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A Conversation with Delilah S. Dawson, Orlando Book Festival Closing Keynote Speaker

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The Orlando Book Festival is a day-long celebration of books at the Orlando Public Library. Join us for panels, writing workshops, book signings and more from bestselling authors from all over the country.

Delilah S. Dawson, Closing Keynote Speaker for the Orlando Book Festival, is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars: PHASMA as well as multiple novels, comics, and short stories. She also writes as Lila Bowen. For more information, visit whimsydark.com.

Orange County Library System staff member Sarah Fisk had the opportunity to speak with Dawson about her writing process and his thoughts on being an author.

SF: What first sparked your interest in writing?

DSD: I was always a big reader, but I didn’t write my first book until I was 31. My baby stopped sleeping, and so did I. When I told my husband I was hallucinating from lack of sleep, he helped me set up a better sleep schedule and suggested I do something just for me, something creative that didn’t revolve around motherhood: He told me I should write a book. And my brain was so broken that I did! It was a terrible book, but I learned a lot from editing and querying it.

SF: What is your favorite part of writing books/being an author?

DSD: I love getting an idea and feeling out the world, characters, and story around it – it feels powerful and magical and dangerously godlike. And I especially love cons, festivals, and other events, when I get to hang out with other writers and meet readers, booksellers and librarians.

SF: Do you have any writing quirks/superstitions/obsessions?

DSD: I try not to let my writing get precious or end up in any situation where I don’t have the tools or mojo I need to do my job. Early on in my career, I celebrated every stage of writing the book. Hitting 20 pages meant cupcakes, 100 pages meant tacos and margaritas and finishing a first draft meant dinner at a fancy French bistro. It was very motivating!

SF: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever researched for a book?

DSD: For the third book in my Blud series, Wicked After Midnight, I wanted to write a scene centered on a trapeze – so I took trapeze lessons, both flying and stationary. I get so annoyed when a writer obviously hasn’t experienced the particular sensations they’re writing about. I once threw a book across the room because the heroine was being deflowered on a bed of straw. Have you ever felt straw? On your bare bum? Not believable!

SF: What is your one essential piece of advice for aspiring authors?

DSD: It’s never too late to start, and it’s not over until you are. If you want to be traditionally published, you can write and query infinite books. You are full of infinite stories. There’s someone out there who needs the story only you can tell. Every word you write helps you grow.

SF: What is the most important book you’ve ever read and why?

DSD: Looking back, it was probably The Valley of Horses when I was 13. Up until then, my Fantasy reading had revolved around male authors and their male heroes, and it was refreshing to find a sweeping saga about a smart, strong, creative heroine in charge of her life and sexuality. 

SF: What do you do when you’re not writing or reading?

DSD: I love having adventures – traveling, seeing the ocean, going to Disney World, which is just an hour away. I have a tendency to live inside my head, and new experiences silence my inner monologue and force me into the moment. I’ve also discovered gardening since moving to Florida, and my focus this year is on bee- and butterfly-friendly native plants. My milkweed is covered in Monarch caterpillars now, and it brings me great joy!

SF: You write for a few different age categories and genres. What has drawn you to those and are you planning on expanding even further?

DSD: I don’t do it on purpose – an idea arrives, and I write the story, and my editor decides how to market it. I wrote Wicked as They Come as a Fantasy, but it became a Romance, and I wrote Wake of Vultures as a YA, but it became a Fantasy. My creator-owned comic, Sparrowhawk, began as a YA book that petered out around 40,000 words because it needed visuals to properly tell the story. I always want to turn any idea into the best book I can, regardless of genre. So, yes, I’ll be writing whatever demands to be written!

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