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Q. Did You Do a Lot of Research about Dreams for The Vault of Dreamers?

A. Like many other people, I’m pretty fascinated by dreams.  I feel like we escape into private madness every night, and at the same time, our dream states are vital to our health and well-being once we’re awake again.  I love the fleeting, tantalizing glimpse of a dream I have on waking, and I wish I could remember my dreams more.

Salvador Dali, Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite

Salvador Dali, Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite

So researching about dreams for The Vault of Dreamers was a real pleasure, and it led me to surprising discoveries.  I didn’t go in the Freud direction of interpretation.  I was more interested in the physiology of dreams, and how brain signals are recorded when subjects fall into REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and for this I consulted chapters in the textbook Neuroscience by Purves et al as I was writing.  I learned some interesting facts along the way, like how dolphins have essentially two brains, one that is awake while the other is asleep, so a dolphin can always be alert for predators.

I was also interested in lucid dreaming, where people train to be able to control or guide their dreams. In a recent study by Ursula Voss, German scientists induced currents in volunteer dreamers who then reported they had more self-awareness and control of the plots in their dreams. I also noted studies where scientists recorded visual brain activity of dreamers, so they could essentially see what the dreamers saw.

We also have a mythology about how artists and creative people draw from their dreams. I love examples like how R. L. Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was inspired by a nightmare, and I’m intrigued by the haunting dreamscapes of Salvador Dali.

It was terrific fodder for a novel about an arts school where students are required to sleep for 12 hours a night. It was very important to me, however, that my research served to support my story, and not the other way around. I was true to the science up to a point, but I was writing fiction about a world 50 years from now, when even more incredible things can be done with medicine and technology, and I definitely played with ideas. Imagine if we could consciously tap into our dreams, or those of others. The possibilities are intriguing, that’s for sure.

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