Words cast long shadows
of the writer long after
the sun has gone down.
For my first interview I chatted with author Dorien Grey who is writing the private investigator series starring Dick Hardesty. Dorien’s books are published by Gay Lesbian Publishing and center around the gay community.
Question one: molly: Dorien can you tell me how you came to decide to write mysteries?
Dorien: Simple questions often have very complex answers. I started writing mysteries primarily to fill what I'd long been aware was a very large void: the almost total lack of light, escapist reading for 10 percent of the American population: gays and lesbians. Until recently, the excuse publishers fell back on was the standard: "we don't publish light gay fiction because nobody reads it" while ignoring the obvious fact that nobody read it because there wasn't any to read. Unless it was what they considered "serious literature" most publishers would not touch gay-themed fiction with an eleven foot pole.
Mysteries are probably the quintessence of light reading—they’re out there by the millions, and read by the millions. So what better place to try to find a doorway into the mainstream? And one bit of advice editors constantly give writers is: “give it a hook that makes it stand out.” The adventures of a gay detective operating in the large and vibrant—but largely unknown (to heterosexuals)—gay community was a natural.
Question two: molly: I have read for review both ‘The Ninth Man’ and it’s prequel ‘The Butcher’s Son’ and noticed they both deal with a theme many of us straight or gay have noticed: mainly that police involvement in cases regarding ‘those people’ i.e. skid row ‘bums,’ gays, prostitutes and other disenfranchised in our society often seem to receive less police attention than do crimes committed among the mainstream members. Was this intentional?
Dorien: In the years in which both "The 9th Man" and "The Butcher's Son" are set, police harassment of gays and lesbians was standard operating procedure. Bar raids were routine: police would enter a bar with only maybe 10 customers in the whole place and say 'You, you, you, and you' and haul them off. The cherished idea of "innocent until proven guilty" simply did not apply. You were gay, you were arrested, you were guilty. Period. In Los Angeles, this did not begin to change until the police went too far on one raid and beat a gay man to death outside the Black Cat bar.
And of course, as the gay community grew and began to flex its political and financial muscles in cities across the country, things began to change. While I don't intend my novels to preach, I do hope they remind people of how the world was not all that long ago.
Question three: molly: I understand you cut your teeth as a magazine editor. Which do you prefer, editing or writing your own novels?
Dorien: I love editing--it brings out the might-have-been teacher in me. I'm take great pleasure in (and am very good at) spotting errors/most typos/stumbling blocks/interruptions in flow, and flaws in logic at 30 paces. And helping other writers is very rewarding. But it is writing is where my soul is. To play God (no sacrilege intended)--to create "real" people and "real" places, to take the reader by the hand and guide him/her through a different world. It is indescribably marvelous. And I cannot resist including a hiaku I wrote on the subject, and on why I and many other writers write:
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