How would you describe your writing style?
Mixed-genre perhaps, or a potpourri? That is, my most recent book Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, with elements of horror, dystopic science fiction, science fantasy, and dark romance blended in together, and in a style I think of as baroque – tending toward lush and literary. However, I’ve also had stories in mystery magazines that are more bare-boned, in some cases perhaps even noir. The idea for me is that the type of story will ideally suggest the style, with The Tears of Isis (to drop another title) as a possible example, a collection that begins with a poem, then a stream-of-consciousness story, and so on, ending with its title story in a fairly no-nonsense, straightforward style.
What draws you to dark fiction?
One of my primary interests is character. In my opinion the best fiction, in any genre, is that which makes its reader think, to think about what it means to be human whether in terms of relating to the world, or building new worlds as in science fiction, or intimately with just one other person, or even within the folds of one’s own mind. This last is where I think horror and dark fiction excel, in putting a character under the greatest personal stress and examining how that character then copes, or even just survives. The vampire has bitten, now what does one do? And does its playing out induce the reader to think how he or she might react as well, perhaps not to a vampire bite as such, but to other, hopefully no longer quite as extreme pressures they might be under in everyday life?
Such an eloquent response, it makes me want to sit down and read some James Dorr tonight. Please tell us about your latest release, 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 leads us through 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?
Looking through your Amazon page, I noticed how much you’ve been getting your fiction out there in different anthologies and magazines. Are there any of these publications that stand out in your mind as a particularly memorable experience, whether it was a lot of fun to participate in, or maybe for charity, or a badass theme?
So many things, and where to start? One story that comes to mind is called “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” one originally written for a horror anthology that turned it down, then was rejected by a succession of other horror markets until I switched gears and sent it to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine where it was accepted – the first that I sold there and, at the time, one of my first wholly professional fiction sales. (It is in addition written in a mannered style, which was taking a chance for me back then, but in a sense prefigured the style later used in Tombs.) Then there’s “Moons of Saturn,” a science fantasy story that’s almost a reverie based on an astronomy book I had on the solar system, which went to Algis Budrys’s magazine Tomorrow, another early (and in my opinion, validating) professional sale. For another, “Avoid Seeing a Mouse,” which went to Max Booth III’s alternate history anthology for Dark Moon Books, Zombie Jesus and Other True Stories, and played a role in bringing about The Tears of Isis. And for a fourth, perhaps “King Rat,” written in part as an allegory on world politics and economics, that first appeared in Gothic.Net and was reprinted in Bleed, a charity anthology for The National Children’s Cancer Society.
James, I also had a story in Bleed. It was a terrific book! But now I want to know more about your 2013 collection, The Tears of Isis. It has received some great reviews. How long did it take you to put this collection together, and what do you think has made it so successful?
In that The Tears of Isis was assembled from stories already written, it didn’t take that long at all. Max Booth III had just started Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and, having recently published me in Zombie Jesus, invited me to submit a collection to his new company. For the contents, I was to have a completely free hand as long as it came in within a certain word range, choosing and arranging the stories myself. As it happened, I’d been playing around in my head with a couple of possible collection ideas, so I emailed back suggesting I get back by about Halloween, which would have been two or three weeks, with a definite yes if I thought it feasible, then get a manuscript together by about Thanksgiving – this would be aiming for a publication date for the next spring or summer, in time to be out before that year’s World Horror Convention.
So the dates worked out. Since the stories were already written (which isn’t quite true, I did write one short one to be combined with an existing poem, while one other story was as yet unpublished) it was more a case of compilation and one thing I learned, the process was both a challenge and fun. By analogy to the sculptors in the book’s opening poem and closing story, in choosing materials from an unformed “basket” of stories from which to form a loose theme (in this case of beauty and death; of the artist conferring on his or her model both immortality, and through its objectification, a kind of destruction) and then fitting and arranging them into it, I had the thrill of watching as until-then-unrelated works formed of themselves a cohesive and artistically satisfying whole.
Wow! That sounds like a unique collection of stories, for sure. Do you keep a notebook or file of potential story ideas? If so, how many do you think you actually end up using?
The short answer is “no.” My relationship with the muse is not a sunny one; I have to wrestle her for ideas and, if I get one, I usually try to develop it at least a little bit right away. At that point I’m likely to make some notes on a piece of scrap paper or the back of an envelope, but I’ll still try to get to work with it on the computer within a few days. (One exception: in the case of a series of stories – I have one ongoing, for instance, about the original vampires who allegedly came to New Orleans – or a created world, as in Tombs, I may keep a folder with common information, such as maps or naming conventions.)
You write poetry as well. Who are some of your favorite poets, from any era?
To go to possible extremes, I consider Edgar Allan Poe and Allen Ginsberg to be major influences. To them I might add Byron, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Chaucer, the Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (these in translation, of course), any number on up to Kipling (who, after all, even wrote a poem called “The Vampire”).
Where can we find your poetry?
I’ve been lax in marketing poetry lately, though I will have a short poem in the current (Fall 2017) Star*Line. I do have a book of poetry, Vamps (A Retrospective), available from White Cat Publications as well as (although in print only, I think) Alban Lake. Also my early collections Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret both contain poetry sections. (These latter are technically out of print but can still be found on Amazon, et al.)
Is there any genre you’d like to attempt but haven’t tried yet?
I consider enough of my work to be cross-genre that it’s hard to answer. I’ve never written straight romance or straight westerns (or western romance, for that matter), but if I tried it’s likely that horror elements would sneak in. (Also erotica might be fun, but again. . . .)
What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
I like watching movies, particularly science fiction and horror, but comedies too and some documentaries. I also lead and play tenor in a Renaissance recorder consort.
Where can we find you on the web?
I recommend that people follow me on my blog at http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com to keep up on my latest doings. Feel free to comment too if the spirit moves. Also I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9 and my Amazon Author page (lots of book titles, but most of them are anthologies where I might just have a story or poem) is at http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1380306038&sr=1-2-ent
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.
James Dorr’s latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth. Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Cambridge Massachusetts, and currently living in the Midwest, 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 cat named Triana.
Today we chat with L Bachman – artist, author, and woman in horror. She makes wicked cool book covers in addition to penning her own tales. Let’s find out more…
How long have you been writing?
I have indeed! I’ve been writing since I was young, but it was only a few years ago that I began taking it seriously after forcing myself to throw caution to the wind and take the leap.
What draws you to horror?
I struggled with the genre I was writing in. I couldn’t understand genres; still have trouble from time to time honestly. The way I thought was if it’s not something that frightens me, it probably wasn’t horror, never considering that some people may be frightened by the things I wasn’t frightened by. I felt perhaps my writing wasn’t ‘scary enough’ when I read it back so it mustn’t be horror.
After I understood what I was creating, it made sense to me like someone shining a light in the dark room of my understanding of genres. I enjoy writing horror more now that I understand it. Horror, scaring others, isn’t what I intend when I write, my focus is just getting the story out before I implode, but there is appreciation in why I do what I do for at least me.
Facing fears can be cathartic, relieving even, but until the story ends, the thrill and intensity taps into something deeply rooted in all beings. That is why I’m drawn to it, facing down ‘bad guys’ or ‘bad situations’ and overcoming the fight or flight that we all deal with when dealing with the adrenaline rush we can get when reading.
Do you write any other genres?
At this moment, dark fantasy is the only one that any of my work can fall into.
Is there a genre you’d like to attempt but haven’t?
I’m working on some branching out stories from horror and dark fantasy, not a complete genre hopping, but casting out a twig to touch into those pools.
Do you think women horror authors have a hard time getting acknowledged?
I don’t think as much so now, but I can see how the history of women in horror was. There was a time when it was difficult to gain respect, for any woman writer. Many historic women writers took pen names that were either neutral or sounded more masculine.
What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever written and why?
The Painting of Martel was difficult; originally it was included in an anthology with a theme of killer clowns. I had never thought I’d write a story involving this theme and so it came hard to me, but I met my deadline. It’s been a year since it was in that anthology and after taking it, revamping it a bit, and working it into something more than it was I can say confidently that it will find a shelf space in being published on its own. May 1st, 2017 is when it goes live. Right now it’s for pre-order.
Who are some amazing female authors (from any genre, any style, any time-period)?
Personally, I find Mary Shelly and Anne Rice to be amazing writers.
Besides writing, what brings a smile to your face?
My family; my son makes me very happy, he’s so smart, and I could gush over my pride of all that he has accomplished. Family makes me truly happy beyond writing.
Did you have a favorite book as a child?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin.
Here’s a tough one: What’s your favorite color?
What are you working on now, and where do you see yourself in the future?
Right now I’m working on several things at once. I’m writing The Burning Man, Mercy, and Necessary Evil. That’s the three I’m working on seriously, but I always have something in the works just put on simmer on the back burner.
Where can we find you on the web?
Website for Writing:
Website for Design:
When Tara Jane Brewer leaves her polygamous community behind after her family dies in a tragic house fire, she is plagued by ghastly images of death. Hunted by a member of the church who plans to bring her home to Sweet Springs at any cost, Tara Jane must fight to keep her freedom. But everywhere she goes, she sees the charred faces of her burned family, watching her, following her, all thirty-four of them, waiting for her to come home and resume her place in the family.
NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON from author Lindsey Goddard:
“Lindsey Goddard has an impressive talent for getting inside the minds of her characters — both innocent and malevolent — which makes her scenes of horror all the more disturbing.”
-Graham Masterton, author of Charnel House
“Lindsey Goddard is a fine writer and if you appreciate such a wordsmith, I want to highly recommend her work. This story is heart wrenching and horrifying all at once. It’s not so much about a cult as it is about being hostage to unyielding ideas. It’s about loss, love, and the cruelty family members do to one another. There is raw pain, deep understanding, and a deft hand telling the story. Watch this writer in the future. She’s got what it takes.”
-Billie Sue Mosiman, author of Edgar-nominated Night Cruise and the new thriller, The Grey Matter