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.
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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
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
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
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.
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
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
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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11 thoughts on “Interview with novelist R.F. Dunham

  1. Mai T. says:

    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)?

  2. R.F. Dunham says:

    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!

  3. R.F. Dunham says:

    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!

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