Delilah S. Dawson is an author, a mom, a geek, a cowgirl, an artist, and this past weekend I saw pictures of her swinging from a trapeze! Is she a superhero in disguise? She was kind enough to take time out from her crazy schedule to answer some rapid-fire questions from me for GeekMom.
GeekMom Mel: Hi, Delilah Dawson! Welcome to GeekMom and thanks for doing this interview!
Delilah S. Dawson: Thanks so much for having me! As a geeky mom, I love what y’all do.
GMM: I think most of us know you as Delilah the Writer. How did you decide to become a writer? What did your road to publication look like?
DSD: Well, I blame my kids. When I was 32 and my son was 9 months old, he quit sleeping, and my brain basically broke. I started hallucinating, so I went to my psychologist husband for help. We came up with a schedule to help me get sleep, and he also suggested that I do something just for me, something creative–like writing a book. And the part of my brain that would’ve said, NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU’RE NOT A WRITER!–that part was gone.
I wrote my first book in two months, queried it, shelved it, wrote another book, queried it, and got an agent. That book didn’t sell, but my third book sold in a three-book deal to Simon & Schuster. That’s Wicked as They Come. Once I’d written one book and knew it was possible, I couldn’t stop.
GMM: You have written for adults with your Blud series and now have a couple books under your belt for teens. Does your process change between writing for the different audiences? Do you think about the books differently?
DSD: For each book, I fall in love with an idea that obsesses and compels me. When I can’t ignore it anymore, I build a playlist on Spotify of songs that “feel” like the book. As the characters and plot start to surface, I listen to the music everywhere, in the car and while out walking and while doing dishes. I become conditioned to be in that world when I hear that music, and that compartmentalization is what allows me to keep the different books separate.
GMM: I’ve met you in person at a con, and see you travel quite a bit on the con circuit. What is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you at a con? What is your favorite part about “conning”?
DSD: Oh, dude. Do I have con stories! At my first con, a small one in Atlanta, they rejected me as a guest. I’m very shy, so I offered to volunteer just to meet people and have something to do. They put me in the green room, where the Guest of Honor, a well-known SFF author, told me that I was ruining his genre and wasn’t worth the crap on his shoe–all because I’d dared to combine vampires, steampunk, and romance. Luckily, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me at a con. Except for maybe that time when I was waiting outside of a panel at Dragoncon and was propositioned for sex.
If we’re talking about good weird, I once ended up in the wrong Green Room at Phoenix Comicon and got to help Walter Koenig with a coffee machine and hand salad tongs to Nichelle Nichols.
My favorite part about conning is meeting writers and readers. I was a shy, geeky kid, but through the wonders of the internet, I’ve learned how to hack my social anxiety and make friends. It’s so healing. And fun!
GMM: Have your kids been to a con yet?
DSD: Sadly, nope. Dragoncon is the one that makes the most sense, since we live in Georgia, but I always have a packed schedule, which means my husband would be all alone while toting two tiny people around in a crowd of 80,000 people. The thought fills us all with anxiety.
They really want to go to BotCon, though, since they’re big into Transformers. I think they would love it. And spend way, way too much money in the dealer room.
GMM: What would you say to a parent who came to you concerned that Hit might be too dark for their youngling? Obviously there are some things parents of teens want to protect their kids from, but do you think a parent could go too far?
DSD: Hit is definitely the most violent of my books, although it was important to me to frame the violence with Patsy’s reticence to hurt anyone, her commitment to saving her mom, and the aftereffects of what she’s been forced to do. She throws up, she quits eating, she wakes up crying at night. The violence is not gratuitous, and she does consciously think about how to remain true to herself even as she’s forced to do things she knows to be wrong.
That being said, my 8 year old wants to read it, and I don’t think she’s ready. I let her read Servants of the Storm, but the fantasy element is the differentiating factor. I can tell her that demons don’t exist, but I can’t promise her that no one will ever ring her doorbell holding a gun. I would say that if a kid has read and enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent, they would enjoy Hit.
I’ve been asked how I would feel if my teen readers found my Blud series, and honestly, I think that would be great. As a rape survivor, consent is very important to me. The sex scenes in my Blud books involve active consent, healthy relationship discussion, safety, and body positivity. Just like with the violence, I want the sex to be meaningful and to matter.
GMM: Followers of your blog and social media will notice that you are a fan of many areas of the nerdiverse, from Star Wars to Adventure Time. Do you have a favorite?
DSD: Um, that’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. Or a favorite kind of cake. 😉
I love geeking out over stuff. I’m big into Bob’s Burgers right now, which I found through Archer, which I found through Frisky Dingo, which I found through Sealab 2021. We’re watching Justified and anxious for the next seasons of Penny Dreadful, Hannibal, True Detective, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story. Other favorites include Adventure Time, Community, Firefly, The Mindy Project, and Venture Bros. And then we have MCU and Star Wars and Trek and… yeah. ALL THE THINGS! Writing a Star Wars novel is on my Writer Bucket List.
GMM: What type of characters have you found you align with? I remember growing up, my mom always tried to push Princess Leia, but I was leaning more toward Darth Vader…something about the deep conflicts within certain “bad guys” always fascinated me.
DSD: I’m Team Mando. I’m not down with the Jedi rejection of passion, but I’m not a fan of the Sith interest in murdering everybody. No, I like the plucky planet of creative mercenaries, with their fancy, unique armor. And I’m big into Ewoks. So I guess I would be a Chaotic Neutral Ewok Mandalorian. Can you imagine how much trouble I could cause?
GMM: Your kid comes up to you and says, “Go Empire!” What is your reaction?
DSD: …Are you trolling me? I think you’re trolling me.
GMM: How has parenthood changed your experience being a geek?
DSD: Honestly, I never knew how cool kids could be. Seeing them fall in love with things I love but on their own terms–it’s magical.
I have this pic of my daughter from when she was three and emerged from her room in an Ahsoka Tano costume. She wore panties as a shirt and striped leggings as her Togruta head-tails. She was so ferocious, holding her lightsaber–she was really into it. In that moment, she was Ahsoka. Amazing.
GMM: I’ll assume you, like many of us, had geeky leanings since your youth, and you remember what it was like growing up. What do you think is the best way a parent can support their young nerdlings?
DSD: I try to walk the line between “Everything you love is awesome!” and “But if you wear that to school, people might make fun of you. And that’s cool, but you need to be ready for it.”
When I was a geeky kid, I just wanted to fit in, to be liked, and I didn’t know how to do that. I try to be socially savvy, to help my kids be their own amazing, unique selves while arming them for what it’s like to be different. I want them to be proud and rebellious in the face of normalcy. And so far, it’s working out. The tips of my daughter’s hair are dyed hot pink, and it makes her feel fierce. Now, if I could just convince my 6 year old that not everyone wants to talk Evolve 24/7…
Also, we buy them pretty much any books they want and let them stay up an extra hour if they’re reading. They feel like they’re getting away with something. Bonus!
GMM: What is your favorite part about being a mom?
DSD: The hugs. My entire world stops when they hug me. I tend to live in my head, in my books, but having kids is grounding and amazing. I need that more than I could’ve guessed.
GMM: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but no one ever asked it?
DSD: Yes. “Delilah, this is LucasFilm. Will you write a Star Wars book for the big cash money wad?”
GMM: Thanks again for spending some time with us. Congratulations on your new book, I hope Hit is a huge success for you!
DSD: Thanks so much for having me! GeekMom rocks!
Delilah S. Dawson writes dark, edgy books for teens and fantasy with a wicked edge for adults.
The Blud series is available now and includes Wicked As She Wants, winner of the RT Book Reviews Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for 2013. Servants of the Storm debuted August 2014, and Kirkus called the Southern Gothic Horror YA “an engaging page-turner” and “a standout, atmospheric horror tale.” April 14, 2015 will see the launch of Hit, a YA pre-dystopia about teen assassins in a bank-owned America.
Delilah is a geek, a synesthete, an adventure junkie, a cake fiend, and a Twitterholic (@DelilahSDawson). You can keep up with her news at www.whimsydark.com.
To hear even more from Delilah S. Dawson, check her out on episode 77 of the Once and Future Podcast!