Novelist Harry Crews claims he taught himself to write fiction by diagramming every sentence and scene in a Graham Greene novel. He'd put his findings on 3-by-5 cards and post them on his wall for reference.

Whether or not Kathleen Dougherty has read Harry Crews, she certainly has stumbled on his method."When I began to write," says the Sandy writer, "I took `Marathon Man' by William Golden, read it front to back, broke it down into segments, analyzed it, typed up whole sections of the book to get a feel for the flow and memorized what I could."

The result is her own novel, "Moth to the Flame," a Berkeley paperback that major book stores coast to coast are displaying prominently and selling briskly. It's a thriller. And as with Goldman's books, the writing and story move at breakneck speed.

But then so does the author.

Small, intense, with a mind that leapfrogs from computer hacking to Shakespeare to the supernatural, Dougherty is a fresh voice - and fresh personality - in regional writing. She brings both range and intensity to local popular literature.

"Actually, my whole life seems to move in quantum leaps," she explains. "I started in pre-med, then became a counselor, then worked in pharmacology before I started programming and selling computers. When I reached my goal of making a lot of money I told my husband, `I want to do something right-brained for awhile.' It meant losing half our income, but he was very supportive."

"Moth to the Flame" is her right brain at work. And given the fanfare the book's been receiving, it has all the markings of a mega-seller with upcoming movie rights. If Dougherty made a lot of money with her left brain, her right is threatening to make her more.

"All through my life I've had this over-developed muscle called `imagination,' " she says. "Even as a child I'd get lost in my fantasy world."

In her novel, the writer's imagination takes a young computer programmer named Charlie and puts her on the trail of the most ingenious murderer of the century. People are bursting into flames all over the America, and only Charlie has a fix on how to short-circuit the crimes.

The novel is full of suspense, social commentary and horror - with some scenes rivaling Thomas Harris' "Silence of the Lambs" in starkness.

But Dougherty wouldn't have it any other way. She loves intensity - in life and literature.

"If you don't write what you love," she says, "how can you write anything worthwhile at all?"- Author Kathleen Dougherty will be at A Woman's Place bookstore, 1400 S. Foothill, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, to sign copies of her book; at B. Dalton in the Crossroads Mall from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13; and at the Waking Owl, 208 S. 1300 East, at 7 p.m. April 18 - where she will also give a reading.