Monday, June 6, 2016

Interview with novelist R.F. Dunham

I have R.F. Dunham in the hot seat today. He’s chatting with me about his alternate history novel, The Other Side of Hope.

During his virtual book tour, R.F. will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner's choice) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

R.F. Dunham writes with one purpose: to take you places you've never been before. That might be a distant fantasy land, the far reaches of space, the future of earth, or simply to an idea you've never encountered. A student of language and culture, Dunham's stories will pull you into complex worlds that challenge your perception of your own surroundings.

After working for over two years as a professional ghostwriter, the time has finally come for him to release his first full-length novel published in his own name, The Other Side of Hope. His short story, “Just a Drop,” was recently published in Nebula Rift Science Fiction magazine and an interactive version of the story is currently in beta testing. When he’s not writing, R.F. can be found playing the trumpet, writing his thesis in Arabic linguistics, or hiking in the mountains of Virginia. 

Welcome, R.F. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The Other Side of Hope is a unique alternate history novel that offers a fresh (and upside down) perspective on the conflict that has defined our era: The War on Terror. It’s all built around my passion for seeing conflict through the eyes of the “other.” The book invites readers to flip their perspective and imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of this fight.

At its core, The Other Side of Hope is about two men, one Christian and one Muslim. These men are concerned with nothing more than caring and providing for their families and going about their lives when a war erupts that throws both of their lives into chaos. Everything changes and they get put on a course that will lead them to collide with the other side—and be forced to reconsider exactly who their enemies are.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write this book by a desire to help both Christians and Muslims see our current global conflict through the eyes of those they would call “enemy.” I thought that the best way to do that would be to write a story in which the two sides were reversed. That way, a Christian can better imagine how their own religion could be used to vent anger built up over decades of abuse and a Muslim can better understand the racially focused hostility felt by a people who see their way of life as being under attack.

Excerpt from The Other Side of Hope:
When Ethan saw Elisa turn the corner, his eyes lingered on her face for only an instant. The familiar details of her delicate features filled his mind at once and he wondered how they could have ever become blurred. He would have focused on those features longer, much longer. Would have memorized every inch of her face, from the curve of her cheeks, to her soft nose, to the gentle slope of her chin, to her soft red lips, and shining blue eyes.

He would have stared for hours and maybe he would have never left again. But his eyes were immediately drawn away from her face and to her belly, which was large and round.

Ethan stared at her pregnant stomach for a heartbeat that stretched on endlessly. He blinked once and then hot anger, augmented by the sharp pain of betrayal, flared. He’d been gone for months and she’d gotten pregnant with another man’s child while he was fighting for their future.

He took a step toward her and she must have seen the rage in his eyes because she rested a hand on her stomach and backed away. Seeing her fear broke through Ethan’s anger and he stopped.

“Is it…?” he asked softly, almost breathless.

Elisa nodded once, just a small dip of her chin and Ethan knew it was true.

It was his child she was carrying. He was suddenly ashamed that he could have ever thought anything different. Elisa would never betray him.

Even though the revelation of her pregnancy was a shock, Ethan had to admit that it was possible. He hadn’t truly even considered the possibility that it would happen, that she would become pregnant before they were married. Or maybe he had just assumed that it wouldn’t matter if she did, that they would be married either way and no one would ever know the difference.

Yet here they stood.

Ethan stood just inside the doorway, wrestling with feelings of desperation and duty. Elisa at the end of the hallway, eyes wide with a potent mixture of fear and hope.

Ethan held those eyes with his own for a moment longer, then came to his decision. “I’m going to Turkey. Today.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m in the planning stages of an unrelated, science fiction novel. Just character sketches and the beginning of a few plot outlines at this point. It’s going to dive into themes of betrayal vs loyalty, war vs peace, family vs country, and redemption vs hopelessness. All I can say beyond that is that the initial idea came from this New York Times article.

That’s what I’ve thought my next book was going to be for several weeks now. But several people have asked if I plan to write any more in the world of The Other Side of Hope. The first few times, my answer was always that the story is finished and there’s no need to write any further in that world. But the question has been so persistent, that I’m starting to reconsider my answer! The story of these characters is finished for sure but I’m becoming more and more open to the idea of writing a new story with new characters in this world. In fact, I’d love to hear what you and your readers think about the idea! So, what do you think? Should there be more books in this world?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I had a hard time referring to myself as a writer for a fairly long time after I started writing professionally. You see, while I was writing The Other Side of Hope, I was also working as a freelance ghostwriter. But for a long time, when people asked me what I did for a living, I would say, “I write.” Not, “I’m a writer.” It took probably close to a year of full-time writing before I could confidently say, “I am a writer.” Now one of the first things I say to aspiring writers is to own it. Say it loud and proud, whether it’s your job or a hobby.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full-time, though as I said, not all on my own writing. I divide my time between writing my stories and editing for my clients. Usually about a 50/50 split but sometimes circumstances lead to devoting more time to one or the other.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if this quite counts as a writing quirk, but I have a tendency to play my trumpet while I’m writing. I keep my horn on a stand right next to my desk and when I need a short break to clear my head or something, I just pick it up and play something. Maybe a random exercise or an etude I’m working on. Sometimes some blues licks just because, who doesn’t like the blues?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Jedi.

Other than that, I don’t have any memories having a very specific goal when I was little. I was into skateboarding for a while and there was a time when I wanted to do that professionally. Then I got into music and thought about being a professional jazz musician for a while (I do occasionally get to make some money here and there with music, so that dream is partially fulfilled). I did like to write stories and make my own (very bad) comics when I was a kid, but I don’t think I ever thought I would be a writer. But here I am!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you for being interested enough in my book to read this interview! Hopefully I didn’t drive you away. I truly do hope that you’ll pick up The Other Side of Hope, read it, and share it with your friends. Not because I’d like to sell books (though that is nice!) but because I believe strongly in the message of this story and I want it to get out there. Our world faces a serious threat. Not terrorism or radical Islam but mutual hate and misunderstanding. The Other Side of Hope is my effort to stand against that threat.


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Ally Swanson said...

Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

Mai T. said...

Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?

James Robert said...

Monday so soon? Hope you have a great week and thank you for the chance to win

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing :)

R.F. Dunham said...

Thanks for having me!

That's a great question, Mai T. I typically spend about 5-6 hours a day writing. That could include anything from literal writing to outlining, to editing. All of my writing, from first draft to final, is done on a computer. I rely pretty heavily on Scrivener to stay organized and I can't even imagine writing an entire novel on paper!

MomJane said...

What a great idea for a book. I really enjoyed the excerpt

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your interview.

Rita Wray said...

I enjoyed the post.

Ally Swanson said...

What is the name of your favorite restaurant?

R.F. Dunham said...

Thanks to everyone reading the interview! I'm glad you're enjoying the post and the excerpt. I hope you get to read the full story and I would love to hear what you think if you do!

Ally, my favorite restaurant is any place with good Italian food. In my city, the best place is called La Villa. My favorite non-Italian restaurant is called Brauburger. It's a locally own burger and craft beer place that's absolutely incredible!