Delilah Dawson wants to creep you out. Abandoned amusement parts, the haunting Southern gothic and dead best friends are just the tip of her iceberg in her new novel Servants of the Storm. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s all about place, about this certain dark, old languor we have in the South that you don’t see in other places. Something about the heavy heat, the humidity, the age, the particular outline of live oaks dripping with moss and tombstones gone crooked in perpetually moist soil. Everything feels swaybacked and a little dusty, and I just love that,” said Dawson, reminiscing on the southern Gothic subset of fantasy.
That Southern gothic subset sets the scene in Servants of the Storm, where Dovey stops living in a medicated haze after she begins hallucinating her dead best friend Carly. The storm that killed her best friend was not natural, and her little Southern town holds more secrets than she thought.
Dovey’s affection for her best friend is no secret, nor is the importance of female friendships in Dawson’s stories.
“My first answer was that [female friendships]usually aren’t [important]– and then I really thought about it. Tish in Wicked as They Come is super close with her grandmother. Ahna in Wicked as She Wants grows close with Keen. Demi’s closest friends are a lesbian couple, Bea and Mel, in Wicked After Midnight. And in Hit, Patsy realizes Matty is the closest thing she has to a girlfriend. So female friendships in my books might be unorthodox, but they’re very important.”
Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Dawson’s Blud series – they are, after all, adult novels. Servants of the Storm is Dawson’s first venture into young adult literature after dabbling in adult novels for years.
The biggest difference between adult novels and young adult novels?
“The explicit sex, I guess!” joked Dawson. “Really, though, there’s this immediacy and sense of heightened emotion when writing from the teen POV. Everything is such a big deal. I remember so well what it was like to have a guy calling me be *the only thing that mattered*. Whereas adults tend to worry more about responsibilities, mortgage, marriage, bills, big picture junk. Which is one reason why my Blud series is set in a different, magical world– I find those adult concerns pretty boring.”
Taxes and marriage may bore Dawson, but other social concerns stay close to her heart. Dawson very openly discusses sexual assault, depression and suicide, among other issues, all of which she weaves into her work. The Blud series looks at a woman escaping an abusive relationship, a suicidal alcoholic, and a feminist girl in a world that wants to keep her down. Servants of the Storm features a girl who was drugged because those around her think she’s overreacting to a tragedy. Her next novel, Hit, looks at rape, not owing prettiness to anybody, and addicted parents.
“My agent often puts in edit notes that say, ‘This is not A Very Special Episode,’ letting me know that I’m getting too preachy about a subject I feel strongly about. I really hope that something in my books can help someone get through a tough time, because I definitely used books as an escape when my teen years got tough,” said Dawson. “I want to write adventure books about kids with issues, not straight-up issue books. Because people with issues still get to have adventures.”
And for those who think those topics are too dark for teens:
“Teens living through sexual assault, physical or emotional abuse, depression, suicide, and other traumas need to know they’re not alone more than they need more people telling them these things don’t exist or that everything is okay. Everything is not okay. When I was a teen, I was afraid to talk about my issues. I’m not afraid anymore.”
For more about Delilah Dawson, visit her website or follow her on Twitter at @DelilahSDawson or on Tumblr. You can request autographed Servants of the Storm bookplates from her by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.