11/02/1992 at 01:00 AM EST
THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS DAD FOR JFK
IT WAS ONLY AFTER WRITING THE first draft of his new novel, which is centered on JFK's assassination, that D.M. Thomas began to understand what the book was really about—through a dream. "When I woke up, I thought, 'Why have I been dreaming about my father, who died in 1960, when I've been thinking about Kennedy?' " the author recalls in his Cornish burr. "And it suddenly occurred to me that there were many parallels, even though my father was a poor man and Kennedy was rich. My father died totally unexpectedly at a young age, 59, he had spent 10 years in America, was Celtic—the Cornish are Celts, like the Irish—and my mother was very decorative, like Jackie. Kennedy in a way had taken over my grief for my father."
The unconscious has long inspired Thomas, 57, who says he would have enjoyed working as an analyst. Instead the Oxford-educated former English teacher and Russian translator has probed the psyche in the nine novels and memoir he has published since 1979. Thomas, who lives in a Cornish cathedral town with his second ex-wife and their 15-year-old son (he also has two grown children), confesses to being without a new topic and "getting a bit agitated." He explains, "I tend to read around what I'm writing, so now I have to come up with a theme in order to find books to read." Then he chuckles. "If I'm not writing, I'm a very dull person."