Friday, September 17, 2010

Paper Dreams

Today, I'm sharing my blog post with mystery writer Dorien Grey. By way of introduction, if it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, writer Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

After having published thirteen books in the popular Dick Hardesty Mystery series, the western/romance/adventure novel, Calico, and the imminent publication of the third book in his new Elliott Smith Mystery series, he is busily at work on yet another Dick Hardesty mystery.

Welcome, Roger and Dorien

Books are the writer’s dreams set to paper. They are formed, as are all dreams, in the imagination. But unlike sleep dreams, the writer has some degree of control over them. If unable to direct the dream’s every aspect, at least the writer can consciously influence them by nudging them in certain directions. I know that some writers plot out every single step and detail of a story before actually sitting down to write. It works for J.K. Rowling, who has made more money from transcribing her dreams of Harry Potter into more money than I will ever see in ten lifetimes. But it would never work for me. The element of spontaneity, both in sleep dreams and writing, is far too crucial for me.

If writing can be compared to flowing water, the detailed-plotting method seems to me like one of Los Angeles’ drainage canals—straight as an arrow and contained within concrete walls. I prefer mine to be like a meandering river: I know where it’s going, but while I can see the bends coming up, I have no idea what lies beyond them. And I am always aware that I am not on the journey alone: the reader and I are Huck and Jim on the raft, flowing through the story together. I can’t imagine it being any other way.

People frequently ask where I get the ideas for my books…and even my blogs…and my answer is always the same: I quite honestly have no idea. They just appear. (If I can be allowed another metaphor here, I’ve often likened my “creative process” to be like the gas bubbles rising to the surface of a tar pit. I’ll be minding my own business, thinking of almost anything except where my next story/blog idea is going to come from, when I’ll be aware of something rising to the surface. I’ll watch while it emerges and forms a bubble of thought and finally bursts, leaving me with a topic or plot idea.) I love it!

For me to try to explain how these bubbles form and exactly how I handle them when they do appear is as impossible as explaining how we dream what we dream when we’re asleep.

All dreams are born and are nourished in the nursery of the subconscious, and there they remain until they are ready to emerge, either as a sleep dream or as a book or a painting or a sculpture or a symphony. Dreams are our humanity, and I cherish them, whatever form they take.

For a greater insight into the "real person" behind Dorien Grey, the curious are invited to check out his website ( and his various blogs: Dorien Grey and Me and A Life in Photos among them.

There is nothing Dorien loves more than hearing from a reader. If you'd like to contact him, just drop him a note at


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. Ideas for writing do come from many sources. I don't think there's any right or wrong, just whatever works for the individual artist.

Terry Odell said...

"Whatever Works" is the only rule I follow.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terry: Thanks for the guest post. Loved reading about his writing process. Mine's a bit the same, but it's scary sometimes, when the characters are in an impossible situation and you don't know how they're getting out. With an earlier book, that happened to me, and it was either work it out or rewrite a lot of scenes. I just let it stew a couple weeks, and the solution came. Thanks for sharing this.

Maryann Miller said...

Wonderful post. I have enjoyed Roger/Dorien's work for some time and his blogs are always worth a visit. Loved the analogy of the bubbles. I am not a planner or plotter either, so I could relate to that.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks all, for stopping by.