Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Will Lavender's "Dominance"

Will Lavender is a graduate of Centre College with an MFA from Bard College. His debut novel, Obedience, was a New York Times and international bestseller. His novels have been sold in 13 countries.

Here he explains why a certain celebrated director might be perfect for an adaptation of his new novel, Dominance:
I always have an idea of how I want my books to “feel.” Tone isn’t something your English 101 prof scribbles on the chalk board; I really believe in it. In fact, I take tone so seriously I rewrite only to create a kind of menacing hum beneath the story. I want my books to be creepy, harrowing freakfests that set readers on the edge of their seats.

Roman Polanski, regardless of how one feels about his politics or his past, seems to direct with a very particular tone in mind. His early films (especially the paranoid, jarring Knife in the Water) have the kind of unspoken menace I am always shooting for when I write. The four characters in Knife act honestly, always one of the traits of a good film, but they also act as if they know something the viewer does not. There is a dreadful, almost sickening feeling about the film; it is the feeling that a viewer gets when he knows the characters are heading toward a reckoning.

My books are not feel-good events. They are bombastic, they use horror tropes, but at their hearts I think they are the kinds of things Polanski was drawn to early in his career. They’re paranoid thrillers, basically, with the characters all refusing to give up the novel’s central mystery. Dominance hinges on the hidden identity of a reclusive author, and every character seems to know that author’s identity but refuses to tell. There is a fine line between manipulation and gamesmanship, and the mystery writer must walk the tightrope perfectly between the two to keep the reader invested in his game; Polanski’s best films, even the recent and only mildly successful The Ghost Writer (the novel Polanski pulled from is one of the more brilliant paranoid thrillers I’ve read), balance this wire perfectly. The reader comes out of his films with the blurred, disorienting feeling that he has been guided through a dream world. I hope Dominance achieves something like this, and I would love to see Polanski take a crack at my novel.
Learn more about the author and his work at Will Lavender's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Obedience.

Writers Read: Will Lavender.

--Marshal Zeringue