in the classic sense of the word) and high-octane thrillers (DOMINANCE, I think, is also that).

There are few (American) novels that exist in this in-between land. I am always looking for them in the bookstore, but I strike out more often than not. Do you, dear readers, have any recommendations for me?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Top 10 Things That Are Genius

I love top 10 lists, and I love entertainment that is genius*. So here's a top 10 ten featuring things that absolutely blew me away.

* What's "genius"? I don't know for sure, but I know it when I see it.

1. The Wire (TV show): Brilliant characters, unflinching realism, and the best acting I've ever seen on television. If you haven't seen "The Wire," remedy this problem with a quickness.

2. The Hunger Games (novel): I don't normally read YA, but this? This ain't YA. This is brilliance personified.

3.  Rosemary's Baby (novel): Absolutely terrifying. You get inside this book and you think you've been hijacked by a demented mind and cannot for the life of you escape. A paranoid, terrifying dream.

4. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (movie): This bizarre cult film from the '70s hasn't aged as much as you think. One of the most inventive horror films ever made.

5. Slint, Spiderland (record): Alternative rock from right here in Louisville, KY. Made before alternative rock got cool.

6. The Ax (novel): Donald Westlake's thriller is plausibly, breathlessly real. A must-read in times like these.

7. Being John Malkovich (movie): This was big when it came out a decade ago, but it seems like everybody forgot how genius it actually is.

8. The Raw Shark Texts (book): Part sci-fi, part amnesia narrative, part chase thriller. Almost violently inventive, this is the one novel I kick myself for not writing.

9. David Cronenberg (director): To watch a Cronenberg film is to be thrown into a disturbing reality that is at once fascinating and difficult to watch. I recently watched his The Brood for the first time. Almost shockingly weird--and that's why I liked it.

10. Never Let Me Go (book): Not much more needs to be said about this but, "Read it. Now."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Writing "Dominance"

I'm not sure I'm like most writers. I get inspiration for my stories not from life, not from my history, but for the most part they come from one thing: reading.

Sometimes I will read a newspaper article and think, "Wow, this would make a great story." This is exactly what happened with my first novel, "Obedience," after I read an article about the bizarre McDonald's telephone hoax case in Mt. Washington, Kentucky. (You can read that very article here.)

For "Dominance," a book that marinated and stewed and developed for the better part of 18 months, it was a little different.

Different because my inspiration came from the very field I work in: novels.

I have always wanted to write a thriller about books. That became the charge I gave to myself at the outset of drafting "Dominance." But books about books and writers have been done to death--see King, Stephen; Koontz, Dean; and a myriad of other authors who have successfully mined this field for years.

So I decided to write a different kind of book. A book that was about writers, but did not star a writer; a book that was a mystery, but had the intensity of a thriller; and a book that was not a horror novel, but that is as creepy and atmospheric as I could make it.

So: there it was. A thriller about books. A DIFFERENT kind of thriller. And yet...and yet I still didn't really know how to begin. I didn't have a "blueprint." I hadn't read a newspaper article like I did with "Obedience" to spark my creativity. And so I decided, upon much fingernail-gnawing, to pull from what I probably know best: novels.

And still--STILL--there was a problem.

It was this: how do you pull from a novel and not mimic the novel? How do you not just steal somebody else's work or ideas?

Here is how I got around that: I used not one, but TWO novels as my inspiration. And I did something else: I picked two novels that were as different as I could possibly make them. Those two novels were Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" and Thomas Harris's "Silence of the Lambs."

How in God's name could I combine a locked room mystery and Hannibal Lecter into a thriller?

Well, that is what I attempted to do with "Dominance." The novel is not quite a thriller, it's not quite a mystery, it's not quite a literary book about authorship and psychology--but I have tried to combine all of the above into something that is, above all else, entertaining.

I write to entertain. To allow the reader to get out of her world for a few days and find something that is interesting, thought-provoking, and maybe even a little scary. I write for that "jolt." And I hope, when you read "Dominance," that you feel it. That you are transported, at least for a little while, into the world I set out to create.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Stephen King

I am often asked, "Who is your greatest influence?" It's a difficult question. There are so many, really, from the early horror novelists I read as a kid (Clive Barker, Peter Straub) to the masters of language and form I read in college (Don DeLillo, Michael Chabon) to the mystery and thriller writers I love today (Karin Slaughter, Lee Child).

But there is no question that my greatest influence, the writer that has had the deepest and most profound impact on my writing, is Stephen King.

I know, I know. You've seen it before. To mention King as an influence is like saying Babe Ruth is your favorite baseball player. Okay, so no new ground is being broken here. But we each have our own beacons, and this is mine: as a teenager, I discovered a kind of writing--a kind of storytelling--that I wanted to do when I grew up. In a bookstore in Somerset, Kentucky, I plucked a Stephen King novel off the shelf (it was "Gerald's Game," not one of King's best but still the book that I first mention when I talk about him). This began a kind of love affair.

There are many reasons people are drawn to King's books, especially his early work (though I think "Under the Dome" ranks right up there with his best). His books are accessible, his characters recognizable, his writing poignant to the point of personal. Any time you pick up a King novel, you realize right away that you are in the hands of somebody who GETS IT.

But for me, I realized on the days after I left that bookstore with my first King novel that my connection with King's work didn't have to do with the ghouls he eloquently writes about. For me, I recognized something more than that. It was a deep understanding; a better grasp of the WHY of the story.

You see, I think I knew why Stephen King wrote those kinds of books. And I knew, as irrevocably then as I do now, that I wanted to try and write them myself.

I will likely never touch as many readers as King has. But each time I write, and really every time I open a novel, I think about that moment when I first picked up "Gerald's Game." The thrill of reading the first chapters. The buzz of emotion--laughter, fear, love, sorrow--that King is able to get at with his language and characters. And I try, dear reader, to recreate it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First transmission

This is my first transmission from the Blogging Desk. Much, much more to come in the weeks leading up to the release of my second novel, "Dominance," on July 5th. Thanks so much for visiting WillLavender.com, and drop back anytime to hear about events, promotions, and contests. I cannot wait for "Dominance" to hit the shelves, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

All my best,

Will Lavender