So tomorrow just HAPPENS to be the birthday of one of my very favorite people and critique partners: fellow lover of YA contemporary and YA Misfit, Dahlia Adler! To celebrate, we're doing an interview!
You might know Dahl from the Twitterverse (and if you don't, go follow her right now: @MissDahlELama), or from her own blog, The Daily Dahlia, where she dispenses invaluable advice on writing and seeking publication, does fabulous interviews, and is generally a brilliant human being. She is repped by Andrea Somberg at the Harvey Klinger Agency, and is also a copyediting wizard, a sweet but thorough beta reader, and has the ability to organize a person's whole brain in three bullet points. Yes, she has done that for me. I'd be lost without her, and I'm going to pout when I have to share her sexy male mc's with the rest of the world, but only for a second. Because then I'll be too busy screaming my head off with glee.
Here's a chance for you to get to know Dahlia too!
G: First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Are you doing anything special to celebrate?
D: Thank you!! Just keeping it small this year, having some friends over. Mostly I’m excited for whatever birthday cake my husband’s planning.
G: How long have you been writing, and what made you decide to pursue publication?
D: I’ve been writing since I was about eight or so, but I was always really shy about it and would never let anyone read my writing, and I honestly had no intention of pursuing publication. Then, about five years ago, my husband went to law school, and money got tight, and I thought, “Okay, maybe it’s time I actually see if I can turn this into more than a hobby, because we kinda need that right now!” I dipped my toe into the querying pool and never looked back, even though obviously now I realize that was ridiculous reasoning.
G: How many novels have you written? Do you have a favorite ms in your arsenal?
D: I’ve actually written quite a few—four books for what would now be called a “New Adult” series, four YA standalones, I’m most of the way through a chick lit, and I’m writing another YA standalone right now. My favorite as far as what’s near and dear to my heart is probably the one I shelved prior to getting my agent—it’s called MY NAME IS EVERETT, and I just love the characters and setting so much. I wouldn’t say it’s my strongest, but it’s my “baby,” even though it’ll probably never see the light of day!
G: I know what *my* favorite Dahlia story is - BEHIND THE SCENES! Tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it.
D: Aw, you’re just a sucker for a certain love interest ;)
BEHIND THE SCENES is about a high school senior named Ally whose best friend, Vanessa, lands a starring role in a huge new TV show and gets Ally a job as her on-set assistant. Once on-set, Ally and Vanessa’s co-star Liam fall hard and fast for each other, but they’re forced to keep their romance behind the scenes so Vanessa and Liam can publicly date as part of a publicity stunt.
I don’t remember what inspired the actual story, but I can definitely tell you a few random pieces of inspiration. One huge thing that brings Ally and Liam together is the fact that her father is terminally ill, and he’s experienced that with his own mother. In this case, I pulled a “write what you know,” and gave her dad the same illness (stage IV melanoma) that my father had. The aspect of Ally’s hating Hollywood because she’s watched her best friend struggle, being an Asian-American actress, isn’t from any personal experience—just a personal desire to call more attention to the insane lack of diversity in casting. The fake show was based on the new 90210 in my head, which is also where the character name “Liam” came from.
G: How difficult was it to write Liam and Ally's love story knowing he was really in love with me the whole time? (Kidding. Totally. Not really.)
D: Nearly impossible! Do you know how hard it is to tell a character, “Dude, focus on Ally,” when he just keeps screaming, “Giiiiiiina!!” from your computer speakers? Near impossible! Fortunately, I like a challenge, and I love writing romance.
G: That's right. I knew it. Ahem... BTS also got you your agent. What do you think is the most important advice for authors seeking representation?
D: 1) Get yourself some betas, and really, really think about their critique. I got incredibly tough crit on BTS, and sometimes it’s really tempting to brush it off and say, “Oh, whatever, those are just her opinions,” but I made the decision to work with it, and I think it’s a much better book for it. It’s also 10K longer, and I don’t think the pacing hurts for it at all.
2) Be aware of what writing opportunities are out there, and avail yourself of them! I got an agent through my first contest, and I didn’t even really know contests were a “thing” before that. But they are, and they’re fantastic. Just don’t overdo them—sometimes I see the same manuscripts entered over and over and can’t help thinking, “Have you really done anything to this since the last time? Are you working on anything new or are you holding on for too long?” Plus, it’s never really in your best interest to have agents know how long you’ve been trying to “sell” something.
3) Do your research on agents before signing. Not that this had anything to do with my experience, but I see now all these agents popping up with basically no experience, no sales, and people rushing to sign with them to add a line to their Twitter bios. It’s not worth it.
G: What do you strive for when you write? In other words, what are the things you hope to hear from your readers?
D: The best compliments are the ones that tell you that you’ve really gotten into someone’s head. If I can make someone laugh, or cry, or “swoon,” that’s the greatest. I get a lot of compliments on dialogue, and I love that, but lately I’ve been getting a bunch on setting, and those are really, really flattering to me, because I tend to set things in made-up locales. if I can make you picture a place neither of us has ever been… yeah, I’ll be pretty proud of that!
G: Tell us something that would surprise people to know about you. And not that you're awesome, because we already know that.
D: Ha, I’m such an open book that I’m not even sure what would surprise people anymore. I guess maybe that although I love books and TV, I’m so not a movie person. The list of movies I’ve never seen includes: Star Wars, Titanic, Dumb and Dumber, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Jurassic Park, any of the Harry Potters, any of the Twilights, any of the Lord of the Rings, any of the Supermans… need I go on?
G: Because I'm food-obsessed, I have to ask: Favorite flavor of ice cream? Favorite kind of cookie? Any food you absolutely positively can't live without?
D: Ohh, you are my kind of girl, as if I didn’t know that already! My favorite ice cream is Coffee Heath Bar Crunch—so, so good. Favorite kind of cookie is tough, but I think I have to go with white chocolate macadamia nut. There are so many foods I can’t live without I don’t even know where to start. I think chicken would probably be my number one.
G: Ben & Jerry are my heroes. Last question: How would you fill in this blank? If I see _____ in one more YA novel, I will scream.
D: If I see one more couple pair up after getting to know each other through a class project, I will scream. Loudly.