Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be bringing you all an interview with the author James Dorr.
Thanks to James for enquiring if I would have him on my blog and for then answering my questions. I hope that you all enjoy the interview.
1). Would you please introduce yourself to the readers of this post?
I’m James Dorr.
I’m a writer.
I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also some science fiction and mystery.
Yes, I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy, dark fantasy, to me, incorporating elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease. So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, even dark humor. Comedy is similar, in this case evoking laughter or at least a chuckle (whereas “horror” as a word is derived from “horripilation,” a physical bristling of body hair as when one has “goose bumps”), so there can be comedy-mystery, humorous science fiction, etc. But then I write cross-genre work as well.
An example of cross-genre? See just below. Tombs is classed by Amazon as both “horror” and “dystopian science fiction,” while I, on my blog, will often keyword it as “dark fantasy,” “science fantasy,” and “dark romance.”
2). Would you tell me about your most recent work Tombs – A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth?
On a far-future, exhausted Earth a ghoul – an eater of corpses – explores the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest that introduces us to the 16 stand-alone chapters of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, about half in fact already published in various venues as complete short stories, loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe, of the most poetic subject being the death of a beautiful woman (also informing to some extent my previous book, as I mention below) and of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.” If these statements be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?
Tombs is written as a novel-in-stories or, as it’sd sometimes called, a mosaic novel, one that is composed of a series of stories, complete in themselves, but arranged in such a way that, combined, they add up to a tale of much greater importance. One example would be Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, the parts of which become a “history” of the colonization of a world. In similar fashion, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth tells of life, love, and death as experienced by the last generations of people on Earth in the face of the nearing destruction of that planet.
3). Would you tell me about your previous works?
My previous book, The Tears of Isis, was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Fiction Collection, with a theme, loosely, of art and death. That is, the very act of creating beauty through art transforms its subject into an object, and so the book opens with a poem, La Méduse, and ends with the title story about a sculptress who, like Medusa, re-creates her models in metal or stone — thus conferring on them immortality of a sort, but, at least in the case of the myth, killing them in the act. In this way, too, it comes back to Poe’s theory noted above about the “most poetic” subject. Not that all sixteen other stories are specifically about artists as well, but they do try to present a contrast involving both aesthetics and destruction.
I have two other mostly fiction collections, each with a section of poems at the end, Strange Mistresses: Tales or Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, both of these technically out of print but still available on Amazon, et al., along with a vampire-themed poetry collection, Vamps (A Retrospective). Then add to those several hundred individual poem and story appearances from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Yellow Bat Review.
4). In one sentence how would you describe your writing style?
It is varied, according to the needs of the individual story or poem. (If I may add a second, the language in some stories, such as those in Tombs, is purposely lush and even baroque while, say, a noir detective story might want a more straightforward, direct to the point style.)
5). When did you decide to become a writer?
It was probably a more gradual thing than the question implies. As a college undergraduate, I was art editor on the humor magazine, for instance, that ended up with my filling in as a writer for last minute articles from time to time. Then shifting to graduate school in Indiana, I became editor on an arts magazine, this time on the writing side though with occasional last minute illustrating. This led to a stint as a technical writer and editor for the university’s computing center and, later, freelancing on business and consumer topics, but it wasn’t until about that time that I also started working seriously on artistic writing as well.
6). Where do you get your ideas from?
I wish I knew. The common wisdom is that ideas are all around us and, indeed, they are, but it takes more than that. It takes some special combination with other ideas, of a character or a setting or goal, that come together to form the germ of a story. In my case, the “muse” is a nasty one, who must be wrestled into submission, and even then what comes out may seem dubious but, given the unlikeliness of getting a better idea soon, I have to work with what I have. But common wisdom also states that it’s what one does with an idea after that that really counts anyway, not the idea itself.
Nevertheless, if some of my stories may seem a bit quirky or bizarre, it may be just that it was the best idea I could get.
7). What is your writing process like?
Undisciplined, I’m afraid. I do like to have a several hour (at least) block of time to work in, to allow for false starts, procrastination, etc., which when I was working a regular job confined most new fiction writing to weekends. However, even small bits of time can go into the “business,” for editing for instance, or finding markets for stories and sending them out, or for things like research.
8). Have any authors influenced your works?
I can name four specifically: Ray Bradbury for poetry and beauty in his expression even in his darker works; Edgar Allan Poe for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death in both his tales and poems; Allen Ginsberg in poetry combining the beatific with the tragically ugly; and Bertolt Brecht for his ideas of “epic theatre,” allowing the notion of artistic distance, yet combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage. Add to those a number of others, too many to count, but forced to choose I’d say these are the main ones.
9). What are your top five favourite books?
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (my copy is a Modern Library Giant edition that I’ve had since high school); Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles; Bram Stoker, Dracula; The Complete Greek Tragedies (The University of Chicago Press edition in four volumes); Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh.
10). Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A bit more “common wisdom” here, don’t quit your day job. That is, don’t look to writing to gain fame and fortune; a few of us might but most of us, me included, will not. In my case, I actually did make a living writing for a while, but that was nonfiction and it was a job too (although, in honesty, I do make some money now writing fiction and poetry, so it can bring supplemental income, but for most of us just don’t depend on it).
Read a lot of other people’s writing, and not just in the genres you write in. Find out how other writers told stories at different times and in different countries – they may have ideas you can use yourself. Read nonfiction as well as fiction, for ideas, for research, but also just read about stuff that interests you. And I’d suggest reading poetry too, and see how poets sometimes describe things in just a few words, and how the best can make language itself a thing of interest and beauty.
Then, most important, enjoy what you’re doing and strive to do your best. Follow your bliss, to repeat that cliché. Be proud of your work, but be practical too–if an editor advises you to make changes, take it seriously. But remember it’s still advice, especially as you gain more experience, and the one you must please, ultimately, has to be yourself.
Do you have any last words for readers of this interview?
If you read a book and you think it is good, please consider reviewing it and sending it to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as Goodreads, if you’re a member, and even perhaps to your favorite blogger. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate (though it’s nice if it is), just a sentence or two about why you liked it is fine – like what you might say if you wanted to share the book with a friend. And it really is a help to the author in getting the word out.
Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth.
Blurb (from the back cover of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth):
It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what — ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths.
Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection.
Tombs is a beautifully written examination of the human condition of life, love, and death, through the prism of a dystopian apocalypse.
Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, James Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a “Goth” cat named Triana.
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