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.
Dorien can you tell me how you came to decide to write mysteries?
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.
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?
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.
I understand you cut your teeth as a magazine editor. Which do
you prefer, editing or writing your own novels?
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:
Words cast long shadows
of the writer long after
the sun has gone down.
Words and writing are my immortality.
What did you do first; write your book or seek out an agent or
Interesting question, really. I think the urge comes first, then
the writing, then the worry about what you'll do with it once
it's written. I found looking for agents a wonderful exercise
in total futility. Good agents don't need more writers; agents
in Sheepdip, Nebraska don't really have that many contacts. And,
again, even mentioning the "g" word is usually accompanied
by the sound of slamming doors.
When I came across e-publishing,
I was like a kid in a candy store. But I was very lucky to find
GLB, which specializes in books by gay and lesbian writers. You'd
be amazed at how few there are. And added to that is that the
number of overall publishers seems to have diminished sharply
over they years; fiction publishers even more so, and those publishing
I think I'm blessed, though,
by the fact that my books seem to write themselves. All I do
is supply the fingers and sit back and watch what's going on
on the page. Of course, any writer who doesn't love what he (or
she) is doing shouldn't be writing in the first place.
Is there a reason why you chose the pen-name Dorien Grey?
Because, ever since I was very small, I have been painfully aware
that time passes, and that what goes away can never come back
again, I turned to words as a way to stop time. Words do not
age, and a 29 year old character who emerges, like Venus, full-blown
from the writer's mind will remain 29 for as long as the words
As you know, in Oscar Wilde's
"The Portrait of Dorian Gray", a young man remains
young while his portrait ages. My Dorien is ageless, whereas
I, being all too human, am not. Dorien has taken on something
of a life of his own. He is all those things most of us lose
as the years pass...innocence and joy and wonder. And he is,
in one word, childlike in the best possible sense. There can
be nothing more wonderful. So, in brief, I chose Dorien Grey
as my pseudonym as a way of thumbing my nose at time and saying
"You cannot win if I don't LET you win!"
Was The Ninth Man your first novel?
No, it wasn't, actually. When I was working for a publishing
house in L.A. an editor in charge of westerns said they were
desperately looking for westerns to fill a gap in their schedule.
Now, westerns have always been among my least favorite forms
of fiction, but the prospect of making money erased my hesitation.
So I wrote a western which I
called "Calico", the hero's name. The editor had stressed
that she wanted there to be some sort of "hook" to
make the hero different, so I gave him one brown eye and one
blue. The story centered on Calico's attempt to get two 17-year-old
twins--a boy and a girl--to their aunt while followed every inch
of the way by a group of men out to kill them. I used just about
every western cliche I could think of, but it seemed to work.
Of course, the editor in chief, who was something of a megalomaniac,
changed the title of the book from "Calico" to "Stagecoach
to Nowhere", which I considered brilliant, since there the
word "stagecoach" only appears a couple of times, in
passing, and stagecoaches had absolutely nothing to do with the
There was, of course, something
of a gay subplot between Calico and the male twin, but you had
to look really hard to find it. Gays would be able to spot it
easily, of course, but on the surface it was totally asexual.
The company went belly up a few
years later, and I subsequently have rewritten the book to make
it a gay western. A really nice, quiet love story set in lots
and lots of action. However, the copyright still belongs to the
defunct publishing house and I have to try to figure out how
to get it back before I will be able to have the book reissued
in the new form.
As an editor, I know you must be a very organized and disciplined
writer. What is your writing schedule like?
I write every minute I can manage to do it, and on my days off,
I often write all day long, with occasional short breaks. As
I've said, the fact that my books tend to write themselves makes
it a real pleasure to just sit back and watch what appears on
can you tell us something about your latest writing project?
Having just submitted the third novel in the Dick Hardesty detective
series, "The Bar Watcher", I am already on page 50
of the fourth book, which deals with the world of gay male escorts--the
gay equivalent of very high-class call girls. I can't wait to
get back to it.
Thank you Dorien for a most interesting and informative interview.
I look forward to reading The Bar Watcher soon.