The Big Idea: Delilah S. Dawson

Let’s talk about sex. Yes, sex! Why? Because Delilah S. Dawson wants to, and it’s her Big Idea slot, for her new novel Wicked As She Wants. And I am okay with that. So here we go!


Yes, that’s a dude in a blouse with an oiled chest, but I promise you’re in the right place. My books might end up on the romance shelves, and there may be a steamy hot scene on an airship brothel. But there’s a Big Idea at work—and one that goes far beyond frivolous bodice ripping and sparkly vampires. See, it’s a little known fact that at the heart of every romance book, there’s something very special.

An empowered woman who likes to have sex.

And that’s not a bad thing, a shameful thing, or an embarrassing thing. That’s a great thing!

There’s this strange discrepancy in the book world: at the base of everything we do, human beings crave love and sex, and yet to delve too deeply into romance alters how a book is critically viewed.  A little love in a good book makes it great and iconic; what would Tolkien’s books be without Aragorn and Arwen? And yet once you open the bedroom door and describe a woman’s passion, much less a man’s testicles, the entire tone of the book changes, and suddenly it’s on a different shelf and not “literature”.

In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, romance writers get no respect.

At least not until they hit the New York Times Bestseller list or make seven figures a year, which actually happens pretty often, and for good reason. Romance books can have characters just as complex and stories just as masterly as any other genre– the heaving bosoms are just a bonus. And you can pick up some good tips for the bedroom, too.

I didn’t actually set out to write romance, and I’m not going to lie: as a shy Southern girl, I had to get drunk to write that first sex scene. I’m a geek, and my Blud series started with a dream I had after watching too much Buffy: I woke up naked in a weird forest with a hot dude in a top hat staring at me. He sounded just like Spike, and I knew that he was a blood drinker but not a vampire. The world of Sang expanded from this tiny seed. Half the people are blood drinkers, but I didn’t want to follow the rule about wealthy vampires ruling the world. So I ghettoized them and filled the forests and back alleys with likewise blood-drinking animals. The adorably fuzzy rabbits want to suck your bone marrow with a straw, the horses are man-eaters, and the rats are the size of corgis and a hundred times more vicious. Transportation is therefore handled by armored train, dirigible, and submarine, and clockwork animals fulfill the roles of pets.

Voila! A new steampunk science fiction/fantasy world is born.

But you won’t find it in the Scifi/Fantasy section of your bookstore or on i09. Not only because Blouse Guy is on the cover or because I was asked to add hot sex scenes to my fantasy adventure, but also because the focus is on the heroine, Ahnastasia.

I’ve always felt like Princess Anastasia Nikolaevna got a raw deal in history: she was killed for political reasons before she was even a threat. That’s why I’ve given my Ahna fangs, talons, and the nature of a fierce and royal predator. When she first meets Blouse Guy, she tries to eat him. Luckily, she fails. Their romance is dogged by extraordinary hindrances, like vampiric political assassins and bloodthirsty unicorns, but they also face the same sort of problems you see in our own world: prejudice, destiny, pride, duty, addiction, bad choices, and trying to understand who you’ll become in a relationship without losing yourself completely. It takes a strong man to love a strong woman, so don’t let that blouse fool you; this romantic couple can fight back to back and leave a pile of drained bodies in their wake.

And you know what? There’s awesome sex, too. Because no matter how erudite we might like to appear, at the heart of all good stories is love, and at the animal root of all love is terrific sex. Finding her power as a sensual woman and taking control of her sexuality is part of Ahna’s journey to becoming a queen, and the story would be incomplete without opening that door for the reader. Although romance might not garner respect in literary circles, the romance genre takes a huge chunk of the market, with 48% of mass market paperback sales categorized as romance. From historical fiction to urban fantasy, the majority of these stories focus on a woman who undergoes a major life change related to owning her own pleasure and finding confidence, love and/or her destiny.

And women like that sort of thing.

Guys should, too, because a confident and passionate woman is far more likely to rock your world, in bed and out of it.

So that’s my big idea: it’s empowering to have great sex, to write about great sex, and to read about great sex, even if you do so covertly on your e-reader.

Your homework is to do at least one of those three things today and report back about how you feel afterward. If the answer isn’t “awesome” or “empowered”, remember that practice makes perfect. And if you ever need recommendations for intelligently written romance, just ask. If I can get over my embarrassment and write a sex scene in a submarine, so can you.


Wicked As She Wants: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the book’s page. See the author’s Web site. Follow her on Twitter.

35 Comments on “The Big Idea: Delilah S. Dawson”

  1. I can’t get sex, so I guess I’ll just have to do some writing. Can I post it here when I finish?

  2. I must say that your cover model is well manscaped (or is that airbrushed?), and tastefully oiled.
    Compared to some covers I’ve seen, he’s positively modest!

  3. Heh, I was just looking up her books yesterday after watching her video on the JordanCon religion panel.

  4. Your homework is to do at least one of those three things today and report back about how you feel afterward.

    Do we get extra credit if we successfully combine all three? Will the scoring take into account the difficulty of the movement? Will more points be awarded for movements including more than two people?

    As a dedicated nerd, I need to know the scoring system before I attempt the homework!

  5. Can we write a sex scene whilst situated on dry land, rather than in a submersible vehicle? That may make the exercise easier…

  6. Um, I’m pretty sure Tolkein’s books would be missing about one sentence without Aragorn and Arwen’s romance. Seriously, one sentence.

  7. @lexcgirl

    That can’t be right! How can it only be a sentence in the books if it took up at least 30 minutes in the 3 movies? ;)

  8. +1 to Tam and the link – “Ooh, Thorin Oakenshield!”
    Totally following this author now…

  9. Damn, Greg beat me to it.

    @ megazver

    As opposed to what? Somehow I can’t see Andrea Dworkin or Yuri Nesterenko getting into the romance game.

  10. @megazver: Actually, a lot of old-school romance novels are a far cry from sex-positive, or at least from women-enjoying-sex-for-its-own-sake-positive. Portraying women in sex scenes as more than virgin/whore/conquest is a bigger idea than it really should be in 2013.

  11. Thanx Delilah,
    I read across genres and hot sex novels are part of that. There are a lot of genres lit crits don’t take seriously. Fantasy & Sci-Fi are looked down on too in many “literary circles.” Personally, I want a good story, with good characters & a good plot with my hot sex. And anything that gets women & men to explore sex, enjoy sex, and connect without fear is a good thing. Peace, xx

  12. Thanks for reading, y’all!

    Adding, in regards to sex-positive romance: When I was 13, my mom gave me Clan of the Cave Bear, and then I checked the sequel out of the library on my own. Until Valley of Horses, I had no idea people had sex for fun and that women could be passionate artists who pursued their own callings. Pretty powerful moment, thanks to a genre-bending, sex-positive romance book.

  13. “The adorably fuzzy rabbits want to suck your bone marrow with a straw….”
    Okay, I’m on board.

  14. Also wanted to add appreciation for the understated cover art on this and Wicked As They Come (which also deserves a shout-out and which I, who verily hate trendy vampires, thoroughly enjoyed*). The beefcakes one routinely sees on romance covers get tiresome. Most genre artists seem to have missed the truism that leaving something to the imagination is sexier than gauchely flaunting one’s assets.

    *Even though the idea of the slow-aging bludmen being poltically marginalized strained the imagination (and that’s the only substantive criticism I have of what was a very strong freshmen novel).

  15. Oh, crud.
    Missed that this is book two, but doesn’t matter because like the cashier
    at Kroger who said “Sir, I’m sorry, I forgot to scan your coupons just
    now?” “Not a problem, I’ll use ’em next visit.”
    Doesn’t cost me extra.
    Annoyed by my _stupid_ action? Yes. By hers? No.

  16. >10. Let shit get cray.
    Crey? WTF!?!?
    Oh, sorry, person said “cray.”
    >I have no idea what this means. I wrote this list at 2am while
    >on NyQuil. LET SHIT GET CRAY sounded pretty good at
    >the time.

    Oh, ‘K. Yeah, nod.
    Grey works very well. “Cray” has me looking for buckets to put
    the lawn lobsters into so’s they can poop out the sand.
    Best cooked in gumbo like shrimp or boiled like lobsters.
    OH! And served with (drooling now) spiced up melted butter dip.

  17. A little love in a good book makes it great and iconic; what would Tolkien’s books be without Aragorn and Arwen?

    …Less random? Only the wedding is in the book. The love story is in the appendix. And it’s boring as all hell.

    I take extreme exception to the idea that the root of all love is sex. Romantic love is not the only kind of love! I am sure that sex is not at the root of most parent-child love, or other familial love, or friendship. That would be really fucked up. Unless when she says “at the base of everything we do, humans crave love” she really does mean only romantic love, in which case, that is wildly factually incorrect, hugely devalues other kinds of love and non-sexual relationships, and exactly echoes some really old-school ideas of what women’s goals ought to be. The post as is already erases asexuals, most of whom are not spending their whole lives sitting around mutely staring into space due to a lack of motivation to do anything.

    I fucking hate it when writers of all people are careless in tossing around terms like “everyone” and “everything” and “all.”

  18. Someday, I will complete my eco-feminist, asexual-romance, SF-Western novel about shepherding, and the world will EXPLODE.

  19. After gently redirecting the wolf’s attention using her eco-sense, Chendine holstered her stunner with a sigh of relief.

    “Gentle influence is so much better than guns…”, Chendine mused as she back walked towards the village. Her flock followed her, attracted to her peaceful attunement with nature.

    “I wonder if I can encourage the other villagers to treat the beasts of the forest with care, rather than violence…” she continued her reverie.

    “I’ll have to start by getting them to leave their guns alone”, she sighed, puzzled by their fascination with their weapons.

    Chendine had always known she was different, set apart by nature to empower all creatures. She just couldn’t understand the obsessions of the people around her: why did they become so fixated on one another – or, even more strangely, on their possessions?

    (mintwitch, the world may not have exploded yet, but my head almost exploded trying to write within so many constraints…)

  20. thecynicalromantic says: I take extreme exception to the idea that the root of all love is sex
    Me too.
    Eros and Agape are two types of love.
    Eros: Oh god why oh! are our pants still on ooh! yee..!! Owww! my hair is caught in the
    zipper! Stop moving! Ow! Giggle , giggle. OooOO!
    Agape. I love my kitten. She likes it when I pet her soft fur. I love my kitten so much.

  21. Let’s see what icon shows up for me.

    I recall eros as let’s paraphrase? ‘sexual love’ and agape as
    selfless love: When the parents first see the newborn baby
    expect selfless love to take over their lives.

  22. The adorably fuzzy rabbits want to suck your bone marrow with a straw

    Tom Smith did it first. “The little fuzzy animals will drink your blood!”

  23. I wish Samuel Delany would write a paranormal romance. But with no poop eating. I’m completely serious.

  24. Without denigrating the contents at all – the cover screams Doc Savage – The Hidden Years!.

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