... James Dorr
1. Tell me about your book The Tears of Isis and where you got your inspiration for it?
The Tears of Isis (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013) is a collection of seventeen stories and an introductory poem, generally darkly fantastic in nature, but bringing elements as well of horror, science fiction, mystery, and myth, and even perhaps a touch of humour. As for overall theme, its inspiration may ultimately come from Edgar Allan Poe’s observation, in his The Philosophy of Composition, that “the most poetical topic in the world” is the death of a beautiful woman. This doesn’t mean that the stories are filled with feminine corpses (though there are a few), but many do touch on beauty and death and how such things may at times be related, on art and mortality, death and new birth. Of blood, yes, but also a beauty of redness. Medusa brings art turning men into stone, and so The Tears of Isis confronts both its readers and the writer, for writing, too, is a form of art that takes out of life, beauty.
2. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would you sing?
“The Rose,” by Amanda McBroom (probably best known for the version sung by Bette Midler at the end of the movie The Rose), because in so many of my stories love does seem to be reserved “for the lucky and the strong.”
3. What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?
The idea. Not so much in what will happen, though of course that’s part of it too, but what is the theme -- what a book or story is to be about. I touch on some of this in the opening question and also, later, in the one on what I learned in putting together The Tears of Isis, that this is what will hold a book worth remembering together. In fact it will be what is remembered after a reader has finished the book, even if just in the form of a feeling.
4. How much of your book is realistic?
Hopefully the emotions of the people. The settings, certainly, in that if they’re real places I will have researched them (if not visited them myself) or, if made up, hopefully still with a feeling of realness, for these are what the fantastic elements, when they come, must be anchored on if they’re to be believed. Even in The Tears of Isis’s opening story, “In the Octopus’s Garden,” a large part of the setting is a decaying human body dumped in the ocean and, yes, I researched the stages of decomposition.
5. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Character. Choosing who (or what) will people a story and immersing myself in who they are until I can write out their wishes, sensations, thoughts, and reactions as if they were experiencing these things themselves. (To see through their eyes; feel through their skins; think, love, and hate with their brains and their hearts. . . .”)
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Since The Tears of Isis is a collection of stories already written, it was more a case of compilation, and one thing I learned was that when I’d been given a virtually free hand, the process can be both a challenge and fun. In a sense like the sculptors in the book’s opening poem and closing story, in choosing materials from an unformed “basket” of stories, arranging and fitting them into a theme, I had the thrill of watching as until-then unrelated works formed of themselves a cohesive and artistically satisfying whole.
7. What do you like to read in your free time?
Mostly nonfiction. I like to read about strange beliefs and places, quirks of history, the wonders of the world about us, from which if I’m lucky I may be able to draw ideas for my own work.
8. What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
My immediate thought is that I might get bored after two or three, so I wouldn’t do it. But then I realize my “Tombs” stories, stories that share the setting of a far-future, dying Earth where much of the action revolves around a huge necropolis called “The Tombs,” even if not book-length constitute a series themselves with, at the present time, sixteen published in various places. Three in fact are in The Tears of Isis (two as reprints and one original to the collection), “The Ice Maiden,” Mara’s Room,” and “River Red” -- and I’m still writing more with, I hope, some future possibility of adapting a group of them into a novel along the lines of something like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. So, who am I to say?
9. Is it wrong for vegetarians to eat animal crackers?
It depends on whether they’re made with real animals.
10. A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
He says “I’ve heard about global warming, but this is ridiculous!” Then he asks to borrow a cup of ice and for better directions than the last person gave him for reaching the South Pole.
11. What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
My most recent, and I think possibly the best, was for an October reading of local poets a few years ago where we were invited to be in costume if we wished. In my case I dressed in an old, worn black suit and waistcoat, work shoes, a bowler hat, and a few accessories including a well-used garden spade and went as a Victorian era grave digger. And when the time for my reading came, I chose a poem by Poe, The Conquerer Worm.
12. What would be the most gratifying thing a fan could do in your opinion?
I don’t know if this is the most gratifying or not, but a very nice thing a fan can do is, if you read a writer’s book and you like it, to write a review explaining why and post it on Amazon and/or other well-read sites to share with other readers.
13. What’s your star sign? Do you read your horoscope and do you believe them?
Leo and no.
14. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be and why?
Probably thirty to thirty-five, old enough to have gained some perspective but young enough to still have energy.
15. What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?
This may be cheating but, as I answer this, I just read a story that brought a quick tear on Daily Science Fiction (19 Jan. 2015), on the subject of art and destruction (cf. my answer to the first question, above): “Dance the Light Fantastic” by Lee Hallison. It can be reached here, http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/biotech/lee-hallison/dance-the-light-fantastic (If the link doesn’t come through “live,” it can also be found in the archives on http://dailysciencefiction.com/).
16. If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you do it?
I love the scene in the movie Only Lovers Left Alive where the body of Adam’s musician friend is dumped in an open acid pit, and especially Eve’s comment when it floats back up, momentarily, already with the flesh half dissolved, “Well, that was different.” So if I can only find out where they keep the acid pit in my town. . . .
Art and creation, sculpture and goddesses, blood-drinking, plots and paranoia, musical instruments made from bone, insects and UFOs, ghouls as servants and restless undead, myths and folktales -- and Isis herself as both weeping mother and vulture-winged icon of death and destruction. These are among the subjects you’ll meet in the seventeen stories (plus opening poem) in James Dorr’s Stoker Award® nominated collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.
James Dorr’s career may have peaked last year when The Tears of Isis was named a Bram Stoker Award® Nominee by the Horror Writers Association for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. Not to worry, it didn’t win (which undoubtedly would have gone to his head), and so he plugs on writing short stories and poems, four of the former of which can be found lurking in the archives of Daily Science Fiction (http://dailysciencefiction.com -- just search on his last name) with a fifth to join them perhaps this spring. Other collections are Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret and his all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). An Indiana (USA) resident, Dorr also harbours a cat named Wednesday whose hobbies include playing with toy spiders.