The Big Idea: Delilah S. Dawson
Author Delilah S. Dawson has returned to the blog for a fifth Big Idea. Today she brings us Bloom, her newest romance-horror novel that mixes sweet with… bloody. Read on to see how this book came to be, with a little help from her daughter.
DELILAH S. DAWSON:
Did you know that you can substitute (properly rendered) human fat for lard when baking or use human blood in the place of eggs? Just replace each egg with 65g of blood—or 43g for an egg white. It’s true for pig blood, so I’m assuming it’s true for human blood, although I haven’t tried either substitution. Point being, the human body is chock full of useful substances, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to let anything go to waste.
That was the original story seed for Bloom—the mental image of a different kind of serial killer, a delicate girl breaking down a corpse into its component parts and using it to make something beautiful, something artistic. But I didn’t want it to be gritty like Fight Club or focused on men like Hannibal (and also Fight Club). I wanted it to be feminine and pretty and aesthetic. A sweeter, gentler, cottagecore sociopath, if you will.
My first attempt began in a Fantasy world where the main character, an ethereal girl with white hair in a long dress and apron, was tasked with preparing the local corpses, breaking them down so that honor was done to them and supplying the people of her countryside with fertilizer and lard and meat. I had a character and a world but no story, and no matter how gently I called to the Muse with homemade gluten free cupcakes, the story eluded me.
And then one day my teen daughter asked me the question that changed everything.
Why are all the hot serial killers dudes?
She’d gotten into Hannibal, and now she wanted more. My answer was that most of the hot serial killers we see on TV and in movies are male because most of the serial killers we hear about in real life are male, but that answer, although true, isn’t particularly helpful when you’re yearning for a very specific type of story that doesn’t yet exist.
“I’ll write it for you,” I told her, and then I did.
I kept the ethereal girl with white hair in her long dress and apron, but I plucked her out of the world of fantasy and instead dropped her at a farmers market in Athens, Georgia, where I went to college. And then I created the exact kind of emotionally scarred, book smart fool who would fall for her sprinkle-spackled cupcakes, gingham-beribboned jars, and sharp little kitten teeth, an insecure young professor of literature with a gift for words and a desperate need for more magic in her life.
Is it weird, writing a sapphic cannibal romance for your teen daughter? Probably, but it did allow me to emphasize consent in a new relationship and provide an object lesson for what happens when infatuation makes you ignore all the red flags in a potential partner.
It also allowed me to remind the world that I really, really hate tapenade.
As a writer, I have a whirlwind romance with each book, but I’ll admit I fell harder for Bloom than usual. Not only because it sprung from wanting to give a unique gift to someone I love, but also because Bloom merges so many of my favorite things: cupcakes, houseplants, pottery, charcuterie, honey with a chunk of comb, picking wild blackberries, typewriters, a slow burn horror, and especially that energetic swoop of hope I feel every time I wander among a row of mysterious sellers’ stalls, that feeling that anything could happen, that I might secretly be at the Goblin Market and discover some fantastic treasure.
And that cover—THAT COVER! It was inspired by a piece of art I created and then dropped on Instagram with a tag for my editor and publisher, hoping that they might be piqued. The book has gorgeous endpapers and chapter illustrations and its hidden face is the perfect shade of red. I bought a dress to match it for launch night because I love it that much. We writers don’t always get to choose our covers, but I would choose this one from a lineup any day.
I’ve written all kinds of books—and I think this is my fifth Big Idea, so you can read all about them without too much googling. I’ve written gritty books and sexy books and funny books and scary books and deep books, but this book is all about yearning and darkness. It’s for fans of Hannibal and You and the kind of horror that settles in next to you in a gingham dress and ribbons, sweetly offering you a cupcake that tastes just a bit richer than usual. But most of all, it’s for my daughter, the best baker I know.
Thing is, when she asked me why all the hot serial killers are dudes, I didn’t tell her the other reason…
Because maybe the hot women never get caught.