Heads You Lose

A Novel

By Lisa Lutz + David Hayward

Reading Group Guide


Paul and Lacey Hansen are orphaned siblings who grow marijuana just outside the outskirts of tiny Mercer, California. When they find a headless body on their land one night, their occupation prevents them from calling the sheriff. Instead, they move the corpse to a more public location. Two nights later, the body reappears in their driveway, and Paul and Lacey soon discover some unsettling connections between their persistent visitor and their family's past.

But the murder mystery might be the tamer side of Heads You Lose. The book is the product of a unique collaboration between bestselling author Lisa Lutz and her ex-boyfriend, obscure poet David Hayward. When the coauthors start to disagree about what should happen in the book—and to whom—their own turbulent past spills onto the page. As Paul and Lacey scramble to stay a step ahead of the killer, their toughest challenge might be surviving the crossfire between their two creators.

Questions for Discussion

Spoiler alert! Don't read these until you've read the book.

  1. In 50 words or less, write a movie review of The Fop, including star rating.
  2. The first two chapters introduce the format of the book, with the two authors taking turns writing chapters. What was your initial reaction to their different styles and their notes to each other?
  3. To what extent do Lacey and Paul seem to become stand-ins for Lutz and Hayward, respectively?
  4. As the story progressed, did you find yourself siding with one sibling over the other? Or with one author over the other?
  5. How many names of reality TV shows can you make up in 10 minutes?
  6. Throughout Heads You Lose, the two authors compete to put their own stamp on characters—especially Sook Felton, Brandy Chester, and Doc Egan. In the end, do the two versions of each character add up? For example, when you think of Brandy, do you combine both the Lutz version of her (ditzy stripper) and the Hayward version (witty intellectual)?
  7. Why is chapter 14 written in the style of a children's book? Is the other author's response justified?
  8. The book jacket asserts that Lisa Lutz and David Hayward really were a couple once. To what extent do you think the authors' notes to each other accurately reflect their real-life history?
  9. If you could pick any person to write a book with, Heads You Lose-style, who would it be? Who's the last person you'd want to write one with? Which of these two collaborations would result in the more entertaining book?
  10. You're at the Timberline bar on a Friday night. Which of Mercer's many residents would you most like to have a drink with? And what do you order, an Easy Jesus or a John Daly?
  11. Thanks to a fixed coin toss, Lutz got to write the last chapter of the book. How would the ending be different if Hayward had won the toss?
  12. How many episodes would Terry Jakes have lasted on Survivor?

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