An Interview with LILA BOWEN

dawnsonds-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Lila Bowen?

Lila is the pseudonym (and alter ego) of Delilah S. Dawson. I’ll answer to Delilah or Lila in public, since they’re pretty much the same word. As Delilah, I’m the author of the Blud series, the Hit series, Servants of the Storm, Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon and Scorched, and a variety of short stories and comics, including the upcoming Ladycastle from Boom! Studios. The Shadow series, which begins with Wake of Vultures, is Lila’s first publishing venture. You can find both of us online and chat with us on Twitter. If you’re wanting to know unbookish things, I live in the north Georgia mountains with my family and really love gluten free cake.

Your next novel, Conspiracy of Ravens, was recently published by Orbit. It looks rather interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? And what should fans of Wake of Vultures expect from this sequel?

Thanks! I would definitely send any new readers to Wake of Vultures, which recently came out in paperback, as it introduces the character of Nettie Lonesome and the Weird West world she inhabits. I think of this series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer-meets-Lonesome Dove, although Conspiracy goes a little more Hell on Wheels/Deadwood. Fans of Wake can expect to see the Shadow killing what needs to die and facing her past and future with new clarity as she hunts an alchemist running a diabolical railroad camp using enslaved monsters.

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What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

Every book I write comes from some strange new place. Wake of Vultures came from a late night realization that as much as I loved Lonesome Dove (and all Larry McMurtry), there was no place for women in those stories outside of the whore, the martyr, or the lunatic. I wanted to create a fun twist on the Wild West we all know and love, one in which a woman who is also a person of color could triumph on her own terms. If you look back through my bibliography, the Blud series came from a Spike dream while watching too much Buffy; Servants of the Storm came from a photoset of Six Flags NOLA after Hurricane Katrina; Hit came from South Park‘s Human CentiPad episode; and Ladycastle came from watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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How were you introduced to genre fiction?

I was a ravenous reader who exhausted my school library and spent hours at our town library. I wasn’t a particularly happy or friendly child, so I found solace in fantasy, especially long sagas filled with magic. I didn’t even know what genre fiction was at the time. In fact, I wasn’t aware of the genre-vs.-literary divide until I started researching publishing to query agents.

How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

Before I found writing at the age of 31, I felt like I didn’t know what my calling was. I was an artist who never settled on a body of work and instead taught classes and ran galleries. Discovering my place as a novelist has been a great blessing. I’ve found work that constantly inspires and energizes me and friends who share my worldview and passion. Holding my book in my hands for the first time will never stop feeling like triumph.

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Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

I could write pages on this one! I can tell you that I vastly prefer experiential research to digging through firsthand accounts. I’d rather take a flying trapeze class or go for a trail ride than find a dusty tome on the cowboy life. If anyone really wants to know about my process, it’s all on my blog, and on the ‘For Writers’ page of my blog.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

When I was 31, my youngest child stopped sleeping, and so did I. My brain broke, and my husband suggested I get more sleep and find a hobby I could do at home — writing. So I wrote my first book in a sleepless haze, polished it, and queried it. My second book got an agent, and my third book sold in a three book deal. I don’t have a ton of memories from that time, as I was deeply sleep deprived, but I’m so glad things worked out the way they did.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing I can control is my own writing, so I try not to think too much on the parts of publishing that are out of my control, including genre. I’m glad to see that publishers are taking risks on books outside the usual The Chosen One is a Heterosexual White Dude narrative, because frankly, it’s been done. Some of my favorite books from the last year are The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, The Devourers by Indra Das, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I recently got to blurb a great novella for Tor.com by Magpie Killjoy called The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion that was also a window into punk and anarchist culture. I hope that my books, with their unusual hero and diverse cast, can help broaden what the genre will welcome.

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Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on the third Shadow book right now. 🙂 My first comic, Ladycastle, will be out in January. And there are always short stories in various anthologies.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m reading Dietland by Sarai Walker, and The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan. And I managed to snag an ARC of Amberlough by Lara Elene Donnelly.

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If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?

Oh, I’d have to know a lot more about them to suggest something!

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I never, ever wear matching socks and I despise cooked apples.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Getting to reveal some secret projects I have in the works. 🙂 Folks can find out by signing up for my newsletter at my website, whimsydark.com.

Thanks so much for the interview!

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Lila Bowen‘s Conspiracy of Ravens is out now, published by Orbit Books in North America and the UK. For more on Lila/Delilah’s writing and novels, be sure to check out the author’s website, and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads (Dawson/Bowen).

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