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.
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.