Dorn’s debut, The Anatomy of Desire (Morrow, May.), views the competitive world of social influencers through a gender-bending lens of crime and obsession. (Dorn, the pen name of Suzanne Dunn and Matt Dorff, have elected to answer jointly.)
What explains the rise of social media influencers?
Social climbing in the digital age is the new American dream. The more followers you gain, the higher your status. We believed the world of influencers would resonate for readers and embody the themes we wanted to explore. Suzanne has seen fellow yoga teachers build popular brands through social platforms, and Matt has followed the rise of various influencers. It takes time and creativity to produce likable content. It’s hard work.
Why did you format the book to read like a podcast?
Docuseries have become a favorite form of serial storytelling, and we wanted to tap into that. Given our screenwriting backgrounds, it felt natural to write for a panorama of voices. We varied the pacing by intercutting longer and shorter character commentaries. We gave our lead, Cleo Ray, some extended monologues to challenge her reliability as a narrator.
Is the fictional crime in the story, a reimagining of a crime in Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, based on a real case?
Dreiser had been drawn to a 1906 murder case in which a young man took his pregnant girlfriend boating. Later she was found dead in the lake. Dreiser substantially based his characters and plot on this true crime sensationalized in the national press.
Why the many courtroom scenes?
Courtroom scenes are inherently dramatic in the conflict between opposing attorneys and in witness questioning. We wanted the trial to climax with the cross-examination of the defendant, pitting a middle-aged prosecutor against a young social media star. These two lock horns in a battle of wills and words with stakes as high as they get.
Why did you set the crime and the trial in California’s conservative Inyo County?
We’re exploring the contrast in cultural norms between big city and small town. Cleo Ray is a big-city influencer with a fluid sexuality who’s accused of murdering her lesbian girlfriend. That trial in a rural town is morally controversial in a different way than it would be in Los Angeles. Ironically, the small-town district attorney, a churchgoing Christian, is the one fighting for a lesbian victim. We’re attracted to those kinds of complexities.