Tale Talk with Author Dusk Peterson

I presented 20 questions to the author and they were all answered with a lot of thought, sometimes humor, and a wonderful look into this author's life and writing .

Thank you so much for being here, so let's get started.    Question #

1. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would change in your latest book? So far this year (as I write this on April 23), I've published five new stories and twelve reissues. Who knows what my latest e-book will be by the time you post this interview.

However, since I'm in the process of reissuing all my older stories, let's take "Rebirth" (the first volume of the Eternal Dungeon series) as an example, since that contains many of my earliest m/m stories. When I look back on my early stories, one problem that crops up over and over is my lack of thought about characters of color and ethnicity.

This doesn't mean my stories lack such characters. One of the main characters in "Rebirth" is his world's equivalent of an Italian American, while the second volume in the series introduces a black character. In several of my other series, people of color or ethnicity are main characters.

My problem is that, because I originally thought The Eternal Dungeon was an alternate universe series about an entirely original world, I didn't give much thought to what cultures the series's characters would be coming from. And it didn't occur to me that it might be problematic for me to simply plop people of color into an English-American society, without any consideration as to whether their ancestral cultures were significantly different.

When the Eternal Dungeon series - as well as its related series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle - developed into alternate history, I found that I couldn't ignore the question of non-English-American cultures. I've just spent some time trying to track down which parts of Africa (or rather, the equivalent of Africa in this alternate universe) the ancestors of the black characters in the Toughs universe came from, so that I can learn more about those characters' ancestral culture.

(This search is complicated by the fact that, in the Toughs universe, the New World was settled in ancient times and there was never any racially-based slavery. So I'm having to imagine what black American culture would be like without most of the history that shaped black American culture.)

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2. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Finding the time to write. Because of a backlog in stories, I'm on a very heavy publication schedule this year, issuing one e-book a week, and I have a lot of promotion duties currently. I'd like to get back to the point where I can publish once a month and free up more time for writing.

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3. Are there any new authors that have grasped your attention? Cordelia Kingsbridge has recently had a novel accepted for publication by Riptide Publishing. I've been enjoying her online stories for a while. She specializes in m/m romantic suspense, often centered upon pairings with power differences. She's one of those writers who takes predictable subject matter and twists it into something new.


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4. If you had to kill a character in your book, who would it be and why? I periodically kill off characters. They periodically rise back to life. When I started writing online fiction, I was participating in fiction e-mail lists that required authors to warn for the death of major characters. I had to come up with a custom-made warning for my stories that wouldn't give away the fact that my supposedly-dead characters hadn't actually died.

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5. How did you come up with the title for your book? "Rebirth" was an easy title choice. The characters' spiritual faith is that the dead are reborn into new life. The main characters in the volume, each in their own way, are reborn.


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6. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I don't think up messages. My Muse is in charge of themes. (I remember, when I was writing a story back in 2002, impatiently waiting for my Muse to decide what the theme was.) But in general, I like to write about marginalized people, particularly criminals or people who are tempted toward despicable acts but successfully resist temptation. Partly because such characters make for good drama. And partly because, as the turn-of-the-century prison warden Thomas Mott Osborne put it, "The dangerous and desperate criminal is often only the hero gone wrong."

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7. Can you share a little of your current work with us? I'm having a lot of fun at the moment writing side stories about the main pairing of the Eternal Dungeon facing everyday domestic problems such as paying taxes (they don't have any money) and washing dishes (they don't know how to wash dishes). Those stories are great fun to write, because all I have to do is tap into my own domestic life for ideas. (My dishwasher has been on the blink for a while now.) 

But even so, I'd like to go back to my roots as a writer and put some characters in danger again. Because I'm wrapping up the Eternal Dungeon series (other than side stories), I have in mind writing a sequel series, with suspense scenarios, about the guards who've played an increasingly important role in the Eternal Dungeon. I'm an adventure writer at heart; that's why I end up writing so many stories about characters who are in peril.

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8. What book are you reading now or have read recently? I'm rereading M. Chandler's excellent Shadow of the Templar series, which is a set of m/m caper novels, featuring an FBI agent who becomes involved with an art thief. He has to hide the relationship from his amazingly whacky teammates. The slightly insane teammates and their law enforcement escapades are really as much the heart of the story as the thief is. I like m/m stories that aren't *just* about the m/m relationship.
 

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9. Did you learn anything from writing your book, and if so, what was it? "Rebirth"? Well, that was a long time ago, in 2002. But I remember that year as being a breakthrough moment. I'd just discovered slash fiction ("Rebirth" was written for the slash lists), and I was amazed that, after all these years of writing gay speculative fiction in my head, I'd discovered that there were thousands of other writers and readers of gay speculative fiction. I'd been reading gay literary fiction since my teens, but I didn't know that gay genre fiction existed.

And some of the slash stories I was reading dealt with very dark subject matter. That was what gave me the courage to write "Rebirth." I knew that the Eternal Dungeon series wouldn't be for every reader, but I knew that there were readers out there who were seeking such stories.

Judging from the ratings at Goodreads, it's still my most popular volume, which surprises me. I've written a lot of stories that are less emotionally difficult for readers to get through than "Rebirth" is. But something about the pairing seems to have hooked some readers into the story.
 

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10. What do you do when you are not writing? Homemaking, usually. In addition to being a full-time writer, I tend a home and a disabled apprentice.

Leisurewise, pretty much everything I do relates to writing and publishing. Reading fiction is a professional activity for me. So is visiting museums. I was smart; I picked a career where I could practice my hobbies.

In the extremely rare moments when I have spare time from my duties, I try to spend that time with my family: my apprentice Jo/e, who's an unofficial adult foster son to me, and my parents. Jo/e and I like to get inexpensive food from the local restaurants, go to events in our town such as holiday celebrations, watch videos together, and sometimes I even find time to bring out a board game for us to play.

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11. Is there a scene that is harder for you to write than others? Such as love? Action? Racy? Description is hard for me. I'm convinced I was a playwright in a previous life, because stories come to me as dialogue and a few vague movements, such as you'd see in stage directions. I can also write expository passages easily; I was a nonfiction writer for years. Description I sweat over.

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12. Do you read your reviews? Do you have any advice for how to deal with the bad? One of the advantages of being hypomanic (the mild version of mania) is that lack of self-confidence isn't usually my problem. Remembering to listen with due care to criticism is usually my problem. I try to do so with reviews, because they're one of the few ways I receive feedback from my readers. It's like reading a beta report: you may or may not agree with a beta reader has said, but you learn how that particular reader reacted to your story, which is valuable information.

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13. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What it is? There are certainly some topics I don't have a strong interest in, so I'd be unlikely to write about them for that reason. But where taboos are concerned, my view is that it isn't the subject matter that counts; it's how you approach the subject matter. I try to do so in a thoughtful manner.

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14. How hard is it to send your characters out into the world? Not hard at all, really. I've got so many stories crowding onto my publication schedule that there are always other characters queued up, awaiting my attention.

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15. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the bathtub)? I actually wrote standing up for a year and a half, from 2010 to 2011. These days, that makes me trendy, but at the time it was because I was seriously ill with a hip problem and couldn't sit down. There was a period early on when I was bed-bound, and for part of that period I couldn't move my left arm without causing lots of pain and swelling on that side of my body. I sent out a cry for help at my blog, and my readers offered all sorts of suggestions of software and hardware tools to help me type with one hand. I love my readers.

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16. What is the biggest lie you’ve ever told? Lie? What lie? (*Whistles into the air.*)

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17. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a similar situation, and what did you do? Actually, one of the reasons why I write fiction is so that I won't have to talk about my own deep struggles. Fiction provides a helpful distancing.

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18. If you had a free day and your mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do with your day? See what I wrote above about family time. That's how I'd spend a free day.

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19. When you are driving down the road, what music do you listen to? Well, first of all, I don't drive. (When I became partially sighted in 2002, I was bemused by the fact that the first question people asked me wasn't, "Can you still read and write?" Their first question was, "Can you still drive?" As it happens, I only possessed a car for three months in my life, a quarter century ago. After those three months, my mother took her car back.)

I used to dance to music while plotting stories in my head, but not since my hip problem developed. These days I listen to music when I'm doing layout or publishing, and my tastes are overwhelmingly eclectic. On my Pandora station, I have stations devoted to music that's Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, marches, ragtime, jazz, swing, and various types of popular music since then. I like to explore genres I've never heard before, such as world music. However, the station I play the most is devoted to 1960s folk music. I was born in 1963, and my parents played folk music throughout my childhood. My favorite musical group is Simon & Garfunkel.

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20. Do you find yourself scrolling through Facebook more than you should? How do you balance Facebook time vs. writing time? Hoo, boy. You have no idea you're talking to a serious Internet addict. I don't say that in a joking way; I've been known to get eight hours' sleep in the space of five days, because of the Internet.

I'm beginning to emerge from - well, not emerge from, but take control of - my 21-year-old addiction, thanks to the parental restrictions on my iPhone. My apprentice controls the password. Six days out of the week, I have a whitelist of half a dozen websites I can visit on my iPhone, because I need those websites to help me with editing and other professional work. I also have apps that let me access e-mail, weather, and a limited amount of news. If a web task that can't wait arises during those six days, I can go on the web via my online laptop, but otherwise I stick to the whitelist and my offline laptop.

On the seventh day, I go on the web to publish and promote, and that's when things get frightening. My addiction is still very real, and if you know a good way to keep from getting absorbed on Facebook, I'd love to know it, because I have to go to Facebook weekly for professional reasons, and eighteen hours later I'm still there.
 

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PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK? 

Yes, please?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and young adult fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books.

 Where to find the author:

 

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