I’m very pleased to welcome Delilah S. Dawson to the blog for a chat. She’s been on my radar as an author for a while, and her awesome, hard-ass posts about writing have truly inspired me. When I had the chance to sit with her at Club RT in NOLA, I moved Wicked at they Come up on my TBR list. I sure wasn’t sorry. I loved the book, and Delilah very graciously agreed to answer all my questions.
Thanks so much for joining us!
Amber: The world of the Blud books is fascinating–it’s an alternate world where all the wild animals are bloodsuckers. Right off the bat, your introduction to bludbunnies is hilarious, and Letitia’s evolving relationship to the predatory creatures is very fun to watch. Deeper than that, you’re exploring the idea of predator and prey, and what happens when that dynamic is shaping “human” society. Did you stumble upon the bunnies, or the deeper idea first?
Delilah: The entire book came from the scene where Tish wakes up in the forest and meets Criminy, and I knew right off the bat that he was a blood drinker… but not a traditional, undead vampire. So I wanted to create a new sort of species, and it occurred to me that the world would be more fun and logical if all sorts of animals drank blood. Whether it was the seed planted by Monty Python or just the idea of a warren of rabbits stripping an animal to bones, I just really liked the idea. Plus, it gave a reason for the steampunk technology that I wanted to play with. So, technically, it all came from Criminy.
A: Following that up, I loved the scene when Letitia watches Criminey kill a Bludstag, and makes peace with his predatory nature. It surprised her, and I wonder if it surprised you as a writer, or if you went in knowing that kind of predatory hero would be sexy?
D: Nope. I’ve always been drawn to the Warrior Poet type. The man who is refined, literate, and sexy, yet hides a total berserker barbarian behind that facade. Like Jamie in Outlander. I came to peace with that side of myself long ago.
A: Criminy is a delightfully sexy hero, from his magic, his sense of duty, to the way he enables Letitia’s sense of freedom. Can you tell us about writing him? What other heroes in books do you admire?
D: When I had that first dream, I was watching a lot of Buffy, and Criminy sounds a lot like Spike… if Spike had never lived a life as William the Bloody (Awful). He’s one of my favorite characters to write, and his character is so clear that he practically writes himself. I very rarely edit anything he says. Other heroes I admire would be Jamie from Outlander (yes, again!), Barrons from the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, and all the Herondale boys from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series.
A: Oh Spike! Yes. I remember very clearly when my tastes turned from Angel to Spike. I’ve never gone back 🙂
Perhaps because I’d seen and admired your covers, I was surprised when I started reading Wicked as they Come to find a romance written entirely in the first person female POV. I was even more surprised I liked it so much. Was that an explicit choice for you, or do you strongly prefer writing in first?
D: Wicked as They Come was the third book I’d ever written, and back then, I didn’t give much thought to POV and the market. I started writing, and it started with Tish’s voice, and that was that. Oddly, the Blud e-novellas (The Mysterious Madam Morpho, The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance, and The Damsel and the Daggerman) are all in 3rd person. I think part of why I started with 1st person with Tish was that I wanted to see Criminy through her eyes, to have him be a mystery instead of a known quantity. Plus, I wanted the reader to take that jump with her into Sang, to feel it as she feels it.
A: In your fabulous 25 Steps to Traditional Publishing Post, you recommend an author needs to find his or her own way to write and then just do it. Can you tell us about your way? Or ways you attempted and which didn’t work?
D: My way is starts with a book idea, which usually involves a world, an instigating factor, and a main character. I don’t start writing until I know how it begins, what changes, the climax, and the ending. I spend a few weeks cogitating and listening to music that makes me feel the world, and if the idea is persistent enough, I start writing. I write first drafts straight through, beginning to end, with no self-editing or backing up or rereading. Then I do a quick second draft while the ending is in my mind to make the front match the back. Then I shove it in a corner for a month so it’ll be fresh when I come back for the 3rd draft. My agent helps me, these days, but when I first started out, I sent a 4th or 5th draft to beta readers and critique partners to see if I was hitting the right note.
But, yes, I do admit that my way doesn’t work for everyone. Aside from those major signposts, I mostly write by the seat of my pants, a scene at a time. Every writer has a different process, and sometimes, every book has a different process. There’s no one way!
A: This book is wonderfully sexy, and I adore they way the sex scenes are erotic, passionate, fully realized, and yet more evocative than explicit. I keep thinking about ripe plums. It also seemed to me that the way you’d written them and the role they took in the book (among other features) might make this the sort of romance that has a lot of appeal to men, too. Is that something you think about? Do you find you have a lot of male fans relative to other romance writers?
D: Oh, yes. The book was written first as a Fantasy adventure, with the sex scenes fully fleshed out at the request/utter demand by beta readers in later edits. Personally, I need Romances with more than a Romance, with stakes and a plot besides “I don’t understand you,” and I wanted to write a book that would be readable by even people who don’t typically read Romance. I feel a great flush of pride whenever a guy tells me he likes the Blud books–and I’m really happy to have lots of great, supportive male fans. I was quite surprised, the first time I saw the cover of Wicked as They Come, because I never imagined it would be a book with a half-naked dude on it.
A: One of the things that I really enjoyed is the ick-factor as sexy–for example when Criminy touches Letitia without gloves. There are a few other places you play with sexy ick in the book, and I love it. In some ways, it’s always a part of vampire romance–toeing the line of taboos, but it’s something you do brilliantly, and I wonder if you can tell us about that. Does it come naturally? Do you have to rein yourself in?
D: Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 Actually, that was one of the major complaints from reviewers about Wicked as They Come– Crim’s hands. I toned it down in the sequels. I’ve always been the sort of person who’s attracted to the strange; normal bores me. and I’ve always loved vampires. I don’t even remember why I gave Crim and the Bludmen strange hands, to tell you the truth–probably part of making them predators and identifiable compared to humans. But I will say that balancing out that ick factor is my need for consent in writing sex. He may be monstrous, he may be dark and powerful, but he damn well doesn’t take their physical relationship to the next level until she’s given consent. As a rape victim, that gives me much more freedom to enjoy sex scenes.
A: Thanks for sharing how an awful personal experience shapes your writing. I appreciate you being open about that–to me real, honest conversations about sexuality and even sexual violence are one of most amazing things about what comes of the romance genre.
Lastly, the way you introduce Letitia’s backstory in the first chapter took my breath away–in a sort of second person whimsical rant that had me rooting for her like few other heroines. When I was done, I was like “Wow. And that broke all the writing rules I’ve learned.” So I want to say nicely done, and thanks for breaking the rules so well, and invite any reflections you might have about how or why you did that.
D: Aw, thanks! The first chapters went through *tons* of edits. Would you believe Tish originally had a husband and small child? But I felt like knowing her as a character was important to helping the reader make a jump to the new world– and to make sure she wasn’t a “love at first site” paranormal heroine. I wanted her to be broken and trying to heal herself; she isn’t ready to fall for a man, no matter how perfect he might seem or how “destined” it is. And since we recently sold Blud 4, you’ll get to see her again soon and find out how her glancing ends for her and Criminy. 🙂
Delilah S. Dawson is a native of Roswell, Georgia and the author of the paranormal romance Blud series for Pocket, including WICKED AS THEY COME and WICKED AS SHE WANTS and two e-novellas, THE MYSTERIOUS MADAM MORPHO and THE PECULIAR PETS OF MISS PLEASANCE. Her short story THE THREE LIVES OF LYDIA is in Gallery’s Carniepunk anthology, and her e-novella SHADOWMAN: FOLLOW ME BOY was commissioned by Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. Her first YA, a creepy paranormal called SERVANTS OF THE STORM will be available in August 2014 from Simon Pulse. RT Book Reviews has called her “a wonderfully fresh new voice!” and “on the fast track to the top of the genre!” and awarded WICKED AS SHE WANTS the May Seal of Excellence.
Delilah is Associate Editor at http://www.CoolMomPicks.com and http://www.CoolMomTech.com. She’s a geek of all trades, a synesthete, and the sort of person who saw Spawn in the theater and made other people angry by laughing. Find her online at http://www.delilahsdawson.com. Bring cupcakes.