David Lender is a former investment banker whose bestselling thrillers are inspired by the twenty-five years he spent on Wall Street. His writing is very descriptive and he lures you into his story very quickly. He's the author of six novels and four short stories, but the Sasha Del Mira thrillers are the real deal. Trojan Horse (the first in the series) was a crazy success on Amazon and gave him the confidence to move forward with the series. And we're very glad he did.
1- Your writing is so vivid. In a
subtle manner you seamlessly add the smells and sounds of your character’s
surroundings. Where did you develop such
a strong writing style?
I always write a scene from one
character’s point of view. Because of
that I put myself in the mindset of that character and even write the
non-dialogue sections of the scene using the character’s manner of speech. That forces me into that character’s head, so
I describe what he or she is sensing in the surroundings of the scene. That
includes smells, sights, sounds, textures, etc.
I also try not to overdo it with
setting the table for a scene. My first
editor pounded into me that I should quickly establish the setting and get into
the meat of the dialogue or action, or set the scene simultaneously. Forget about long introductory paragraphs
describing the colors of the sunset, but give readers a few rich bursts of
setting that stick in their minds.
2- Being a Wall Street veteran,
it must be tempting to write some real life stories into your fiction. Ever
squeeze one in using different names and places?
As a former wall Streeter, yes
some tidbits from real deals, negotiations, even composites of different people
I worked with or represented, inevitably wind up in my fiction. I think that must be the case with anyone who
has a particular life experience, otherwise what would you have to write about?
But if the story was entirely
Roman `a clef, it probably would fall flat because trying to write real-life
people into fictional characters would be almost impossible to get right. I'm not a big believer in the fact that
characters have a life of their own once you create them—after all, it's the
writer who determines his or her characters’ personalities and the direction
their stories will take. Otherwise your
writing is just blathering onto the page with disorganized, unstructured
chaos. In addition, I think you can move
your story forward in a more lifelike manner with characters you create than by
trying to put yourself into the skin of a person that you know, whether or not he
or she's disguised as fictional.
3- Knowing what goes on in the
trenches, do you keep most of your money under your mattress?
Ha-ha. No, hiding your money in your mattress won’t
get you anyplace. At any point I'm
relatively fully invested. I've never
liked bonds, I love stocks that pay big dividends and my financial advisors
tell me I have a very strong stomach and high tolerance for long-term
risk. I also learned one of my most
important investing lessons early on: find smart people. I’ve done alright investing my own money, but
I've done the best by finding great advisors and money managers.
4- Tell us some of your
experiences with the business of publishing.
Does it differ much from finance--or is business simply business?
I think many writers still don't
look at publishing as a business. They
think it's all about writing, when in fact managing the business sides of it is
critical. Decisions about social media,
promotion, covers, formatting, consistency with your genre or theme, platforms
to publish on, how frequently to put out books are big parts of it. And while it's easy to say that publishing is
nothing like my former career, finance, I believe that success in any business
is mostly about having an organized mind and developing a strategy. And then having the discipline and skills to
stay focused on execution. So as a
writer, stick to your genre or theme, feed your readers.
My most profound experience in
the business of publishing is how I uploaded my first novel, Trojan Horse, onto the Kindle Direct
Publishing platform in early 2011. A few
months before that, one of my brothers, who is sophisticated computer guy,
wanted to read the novel and asked me to send him a .mobi file. I had no idea what that was. He took my Word file and converted it and
then dragged and dropped it onto his Kindle.
I had no idea what a Kindle was either.
Then my wife gave me a Kindle
shortly afterward for my birthday.
Rather than wait until I knew what I was doing, I stumbled through
formatting Trojan Horse for Kindle, chose
one of my dad’s photographs for the cover picture and had a friend of mine who
did post-production work create the cover for me. I threw the book up there priced at $9.99
alongside major thriller writers’ current releases. This was back in the day, when $0.99 was
driving pricing for indie writers. I
learned fast. It took me about a week to
figure out price was an issue. So I cut
the price to $0.99 and the book started to move. I got some good reviews. I started promoting it in social media,
joined an on-line author group that swapped ideas. I took out an ad in one of the online e-book newsletters
and got a big two-day bump. And then
somehow Amazon's software picked up that bump and Trojan Horse was featured in an Amazon e-mail blast with a few
other thrillers, and that really lit up Trojan
I woke up that Saturday morning and
had sold 100 books by 10 a.m., more than in the entire previous week. I thought it was a mistake. By 11 a.m., another hundred, then 100, 200,
and so on. Trojan Horse ultimately reached the top 10 on the Kindle bestseller
Yes, I got lucky, but I was also
adapting quickly to what I was learning and that helped me start developing a following. I really believe if you sit around and
research everything to death, you'll never get off your butt to do
anything. Sometimes just throwing
yourself in the water over your head and clawing your way to the surface can
get you to a better place more quickly.
5- Where do you see digital
technology taking the publishing world five years from now?
I see digital technology being
the primary vehicle for publishing five years from now. I don't think physical books will ever be
totally dead, because there's a mystique about holding a book in your hand. You can go back and reread it, mark it up or
dog-ear its pages. It's a whole
different concept than highlighting something in your Kindle.
But e-books are an unstoppable
wave, a tsunami, and if you take the analogy of what's happened in the
newspaper business you can see where it's going. Any newspaper that hasn't adapted to the
online world is either a local niche business based on a completely different
model, or it’s dying or dead. Google and
Amazon are the ones to emulate; they’ll rule the world.