Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m an Indiana writer who’s lived in various places, mostly in the eastern U.S. I write short fiction and poetry, primarily dark fantasy and horror, but also some science fiction and mystery. I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy as dark fantasy, to me, incorporates elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease. So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, even dark humor. But then I write cross-genre work as well, one example being my most recent book, Tombs (more on which in a bit), which is listed by Amazon as both “horror” and “dystopian science fiction,” while I, on my blog, will often keyword it as “science fantasy,” and even “dark romance.”
Who are some writers that inspire you?
Who doesn’t? That is, I read a lot and not always, for a horror writer, the “usual suspects.” There are four I cite as exerting a special influence, however: Ray Bradbury (writer of The Martian Chronicles, among other works, as well as Fahrenheit 451), for the poetry and beauty in his expression as well as the love that comes through in even his darker works; Edgar Allan Poe, 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 have you written?
As promised, I’ll say a bit more about my most recent book, Tombs, in a moment. Other books include The Tears of Isis from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, which was a 2013 Stoker® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, and from Dark Regions Press, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, both of these latter now somewhat hard to find, but usually there’ll be some available on Amazon. To this can be added a book of poetry, Vamps (A Retrospective), available from White Cat Publications, as well as more than five hundred individual stories and poems in various magazines and anthologies. More information on these and on my latest acceptances and publications (as well as occasional movie reviews, a sample of my writing now and then, or simply things of interest to me) is also on my blog, http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com.
Where can we buy or see them?
I’ve just mentioned my blog which is set up with clickable pictures of my books as well as several chapbooks for more information. Also a number of anthologies with work by me are on my Amazon Author’s Page at while Tombs and The Tears of Isis can be reached directly on Amazon as well as on Amazon.UK, Barnes and Noble, and similar book sites.
Give us some insight into your story for the DeadSteam anthology. What makes your story unique? Perhaps you could share a brief excerpt from your story?
Any story is probably unique, but “The Re-Possessed” may stand out for drawing heavily on Victorian English funeral conventions as well as (at a time not long before that of the story) of stealing freshly buried corpses for use in medical schools. Thus in the story, as explained by one Daniel Higdon, an undertaker:
“The thing was, in those days, the profession I follow was different from these days, and sometimes attended with danger to boot. Gangs of criminals calling themselves ‘resurrectionists’ – they ‘raised the dead,’ you see – sometimes called ‘sack-em-ups’ for their method of carrying off their prey, hovered near churchyards awaiting burials, so, at night, they might reclaim the corpses to sell to anatomists. It was a trade, as mine, but opposed to mine in that, you understand, it is my duty to see the deceased at peace. Not cut apart on some lecturer’s table.”
What are you working on at the moment? What’s it about?
My latest book, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, came out from Elder Signs Press just a year ago, so a fair bit of what I’ve been doing lately has still been trying to spread the word around (note to readers: if you like a book, please consider seriously writing a review of it for Amazon, Goodreads, etc., even if only a sentence or two – it helps the author more than you might think). In fact, it had even been short listed for this year’s Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award® as a fiction collection, although (alas) it failed to make it to the final ballot. Tombs is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, concerning life, love, and death on a far-future dying planet as pieced together by a surviving ghoul-poet – an eater of corpses not normally given to abstract thoughts – in hopes of discovering the particular spark that made humans human. As such, it’s almost a romance to some extent, composed of a series of “snapshots,” of stand-alone stories for us to piece together for ourselves, but a very dark one with elements of science fiction, philosophy, and horror, and is loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe: the first of the most poetic topic being the death of a beautiful woman, and the second of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.” If these concepts be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?
What genre are your books, mainly? Are you new to the dreadpunk or steampunk genre, or have you written in the genre before?
I’ve mentioned some of this before: dark fantasy, horror, mystery, science fiction, some lighter treatments too sometimes. I’ve dipped specifically into steampunk on occasion with one story, “Vanitas,” about inventing a steam-powered church organ in 1850s New England published originally in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in January 1996 – pretty much toward the beginning of the use of the term (it’s been republished since as an electronic chapbook by Untreed Reads and can be found, with two more titles by me, here. The anthology Year’s End also leads with a steampunkish piece by me, “Appointment in Time,” involving a huge clock). Another more recent story, “Raising the Dead,” originally published in Airships and Automatons (White Cat, 2015) has been reprinted as part of Tombs.
What compelled you to write or submit a story to this particular anthology?
In general, the guidelines for DeadSteam seemed intriguing and, in that some reprints would be considered, “The Re-Possessed” (originally published in Cemetery Riots, Awol From Elysium Press, 2016) seemed to me like it would be a good fit.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors? Do you enjoy reading the classics or do you tend to read more contemporary writers?
A lot of what I read actually is nonfiction, some just out of my own curiosity but also as research for projects I’m working on or just on the chance an idea may emerge (for which, see the next question). In fiction, though, at novel length I tend to go to the “classics” (a lot of Kurt Vonnegut I haven’t read yet) while in short fiction I will read the other stories in anthologies I appear in – a fair guarantee I’ll be interested in the subject matter – which often will introduce me to authors new to the scene, which is always exciting.
Where do your ideas come from?
I wish I knew. My relationship with the muse is not a sunny one; I have to wrestle her for ideas and, if I get one, who knows from where, 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 “casket girls,” the original vampires who allegedly came to New Orleans from France in 1728 – or a created world, as in Tombs, I may keep a folder with common information, such as maps or naming conventions.) In any event, when a story of mine may sometimes be described as “quirky,” my answer will be that that’s probably because when I get an idea, even one that seems to hold little promise, I’ll usually try to work with it anyway because who knows when I’ll get another?
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I think it’s a combination. I’ll usually know where a story will end – in fact that’s sometimes the first thing I’ll know about it, having to work back from there to who’s it about and how does it start — but the journey then from start to finish may be more serendipitous. I have found that when I was first starting writing, I tended more to depend on outlines, at least of major plot points, while with experience I think my unconscious is able to pick up more of the burden, without having to specifically think too many things out before starting.
If your story is part of a series, could you tell us a little about the series?
The particular story, “The Re-Possessed,” is a stand alone one. In fact, the initial idea came to me at a funeral (one of the few I can actually pin down exactly) where I suddenly wondered, if the check to the funeral home should bounce after everything was over, embalming, service, burial, etc., what could the funeral director do about it.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Paper. (Too much staring at a screen hurts my eyes. Also electronic readers are dangerous for reading in the bathtub.)
What book/s are you reading at present?
As it happens, 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Frankenstein. I’ve read the book years ago, but in the more common 3rd (1831) edition, so now I’ve found a copy of the original 1818 version which I’m just getting into.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS
The Tears of Isis: https://www.amazon.com/Tears-Isis-James-Dorr/dp/0988748843/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495740054&sr=1-1&keywords=the+tears+of+isis
Untreed Reads Link: https://www.untreedreads.com/store/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=james+dorr