Will Lavender ’99 thrills literary world with mystery novels
From a young age, Will Lavender ’99 had an interest in writing.
“At about six years old, I learned that there were people out there writing books that other people bought, read, and loved — and this fascinated me,” Lavender says. “I made up my mind then that writing was something I really wanted to do when I grew up.”
Lavender followed his childhood ambitions: his first novel, “Obedience,” released in 2008, made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. Lavender’s second book, “Dominance,” was released on July 5 with advanced praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review and numerous bestselling crime and thriller authors.
The novel begins fifteen years ago, centering on a professor convicted of murder who is teaching a literary mystery class from his prison cell. The plot progresses to present day, and when members of the professor’s class from the past begin dying mysteriously, their classmate Alex Shipley — now a professor herself — must search for the answers.
Fortunately, Centre professors did not provide inspiration for Lavender’s characters — but other characteristics of his alma mater did.
“I can safely say that everything in both my novels comes purely from my imagination. Everything, that is, except the settings,” says Lavender. “I borrow a lot of the geography — the classroom buildings, the landscapes, even the placement of some of the campus benches — from Centre.”
While he was a student at Centre, Lavender was exposed to authors and literature that had a major effect on his own writing.
“Another world opened up when I came to Centre. I began to understand that there were writers out there who were exploring the underbellies of society, who were writing about people who often didn’t make the weekly newspaper,” Lavender says. “I grew up in a tiny rural town in southern Kentucky, and the characters who peopled Southern fiction were people I grew up with.
“I write a much different kind of fiction now,” Lavender continues, “but I still cherish the time I spent exploring — and, to be honest, trying to mimic — those Southern writers I first came across at Centre.”
Lavender became particularly interested in the thriller and puzzler genres of fiction after Centre.
“The thriller genre piqued my interest because I liked the way thrillers cut hard against mainstream literature and tried to do different things, to almost say of literary fiction, ‘We don’t need your trappings. We’re doing something wildly different over here’,” Lavender says. “There was a kind of aggressive, almost subversive attitude to many of those books. I thought immediately, ‘I love this. I can do this.’”
Lavender may only have begun writing thrillers after graduation, but he credits his time at Centre as part of his success.
“Centre did many truly important things for me, but the most important was that it helped me to really become more adventurous as a reader,” he says. “I would never have experienced all the great Southern lit I did had it not been for my education at Centre.”