Interview with novelist Dusk Peterson

Today’s special guest
 Dusk Peterson and we’re chatting with about
Dusk’s new alternate history novel, Sweet Blood (The Eternal
Dungeon, Volume 5).
Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative
fiction with diverse characters: historical fantasy, alternate history, and retrofuture
science fiction. Friendship, romantic friendship, and romance often occur in
the stories.
Dusk Peterson also runs Historicalfic:
Historical Research for Fiction Writers ( A resident of
Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books.
Please tell us about your current release.
I’ve just brought out Sweet Blood, the final volume in my Eternal
Dungeon series, which is set in an alternative version of America that was
settled in ancient times. As a result, ancient and medieval customs linger. The
series is set in a royal dungeon that has gradually developed more humane
methods of questioning prisoners. But younger prison-workers are now rebelling
against the notion that torture should ever be used to question prisoners. In
this climactic volume, the dungeon is torn apart by civil war, with lovers
fighting against lovers, and friends turning against friends. The war becomes
not merely a struggle to find a peaceful settlement over the issue of torture,
but also a struggle to mend relationships.
Excerpt from Sweet

“Seven violations of the Code, Mr. Smith,” said the Codifier.
“Eight, if we count my own. All that our transgressions prove is that this
dungeon desperately needs the Code and desperately needs leaders who are
willing to take on the burden of punishing violations of the Code. If you and I
were to resign today, who would take our places? Weldon Chapman, a man who
barely escaped death for his own violation of the Code? Elsdon Taylor, who
defied your orders to such a degree that his own senior night guard – a man of
exemplary behavior until that time – took it into his head to loan his dagger
to a mentally ill prisoner?”
Layle’s fists clenched, his automatic reaction
to any attack on his love-mate. “Sir, I am to blame for Mr. Taylor’s
refusal to rack his prisoner. I did not sufficiently impress upon him—”
“Mr. Smith, I am not trying to apportion
blame here. Mr. Taylor is a junior Seeker and has been working in the dungeon
for only five years; it is natural for him to make mistakes. I am simply
pointing out that there is currently no man in this dungeon who holds the
qualities of leadership necessary to take over your position or mine during
this crisis, should either of us resign or even receive temporary suspension
from our duties.”
The Codifier carefully closed the Code
of Seeking
. Without looking Layle’s way, he said, “It is the judgment
of our Queen that we should remain at our posts, as we are needed here to deal
with this crisis. It is also her judgment that we should continue our policy of
requiring strict adherence to the Code. If any Seeker or guard violates the
Code deliberately in the future, they will undergo discipline, just as Mr. Boyd
did . . . but they will do so under my supervision of your actions.”
He was silent for a long while. He knew, from the
heaviness in his chest, that he had hoped for a different outcome. Resignation
from his post, temporary suspension from his duties, a retraction of the policy
of disciplining any guard or Seeker who violated the Code in even the smallest
way . . . Any of these changes would have relieved him of the pain of
continuing to fight the junior members of the dungeon who opposed his policy –
of continuing to fight Elsdon over matters that his love-mate could never fully
understand, because he had never been a senior Seeker . . . and never would be,
if he continued to defy the High Seeker.
Oh, Mercy and Hell. He would gladly allow
himself to be flayed for eternity if he could thereby escape the responsibility
of disciplining Elsdon for any future violations of the Code.
He could feel the Codifier’s eye upon him. He
forced himself to speak the words he knew must be spoken: “I am the
Queen’s servant.”
The Codifier slid the Code of Seeking into
his desk drawer and rose to his feet. “If you were not, Mr. Smith, I would
not have approved your appointment as High Seeker. Now let us put aside all
thoughts of our own guilt and find a way to bring this dungeon back into
What inspired you to write this book?
When I started the series, I hadn’t planned to overturn the characters’ belief
system; I was merely exploring how, even amidst evil, there can be people who
strive to improve matters. The core of the series storyline has been the love
that developed between the head of the dungeon (Layle Smith) and a former prisoner
of his. But as time went on, I began to see how the differing views these two
men held on how to treat prisoners would strain their relationship and begin to
create a wider battle in the dungeon between two ideologies.
When coming up with ideas for stories, I usually
start with characters in a tense situation. But since I write historical
speculative fiction, history inserts itself at a certain point. This period I’m
writing about in the Eternal Dungeon series, the 1880s, happens to be when
reformists were fighting for changes in American society, both in labor and in
prisons. So that fit neatly with what was occurring to my characters.
What exciting story are you working on next?
By February, I hope to have the first story out in a new series. Here’s the
blurb of the first story:
A young woman and a young man in a different
time and place from each other are about to encounter the same problem, which
will change their lives.
Joktan is in trouble. Pursued by an unknown
enemy, he must flee for safety . . . where? When his rash prayer transports him
to a deceptively quiet town, he must make sense of the tremendous
transformation he has undergone.
Persis has spent nearly all her life on the
Internet. A chatterbox online, she just can’t seem to connect with people
face-to-face. She had hoped that moving to a small town would give her a life
beyond the screen, but she seems doomed to live alone forever.
Then she rounds a corner and finds herself
facing a swordsman. . . .
Set in the author’s hometown next to the
Chesapeake Bay, this novelette (miniature novel) is the first tale in Swordsman
in a Small Town, a diverse fantasy romance series about travel between small
towns in parallel worlds.
Essentially, what happened was that I had a
fantasy series called The Three Lands, and I found myself wondering what would
happen if a character from that world ended up in my hometown. It’s a premise
I’ve been playing around with in my head for decades – the idea of someone from
an earlier fantasy culture having to cope with modern life. In this case, I
added in a small town, a slowly growing romance, and the fact that my hero
looks Middle Eastern, and I had my series.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In the loosest sense, I was a writer from the moment I began telling stories as
a small child. That was something every kid I knew did; we would play out the
I began writing down my stories when I was
eight. By the time I was nine, I was toying with the idea of choosing writing
as a career. To my supreme good fortune, when I was ten or eleven I read
Jacqueline Jackson’s Turn Not Pale, Beloved Snail: A Book about Writing
Among Other Things
. That book not only provided lots of helpful practical
advice on being a writer; it also listed lots of reasons why one would want to
be a writer.
From the moment I read Turn Not Pale, Beloved
, I was a committed professional. I wouldn’t begin writing fiction at
a professional level for another twenty years or so, but I was fully committed
to writing as much as possible and doing everything else I needed to become a
published author.
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

I learned how to find time to write during the quarter century that I was a
full-time writer. For a couple of years there, I was bringing out an e-book
every week – mainly reissues, but still, with a workload like that, you learn
to be disciplined, which was a lesson I badly needed.
These days I work on my writing for an hour or
so before breakfast: research, composing, editing, or layout. During meals I
either do light editing or I read fiction, which is part of the creative
process for me. On Sundays, I prepare my social media posts for the week, and I
issue and announce my latest stories: online serializations or e-books. That’s
my official schedule, but I must admit I cheat a bit: I often find ways to
nudge in a bit more writing-related time. (I’m squeezing in these interview
replies between dinner and bedtime.)
My new day job – other than taking care of
housework for me and my disabled apprentice, which is an important part of my
day – is running a business called Historicalfic: Historical Research for Fiction Writers.
I’d like to be a helping hand to authors who need assistance with their
historical research. I’ve been doing historical research for thirty years now,
not only as a novelist, but also as a journalist and history writer.
What would you say is your interesting writing

My Muse is enamored with foreshadowing. My Muse does this by
“backshadowing” – grabbing onto old, trivial references and making
them important. For example, in Sweet Blood I was bringing in a new
character. My Muse said, “Hey, remember three volumes back, when you
mentioned a soldier in passing? And wait, couldn’t this guy also be the soldier
who briefly appears in the very first story of the series, which you wrote back
in 2002?”
I once tried to show a fellow writer, through
colored type, where my Muse inserted foreshadows into a story I’d written. The
story ended up looking as though colored confetti had been thrown upon it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you
grew up?

From age nine onwards, a writer. It wasn’t a strange choice. My father is a
literary historian and printing historian; my mother was an amateur reporter
and poet. They met while writing for their college newspaper.
My parents were always very supportive of me
becoming a writer, both in terms of emotional support and in terms of practical
support. My father taught me how to do layout; my mother bought me my first
thesaurus. Little things like that made all the difference.
Anything additional you want to share with the

I enjoy diversity in fiction – both my fiction and other people’s fiction. I
have a tags page at my website for the diversities
of character
 in my own stories. At my author accounts at
Twitter and Facebook, I link to articles about diversity in fiction.
(At my researcher accounts at Twitter and
Facebook, I link to articles about historical research and writing historical

Researcher links: Website
| Twitter
| Facebook
Thanks for being here today, Dusk!

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