What inspired you to write your first book?
“Money, frankly. I was working as an book editor when a fellow editor said he was looking for westerns. I never cared for westerns, but thought “”what the heck?”" and wrote one, which was released under the title “”Stagecoach to Nowhere”" with the cover blurb “”He cursed the law and rode for vengeance.”"
Since there were only two stagecoaches even mentioned in the book, neither having anything to do with the plot, and since the protagonist neither cursed the law nor rode for vengeance, I just took my money and went on my way.
However, because I really liked the basic story, some 30 years later I rewrote it as “”Calico,”" a western/romance/adventure/mystery with a twist: the protagonist is gay. I hope your readers may want to check it out.”
What books have most influenced your life most?
I was, before writing books limited my time to read them, a voracious reader, and every book I read had, I’m sure, some influence on me. But if I were to pick one, it would be the seldom-heard-of “Adrift in a Boneyard,” by Robert Lewis Taylor, which I’ve read at least a dozen times and belly-laughed my way through every one of them.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Hmmm. Again, there were many. Possibly Ray Bradbury and Robert Lewis Taylor were among the most influential.
What genre do you consider your book(s)?
With the possible exception of “Calico,” all my books have been mysteries. I have two series running alternately–the 14-book Dick Hardesty mysteries, and the soon-to-be four-book Elliott Smith paranormal mysteries.
What book are you reading now?
At the moment, I am so busy writing, I have not had the time to start a new book in an embarrassingly long time…and if I were to try to mention those at the top of my “to be read” pile, it would take up far more time and space than I could expect to have here.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’ve just begun “The Serpent’s Tongue,” the fifteenth book in the Dick Hardesty series. It involves the death of a former priest, and something of a shock for those readers who have been with me for awhile.
I’ve had a number of artists do my covers…the books are usually assigned an artist by the publisher.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
There are several problems inherent in writing a series, primary among them the reintroduction, in each book, of recurring characters. Regular followers already know who everyone is, but for the new reader just coming in, I have to be sure he/she isn’t confused as to who’s who. And remembering recurring places, restaurants, bars, streets, etc. can also be a challenge. The Elliott Smith series is set in Chicago, so this isn’t a problem. But Dick Hardesty lives in a city that doesn’t exist on any map, but has its own geography with which the regular reader is familiar.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
“Never. I consider myself blessed to have what might be called a split personality–the everyday-liver Roger Margason, and the writer Dorien Grey. Roger gets an idea for a book and a general idea of where he wants it to go, then just sits down at the computer, turns his mind and fingers over to Dorien, and sits back and reads the story as it appears on the screen. Perhaps a tad simplistic, but more accurate than not.
I personally would consider plotting things out in advance rather like forcing Dorien to wear lead boots.”
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Oh, yes. First, talk TO your reader, never AT him (I refuse to play the infuriatingly cumbersome, politically correct “him/her”/”he or she” game). Remember that you know far more about your story and characters than the reader does. All he knows is what you tell him. Never forget that if a reader can be confused, he will be. Avoid the deus ex machina at all costs (one of the worst reactions a reader can possibly have is “Where the hell did THAT come from?”
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I consider every book I write a collaboration–albeit largely one-sided–with the reader, and write each one as though I’m talking with a friend. Please never forget that the reader is the most important person in the writer’s life; without readers, writers are nothing. And please, speaking not just for myself but for every other writer I know, if you enjoy a book, say so: to your friends, on line, and to the writer. Writers tend to be a rather needy lot, and hearing from a reader means the world to a writer.