THE ART OF OPEN-ENDED HORROR: AN INTERVIEW WITH INDIE AUTHOR JAMES D. LOPEZ (Includes excerpt from “Unspeakable”)
LA-based indie author James D. Lopez is a creator of bite-sized horror fiction and picture books for adults. His debut anthology Unspeakable is a collection of short stories that are in length and tone in a vein similar to the flash fiction/micro-prose of H.P. Lovecraft. With the material for a second book in progress, he talks about his inspirations; which includes everything from Tolkien and Ambrose Bierce to Dr. Seuss.
WIPCO: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
LOPEZ: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I have lived here my whole life. My family and I struggled to make ends meet, but we did manage, and somehow I ended up with a degree in English. Since I always enjoyed reading (and eventually, writing, although that would come later), pursuing a degree in English seemed like a natural choice. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid, and I read everything from the works of Tolkien to EC Comics (Tales From the Crypt, etc.). I’m sure that my writing was most likely influenced by all of these things to some degree. Upon graduating, I made a decision to get involved in education, and I became a teacher in the broader South L.A. region where I was raised (I’ve taught at different schools in South Los Angeles, including Watts and Compton). It has been a rewarding experience, but I also continued to write on my own. Obviously, I haven’t stopped.
WIPCO: “Unspeakable” is your first book; an anthology of stories. Can you give us a synopsis?
Unspeakable is a collection of various stories I’ve written at different points in my life. Some of these stories date back to my earliest days in college. Although I never stopped writing, I did put it aside from time to time, usually when I was between jobs (both academic and non-academic). It was maybe 2 years ago when I revisited some of my older stories; for some reason, this sparked a renewed personal interest in writing, and I began to write vigorously once again.
For this particular volume, I handpicked a few of my stories to put together a sort of “Whitman’s Sampler” of short pieces that showcase the topics that I tend to write about. The stories themselves range from horrific to darkly humorous, sometimes with elements of Surrealism present.
WIPCO: You’ve described it as a picture book for adults. Why did you choose this style of illustration to accompany your work?
I am greatly influenced by artists from the Surrealist movement in art, and most people immediately label my own work as surreal. My drawing tends to take two distinct forms: realistic imagery (life-like portraiture/still-life) and surreal imagery. I find that I have a lot more freedom when I avoid strict realism; I just let my hand flow in accordance with whatever comes from my imagination.