Monday, September 21, 2009

Interview: Will Lavender

The other week, I reviewed 'Obedience' by Will Lavender. He's now very kindly agreed to do an interview for us. I asked him about things from plotting, to how he became a writer, and his new project, Dominance.

1) First off, when did you decide you wanted to write, and how did you come to write this novel? Where did you get the idea for Obedience from?
I knew I wanted to be a writer early on, after I read the Bunnicula books by James Howe. I remember thinking how cool it was that people told stories for a living, that there were folks out there who were making books and providing them to people for enjoyment. I've always had an affinity for books and an aptitude for writing--and so it was natural that I got into this. I got the idea for Obedience from the Mt. Washington McDonald's case, which was well-known in Kentucky for a couple of years earlier in the decade. The scientist Stanley Milgram's name was mentioned in the newspaper account of the case, and I got to thinking about how far someone might go only because a person in authority tells them to go there. I was a college instructor at the time, and I wondered how far I might be able to go with my students. I couldn't go that far, obviously, and wouldn't for ethical reasons--but Professor Williams does.

2) The plot twists are great - how hard was it for you to keep some information hidden, and lead the characters where they are supposed to go? I'm guessing you must have had a very good plan. Were there times when you missed things, or did most of it come out right first time?
A lot of what you see in the book came to me when I was writing the first draft. I did not have a very good plan, in fact I didn't have that much of a plan at all. I had three main scenes: the very first scene of the novel, one of the middle scenes, and a late scene that allows things to start moving toward the climax of the novel. That was it. It's an age-old battle in novel writing: Should one write with or without an outline? I always choose to write without, because I need those plot twists to surprise me. If they don't surprise me, then they won't surprise a reader. The plot twists in Obedience continued to surprise me, so I just kept on going and kept putting them in. My editor helped a great deal with consistency and coherence after the first draft was done, but at least 75% of the book you see now is pretty much how I conceived it.

3) Can you tell us a bit about your next book? Is it in any way a sequel to Obedience?
My next book is called Dominance. My deadline is October 1st. It isn't a sequel per se, but I do use some of the same themes. The book is another college novel, this one set in upstate Vermont. It's about a class of English majors that is taught via satellite by a convicted murderer. As the class gets into the syllabus, they discover that the murderer may not be who he says he is--in fact, he may not even be guilty of the crimes he was convicted of. It's been a difficult book to write, probably because I'm working with different timelines and time sequences. (Part of the book takes place in the present, with the students from the original class grown up and the novel's heroine investigating a murder that looks shockingly similar to the ones her old professor was accused of.) But if you enjoyed Obedience, you'll like this new one as well.

4) I'm dying to know - what happens to Brian after the end of Obedience?
The novel pretty much ends for me where it ends for the reader. I've been asked a hundred times about Brian, and I really couldn't tell you what becomes of him. I would hope he is granted some leniency for what he did, because he was of course driven to that point by the class. Brian was a tough character to write in general; he comes to Winchester sort of a broken soul and then has this bizarre class that he really doesn't even want to take come along. You feel more sorry for him--at least I do--than the other two main characters. But essentially he chose to do what he did at the end of the book; I believe, though, that a jury would agree that he was manipulated in some pretty profound ways.

5) Did you ever have doubts about or trouble being published? How did you get your agent & publisher?
I didn't really have too many doubts about Obedience because I knew it was different, and I was pretty sure it was a book that would appeal to people who read thrillers. I found my agent on a Web site called From there she helped me clean the manuscript up, and then she sent it off to a few publishers. Before long we had some interest and then, eventually, a few offers. The book has been published in eleven or twelve foreign countries and was a pretty big seller in China. Movie rights have been discussed, etc. None of that happens without a good agent--and I definitely have one of those.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read. Read a lot and then continue reading and finally read some more. And not only that: read like a writer. Read with an eye toward how published writers do things. Not just big things, either--I'm talking about the "little" things as well. (Though they are in no way small.) How do writers use tags in dialogue, for instance? How do they get characters from place to place? How do they write action sequences? How do they make their characters come to life? All these things can be picked up if you go out there and try to find them. I'm not talking about stealing--I'm talking about picking up the essential pieces of writers' styles and then making them your own. I try to learn something from every book I read, good or bad.

Thank you very much, Will!
Will's website can be found here: Click, where you can learn more about him, his books, and his influences. Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this interview!

Posted by Gapyeargirl123


Elie N on September 23, 2009 at 12:59 AM said...

You have been nominated for an award at

You can nominate your favorites too, share the love!

Vidushi on September 24, 2009 at 12:26 PM said...

Interesting n different blog....

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