Question: Which books or movies influenced you in writing Vaccine Nation?
David Lender: Vaccine Nation is intended to be reminiscent of Six Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, or Hitchcock's North by Northwest. I am a fan of the “average person (or seemingly so) thrust into extraordinary circumstances” genre, so the book was also influenced by The Bourne Identity, The Fugitive, Enemy of the State, Die Hard, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Man on Fire, and The Net.
Q: Tell us about weaving real history and drug facts throughout your story.
DL: The facts in Vaccine Nation are accurate: the 1986 Congressional grant of immunity to the pharmaceutical industry for liability related to their vaccines for the National Immunization Program, the toxicity of certain ingredients of vaccines, the controversy surrounding the safety and side effects of vaccines, vaccines’ suspected relationship to the autism epidemic, and the recent (2011) Supreme Court decision that absolved vaccine makers from product liability for defective vaccine products.
Q: You deal with some very serious and controversial topics being debated across the country. Why did you choose to take on such polarizing subject matter?
DL: I was exposed to the vaccine debate through my fiancée’s work as a documentary filmmaker in a health-related field, including films on ADHD and related drugging of children, and on vaccines and autism. The issues in the book are real and need exposure. The debate on vaccine safety is increasing: Recent CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] statistics show that 10 percent of parents (up from 2 to 3 percent) are avoiding or delaying vaccinating their children because of concerns about vaccine safety.
Q: You worked on Wall Street for 25 years. What made you decide to start writing?
DL: I always wanted to be a novelist. I made up my mind to do it about 15 years ago, when my investment banking career was in full swing. I just muscled it into my schedule, getting up at 5 a.m., writing for an hour, and then going to my day job, like most aspiring writers. I outlined or edited scenes on planes, in cabs, or in hotel rooms. I write because I love it, but also because I got to the point where I could no longer ignore the compulsion to do so.
Q: You must draw a lot of inspiration from your time on Wall Street. Where else do you find inspiration?
DL: Sometimes it’s someone in my life. Dani North, the protagonist of Vaccine Nation, was inspired by my fiancée, Manette. Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite authors, and reading his stuff frequently gives me ideas. Sometimes it’s just throwing ideas around with friends.
Q: What kind of books do you read, and which authors have influenced you?
DL: Thrillers. What else? Thriller writers who have influenced me include Elmore Leonard, Graham Greene, Frederick Forsyth, John le Carré, John Grisham (although I don’t think he’s ever gotten close to The Firm again), Robert Ludlum, Ken Follett, and Thomas Harris.
Q: Which books do you read over and over again?
DL: I think F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the great American novel. I read it every year or so. Out of Sight is Elmore Leonard's best, with Get Shorty a close second. Nobody does dialogue or backstory like him. I’ll also never stop returning to Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Forsythe’s The Day of the Jackal (it may be the best thriller ever written), le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, and Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana.
" . . . definitely among the titles that comprise my list of all-time great books I have read. . . Lender is an exceptional talent whose stories rank him alongside the very best names in thrillers – names like Thomas Harris, Robert Ludlum, Dennis Lehane, John le Carre and Lee Child." - Chosen as Best Book of The Year 2011, Tracy Riva Books & Reviews