Today I’m thrilled to be interviewing one of my favourite authors, geek queen and Lady of the Twitters, Delilah S. Dawson.
After writing some of my favourite sizzling steampunk fantasy in the Blud series, you’re venturing into young adult with Servants of the Storm. You’ve also written middle grade, and erotica. Is making the shift between age brackets/markets difficult?
Not for writing, but the promo is definitely challenging! Just when I learned how to reach steampunk and romance readers, now I have to figure out how to get my Young Adult books to teens. I move pretty smoothly between writing projects thanks to compartmentalisation and playlists. I make a playlist for each book and listen to it while writing, editing, and cogitating, so as long as I’m listening to that music, I’m in that book’s world. Servants of the Storm was written to Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins, and that music strongly ties me to that world.
Oh, and you should always have beta readers thoroughly schooled in your genre. If you mess up with voice or tone, they’ll set you straight!
What advice would you give writers who contemplate sticking to one genre for branding reasons?
I think you have to write the book that obsesses you instead of writing something solely because you think it will sell. Readers can tell when you’re just going through the motions vs truly inspired and in love with an idea. Most agents and editors advise that you write in the same genre so that your fans will follow you between books and series and love everything you do. For me, that means that I count on my fans cross-pollinating between my YA, Fantasy, Romance, and Erotica. All of my works share the same whimsical darkness, which I hope will keep my readers interested.
I read that your agent had to help you get the confidence to write the sex scenes in the Blud books after they sold as romance rather than fantasy adventure. Now you’re writing geekrotica! How does that transition occur?
In the first few drafts of Wicked as They Come, the sex scenes happened behind closed doors. Criminy kissed Tish, she dissolved in pleasure, and the next chapter opened with her waking up well-bedded. And my beta readers were FURIOUS. My agent encouraged me to give the sex scenes a chance, so I dug out the books I loved that married great plot with hot sex scenes suiting my taste. That meant Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, among others. I drank half a bottle of wine and got writing. I blushed the whole time and was very, very shy about showing them to anyone. My husband was my alpha reader. Once he agreed that they were hot, I passed them on to beta readers and my agent. They concurred about the hotness.
But the sex scenes were present when the book went on submission to editors. The fact that there weren’t a lot of edits convinced me that I was decent enough at writing sex, and the more sex I wrote, the more confidence I gained.
But you’ll notice the Geekrotica was published under a not-so-secret pen name. (Cass: Psst.) If they were reviled, they could easily disappear. 😉
I discovered your books after Chuck Wendig (our Bearded Overlord) linked one of your blog posts, about sexism in publishing. After all the attention the issue got last year, do you think the situation is improving?
I think sexism in publishing—like sexism in our society—is a lot like climate change. It’s happening, we can’t go back in time to change it, and a lot of the people responsible are utterly blind to it. All we can do is try to move on, thoughtfully, making as many changes in our own lives and psyches as we can.
I do see more stand-up authors like Chuck (and Kevin Hearne and Jim C. Hines and Myke Cole and Sam Sykes and John Scalzi) pointing out when a panel or group is all white guys and arguing for diversity. And there are several anthologies about diversity and feminism sprouting up. I also heard an interesting podcast recently in which S&S editor Joe Monti made it clear that their new SFF Saga imprint won’t publish misogyny or gratuitous sexual violence, which is an amazing statement for an acquiring editor to make. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtags trended on Twitter for several days and got major news coverage, too.
Quite honestly, I think a lot of the problem will die out in the next twenty years as the Old White Guy Brigade die and takes their hate and ivory tower with ’em.
The interesting thing is how, since publicly taking up this torch, I’ve begun to notice how deep the problem runs in my own psyche. I find myself saying, “I’m a tomboy,” or “I like guy stuff” without realising that I’m sabotaging my own gender. I’m trying to make conscious choices in my life, my writing, and my parenting to make it clear that there’s no such thing as “girl stuff” or “boy stuff” and that we’re all free to like whatever we like in any way we wish.
Time will tell. 🙂 I didn’t connect with the bestselling New Adult books I read, but plenty of readers love it. If a New Adult story idea ever grabs me, you can bet I’ll dive right in. I hope it moves out of “messed up girl meets dangerous guy with motorcycle; they argue and bang until she finds herself” and toward science fiction, fantasy, and other worlds where no one ever writes about characters between age 18 and 24.
You’re a self-declared geek (a woman after my own heart!). What is your geekdom, or geekdoms, of choice?
*takes deep breath* I’m big into Firefly, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Hannibal, Buffy, Haven, Justified, Twin Peaks, Battlestar Gallactica, Marvel movies, steampunk, Community, Saga, and cartoons like Adventure Time, Frisky Dingo, Archer, and Venture Bros. I love doing subtle everyday cosplay, like wearing what Marceline wears in Adventure Time or doing a hipster Wonder Woman look. I’m big into books, cons, and geeking out over adventures, like seeing Sleep No More in NYC or taking a flying trapeze class. And I’m also a horse geek who feels just as great in beat-up jeans and boots as I do in a corset and bowler hat.
I just really like unapologetically liking things.
What are you reading right now? The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
Do you prefer eBook or paperback? Ebook unless it’s a signed book from an author I admire. I like instant gratification.
What secret talents do you have? I can find four-leaf clovers. Every time. Lots of ’em. And I can make a seriously delicious but ugly cake.
You have to choose: Spike or Angel? Spike. I don’t even have to think about it.
What is your favourite costume? Anything steampunk, pirate, or Renfaire that involves a corset and bustled skirts. As someone who’s always fought body issues, seeing my least favorite part of my body transformed into a lovely hourglass makes me feel outgoing and sassy. I have a new Avengers corset that I can’t wait to wear with jeans, a tee, and my red cowgirl boots.
Thanks for stopping by, Delilah!
Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy writer who got a little bit fangirly doing this interview. She can’t wait to read Servants of the Storm in August!