Writerly Wednesday Welcomes James Dorr
Let’s give a big, belated Writerly Wednesday Welcome to James Dorr author of The Tears of Isis.
- 1. What is your favorite marketing task that has resulted in a sale?
Recently one that was fun involved a sale to the anthology Bizarro Bizarro. The guidelines requested a synopsis but, noting that a synopsis of a bizarro story is probably impossible anyway, offered instead three reasons why the editor probably wouldn’t like it (e.g., it was shorter than his preferred length, was a reprint, . . .) and six why he might (it was non-linear, was about a guy who once wanted to be a dentist’s hygienist, had lots of birds in it. . . .). The story was accepted and, in fact, one reviewer on Amazon said it was his favorite story in the book.
- 2. What do you like about your publisher or why did you decide to Self Publish?
My current collection is The Tears of Isis from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and was by invitation from publisher Max Booth III who also, at my request, wrote the introduction. PMMP is a new publisher (mine is their first single-author collection) which suggested they would be lean and hungry from a marketing perspective without much of an existing backlist to draw attention away from my book, but I also had had a couple of short stories in anthologies Max had edited (notably Zombie Jesus and Other True Stories from Dark Moon Books) and liked his work, both in his approach and in the end product. But most of all, other than a requirement that it be at least 60.000 words long, I had a completely free hand in selecting and ordering the stories that would go in it, to try to present a book with a theme about art and destruction, beauty and death, in a way that has (hopefully) added up to a whole that is more than its individual parts.
- 3. What do you have under your bed?
A box of old DVD/VCR parts (mainly for the cables); a bathroom scale; sometimes, the cat.
- 4. Are you a plotter or a pantser when you are writing?
I’m not convinced there’s really necessarily that much difference. That is, when I was first writing I would often sketch out an informal outline, mark places where elements would have to appear (think of clues, for example, in a mystery), etc., whereas now I’m more apt to just choose a beginning and just write from there (though, in fairness, my original idea will usually also have given me an idea of how it will end). But what does that mean other than that I’ve become sufficiently used to the process that what I once did on a conscious level is still being done, but unconsciously now?
- 5. Do you write in a bubble or do you prefer critique groups, writing buddies or other companionship during the process?
The actual writing is a private process for me – in fact, that relates to the idea of art bringing with it destruction in The Tears of Isis, in this case to the artist him- or herself in that the creative process of necessity (to me, at least) requires an amount of self-isolation. In the visual arts the model, even if someone the painter or sculptor loves, becomes an object at least while the process is going on. Similarly in writing the subject, whether a character or a thing, is something observed and analyzed, as if being tested in a laboratory.
That said, however, once a story or poem is done, I do have a writing group I can present it to for critiquing. But that is still something after the fact, and its appeal to me may be as much in socializing with fellow creators as in improving the creation (note again the objectifying language) itself.
- 6. When do ideas come to you and how do you capture them?
Ideas don’t come easy. I have to wrestle for them with the muse (perhaps this is why some of my work is quirky, in that I may have to go with ideas more imaginative writers would discard for better ones). That having been said, though, when an idea comes, I then need to think about what kind of character or characters will go with it – the “who” with the “what,” because stories are ultimately about people (or people-substitutes: vampires, aliens, robots, gods) – and where or what the setting will be. That will be the start: a being (protagonist) is in a situation (setting) and has a problem (motivation). The story proceeds from there.
- 7. What is your favorite word processing program and what other tools do you use, pen, notebooks, white board, index cards, finger on fogged bathroom mirrors?
I use WordStar 6.0, a good keyboard-oriented word processor from I don’t know how long back, for drafting a story, then translate it to Word (preferably into .rtf) for submitting. I usually print a copy out first to edit by hand as well as proofread (I also will sometimes read parts out loud to check the flow). Sometimes with short work, especially poems, I may do the first draft itself by hand (ink on newspaper margin or envelope back?) before transcribing it to the computer.
James Dorr combines the charm of a gentleman born in the US South with the wiles of a near-New York City upbringing, the canniness of a one-time New England resident, and the guile of an outwardly stolid Midwesterner. Or so he says. It is known that he was born in Florida, grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Massachusetts, and currently lives in Indiana where he also harbors a cat named Wednesday. He is a short story writer and poet working mainly in dark fantasy and horror with forays into science fiction and mystery, and has previously worked as a technical writer for an academic computing center, associate editor on a city magazine, a nonfiction freelance writer, and a semi-professional Renaissance musician. In addition to three prose collections and one of poetry, Dorr has had nearly 400 appearances in publications ranging from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Yellow Bat Review.
Art and creation, Medusa and creatures of the sea, blood-drinking with or without foreign entanglement, musical instruments fashioned from bone, Cinderella and sleeping beauties, women who keep pets, insects and UFOs, ghouls as servants and restless undead. And Isis herself as both weeping mother and vulture-winged icon of death and destruction. These are among the subjects that inspire the seventeen stories (plus opening poem) in The Tears of Isis, my latest collection published last May (2013) by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
Citing the book’s blurb, “the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney spoke of art as ‘making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature,’” and so in The Tears of Isis I hope will be found both the beauty that Sidney and others admired, and also the grotesque, the strange and bizarre.
Barnes & Noble
And he’d had a vision of what it had looked like. How she’d described it. The webworms long passed on, but the apple and pear and cherry trees lying shattered. The truck crops still withered. The land all in brownness, like some distant desert. Like the grain circle their father had claimed to have seen that day so long ago, except that this “landing” had covered acres.
And now he saw, also, the memory they both shared. The night on the mountain, the winding highway scarcely ten miles away from where they now stood. Their father’s voice droning on, filling the car as they drove east to where they would spend their vacation, keeping to back roads because their father felt the Interstates ruined the scenery,
His voice. The moths outside. His stories of other sightings than his and their mother’s, some involving actual creatures that flew in the saucers. The Flatwoods Monster in 1952, here in these mountains, in Braxton County. The 1961 encounter in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, of Barney and Betty Hill. The Pascagoula Creatures of 1973, in Mississippi . . .
His and Marina’s trying to sleep, not wanting to listen. The woods, dark, on either side of their privately lit double tunnel, seeming to close in . . .
. . . when it rose before them. Glowing, pulsing, as big as a football field. Up, from a notch between two ridge lines, it straddled the highway, seemingly missing them only by inches as it passed overhead.
Jarring them with its sound.
The car’s front wheels twisting—their father battling to stay on the road.
And then the second one louder still, after he and Marina had left the wreck site, still in a daze, climbing the eastern slope—more memory came back—thinking somehow it might help to find out where the first of the huge, glowing disks had come from.
Both of them screaming . . .
(From “Waxworms,” The Tears of Isis, pp. 116-117)
Barnes & Noble
Thank You James Dorr for being my Writerly Wednesday Guest this week and thank you for your patience.
Thank you again for coming to Writerly Wednesday and please visit again.
Don’t touch anything sharp.