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AUTHOR SNAPSHOT: DORI LUMPKIN

Welcome to NightTide's Author Snapshot! Snapshots are quick, engaging, bite-sized interviews with writers that we love! This week, we chat with the magnificent Dori Lumpkin!

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1. Give us your best elevator pitch on your work.

I write queer horror, often very character-centric, often involving themes of grief and relationships and discovering the self. I really love examining the reflection of society in horror media, and figuring out why we love horror so much from a queer perspective! I also really just love writing about complex women who make difficult decisions.

2. What was your first published work?

My first published piece was a short story called "Happy Holidays from Another World." It was published in Soft Star Magazine, and it was a very sentimental and special moment for me, because that piece was one that I had written for my dad as a Father's Day gift. It's still one of my favorite pieces because it means so much to me, and Soft Star was a delightful first home for my work. If you're interested, it follows a grieving girl who lives alone on a spaceship, missing her father years after his death and after she made a professional promise to never return to Earth. It's sad, but it's from the heart.

3. Is there a story inside that you have seeds of but can't seem to connect that's dying to get out? 

Oh my god, yeah. Not to switch stylistic gears entirely from the first question, but I've been scratching away at a novel idea for months and months now, it's a collection of diary entries and newspaper articles about a punk band in California in the late 90's who cannibalistically steal power and live forever by creating parasocial relationships with their fans. There are prose sections too that revolve around a different section of the story, and it's bugging me because I can't quite work the details of the timeline out. I always struggle with how long stories need to take to tell, and I don't usually get it right the first time. It'll get there eventually, though! Just needs some more time to marinate, and I've got other projects taking priority first. 

4. How do you handle a rejected story?

A lot better than I used to, I'll say that much. The first time I submitted a story, I was 15, and that rejection was a punch to the gut (I submitted a random piece to a HUGE market, and looking back now, that does make me laugh.) When I do get rejections now, though, I like to remind myself that every story has a home. And if a market says no, that just means that story's home isn't quite ready yet. But also, I don't necessarily write things to get them published. Sure, I try, but publishing is just a nice side effect.

5. What does literary success look like to you?

To me, literary success means finding the right audience. I like figuring things out on my own terms, and there are some pretty basic goals on my list as well (get an agent, figure out how traditional publishing works, etc) but at the end of the day, it all boils down to finding the right group of people that can see themselves in my stories. If I can do that, if I can connect to people and make them feel like they have a home in the stories I'm telling, then I'm happy. 

 

6. Do you read your book reviews and if so, how do you deal with bad or good ones?

Listen, okay, I know I shouldn't, but I do. Bad reviews are none of my business, because I know that not every story is going to reach every single person, but the good reviews? The ones where they connect to the story and get something really special out of it? Those mean the world to me! There's not much to be said about "dealing with" them though (at least in my opinion) because like... once a story is out in the world, it doesn't belong to me anymore. I have no say in how people feel about it, but it sure is nice when they tell me that they liked it and that it resonated with them.

7. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Ugh, okay. A consistent issue I have (that I would genuinely like to get better at) is being able to hyperfocus on one project for an extended period of time. My artistic attention span is wild, so I'm usually working on like 6-7 active works-in-progress at once, with so many other projects in revision at the same time. Most of the time, I bounce back and forth between them because once I fall out of love with a project or get burnt out on it, it takes a LOT to get me to commit back to it. By moving between them based on where the inspiration currently lies, I avoid falling out of love a lot faster. However, the problem with this is that when I really need to finish a story, or actively want to get something done, I often can't because my brain needs to bounce around in order to stay committed to a project. I guess all that to say that I struggle with burnout, so I work harder to avoid that burnout, which is incredibly ironic and not necessarily helpful!

8. The truth is often stranger than fiction. What has been the hardest scene or chapter you've had to write if you were channeling personal experience?

All of my stories contain pieces of myself, big or small, but some of them more than others. A story that was particularly difficult for me was my piece, "Happy Daggers" which appeared in the Little Ghosts Books anthology Demons & Death Drops: An Anthology of Queer Performance Horror. The story centers around a nonbinary highschooler who doesn't get cast as the role they wanted in the high school show due to some gender discrimination and transphobia (and ends up doing some big murder and face-peeling as a result!) As a former theatre kid who is always working through a lot of really complex gender stuff in my own life, this piece was like a love letter to my high school self, which made it end up feeling a whole lot more personal than I originally intended. I love stories like that though, as painful as they are to write sometimes. I know that someone else out there is going to understand that feeling, which makes it worth it to me.

9. What inspired your latest work? 

My debut novella, Antenora, is coming out on October 1st with Creature Publishing, and it is a story that is very very close to home for me! It takes place in Alabama, where I grew up and where I currently live, and it was heavily inspired by two things. 1. My fascination with the tradition of snake handling in Appalachian Pentecostal Churches, and 2. Being queer in the American South. All of my works are queer, and this one in particular was driven by the desire to express a lot of the feelings I felt growing up, and the feelings that I know a lot of Southern queer kids face. Sometimes, it's easier to be possessed than it is to be gay. But also, the idea of snakes being able to prove how close you are to God is utterly fascinating, and has a very long and neat history in the Alabama/Tennessee/Georgia area (if you're interested in this topic, check out Salvation on Sand Mountain, or the podcast Alabama Astronaut!) 

10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would ti be? 

If I had to tell my younger self anything, it would be that people want my stories, not my best emulation of another writer. No matter what, little me, remember to focus on telling the stories that feel true to you, and not what you think people want to hear.

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11. What's the best advice you've received from a fellow writer?

 I got the chance to go to the Longleaf Writers' Conference this year, and something that stuck with me (this advice came from several people over the course of the week) was to not lose sight of the joy of the act of writing. Like I said before, publishing is just a nice side effect. I didn't start writing because I wanted to be published. I started writing because I felt like I needed to put the stories in my head down on paper, and because creating stories brings me joy. Once you reach the business side, with the marketing and the deals and the paperwork, it becomes really easy to lose sight of why this all started to begin with, and why I even want to keep doing it at all.

12. What is your go-to comfort horror/Sci-Fi book? 

My answer for this one is incredibly basic, and for that I'm sorry, but it absolutely has to be The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I've loved this book for so long, and it's one I consistently go back to whenever I need a little burst of inspiration or hope!  I'll never not enjoy re-reading that one. 

13. If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? 

I'm a die-hard Dungeons & Dragons fan, so I'd love to dig into fantasy a little bit harder than I have. I also really enjoy science fiction (as evidenced by my answer to your first question) so I might try to dip my hands into that pool as well. I've got such a respect for people who can dedicate the time to intense worldbuilding like that. It's something that I haven't been able to figure out outside of a D&D game, so maybe one day I'll give it a go.

Dori Lumpkin is a queer writer and storytelling enthusiast born and raised in South Alabama. They are the author of the novella Antenora, and their short fiction has appeared in Demons and Death Drops, The Deeps, and more. They love all things weird, and especially enjoy lingering on the line between scary and sad. You can find them @whimsyqueen on most social media websites, or visit their website: https://dorilumpkin.carrd.co/

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