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Interview With Author James Dorr

Author JAmes DorrTell us about what you have written. — I’m a short story writer and poet, working primarily in dark fantasy and horror with occasional excursions into science fiction and mystery, with work in magazines and anthologies from Aboriginal Science Fiction and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Xenophilia and The Yellow Bat Review.  I also have two collections published by Dark Regions Press, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and a chapbook novella The Garden from Damnation Books.

Do you have a favorite thing that you’ve ever written? — Not really a single thing, although I do have a setting I’ve often come back to in some of my work, that of the “Tombs,” a vast necropolis and its environs on a far future, dying Earth.  A number of these stories have been published in various venues, including one in my Strange Mistresses collection and three in Darker Loves.  Also the Tombs may have a role in some future projects, but details at this point would be premature.

Do you have a favorite character that you write about? If so, who is it, what makes it your favorite and tell us about the character. — Again not really.  I have had characters who have appeared in more than one story, but usually my favorite character should be the one I’m writing about at the moment.  As noted above, I do have a series of stories linked by a common setting in which sometimes characters may be cross-referenced, but each individual story will still have its own unique personnel.   One exception, though, in poetry has been a jazzy vampiress named Annchuck who had her debut in a now out-of-print chapbook, Towers of Darkness, in Nocturnal Publications’ “Night Visions” series in the early 1990s, was seen again in a mini-poem cycle in Gothic.Net in 2002 (reprinted in Darker Loves), and has occasionally turned up since.

Almost every writer is inspired by someone else. Does anyone inspire you? — Let me count the ways…  Poe, Bradbury, Bertolt Brecht (including the idea of “epic theatre”), to name three major ones.  A host of others….

When did you start writing? — I didn’t really start writing until I was in college, starting with one or two pieces in a humor magazine where, at the time, I was also art editor.  Then in graduate school I also wrote and held editorial posts in an alternative newspaper and an arts weekly, from which I then went to a job as a technical writer and editor for an academic computing center and,  later, freelance writing on business, consumer, and real estate topics.  What fun!  Some time after that, though, I got a part-time lower-stress gig as assistant flunkie in an eye clinic which gave me the time to revisit the arts and stretch my wings with poetry and fiction.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written? Why? — Real estate topics, maybe?  (Great for world building.)  I did write one story called “The Dripping Nose that Wouldn’t Wipe,” come to think of it, that might qualify.  It was published in the anthology Tooth Decay (Sonar4 Publications, 2009), edited by Tonia Brown.

Who drives the story, you or your characters? — This very much depends on the story.  I need to know where a story is going, at least more or less, and I then create characters who seem appropriate for what I think I want to do.  With luck at that point, though, I can get enough into the characters’ heads that in that sense they take the story over.  But, again, it depends on the story, some of which may be more plot oriented, some even with the greater emphasis on atmosphere or setting.

Who proofreads and critiques your work? — I do the proofing (after letting it rest a few days first), while I’m a member of a writer’s group that meets locally each month and often helps me work out larger kinks.

Where do you get your ideas? — Anywhere and everywhere — clawing and scratching.  Ideas come hard to me which is why, perhaps, some of my work may sometimes seem a little goofy.  These are ideas that a more gifted writer than me would throw out as unworthy, but, since I’m unsure of whether or when I’ll get another, I’ll try and wrestle the idea I have into some kind of story (cf. “The Dripping Nose,” above).

Where do you write? — At home usually.  I have one room set aside as an office and use a desk computer to write on.  Should ideas come when I’m away, though, I’ll scrawl them down on whatever paper I have in my pocket, envelopes, shopping lists….

When do you write – set times or as the mood moves you? — I’ve often done most of my first drafts on weekends (see below, on “writer’s block”), then use after work time during the week for editing/rewriting plus the business tasks of marketing, submitting, record keeping, etc.


If you could take a character from someone else’s book on a date, who would it be and where would you take him/her/it? — My wise-ass answer to this is Carmilla, from Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel, and to dinner.  She seems a very charming lady and, as long as I wear a high, stiff collar (she does have a title and formal dress would be de rigueur), she won’t eat much.

If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would you ask and why? —  Maybe Le Fanu, to act as my wing man?

Do you use the Internet to check facts, or the library? — Both.  The Internet is most valuable (it seems to me) for fact checking, for quick simple answers when I’m in the midst of a project.  For starting a project that will need research in some depth, however, or serendipitously getting ideas for new projects, I find the library (my own as well as the public library) still works best for me.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do? — I play music (I’m leader and tenor in a Renaissance recorder consort); listen to jazz; play with the resident cat, Wednesday, whose tastes run to spiders; take walks and, at night, watch horror (and other) DVDs.

Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block? — Constantly, yes.  I’m a rather slow starter, I fidget, I procastinate.  But if I have a period of, say, four or more hours ahead of me so I can work until I get tired, plus some kind of idea (often notions I’ve scrawled down before on the back of an envelope or equivalent), I can usually get something going.  One example, answering these questions — I’ve just completed two other interviews in about the last week and I’m feeling a bit jaded — but, having picked one in the middle and ranging out back and forth from there I’m starting to get more into the swing of it.  Also, there’s no way I’m going to answer them all.

Who’s your favorite author (other than yourself)? Why? — Ultimately I suppose I’d have to say Edgar Allan Poe.  He covered everything, science fiction, fantasy, horror of course, even humor, not to mention poetry as well as pretty much inventing the detective story.  He was also an essayist and reviewer but, most of all, his influence on imaginative fiction has persisted even to this day.

What’s your favorite book (other than one of your own)? Why?The Complete Greek Tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.  My set is in four volumes so I hope that isn’t cheating (they are put together in a slipcase though).  There’s so much in them that one could read and re-read for years and still come back to them — not to mention that they represent the earliest, and still among the best, literary horror.

What’s the last book, other than your own, that you read and really enjoyed? — In fiction I just completed a relatively new Ray Bradbury collection, A Pleasure to Burn, which is a sort of sourcebook of stories leading up to Fahrenheit 451, and even had some that I’d never read before.  For the very near future, I just received a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Illuminated Poems, with art by Eric Drooker.

Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day. Do you do this? Why or why not? — No.  Because I’m an undisciplined slob.  (Exception, if I’m on a deadline, then I write the number of words the assignment requires.  That goes back more to my nonfiction writing days, though, than today.)  (Well, not literally today since, of course, this is nonfiction, but if it’s supposed to be on a deadline I’ve probably already missed it.)

Is there anything else you’d like to add? — I have a book of vampire and vampire-related poetry, Vamps (A Retrospective), that should be coming out later this spring or summer from Sam’s Dot Publications.  Illustrations will be by Marge Simon so, even if you don’t like poetry, buy it for the art.  I have a few other upcoming projects too, plus the normal submission/acceptance/rejection cycle of writing day-to-day, for which, along with general pimpage,  I invite readers to check out my site, tarry a bit, explore about, try out a lagniappe or two — free sample stories or poems that I post from time to time just for enjoyment — and comment or not as the spirit moves at

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Posted by on Apr 5 2011. Filed under Authors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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