It’s a big day here at Virtual Napkins as we play host to Delilah Dawson, author of the soon-to-be released Wicked After Midnight and others. I became aware of Delilah and her work for the first time at the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, GA a while back. It was there that I heard her talk about the 25 steps to traditional publication as well as how to write sex and gender. If you ever get the chance to hear Delilah read or speak, you owe it to yourself to get out and do it. She has a real knack for simplifying and demystifying the whole querying and publication process.
So, without wasting any more time, I’ll go ahead and welcome Delilah in to the conversation…
Hi, Delilah! Thanks for stopping by!
Delilah: Yes. Hi! Thanks for having me!
Shane: First, why don’t you talk a little bit about Delilah the writer? Who represents you? Who publishes your books? How many books do you have floating around out there? And, if you don’t mind, spit some titles at me and the good people who read Virtual Napkins.
Delilah: So. I didn’t write my first book until I was 31 and never planned on being a writer. That was in 2009, and now it’s my career and passion. I’m represented by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, and all of my traditionally published books are with various imprints of Simon & Schuster.
The Blud series includes Wicked as They Come, Wicked As She Wants, and the out-on-January-28th Wicked After Midnight, as well as three e-novellas and a short story in the Carniepunk Anthology called The Three Lives of Lydia.
My first YA is out this August, a creepy story of demons and hurricanes in Savannah called Servants of the Storm. And I recently sold my next YA in a two-book series, also to Simon Pulse. The first one is called Delinquent, unless they change it, and as of right now, I have no idea what the second one will be called– or what it will be about.
I also have a novelization of the Shadowman comics from Valiant and Amazon called Follow Me Boy. Other short stories and comics are floating around, but those are the major players.
Shane: So, you’re here promoting Wicked After Midnight. Tell me a little bit about that book. Where does it fit in to the Delilah Dawson canon?
Delilah: Wicked After Midnight is the third and, as far as we know, last installment in the Blud series, which takes place in a parallel steampunk universe filled with vampire animals, clockwork pets, blood drinkers, demons, and high-walled cities filled with very frightened humans. The series began as a fantasy adventure and ended up being filed as Romance after some black-out scenes became far more detailed.
In Wicked After Midnight, the blood drinking contortionist from the traveling caravan journeys to Paris to become a star in the cabarets. It’s basically steampunk-vampire-Moulin Rouge, but with more danger and adventure as Demi descends into the seedy underbelly of semi-Victorian Paris to find her kidnapped best friend, along with help from a dashing brigand. It’s got some dark whimsy but is, I hope, quite readable to fans of Romance, Steampunk, or Fantasy. By which I mean it’s not all bodice-ripping and discussion of Earl Winterbotham’s estate and bum. More like The Princess Bride— it’s a kissing book, but there’s so much more!
Shane: I feel like I owe you a bit of a disclaimer. I didn’t consider paranormal-steampunk-romance to be in my wheelhouse. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy your stuff, but I didn’t hate it. I’ve actually had a lot of fun with Wicked as They Come.
Delilah: My books, on the outside, don’t look like they would have any appeal for men and even women who disavow Romance as silly. Because, you know… naked man-chest. And yet I do have fans who are guys, and that always makes me really happy.
I grew up reading Stephen King and epic fantasy, and Wicked as They Come was originally written as a fantasy story with twists of horror. It has deep world building, new races, complicated religions and languages and societies. And there’s also a darkness there, a feeling that nothing is ever quite safe, not even peeing behind a tree. The Romance aspect and tag came later, after the book was finished.
Shane: I get the sense that you know your subject matter is a little “out there,” and I think you embrace that in a really interesting way. I wonder, how did this world come to you? What kinds of things were you reading or watching when this parallel universe started to take shape in your brain?
Delilah: What happened was that I was watching the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cramming in several episodes every night. And during the day, I was listening to the album Like Vines by The Hush Sound, which has some carnival-type elements and very lush, visual lyrics. And then I had this dream that I woke up naked on a rock in a creepy, misty forest, and suddenly there was a guy in top hat staring at me. He looked like an extra naughty Mr. Darcy, he talked like Spike, and I knew that he was a blood drinker and yet nothing like a vampire. That was Criminy Stain, and I basically wrote the entire book just to hang out with him.
Shane: You mentioned earlier that the “Romance” classification was a little bit by accident. Could you talk a bit more about how that happened? Did your agent push you to do a little more of the sexy stuff?
Delilah: By that time, I had an agent, and we had failed to sell my first book, which was for middle grade readers. I told her what I was working on, and she was ready to read it, but I wanted a friend’s take, first. When I passed Wicked as They Come on to my alpha reader, she was very upset when the door closed on the bedroom scene. And when I mentioned this to my agent, Kate said that it would have a better chance selling as a romance. And so I got drunk and wrote my first sex scene, which was a complete farce with too many hands and too much yapping and at least three corset unlacings.
At that point, I just wanted to see my books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and I wasn’t particular about which shelf. When it sold at auction in a three-book deal as a romance, I was ecstatic. And then, when I went to tell my conservative Southern grandmother about it, it finally settled in that I’d set out to become a fantasy/horror writer and had somehow managed to write sexy stuff.
Shane: It makes me incredibly happy that you were listening to Like Vines. That album goes hard. Have they released anything recently? I know that’s off-topic, but I haven’t heard anything out of them since then.
Delilah: The Hush Sound released Goodbye Blues in 2008, which was going to be the playlist for book 2 when book 2 was going to continue with Criminy and Tish. When Pocket decided they wanted a new romance in every book, I scrapped it. They also apparently released 2 songs in 2013 which I’m listening to just now, after researching the question. They’re not as… clear? Although I dug “Honey” off Goodbye Blues, Like Vines will always be their definitive album for me. It’s ingrained on my psyche now.
Unfortunately, we are going to have to hit “pause” on the interview for now. Remember that Wicked After Midnight drops next week (January 28, 2014), but it is already available for pre-order. Also, the rest of my interview with Delilah will post on January 28 to celebrate the release of the final (for now) book in this trilogy.
And meet us back here next Tuesday for Part 2 of my conversation with Delilah Dawson!