From the Archives: The Delilah Dawson Interview, Part 2
Updated: Feb 8
For Part 1 of this interview, please click here.
Shane: Delilah, I was an English major, and I'm also in the middle of writing my first manuscript, and so I want to talk a little bit about genre. Of course we all understand that the shelf that the book hits is really just about marketing, but I'm also sure that you have some thoughts on the classifications of books. Your website calls the Blud series "Paranormal Romance." In the last little bit, we've seen a HUGE swing in popularity for Erotica. Where do you see the lines being drawn between Romance and Erotica?
Delilah: Yeah, as proud as I am that Wicked as They Come and the Blud series defy genre, it makes it hard to sell it to people. I would call it a fantasy adventure, considering the "paranormal" elements are almost-vampires and not-actually-demons, but when people hear "fantasy", they think of elves and swords. Steampunk-paranormal-romance is the best I can do, but of course that entices a couple of people while eliminating a ton of people who otherwise might enjoy. Someone could miss out on my books because they fear that the steampunk is too sciencey, that the paranormal is too ALPHA MALE SMASH, or that the romance is too swooning damsel.
I think the difference, for me, between Romance and Erotica deals with just how much kink is involved and how much the characters call it out. My characters have certainly had what might be considered kinky sex--I mean, tied up in a moving carriage?-- but I very rarely call out body part names or have the characters talk about sex outside of their monogamous relationships.
Erotica, with some exceptions, is a very loose and simple story stringing together lots of very explicit sex, whereas Romance is a deeper and more complicated story punctuated by a few instances of more mainstream sex. But then you get into books like The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz, which is highly intelligent BDSM with amazing characters and brilliant stories that just so happen to involve a dominatrix, and things get shaken up.
Genre is definitely a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can help people find things they like. But on the other hand, it's all too easy to discriminate against an entire genre because of one book that didn't work for you. For example, someone reading 50 Shades of Grey might think all erotica is crap… but you give them a Tiffany Reisz book, and suddenly they're on Amazon buying a leather crop.
Personally, I never really liked the typical bodice rippers, or anything with a swooning woman in a huge dress on the cover. And then I was given a stack of them at the RWA conference and realized that Tessa Dare and her compatriots are writing great stories about uppity women discovering themselves.
Shane: Soooooo... if you had to get drunk to write your first sex scene, just how much wine would it take for you to write Erotica full time?
Delilah: How much wine? Oh, it's not about the wine. It's about experience. I've been in a monogamous relationship with my college sweetheart since 1997, so there are many relationships and experiences that I don't feel qualified to write.
Also, I find body part names unsexy, and you pretty much have to use them in Erotica. But I feel pretty confident that the sex in the Blud books was varied, hot, and just kinky enough for the average reader. Besides, my next 3 books are YA, so… moving in the opposite direction. :)
Shane: On a slightly different note, but still related to craft, even though the Blud series takes place in a parallel universe, Wicked as They Come opens in this world. Tish, your protagonist wakes up into this other world. Without asking you to give too much away, why is it important to give your protagonist a real life with real problems before you send her down the rabbit hole (or the bludbunny hole, as it were)?
Delilah: When I started writing Wicked as They Come, I had a one-year old and a three-year-old. I was a stay-at-home mom running on less than 5 hours of sleep at night, and whether I could admit it to myself or not, I needed an escape.
Originally, Tish was married with a new baby, which gave her a reason not to stay in Sang. But my agent suggested getting rid of the baby and husband, as readers don't like infidelity and would want more of an escape than OMIGOD THAT WOMAN JUST LEFT HER BABY BEHIND TO SNOG SOME VAMPIRE. So the entire series started in a place where I was at the time, taking someone very much like me away on a magical journey, just like Labyrinth and The Neverending Story and the movies that charmed me when I was a kid. But I try to make sure every e-novella and book is still readable as an introduction to the series.
I like the arc the series has taken in that manner. Tish was from our world, and her major challenge was whether to stay here and help her grandmother or stay with Criminy in Sang. In book 2, Wicked as She Wants, Ahna is from Sang and has to fight for her legacy with the help of Casper, who's from our world. In book 3, Demi is from our world and firmly grounded in Sang but wants freedom. Each book has one main character from Earth, which I hope makes the books relatable, like the reader is in cahoots with someone familiar.
Shane: Do you find yourself mixing the real and the parallel/ paranormal in your other works?
Delilah: Yeeeeep. Pretty much all of my books mix reality with another, more magical world. My next book is my YA debut, SERVANTS OF THE STORM, which is set in Savannah, GA and involves a new take on demons.
I love stories where the main character's eyes are opened to a new world. My 2015 YA, DELINQUENT, is based on the idea of a bank-owned government using teens as bounty hunters for debtors, so although there's no paranormal in the story, it's definitely a twist on the world we think we know.
I think I just like wielding god-like power when world-building. I find the real world we live in right now… kind of boring, most of the time.
Shane: I tend to agree. But it might be snowing soon, which is kind of exciting!
Now, I need to revisit this blood drinker thing. I can already hear some of the guys that read this blog: "Is this Criminy Stain guy just a less-sparkly Edward Cullen with a top-hat?" I'll answer that one for you with a "no," but could you talk a little bit about the specific differences? Are you adding to the vampire mythos? Or are you doing something entirely different?
Delilah: When I first dreamed of Criminy Stain, I knew he was a blood drinker, a predator. But I didn't want the whole undead, no sunlight, garlic, glittery thing. So I tried to look at it from the standpoint of an apex predator who fed on only the most pure part of a living creature. Thus, Bludmen are long-lived, hard to kill, and generally have a pretty good sense of humor.
I actively avoided the Cullenization of their species, though-- making them beautiful and rich and the ruling class. Instead, I let the humans do what humans do best: fear the Bludmen's power, ghettoize them, and bully them. It was actually an interesting way to play with prejudice and the ways that fear and ignorance make people behave. And then, when I introduce Ahna in book 2, we get to see what life is like where the Bludmen rule.
Basically, Sang is my playground. The people dress in ways I find beautiful, have fascinating clockwork pets, take journeys on dirigibles and submarines, fight bloodthirsty horses, go to magical carnivals, say clever things, and have awesome sex. But I tried to keep the darkness there, with Criminy. He's a sweetheart to Tish, but underneath that, he's still a liar, a murderer, and a fierce protector of his people.
Until next time!