Doug Dorst on the 'Internal Editor' and Losing Yourself in a Narrative

Jan 15, 2015

Credit Photo courtesy of Doug Dorst

Doug Dorst is a wonder at words and worlds. He’s a master of bringing the known and unknown, the mundane and the strange, into immediate proximity to one another is such a way that the line begins to fade.

Whether it’s insecure police officers encountering restless ghosts romping through northern California in his debut novel Alive in Necropolis, or the dark inner lives of surf gurus and cake sculptors in his short story collection The Surf Guru, or the wild labyrinth voices, artifacts, and nightmarish locales of S.

On this edition of The Write Up, we speak with Dorst about his craft, his former life as a lawyer, his three victories on the game show Jeopardy and working with J.J. Abrams.

In 2009,  Alive in Necropolis was awarded the Emperor Norton Award, and was a runner up for the Shirley Jackson Award, the IAFA/Crawford Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. It made the Editor’s Choice list in The New York Times Book Review and was named one of the year’s best books by Amazon.  The book was also chosen as San Francisco’s 2009 One City One Book selection.

He followed up his success with the beautiful and haunting story collection The Surf Guru, which also landed on the Editor’s Choice list in The New York Times Book Review and was a Rumpus Book Club pick.

Not long after, director and producer J.J. Abrams picked him out to pen a novel in which the story would be found in the margins. Dorst crafted S., a complex but highly accessible book filled with handwritten notes in the text, loose napkins and postcards between the pages, and mysteries that stretch beyond the final chapter. The book is a marvel – a thrill for any lover of the printed word and fan of puzzles.

Dorst is an accomplished playwright, essayist, and, believe it or not, a three-time Jeopardy champion.

In our conversation we talk through his approach to writing, including writing habits, struggles, and how he finds his way into a story. We talk about the pressure of deadlines and joy of the blank page.

Doug Dorst is a celebrated teacher of creative writing who helps run the Texas State MFA program in San Marcos. He talks enthusiastically about his students and the feel of the workshop.

It is a thrill to have Doug Dorst on The Write Up. He is a pleasure to talk with – or just to listen to. The depth of his voice is matched only by the depth of his soul. So please join us as Doug Dorst, with charming humility, shares his passion for craft, teaching, and above all, storytelling.