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Author Darrin Doyle sheds light on latest book "The Dark Will End The Dark"

Grand Rapids native Darrin Doyle's latest book of short stories "The Dark Will End The Dark" to be released by Tortoise Books

/Tortoise Books

Advance Praise for "The Dark Will End The Dark"


"The human body, logic, and language are all rent apart and remade dazzlingly anew in these fourteen stories. With the droll fabulism of Nikolai Gogol and the moral heft of Shirley Jackson, Doyle’s characters face problems both surreal and all-too-real...Fantastical yet close to the bone, these stories are both wounding and wondrous".

- Monica McFawn, author of "Bright Shards of Some Place Else", winner of the Flannery O’ Connor Award.


"Doyle's stories are lamentations, demented fairy tales, and quests for enlightenment in which the author explores bodily dysfunction and ungainly lust while familial love hums in the background. In the manner of George Saunders, Doyle uses his smart, light language to lift readers above the darkness of shame and humiliation that brings so many of his characters to their knees".

- Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of "Once Upon A River" and "American Salvage", finalist for the National Book Award.


"Darrin Doyle’s a mad scientist who has stitched together a hauntingly beautiful collection from tattered body parts and a strange, ragged heart. It is only after you’ve been defibrillated by the stories in The Dark Will End the Dark that you realize you’ve been dozing through the days. Doyle’s got his fingers on the pulse of our brave new American psyche and his writing blazes electric".

- Jason Ockert, author of "Wasp Box" and "Neighbors of Nothing".


"Stunning and visceral in its emotional impact, The Dark Will End The Dark collects 14 stories by veteran author Darrin Doyle. Deftly mixing realism and fabulism, bleakness and hope, sparkling dialogue and unforgettable characters, these literary Midwestern Gothic tales remain in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned" - Tortoise Books press release.


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Author Darrin Doyle's latest book, the short story collection "The Dark Will End The Dark" is currently available on Tortoise Books.  It is Doyle's, a Grand Rapids native, third published work.  His previous book, "The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo" was largely set between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and several of the stories in the new collection take place in Grand Rapids. His writing has been lauded by many in the literary world, including Bonnie Jo Campbell whose book "Once Upon A River" was a National Book Award finalist. Currently he teaches at Central Michigan University and lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan with his wife and two sons.


Doyle took time to talk with the Rapidian about the significance of place in his work, horror movies, and why he keeps "returning" to West Michigan.


Rapidian: All of the stories have this sort of "magic realism" that reminded me of early Gabriel Garcia Marquez short stories and also there is also a macabre surrealistic Kafkaesque feel to the stories as well. Were there authors or books or sources from other media that maybe informed or you drew inspiration from for these stories? 

Darrin Doyle: Definitely Kafka has been a huge influence on my writing, and I admire Marquez, too, although I haven’t read a whole lot of his work. Shirley Jackson has been a major inspiration as well. But as with any art, my writing has multiple influences happening simultaneously.  For example, I love horror movies – especially the style of horror of David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, and David Lynch, which tends to be more surreal, unsettling, and eerie than shock-value. And there are lots of other contemporary writers, too, such as Lynn Kilpatrick, Kelcey Ervick Parker, Brian Evenson, Christine Schutt, and Kathryn Davis, who are doing similar things, tonally and thematically, that I’m doing in this collection.

I do think I have a magical realism component to my stories, but my work is more firmly rooted in the “realism” half of the equation. The stories in "The Dark Will End The Dark" often have strange occurrences, but very few have verifiable departures from reality. Writers like Aimee Bender and Kelly Link (and Marquez) use much more outlandish and “magical” events as the basis for their stories.  For instance, Aimee Bender has a story featuring a girl with a hand of ice and another girl with a hand of fire. I’m more interested in creating an uncanny and unnerving atmosphere within the world we know, and I think this is better accomplished with stories that are realistic and plausible . . . but off-kilter at the same time.  



Rapidian: There seems to be some recurring themes and places that run through these stories as well as your other books: An all consuming-never enough hunger, amputation, identity, The Green Top tavern, to name a few. Are these conscious thematic links or do they just happen to recur on their own?

DD: Those are definitely unconscious themes, at least when they first appear on the page. I think all people have deep-seated anxieties and fears, and when a person practices any art form, these anxieties emerge whether we want them to or not. I can talk on a conscious level about things like amputation, which is just unnerving in a primal sense, in the sense that the prospect is scary. I don’t want to lose any limbs!  Who does, right?  But you’re correct that the idea of losing body parts is probably a way of wrestling with a larger issue of identity. What makes me “me”? Where do I begin and end? Are we just a collection of physical impulses and body parts? If our bodies are transformed or altered, what does that do to our “self”? For instance, if I see a picture of my face, I will always say, “That’s me.” But if I see a picture of my hand, I don’t say, “That’s me.” I might say, “That’s my hand,” as if it’s a possession of mine, but not “me.” So does this mean my face is “me”? What if my face is disfigured, changed? All of these ideas are probably engaging with the age-old question of the soul, the spirit, and whether or not (or in what form) they exist. As someone who considers himself a fallen Catholic and an uneasy agnostic, I can look at my “body” of work and see that I’m certainly using stories as a way to raise questions of body, mind, and soul, and what they all add up to. And of course the Green Top tavern is in my stories simply because it’s a cool bar with a good name. In a way it embodies the city of Kalamazoo to me – a nice representation of the years I spent living there.



Rapidian: The city of Grand Rapids appears in a few of the stories and also in your other books, how important is setting and place for you and why do you keep returning to these West Michigan "haunts"?

DD: Place and setting are one of the most important elements of storytelling. In so many ways, the locations of the stories (setting) as well as the cultural and historical moments (which I would broadly define as “place”) define the characters and their conflicts. There’s no removing the town from the boy, as the saying goes. I spent ages 9 through 30 in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and when I sit down to write a story, I rarely see any need to set my pieces anywhere else. There’s a Midwestern blue-collar ethic and vibe that I get from these cities, and in my opinion the Midwest is an untapped resource for artists. We all know about the Southern Gothic of Faulkner and O’Connor; the Northeast of Updike and Cheever; the Southwest of McCarthy and Louis L’Amour; the West Coast beatniks; and so on. I’m not saying that there haven’t been outstanding Midwestern authors for a long time (Stuart Dybek, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Charles Baxter, and lots more), but I’m excited by the prospect of an emerging Midwestern literary aesthetic, which I believe is here and in-flux as we speak.    




Rapidian: The book has several stories that are named after single anatomical parts; "Hand", "Face" and "Neck", for example, that are interspersed with the other stories. Can you give a little background on these anatomy stories and how they differ in tone from the pieces?

DD: The first body part story I wrote was “Foot,” and I began it around the time I was beginning my novel, "The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo". I was going for a fairy-tale vibe, with unnamed characters known only as “the father” and “the mother” and “the son.” I wanted to keep the story short and grotesque and unnerving, not only in the literal events of the story but in the language itself.  In my graduate studies I’d been exposed to the idea that while most fabulist/fantastical writing uses supernatural elements, some authors like William Gass create the "feeling" of the supernatural and unworldly through word choice, diction, sentence structure, etc.  That’s what I was going for with “Foot.”  This impulse continued through the body part stories, and lyricism became the prevailing mode. I discovered that writing in the flash fiction format with a specific theme in mind (body parts) was really enjoyable. I could worry less about elements like plot and character development. Instead, I focused on style, on creating a mood and tone like an instrumental piece of music.  John Gardener famously said that fiction should be like being immersed in a dream, and these pieces are intended to create a dream-like (or nightmarish) atmosphere.  As you noted in your first question, Kafka is a major influence on these flash stories.    



Rapidian: So, in terms of this Midwestern Aesthetic that you mentioned, I'm glad you referenced Bonnie Jo Campbell, because one of the perks of reading her work is being able to really identify regionally with the places and settings of West Michigan. Are you currently working on anything new as far as novels go and if so, are you planning on continuing this Midwest "literary placemaking' so to speak. 

 DD: Yes, the sense of place is critical to Bonnie Jo’s work, the characters all being so firmly rooted in their local communities and cultures. Her fiction definitely embodies the greatest strengths of grounding a story in the setting. And to answer your question about my work, I do have a completed novel that I’m in the process of finding a publisher for.  It’s called The Deviants, and it’s a murder mystery set in your very own Grand Rapids, Michigan.  There are all sorts of settings that will be familiar to a GR audience. The downtown GR Public Library figures prominently in the story, as does Catholic Central High School, Riverside Park, and of course the Police Station.    



Rapidian: What is it like producing an actual book in the digital age?  Are print publications essentially the equivalent of the vinyl LP for the medium, where it's more of niche market rather than the norm?  Is your book going to be available digitally? 

DD: I can’t tell you a whole lot about how many people read print books these days.  As a college professor, I’m probably in my own little bubble as far as those things go, and from my perspective – seeing students toting around books to class – it feels like a lot of people still read print books. However, I do suspect that like you said it’s a form that’s dwindling.  It could very well be that books are going the way of vinyl; but then again, vinyl has been experiencing a resurgence in the past ten years or so. A niche resurgence, sure, but I think there will always be certain purists who want to hold books in their hands, flipping pages, reading ink on paper.  


But yes, my book will be available digitally. In fact, all of my books are available in Kindle format.  And "The Dark Will End the Dark" is going to be very competitively priced in the Kindle format, so I encourage everyone to download it!  Unfortunately I won’t be able to autograph your copy, though.   




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