Introduction from the back cover of “The Dragonfly and the Siren”: “…T. Fox Dunham has appeared in nearly 200 international journals and anthologies. His first novel, The Street Martyr, will be published by Out of the Gutter Publishing in 2013…”
GL: How did you and Jay Wilburn come to collaborate on “The Dragonfly and the Siren?”
FOX: It was all a nefarious plot by Jay Wilburn to help him pilot the Hazardous Press table at the WHC in New Orleans. Dark gods were consulted. Crystal balls scryed. And he spoke to me via chat. When I said I’d consider going, he announced that I would be there; and I was deluged by a series of requests for signings and visits and drinks after midnight. After that it was a fait accompli.
I thought since Jay and I would be at the table, it would be useful to have something to sell from us. Robert Helmbrecht asked me if I’d do a short story anthology at about 40,000 words. I was so busy with finite energy, that I told him I could do perhaps 20,000 and that I could team up with Jay. Jay and I have been moving in similar circles. We often find ourselves sharing table of contents, and I felt a shared energy with the fellow. He’s a brother, and we’re on this journey together. It felt only natural to do a book together.
GL: In your collection of dark and disturbing stories making up “The Dragonfly and the Siren,” I was particularly struck with your The Siren Lucinda and I Promise the Sun Shall Rise. Please give readers a synopsis of each and why you were inspired to write them.
FOX: The Siren Lucinda is one of my early works and was the birth-legend of The Good Doctor Sullivan. This makes it significant in my work, as he’s become an icon for me, an expression of my battle with death. My hero fought a war a Korea and went mad. Now he lives on the beaches of Ocean City, New Jersey, hiding from the world, when one morning he meets a lithe spirit of a woman, Lucinda. At first, she is surprised that this beach rat can see her, and then each morning they walk together. She speaks of her husband, The Good Doctor Sullivan. We never meet him. We only hear macabre stories, and we get the idea that he preserved her from death to be his wife, that he is ethereal and walks with the crows. He will place your eyes in his pockets too. It is a kindness. Finally, he convinces her to run away with him, and on the last day, Lucinda stands him up on the beach. There forever he is trapped in his undying love for this woman, a punishment perhaps.
Why did I write it? Perhaps I was exercising the hurt lost loves have caused me. Or maybe it was all about The Good Doctor Sullivan. He was born in a lightning strike. One moment, I’m writing prose about their meeting. Lucinda is talking. Then, from an inspirational night, she speaks of her husband, The Good Doctor Sullivan. He emerged so simply, an easy birth, a slip of words, to become the darkest force in my writing and my life. He is the icon of death—and he is kind.
I Promise the Sun Shall Rise: This one goes to my core. It begins with Mary and Fox waking up in a small mansion somewhere in a stormy land. They have a beautiful life, but Mary feels the wolf at the door. It drags her out of the story-dream, and she realizes she’s actually in the patient waiting room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with Fox. Both of them suffer cancer and are waiting to be taken back for radiation. Through the story, Mary is dying and Fox is recovering. They are very much in love and waiting, and he’s trying to keep her in the world by convincing her that the dream is real and cancer is the fantasy. She’s tired though and just wants to sleep. He won’t let her go.
The causes behind this story are personal. Much of it is true, when I went through radiation at Penn for Lymphoma. I was a storyteller there, and I was so cruel with my kind stories. I meant well. You’ll see Mary in many of my stories as I relive this story again and again. She is my limbo. Sometimes, you never leave a place. You close your eyes, and you’re still there, being burned and watching the one you love slip away.
GL: Sincere thanks for sharing with us, Fox. Changing gears, why did you decide to go with Hazardous Press for the publication of “The Dragonfly and the Siren?”
FOX: Robert Helmbrecht is a fine publisher, and I respect his outfit. Many friends have been published there, much on my advice, and I wanted to support them at the WHC. He’s a professional, and I plan to work with Hazardous for many years to come.
GL: Please give readers a synopsis of your “The Street Martyr.”
FOX: So you’ve got these two low-level drug dealers, selling Percs and pills they get from a crooked pharmacist, on the street: Vincent and Louie. They’ve been partners since Catholic school, a couple of screw-ups really. Louie’s got big dreams. He’s a runt, and he earned the moniker Kid Louie when he was younger. Now he beats the hell out of anyone who might be thinking of him as ‘Kid’. He’s King Fucking Louie. Vincent just wants to make enough money and take care of his sick mother.
One night, Vincent is enlisted by his guardian father-figure priest, Gabe, to go and scare a pedophile priest who was just transferred to the parish. He goes and scares him, beats him up some, leaves him standing in his dirty flat. The next morning, Father Larry Mills is found dead, beheaded, in a local park. Witnesses identify Vincent, and a manhunt is on. Not only is the city of Philadelphia after Vincent, but so is the local crew of the Philadelphia mafia, led by Dominic. First, they just try to get out of Philly, but they’re drawn deeper into a conspiracy that involves the mob, the cops, and even local politicians. Vincent hides among the homeless, the defaced, the disenfranchised, and he learns the identity of the murderer. He’s then set on a mission and rises from street dealer to vigilante in a city to fight the corrupt system. He becomes a hero.
The Street Martyr is about the poor, poverty. It’s about the way we deface people. The poor only have three real ways of rising out of their status: drugs, crime or faith. Each is a spurious path. As authors, we must speak for those who have had their mouths torn out.
GL: What’s its release date?
FOX: The Street Martyr will be available in book stores and libraries on October 1st. Preorders are available on Amazon.com. My publisher is working with a distributor, and orders are coming in across the board for national stores. It’s exciting for my first book. They can never take it away from me now.
GL: What made you decide on Out of the Gutter Publishing for “The Street Martyr?”
FOX: Kid Louie was born at Gutter Press. I dabbled in crime fiction, first submitting a story to Pulp Metal Press which they published. I was following Paul D. Brazil—amazing crime author—around the internet. If he LIKED or worked with a publisher, I hit it. I decided to do a story for Flash Fiction Offensive, published by Gutter Press. I write flash fiction in a flash, and I decided to create a new character, Kid Louie. I wrote the story form nothing in about twenty minutes. It’s a real kick that way. I sent it off and moved onto to my next conquest. (I see markets as conquests.) Tom Pitts had just taken over FFO. Tom would become good friends later after I met him in San Francisco, he and his family. He called it one of the best stories they’d published in eight years, and it was featured as the first story on the TOC for their annual anthology.
I was choked by horror. I had stopped writing that August to focus on D&D role-playing and just clear my head and do some fishing. I needed a change, and I had published near 200 short stories in two years. I needed to do a novel, change things up, and I knew my best chance to get published was with an established publisher that appreciated my work. A literary-crime novel felt good, right to write, and I decided to expand the short story, Kid Louie. I wrote it in two months, learning to love the long art form. Max Booth III, my guy at Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, gave me a beta read and a great edit. Thank you Max for holding my hand. And off I sent it. I expected to wait 4-6 months, patiently. You manage your expectations. Cautious optimism. You send off your manuscript and just put it out of your mind. Matthew Louis, the chief at Gutter, accepted it four days later. Now I expected a POD publication, nothing big. I had no idea he was going to use my book to launch the next level of Gutter Books, going through IPGN for book stores. That’s every author’s dream. Gutter books also setup a release party in San Francisco, and they paid for my air fare, hotel and trip. I blew the doors off the place with my friend Will Viharo, he was releasing his book also.
I’m currently under contract with PMMP for my next book, The Tangible Illusion of Reality or Searching for Andy Kaufman, and Blood Bound Books wanted a medical-horror novel from me, based on my short story published by them, The Deal. They are currently reading that novel, Mercy, which I wrote after coming home from the WHC.
GL: Amazing…congratulations! Now, I had the pleasure of meeting you at World Horror Con, and, in addition to your inviting personality, I was struck with how well you recited poetry. Any plans to compile a book of your poetry one day?
FOX: You’re going to be surprised, but I’m not really a poet. I wrote much poetry when I was younger, but I focused on prose and narrative. I synthesized poetic phrases into my narrative, and my work is often said to be indistinguishable from poetry. This is my style, a style I’ve had to fight for in the spoon-fed modern American literary community. I’ll return to poetry one day. I do love it so and often quote it: Elliot, Yeats. Tomas.
GL: Which conventions will you be attending, if any, the tail end of 2013? In 2014?
FOX: Rising author and sort of my ward Mandy DeGeit has compelled me to share a room with her at Anthcon in November. I go mostly to see friends. Mandy is dear to me. I also might be the guest of honor at a book festival in Plymouth England. I do intend to attend to the WHC in Portland in 2014, especially if BBB picks up Mercy. I’ve also offered to help Denise Brown—Auntie Denise—with the May December Books table there. I’m her fox in the field. We’ll see from there. NoirCon in Philly in 2014. Conventions exhaust me.
GL: Do you think that in this day and age attending conventions is necessary for both new and established writers? If so, then why?
FOX: With modern social connections and media, it is no longer necessary. The fast communications of the inter-web had reshaped the industry. Agents are vanishing from the process, and authors can find publishers and readers directly. Our world has changed so much. Now it may not be mandatory, but it can be very useful. I spent much time negotiating with publishers, making contacts, reaching readers and getting myself some gigs for the future. That’s how I met you.
If anything, conventions would be more effective if the founders worked to bring in more readers. There was shortage of readers and fans at the WHC, and it was really authors selling to authors. Pyramids formed with the top authors leading groups. Not a single sign had been posted in New Orleans. The HWA needs an advance team to go in and at least put up some signs. If they gave me some money to do it, I’d volunteer.
GL: Where can readers go to connect with you and your wonderful work?
My Work Email: email@example.com
The Street Martyr at Gutter Books: http://www.gutterbooks.com/2012/05/t.html
The Street Martyr for sale at Amazon.com – (PREORDER!):
My Blogs: www.tfoxdunham.com & http://tfoxdunham.blogspot.com/
The Siren & The Dragonfly: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dragonfly-Siren-Jay-Wilburn/dp/0615826121