Today, I am excited to share with you an interview I did with Dalilah S. Dawson, the author of the magical new novel, Wicked As They Come. If you’ve read my review then you know I truly enjoyed this book (review). It is original, sexy and sweetly romantic. And a fantastic introduction to the new world of Sang and the Blud novels.
Delilah has a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Georgia and before writing she was an art instructor and arts administrator. She is also the associate editor for Cool Mom Picks. Delilah describes herself as “an artist, wife, mom, goof, geek, and cupcake enthusiast.” I would also add “great writer.”
Please enjoy the interview!
SWR: Congratulations on the publication of your first book! Can you describe the moment you found out the book was being published?
I was in the carpool lane, waiting to pick up my kids from preschool. My cell rang—my agent’s number. I went on spazz alert and almost screamed SQUEE into the phone, because my agent had never called me unannounced before. Turned it out it was an offer, and not just for one book—for a three-book series. I found out about the other two publishing houses’ interest via email, but that first phone call was amazing. The auction occurred while we were in Athens, GA for a show by The Civil Wars, and the whole week was magical.
SWR: I love the cover of Wicked As They Come. What is the process between an author and an artist/illustrator in creating the cover? And as an artist yourself, did you have a difficult time handing over the reins to someone else?
For this first book, it was actually a huge surprise. I hadn’t heard from my editor in months, and then it just dropped into my inbox. At first, I was shocked, because it wasn’t at all what I had expected—but then it grew on me. There were a few changes that needed to be made, but my editor and the artist were extremely accommodating. For example, the original version had Criminy in leather jeans with a zipper, which took away from the steampunk/Victorian look. I love the new stance and more period-correct pants, and I really love the touches of red. Tony Mauro is a super nice guy and an amazingly talented artist, and I hope he does all my covers!
SWR: World-building is key in Fantasy/PNR books. What was the inspiration behind the world of Tish and Criminy Stain?
Two things came together for the inspiration of Sang: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the album Like Vines by The Hush Sound. You can hear a little of Spike in Criminy, and lots of scenes and lines come from that album. I know it sounds cliché, but I dreamed the scene where Tish wakes up in Sang and sees Criminy for the first time and thinks of him as “an extra naughty version of Mr. Darcy.” And then the rest of the world just happened through logic and imagination.
SWR: Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration for the characters themselves? And how did you come up with the name “Criminy Stain”?
Criminy arrived in my head fully formed. What he looked like, his name, how he talked, his mannerisms. I don’t know if my subconscious just wanted to communicate its ideal man or what, but he just happened, and I never questioned it. My editor once remarked that his name was odd, and I admitted that she could change it if she wanted, but… I guess he got his way in the end. Tish took more work. She began as a wife with a baby, then became just a wife, then we got rid of her husband and made her a damaged but resilient heroine with a special relationship with her dying grandmother. I like her best this way—she has a good mix of kindness and spitfire.
SWR: If you could cast any actors to play Tish and Criminy who would you cast?
The question is so difficult! If I had control over space and time—or a Tardis—I would grab Ashley Judd or Sandra Bullock from about 1996 and Jonathan Rhys Meyers from 2004. As for right now, I can’t think of an actress who can be charming but tough, Southern but not saccharine, curvy and not outrageously, instantly gorgeous. And as for Criminy, the actor would have a lot to live up to, is all I’m saying.
SWR: I love that you are developing fragrances inspired by the characters. Nothing transports you to a place and time like a scent. How did you come up with this idea? When and where will they be available?
I’ve been a huge fan of artisan perfumes for over a decade now. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab led me to Villainess Soaps, and Brooke and I have been internet pals for years. Scent plays a big part in my writing, especially Criminy’s scent, which plays an important role in the plot. He’s described as smelling like berries and red wine and crushed green things, and I think Brooke captured that amazingly well. I wear Criminy almost every day and will be the first in line to buy a huge bottle! It was one of my dreams, to smell my characters, and I’m just so lucky that she liked the book and was game. The quality and uniqueness of her soaps and perfume oils is astounding, and her packaging is right up my alley.
SWR: Is there a specific book or author that has inspired you the most?
I was raised to think that romance books were silly, but then a good friend of mine suggested Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, back in 2001 or so. I picked it up at a used book store when I had the flu and stayed up all night to read it. It taught me that romance isn’t just bodice ripping—that the story can be well crafted and beautifully written. That the characters can be fully-formed and have the capacity to grow as people. That the history can be fascinating and well-researched. And that you don’t have to use a single euphemism for anyone’s junk, something that always takes me out of the story. More recently, Gail Carriger and Deanna Raybourne have been a great inspiration for how to write exactly what you want to write, defy genre, and treat your readers with love and respect.
SWR: What do you read in your spare time?
Mostly YA and paranormal romance. I have two children under five, so what I need most is an escape. I don’t want to read anything that makes me cry. Although I read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races recently and was blown away by the power of the story and the lyricism of the writing. That one and The Night Circus are not my usual sort of vampire/werewolf/dystopia fodder, but they both drew me into an entirely new world where I wanted to stay.
SWR: As a blogger, I am always amazed at the power of the internet and social media. How do you think they’ve impacted writing and publishing?
Honestly, I don’t know if I’d even be published without the internet. I learned everything I know about querying and agents and editors online. I love the challenge of brevity and humor on Twitter. And I like that if you follow people you like, you find out about new things that they like that you like, too, from book recommendations to bands to interesting news stories that can spark story ideas. And the support is great, too, both for failures and triumphs. The three idol authors I’ve listed—Diana Gabaldon, Deanna Raybourne, and Gail Carriger—have all tweeted me before, and I was so excited!
SWR: Finally, if you could take any character from a favorite book or series and drop him/her into the world of Tish and Criminy, who would it be and why?
I think Gail Carriger’s Ivy Tunstall would have a fantastic time in the Sangish version of London. The humans have to keep almost all their skin covered, and huge, weird hats are all the rage. Maybe she could be a costumer with Criminy’s Clockwork Caravan, too, since she likes adventure and doesn’t mind odd people.
Thanks so much for having me! I hope y’all enjoy the book! ~Delilah
Wicked As They Come can be purchased at
Take a listen to the band that helped inspire the creation of the world of Sang, The Hush Sound:
I hope you enjoyed this interview. Happy Reading!