SHORTLISTED FOR THE POLARI FIRST BOOK PRIZE 2017
In Jerusalem’s Old City a young priest and a dominatrix converse in the dying light; on Oregon’s windswept coast a fragile woman discovers a body washed up on the beach after a storm; and in Postwar Japan a young protégé watches his master’s corpse burn, with bitter thoughts blazing in his mind.
Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions collects thirteen eclectic works of dark fiction, taking the reader from Los Angeles to the eastern townships of Quebec, and from Tokyo to Jerusalem.
Ortega-Medina’s characters are flawed, broken individuals, trying their best to make sense of their lives as they struggle with sexuality, death, obsession, and religion. Sometimes bleak, occasionally violent, and often possessed of a dark humour, this major debut explores the imperfections of life and the unpredictability of death.
About the Author
Orlando Ortega-Medina is a US born British-Canadian author of Judeo-Spanish descent. He studied English Literature at UCLA and has a Juris Doctor law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. At university he won The National Society of Arts and Letters award for Short Stories. Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions is his first published collection. Orlando now resides in London, where he practices US immigration law.
Q1. We noticed your cross-cultural and multi-faith upbringing has an impact on your fiction writing. What inspires you?
A1. Yes, I was born with an excess of identity. At first, it was like having a closet crammed full of costumes and not knowing which one to wear. I think it’s fair to say that my life has been about learning which costume to wear. I clothe my characters in the hand-me-downs.
Q2. Which are your favorite stories in the collection?
A2. My favorite stories are: “Torture by Roses”, “After the Storm”, “Love at Masada”, and “Invitation to the Dominant Culture”.
Q3. Who are your favorite authors?
A3. My favorite authors are Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Jown Fowles, Anthony Burgess, Jorge Luis Borges, and Yukio Mishima.
Q4. How has your law career influenced your writing style?
A4. As a lawyer, I solve problems and strategize preventative measures for my clients. As an author, I create worlds. My author-ability to think creatively and outside the box makes me a better lawyer. My lawyer-ability to think systematically, foresee problems, and create preemption regimes, makes me a better writer. I can’t imagine one without the other. On the technical side of things, my constant review of deposition and court transcripts has helped me develop a keen sense of dialogue.
Q5. What are you working on now?
A5. I’ve just completed the first draft of a novel. It’s a three-part black comedy about star worship, a search for identity and, of course, religion. It’s set the seventies and eighties in Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and Tijuana (Mexico). I’m hoping to shop it around early next year.
Q6. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A6. I like to think that agents and publishers will recognize an outstanding manuscript when it comes across their desks. That said, publishing is generally a for-profit business. So if ones manuscript doesn’t have commercial appeal, excellent as it may be, one may expect to knock on many doors before finding someone who is willing to invest in one’s manuscript. My best advise to new writers is make sure your manuscript is professionally edited and that you consider the feedback of several Beta Readers before you even dare to send it out.