Day 95 – Delilah Dawson
Delilah Dawson is the author of Phasma and several short stories based on Star Wars characters. She has also written two Star Wars stories for the comic Star Wars Adventures and wrote the comic Forces of Destiny: Rose and Paige.
Dawson has also written books using the name Lila Bowen including the Shadow book series. She was kind enough to answer a few questions via email for 365 Star Wars Women.
When were you introduced to Star Wars? What appeals to you the most about the galaxy far, far away (favorite characters/movies, etc.)?
Like any kid born in 1977, I was always aware of Star Wars and slept on Star Wars bed sheets, but it was the Ewoks that made it real for me. I got to stay up late to watch The Ewok Adventure, and I became obsessed. I mean, murderous alien bears who are kind to lonely young girls? SOLD. I still have my Princess Kneesaa plush from that Christmas. To this day, I really love the strange species, fun animals, and vibrant cantina scenes in Star Wars. I can watch people every day in my own life, but the fantastic creatures really draw me in… which is why I try to invent at least one new species in every story I write for Star Wars.
Did you read many Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Legends) books? If so any favorites? How about canon books? Any favorites or favorite time periods?
I read oodles of them and especially enjoyed anything focusing on the Mandalorians, but I quit reading when the Vong got boring and Chewie died. I’d have to say Revenge of the Sith was my favorite, and I’m a huge fan of Matthew Stover. And I loved playing KOTOR and KOTOR 2, which I suppose fall into the Legends category. But I’m also a big fan of the new canon and love all the new authors. There’s just so much going on, and it’s all wonderful!
How did you find out you were going to write Phasma? Were you looking to write a Star Wars book or was it a happy surprise?
I received an email titled ‘A Very Awesome Email’, which it was. 🙂 I’d been very open on Twitter and elsewhere that I reeeeeeally wanted to write a Star Wars book, and after writing The Perfect Weapon, a novella about bounty hunter Bazine Netal, I had high hopes that I might get a shot at a full book. When that email arrived, I made a noise that I have never made before nor since, a noise that nearly shattered the windows. It was two days before my birthday in 2016, and I still remember it clearly. It’s a great feeling to know one of your dreams is coming true!
What kind of guidelines or guidance did you get from Lucasfilm about the outline of events in Phasma?
I can’t go too deep into the details, but I can tell you that I felt lovingly supported by my Del Rey editors, the Story Group, other Star Wars authors, and everyone at Lucasfilm. It’s a natural and organic process that insures the author gets to tell a story uniquely their own that also serves canon and the Star Wars universe overall. It was a great experience.
Do you think Phasma survived the events of the The Last Jedi?
I wrote her to be indestructible and would assume nothing else.
If you could write a story about one of the new characters you created for Phasma what character would you choose.
Cardinal and Vi, 100%! I have such a soft spot for Emergency Brake, and I love Vi, and I think there’s a lot of potential for them as a team, as long as it doesn’t involve knitting. But of course I know that I could have a great time with any story challenge Star Wars offered me.
Would you enjoy writing more Star Wars books in the future? If so, are there any specific characters (other than Phasma) or time periods you’d love to get a chance to write about?
Oh, definitely. They know how eager I am! The great thing about how Star Wars books are made is that they seem to be really careful in selecting who writes what, which means that they match writers to stories that maximize their talents. I feel certain that anything they offered me would be right up my alley. Cardinal and Vi would be great, and I’d also love to sink my teeth into the Knights of Ren. I specialize in violent women, but I think I could easily expand into angry emo boys with bad childhoods. I’d especially love the chance to do the Episode IX novelization. And they know I’d love to write more comics, too.
You have written a few short stories for Star Wars that gave backstories for different characters – Pilot Greer Sonnel who appeared in the novel Bloodline in “Scorched”, mercenary Bazine Netal from The Force Awakens in “The Perfect Weapon”, and Imperial spy Garindan ezz Zavor from A New Hope in “The Secrets of Long Snoot.” I’m curious for “Scorched” and “The Perfect Weapon” how much you knew about the characters before you wrote these stories and for “The Secrets of Long Snoot” did you have any guidelines for what you could or could not do for this character?
For Scorched, I got to read an early copy of Bloodlines and see Greer in action–but a later version of Greer. The creativity came in when I had to extrapolate back to see what she would’ve been like when she was younger and not yet living with her affliction.
For The Perfect Weapon, I had the words ‘female James Bond in space’ and a photograph of Bazine in Grummgar’s lap. When I asked for more information, as no one had seen The Force Awakens yet and had any idea what the current world was like, I was told to hit Google for spoilers. At first, that was scary, but then I realized I had a ton of freedom in building her character from scratch, including explaining why she wears the cowl and why her fingers are coated in black ink. I also got to make up two planets, which made me feel a bit megalomaniacal!
And for The Secrets of Long Snoot, there was a ton of freedom. I scoured Wookieepedia and other online sites for info, but the cool thing about Garindan is that no one had yet tackled his character in depth, so I really got to explore if the rumors about him were true.
You’ve also written three comic stories for Star Wars Adventures and Forces of Destiny about the Tico sisters and (of course) porgs as well as the comic series Ladycastle. And it was just announced you’re writing a comic version of Dragonriders of Pern (congrats!) How did you get into writing comics and do you hope to always go back and forth between writing books and comics? Does your writing process change a lot working on these different mediums?
The thing I’ve learned about writing comics is that there is no proven way to break in, and I definitely beat my head against a wall for a few years, trying to figure out how to make the leap. I was invited to write some short comics for the Boo! anthology for Monkeybrain, which got me on a panel about writing comics for women at GenCon, which got picked up by The Mary Sue because it went bonkers wrong. That day, I received an email from an editor at BOOM! Studios inviting me to pitch. I pitched Ladycastle, and that was my first comics job. I feel so fortunate that my editing team generously helped me ramp up quickly into writing comics, as it’s a completely different art form than novels. After Ladycastle, I got to write some Adventure Time and Labyrinth for BOOM!, and when IDW needed a writer who’d read the script of The Last Jedi and could write comics, I was on that shortlist, which led me to Star Wars Adventures and Forces of Destiny.
I love going back and forth between books and comics–comics are the sorbet between the heavy meals of novel writing. I can whip out a comic script in two days, so that’s a nice sense of satisfaction amidst the slog of longer works. I hope to do more in comics, both IP and creator-owned, and have several things coming down the road, including The X-Files Case Files: Florida Man for IDW.
Can you talk about any books/comics you have coming out soon or are working on now?
My X-Files comic, Florida Man, is out in April. Then my trope-smashing Fantasy book, Kill the Farm Boy, cowritten with fellow Star Wars author Kevin Hearne, is out in July, and they’re calling it a mix of Princess Bride and Discworld. The last book in my Shadow series, written as Lila Bowen, is out in October, called Treason of Hawks. And the comic adaptation I’m writing of Dragonflight, first in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, will hopefully be out later this year. With more stuff on the way!
You’re very active on twitter talking about your writing process, publishing in general, and answering questions from new writers. Would you recommend being active on social media to new (or established) writers?
This is a tough one, because my answer to ‘How do I get a big social media following?’ is ‘Get a time machine and go back to 2008 and start then.’ The best advice I can give to new writers is to write the best book you can. Don’t focus on social media and brand and platform or giving writing advice, especially before that advice has brought you the success you’re aiming for. Head down, butt in chair, work on the book and on becoming the best writer you can be. That’s what sells your book. I think Twitter has great value in finding your cohort, and I met so many of my writer friends there, but you have to have something you’re excited to talk about, some way to offer value, if you want to see your follower count rise. And, hey– Twitter doesn’t sell books. If every one of my followers bought one of my books today, I’d have 3 New York Times bestsellers next week, but that doesn’t happen. Just write, and use social media in ways that boost your energy and support. Don’t waste time or let it drain you. I… have a lot of thoughts on this. But I remember being new to writing, so I always try to pay it forward on Twitter with advice and am always happy to answer unGoogleable questions about publishing or writing.