Monday, 24 October 2016

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...James Dorr

1. Tell me about your upcoming
Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth and where you got your inspiration for it?

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, 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 (which also informs, in its way, my previous book The Tears of Isis) 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?

2. Why did you want to write this book?

For Tombs the stories, at least the first of them, preceded the book, yet they seemed to “want” to come together, rather like the stories in books like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. That is, even if complete in themselves, they seemed to be part of something bigger, in this case a sort of future history of a people already aware of its approaching doom, if not in this lifetime, at best in no more than a few generations. That’s far enough, then, that one needn’t despair, to strive to live only in the moment, but nothing that one accomplishes is going to be long remembered either. Yet legends still are, somehow, created – perhaps through some larger need of humanity – and these are the legends presented here. Ones that, in having created this world, I felt myself compelled to discover.

3. How do you feel about public appearances? Do you do them often?

I dote on them. I don’t travel much, but when I do I try to get to science fiction or horror conventions. I love being on panels, as well as just chatting with fans and with fellow writers and poets. In a way I feel it’s kind of an extension of the writing, almost an obligation to have that extra connection with people who read my work – or at least to be available for it – not to mention an excuse to get away from familiar surroundings. Locally, too, I’m a member of a non-genre Writers Guild and, while I may not get to every event, I make it a point to participate in monthly poetry and prose readings.

4. If you were asked to review a fellow author/friends book would you be honest?

I would certainly try to. At the same time, though, I would try to put on a positive spin, and if I felt something fell short to explain why. And of course in the case where I’m doing it as a favor, I’d be happy to give them a look at it first and, if they thought I was too off base, to not publish it.

5. What do you plan to do next?

One project on the back burner is a new poetry book about vampires, this one in the guise of a handbook giving advice to the newly bitten. It would have some pieces of flash fiction too, instructional narratives perhaps of those who had successfully made the transition. Also, whether this comes together or not, some of these stories are in a continuing series themselves, based on a New Orleanian urban legend of les filles à les caissettes -- the “casket girls” – who came to that city in 1728, a few of which have already appeared in places like Daily Science Fiction.

6. How do you think the self-publishing boom has affected the book industry?

With the exception of occasional poems I might post on my blog, I don’t self-publish myself, partly because having some kind of a gatekeeper helps keep me honest. If I can’t convince an editor, somewhere, to like it enough to publish, how can I justify asking others to pay to read it? But that’s just me. The real problem, I think, is in self-promotion – with more and more books coming on the market, how does one prevent one’s own, however published, from being buried in the crowd? For that, bless you, Sonnet, for giving us one place to introduce ourselves and our work! But also I would beg other readers, if you come across a book you enjoy, please consider reviewing it, even if just to say that you liked it, and sharing it with others on places like Goodreads and Amazon.

7. A duck walks into a bar, what does he order?

If he’s a bourbon drinker, Wild Turkey straight up, if only to see how the other side lives.

8. Is there one area of your writing that you’ve always wanted to improve upon?

Characterization, trying to capture the beautiful weirdness that makes a person an individual in only a handful of words. I think occasionally, in some of the “casket girls” stories for instance, I just might achieve it.

9. Are you still learning who you are?

Absolutely! In fact that may be part of the point of writing, or sharing whatever bit of ourselves in any art form. At least for me, I think reaching a point where I stopped learning about myself would be death.

10. Glass half full or half empty?

It depends. Am I pouring or drinking?

11. Why did you choose to be a writer?

At one time I thought I might be a painter or a graphic artist – some capacity in the visual arts. But then I found I had more talent for describing a thing in words than in lines or colors, to try to get you as a reader to fill in those qualities in your own mind, as well as so much more. To smell it, to feel its texture, its music (I might mention I also lead, and play tenor in a Renaissance recorder consort), and if it’s a person to see for a moment in its mind as well.

12. Who was your first crush?

Carolyn Jones in the role of Morticia in the original 1960s television show The Addams Family. In some ways she still is.

“The city had once lived, blazing with light. The books all described this. The Ghoul-Poet sat in the midst of a heap of them, pages torn, rotting, spread out all about him. This was a library, the pride of New City, or rather a square that had faced the library, that had received this avalanche of thought -- words embossed on parchment -- that cascaded down when the library burst, its walls weakened by age. It was a treasure trove, this mountain of dreams and abstracts, histories and myths. Some true, some perhaps not.”

These, then, were the legends of the Tombs, the vast Necropolis and its environs . . .

. . . of corpse-trains that plied bridges crossing the great river, bearing the City’s dead, braving attacks from flesh-eating ghouls
. . . of ratcatchers, gravediggers, grave guards, and artists
. . . of Mangol the Ghoul, of musician-lovers Flute and Harp who once played back a storm, of the Beautiful Corpse
. . . of seas filled with monsters, a mass-death of animals, secret tapestries teaching children about a past great war, the dangers of swamps 
. . . a city consumed by a huge conflagration, a woman frozen for thousands of years 
. . . a mission by airship to rescue a man’s soul 
. . . a flower that ate memories. . . 

These are just some of the wonders, the horrors, to be found in the pages of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, scheduled to be out from Elder Signs Press in Spring, 2017.  

About James

Born in Florida in the USA, 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.



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