10 Questions with James Dorr

  1. What’s the greatest moment in your writing career?

Connections with readers are always great, but this time it was with a publisher.  I had sold one or two stories to Max Booth III in his capacity as an editor for other publishers, but now he was starting his own imprint and he approached me, asking if I would like to submit what would be Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing’s first fiction collection.  I would have virtually complete control (the only constraint being it had to come to at least 60,000 words) and the result was THE TEARS OF ISIS, certainly I think my best collection, and one that went on to be a 2013 Stoker® Award nominee.  So while I’ve had another book since, the novel-in-stories TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (Elder Signs Press, 2017), the trust that Max bestowed on me — not to mention its subsequent validation — will always make TEARS extra special to me.


  1. How do you approach writing poetry different than you would writing a short story or novel?


I’ve written a few long poems that had to be planned out like a story, but even then I’ve felt freer to use non-linear narrative structures. In general, though, I’m more apt to have a view of a poem as a whole in mind at the start, whereas with prose fiction it’s more a process of construction, putting together the various elements — character, scene, plot, mood — until the final work seems complete.


  1. If you could pick one other author to collaborate with on a novel or story, living or dead, who would it be?

I think Edgar Allan Poe would be amazing fun, just find out how he got his ideas.


  1. Of all the jobs you have held, what is the strangest and/or most interesting?


Co-editing an underground newspaper when I was in college (this was quite a few years back) was one.  Any editorial job can be wacky enough, but you also met such interesting people.


  1. Is there an overall theme to your writing?

That’s hard to say, but one that recurs has to do with people’s beliefs:  myths, legends, folklore, as well as varying interpretations of here-and-now events.  In TOMBS, for instance, set in a dying Earth and, hence, an increasingly death-centric society, certain common beliefs keep coming up about souls and fate and the possibility of love persisting even beyond death.


  1. What made you want to start writing horror?


I started off writing science fiction, but became more and more interested in people’s reactions to wondrous events than just in the events themselves.  Horror, in that it puts its characters under the greatest amount of stress, testing character to the extreme while still allowing that sense of wonder, seemed to offer a natural area for me to go to.


  1. What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?


Whatever I’m stoked on at the moment, although for satisfaction afterward those that reveal character more deeply.  In a flash piece called “Casket Girls,” for instance, in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION a few years ago, I say of the main character, “she felt sorry for the girl she had left in the harbor [that is, dead] behind her, no doubt a good girl who deserved better treatment.”  The “she” is a vampire, but in that one line presumably one that has a conscience, a trait perhaps not expected in vampires.  But then I also enjoy, at times, detailed descriptive passages about a setting or a place if I can write them in a way that shows the “character” of that location, hopefully that makes the reader feel a part of it.


  1. What do you feel is the ideal length for horror fiction: a short story, a novella, or a novel?


“As long as it needs to be, and not a word more.”  Well, okay, but it does depend on what I’m writing at the moment and what I want it to achieve.  Edgar Allan Poe stated in his essay, “The Poetic Principle,” that the “degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length.  After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags – fails – a revulsion ensues – and the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such.”  He repeats this of literature in general in “The Philosophy of Composition,” of works “too long to be read in one sitting,” that artistic unity is lost, a longer work thus operating more as a succession of short works.  So, insofar as I believe horror at its best, of all genres, involves an intensity – an “excitement” – of emotion as well as intellect, I would go with the short story as the ideal form.


  1. Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?


It’s hard to be absolute, but I would say I’m not fond of torture porn.   I think there’s a line separating horror, as literature, from sadism; that horror concentrates on people and how they’re affected and not just voyeuristic descriptions of gore and pain.


  1. If you could create a Mount Rushmore of the greatest horror authors, which four writers would you choose?

Edgar Allan Poe for juxtapositions of beauty and fear, of love and death throughout his work; Bram Stoker for use of the science of his day and a starkly realistic way of telling in his masterpiece, DRACULA; H.P. Lovecraft for his introduction of the “cosmic”; and Euripides (with fellow tragedians Aeschylus and Sophocles shadowed behind him) for having joined history, myth, and the gods with human emotion.





James Dorr is an Indiana, USA 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 2013 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), as well as Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, a novel-in-stories from Elder Signs Press in 2017.  An Active member of SFWA and HWA, Dorr has more that 500 individual fiction and poetry appearances in books and journals from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to Yellow Bat Review.


Social Media:


Blog: http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9


Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1380306038&sr=1-2-ent


Book Links:


The Tears of Isis:  https://www.amazon.com/Tears-Isis-James-Dorr/dp/0988748843/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491542727&sr=1-2&keywords=tears+of+isis


Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth:  https://www.amazon.com/Tombs-Chronicle-Latter-Day-Times-Earth/dp/1934501743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480618250&sr=1-1&keywords=tombs+a+chronicle+of+latter-day