D.H. Dunn - Fantasy-Mystery Featuring a Magically Enhanced Assassin
D.H. Dunn writes fantasy and adventure fiction and is the author of seven published novels, including the FRACTURED EVEREST series. A former U.S. Navy sailor, he now wanders the coasts and forests of Maine, looking for hope and adventure wherever he can find it. As our Author of the Day, he tells us about his book, The Fifth Interdictor.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Fifth Interdictor is about.
As the story opens, we meet The Fifth, who believes she is a magically created AI designed to protect this culture’s king. She has no history, no name, no life outside of her duty. She is content with her existence, though being set apart from everyone else is lonely for her.
An incident in the opening scene begins to call her entire life into question, suggesting that she may not be the artificial creation she has been told she was. With the help of Nils, a young man who is her newly assigned assistant, she begins to pull on the threads of her life, finding that there is much she has been told that might not be true.
Yet questioning her existence causes the magical programming within her to begin to rebel, and the Fifth finds herself fighting against her own arcane abilities as she struggles to decide if learning her real history is worth the price.
What would you trade for the truth? Is it better to be ignorant and happy? Or is it better to know the dark facts that have been kept from you, even if learning them might injure you?
I hope readers will be interested to go on this journey with the Fifth and find out the answers.
You are a former U.S. Navy sailor. How has this influenced your writing?
It has influenced it in a lot of different ways. Being in the military exposes you to a lot of places, peoples, and cultures you might not have experienced in that manner otherwise. During my ten years, I got to travel to dozens of countries, as well as working alongside folks from many parts of my own country. All of it influenced me, as it changed the way I see the world and people.
I lived in Italy for 3 years, for example. It is one thing to visit a place as a tourist, and quite another to live on an Italian street, have Italian neighbors, shop at the Italian market, and have an Italian landlord who spoke no English. You learn a lot about how the same we all are, how different we all are, and how special both of those things make us.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m extremely good at cracking eggs without getting the shells in the yolk, untangling yarn, and doing funny voices.
Tell us more about the Fifth. What makes her tick?
My main series (Fractured Everest) focuses on Nima, a young Sherpa woman who is a tiny bundle of adventure-loving positive energy. Probably by design, the Fifth is fairly far from that.
She’s a decent person, who is proud of the good she thinks she is doing. But she is an outsider, confident when she’s doing her job, but shy and awkward at other times. She wants to help people, but she has difficultly connecting with them all the same. Nils, the young man who assists her, becomes the bridge to the larger world she has been afraid of, helping her realize her value and find her confidence and strength.
I connected very strongly with the Fifth when writing her. Many of us have felt like the ‘other’ at times, longing to be accepted and loved without having to give up the essence of who we are.
The book contains a couple of twists and turns. Did you plan it all out before you wrote the book, or did it just "happen" along the way?
A little of both. I do write from an outline, and most of the twists and surprises contained in this book were present from the beginning. The best one, however, came to me while working on a chapter and I changed the story to better fit that idea.
The ideas I come up with while writing will always be better than the ones I had in the outline, because they come from the characters, who tend to develop and change while working on the first draft.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to write?
The Fifth herself, due to the nature of her character’s journey. She starts off very cold and distant, which was a challenge. As a writer, I want to create a likable character for readers to connect with out of the gate. This was more challenging with the Fifth, who is so quiet in the open and feels so removed from everyone.
As the book progresses, she gains access to the passion and emotions inside her that have been buried through a lifetime of lies. Once she starts to ‘thaw’, writing that path of discovery that she takes along with Nils was very rewarding.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
That empathy and decency are not easy paths, they are often hard ones. But they are worth the struggle and sacrifice that they sometimes require. That hope is real, that it is an endless, bottomless resource that we can all choose to create and put into the world every day.
Or we can choose not to do that.
It really is up to all of us, in the little and big things we do, to make life better for everyone.
Interesting cover. Tell us more about how this came about.
This cover was a wonderful gift in more ways than one. When I decided to publish The Fifth, I had already published three books in my Fractured Everest series and had planned to work with that cover artist again. Unfortunately, they took ill and were unable to continue doing covers for me.
I found this cover as a pre-made and thought it perfectly captured the mood of the story. The Fifth is a pretty tortured character in some ways, a very decent woman who is carrying a lot on her shoulders, and all of that is written clearly across her face in this beautiful art.
I engaged with the artist, a wonderful and talented woman in Poland named Marta Dec. We had such a good working relationship – we just gelled immediately!
Now she and I have done eight other covers together, including new covers for those first three Everest books. She’s amazing and I can’t imagine doing this without her!
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Check to see if I’ve finished my current project first! The best ideas usually come to me while I’m already busy working on something else.
My first step is to work out the outline and get to understand the characters. I do a lot of ‘interviews’ with them – when I ask them questions in a word doc and then type out their answers. It’s an odd exercise that no one ever sees, but it helps me get a handle on the characters and their voices.
Then I start the first draft, usually within a week of writing the outline. The first draft will take me about 6 weeks, then I start revisions and editing.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a new standalone fantasy mystery set in an alternate-history Italy, then I will start next year’s slate of books for my Fractured Everest series. A follow-up to the Fifth Interdictor is on the schedule for 2021 as well.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to keep up with what I’m doing is by going to https://dhdunn.com, where readers can also sign up for my mailing list and get a free story. I am fairly active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dh_dunn , and post lots of pictures of my dog and Maine on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/d.h.dunn/