by Gillian Doyle
LESSONS FROM A LIFETIME OF WRITING:
A Novelist Looks At His Craft
As writers, we have all heard it said that we “write what we know” but David really brought it home to me that we consciously — and often unconsciously — write about our deepest fears, weaving them into our characters, good and bad.
On page 21 of his book– “. . . I’ve trained myself to pay attention to my daydreams/nightmares, to be aware of them as they’re happening, to wonder why certain imaginary situations are so insistent, and to use the most compelling of them as the inspiration of my novels. After the fact, I’ve learned to realize how the plots that attract me are metaphors for my psyche.”
My books have always come to me in the most vivid dreams unlike my other “normal” dreams. A time-travel romance was born of a dream I had experienced while sleeping aboard a replica of an 1830s hide-trading ship on the coast of California. Another book began after a dream of an 1890s boarding house where the little boy sitting next to me had dropped green peas on the red oriental carpet under his chair. Such details startle me in my dreams, and haunt my waking hours with an eerie feeling of having actually been there, physically, in the past.
What relief to read of someone else who experiences this “multisensory illusion”. I have written all of my stories based upon these peculiar guideposts. This is the reason why I have had such a hard time keeping on track with my writing career. I write what I must write. I write what pulls me into the story as if I am a child at the feet of a storyteller, mesmerized, enthralled. When I am asked by well-meaning writer-friends, “Why can’t you write for the market? If only you’d pay attention to what sells, you’d be a huge success.” But I don’t. I can’t. And for this reason, I have often gone months without writing, choosing instead to find my fulfillment in other ways. How sad, though. I could not seem to allow myself to finish books just for myself, even if they would never find a publisher.
And so I returned to writing once more. I write of daydreams and nightmares. I write what I need to write. If there is an editor out there who finds it compelling and wishes to publish it, I would be delighted but it will not make my life any better than it is right now at this moment. For I have been reminded by David that it is the writing itself that is the reward. (Read Lesson Number One and you will know what I mean.)
After reading LIFETIME, I was thrilled to meet David when he was our guest speaker last year. What a memorable day! After reading last year’s thriller, CREEPERS, I became an even bigger fan! I can’t wait to read his latest, SCAVENGER. (Click on the titles to go to video interviews with David about these novels.)
David, thanks for the kind words. I hope we will see you back at OCC one of these days.
Dana, thanks for stopping by. David is going to be at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at UCLA at the end of this month. I’m hoping to get there so I can get SCAVENGERS signed.
I love it when you tell about what you’re reading. You make me want to run out and buy them right now.
And wow! Especially when the author is so cool to come on and say hello like that…
Michelle, if you see this, mark me down for a copy of David’s Lessons.
Hi, Sue. What a wonderful blog. Many thanks for mentioning the writing book. The teacher in me is gratified that you found it helpful. At the end of this year or perhaps early next year, LESSONS will be re-released by a new publisher Source Books. The text has been revised somewhat, and I added a new chapter THE NOVELIST AS MARKETER. The publisher changed the title to THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST.
Thanks too for mentioning CREEPERS and SCAVENGER. I hope your work is progressing. I have very fond memories of my visit.
SCAVENGER, the new dark-suspense novel from David Morrell (Vanguard Press, Headline Books, Brilliance Audio), March, 2007
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