Friday, November 24, 2023

Q&A with Jeffrey Dunn




Jeffrey Dunn is the author of the new novel Radio Free Olympia. His other books include Wildcat


Q: Radio Free Olympia has been described as a combination of prose and poetry, fiction and history. What did you see as the right balance as you were writing the story?


A: Balance? The concept didn’t concern me. Balance assumes form before content, which in the case of writing Radio Free Olympia would have been putting the Olympic Peninsula and me in a straitjacket.


This response then begs the question, what writing process did I employ? I started writing Radio Free Olympia because I felt compelled to give voice to the Olympic Peninsula.


Although there are characters and plots, it wasn’t primarily about character or plot. It was about place, and when folks see, feel, listen, touch, and taste places, they become a multitude—a caw-caw-phony, as Raven likes to say.


My goal was to let each voice take on its most natural form. Something similar? Read James Joyce’s Ulysses, his collection of voices that represent Dublin.


Of course, combining these voices in a way that preserved each voice’s integrity while also providing clarity for the reader was a challenge. I spent 10 years tackling that challenge, and now the proof is in the reading.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: When I was growing up, the radio was always on in the kitchen and in the car. A bit later, I worked as a radio DJ and music director and wrote music reviews. The nature of sound, its vibration which we feel internally, was deeply affecting.


When I initially imagined giving voice to the Olympic Peninsula, the idea of radio broadcasting seemed to be the obvious form of transmission. Even better, what if someone took a pirate radio transmitter into the Olympic Peninsula that broadcast not only human but also historical, folkloric, and spiritual voices?


I also like the association with Radio Free Europe, the idea of voices for freedom, which leads one to ask whose voice is being broadcast and for what purpose?

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I want readers to enjoy moving from one word to the next as the different characters and narrative threads emerge and are woven together.


My hope is that readers become so immersed that they lose the need for a single character-driven narrative and enjoy swimming in a fuller depiction of ecosystem and culture.


Ultimately, I want readers to wonder about how much of our humanity is lost if we divorce ourselves from the wild.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Wildcat, An Appalachian Romance (early 2024) is set in the rust belt of Appalachia and follows a retired English teacher who returns to his hometown, where a once-closed hotel has been reborn as a collective.


As he explores the transformed community, he unearths a world of sustainable industries and rediscovered friendships. But amidst the triumphs, dark shadows of the past and personal history resurface, weaving a narrative of love, loss, and magical transformation.


Wildcat knocks the rust off Appalachia.


Whiskey Rebel (late 2024 or 2025) is set in the untamed landscapes of the Columbia Plateau and follows two drifters as they embark on a daring quest to distill tax-free whiskey and redefine the meaning of freedom.


Whiskey Rebel challenges societal norms, delves into the complexities of the American experiment, and introduces a cast of quirky characters on a journey to discover their own unique recipe for freedom.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am one of the 15 percent of the human population who are dyslexic. We dyslexics prefer to live in our right brains, a place of imagery, narrative memory, and associational thinking. 


Why? Because the back left corner of our brains, a major site of language production, has an overgrowth of neurons, a place where our words get lost in the swamp.


Some dyslexics want to move completely out of their left brains and live in the visual right side where life is always a movie. Other dyslexics like me harness the power of our right brains to create fun word salads.


Our narratives usually have short chapters and read like movies. We love writing free verse poetry, although our free verse can be quite lyrical. We don’t mind misspellings and malaprops because these “mistakes” often suggest new ideas worth pursuing.


All this is to say, I was a natural born storyteller but have developed over time my control of words. I’m in my late 60s and still enjoy adding new contexts, word meanings (especially different meanings for the same word), and literary techniques. Puns? Can’t get enough of them.






Amazon Author Central: Dunn/author/B07QDF3RB3


--Interview with Deborah Kalb


  1. At present I'm 100 pages into Radio Free Olympia. Thus far the sentences have worked in delightfully unexpected Dunn-founded ways. I keep encountering old, familiar syllabic patterns turned into new phrases that remind me of Ezra Pound's advice: "Make it new." This writer presents a wealth of accurate names and detailed descriptions of the Olympic Peninsula. His presentations of the flora, the fauna, and the colorful characters - both real and imaginary - are woven together into a delightfully imaginative narrative. So much is grounded in the realities of the Olympic Peninsula that the usual "suspension of belief" needed for fiction, feels unnecessary. I look forward to where the story will take me.

    1. Thank you so much for your comments--glad to hear them!