Today we get to meet the delightfully deep James Dorr. 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, a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a cat named Wednesday whose hobbies include mousing and playing with her toy spider collection.
Talk about a well-rounded fellow! Let's get to know him a little bit better! Welcome to an Angell's Life, James, what is the current book you are promoting?
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 what it was that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the world of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, a novel composed of stand-alone chapters in the manner of Christopher Barzak’s The Love We Share Without Knowing and Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or, more directly, Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Based on Edgar Allan Poe's concept in "The Philosophy of Composition" that "The death ... of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world," and written in a deliberately baroque style, Tombs is aimed toward lovers of fantasy, especially in its darker shades, as well as romantic (if sometimes grotesque) science fiction.
Wow, what an interestingly twisted plot point! If you could have your book made into a movie, who would you want to direct it?
Coming to mind first, Jim Jarmusch for the sheer beauty of a film like Only Lovers Left Alive. But then, given the fragmented nature of a novel-in-stories, two other possibilities: Michael Gondry for beauty again as well as use of non-linear time in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Japanese director Eiichi Yamamoto for near-psychedelic vision as well as artistic risk in his animated Belladonna of Sadness.
Oh, Eiichi Yamamoto would be amazing! Who inspires your writing?
There are four I would single out: Ray Bradbury, as already mentioned, for the poetry and beauty in his expression as well as the love that comes through in even his darker works; Edgar Allan Poe, again, for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death both in his tales and his poems; Allen Ginsburg in poetry combining Biblical cadences with images of the ugliness of life alongside the beatific; and German playwright Bertolt Brecht for his ideas on “epic theatre” and artistic distance, but combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage. Then many, many more in addition, down to and including the Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. .
What did I tell you, guys, he is deep! What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
We live in polarizing times, and one thing I’d like to think writing fiction has helped me with is empathy. There’s an expression, that you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his or her boots, and I think that’s a key part of creating fictional characters too: imagining myself as different people and learning to empathize within their stories, to see through their eyes instead of my own, to hear through their ears, to feel with their emotions, to (taking into account the backgrounds I’ve given them) think with their brains. What would I do if I were that person? It isn’t easy in life or in art, but by increased practice within my art, I think I’m better in the real life part of it as well.
That is so true! There was an interesting study that showed that people who read across genres tended to be the most empathetic people. I think that the authors who do that probably top that list! If you could never write again, what would you do?
I think one thing I’ve always felt a need for is self-expression. When I was younger I thought I might be a painter or graphic artist, or something in the visual arts, even perhaps something like a cartoonist (as an undergraduate, I was Art Editor on my college’s humor magazine for a couple of years, for instance). I might also mention, I currently lead and play tenor in a Renaissance recorder consort. So I think I’d try to stay close to the arts in one way or another, perhaps to explore more in different branches like opera or ballet
A man after my own heart! Do you want to see more of his musings? Follow James Dorr's Blog
Learn more about Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth
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 June 2017.
Stay tuned, because we will definitely try to get James Dorr to join us again and keep us posted on his launch!