A DELightful Interview: Delilah S. Dawson And Delphine Dryden Talk Steampunk, Chihuahuas And Limericks

Authors Delilah S. Dawson and Delphine Dryden have a lot in common. They both write romance in multiple genres, their first and last names start with D and they both have new steampunk novels releasing soon — this week Delilah S. Dawson's Wicked After Midnight hits shelves and next week is Delphine Dryden's Scarlet Devices. We secretly think they might be the Borg and we're all slowly going to assimilate and become part of their Del cult, but we're okay with that. To get everyone acquainted with their new steampunk-writing overlords, we asked the authors to interview each other. You have been warned.

Delphine: I hear you may be a chihuahua in a sweater coat. Is this true Y/N?

Okay, here is a thing we can actually talk about. When I say I write steampunk, people always ask, "What is that?" and I feel I don't have a great answer for them. My answer is, like, "Something something Victorian something Jules Verne something but my steampunk world isn't really a dystopia as such, etc." Do you have a witty, pithy explanation of steampunk that I could shamelessly steal? 

Delilah: I'm definitely either a chihuahua in a sweater coat or one of those shaved cats that looks like a disgruntled lion. When I get excited about something, I can't stop shivering. Something very exciting (non-book-related!) is happening in my life, and even wearing a shirt, a sweater and a coat, my teeth are clattering non-stop.

The steampunk thing always depends on who I'm talking to and what their points of reference might be. Atlanta has a very active steampunk community, and most of the people I meet at cons already get it, so that's more about explaining why my steampunk is different from the other books out there. But when another mom stops me in the carpool line and asks me what steampunk means, I usually say, "It's like Will Smith's Wild Wild West movie" or "Victorian, but with robot monkeys and blimps." My steampunk is less science and more about how the people are trying to escape being murdered by the vampire animals and bludbunnies, so the focus is more on the fun parts: having your own pet copper monkey, wearing a snake bracelet that can also serve as a weapon or what sort of fun my characters can have on a velvet-lined submarine. Even the thick corsets, pretty boots and overall steampunk aesthetic in fashion in my world is based on not being eaten.

How is your steampunk different from the commonly accepted/assumed definition of steampunk? And do you dress steampunk for your events? I struggle with whether to wear writer business casual or steampunk finery to author events, so I love to hear about how other writers approach their steampunk "brand."

Delphine: You had me at robot monkeys! I think my steampunk is a lot like really inaccurate historical romance, in that my alternative timeline does not involve anything supernatural at all. No aether. No vampires. I try to stick to mechanical things that (usually) might be (at least theoretically) possible, had our technological development gone a different direction. Mostly it's just lots of messed-up speculative politics and, of course, blimps. Enameled flower lapel pins that are secretly multi-tools. That kind of thing. This isn't a philosophical stance about what I think steampunk ought to be, it's just that when I wrote Gossamer Wing I happened not to put in any paranormal elements. Then I realized the lack of those elements in the first book sort of bound me to that for the series.

Clothing-wise, I'm still working on building a steampunk wardrobe, so I don't always do author events in steampunk drag because I don't want to get outfit fatigue. And I'm usually also promoting my contemporary kinky nerdmances (although cosplay of any kind is definitely in keeping with that part of my "brand," come to think of it). So I guess the answer is, "It depends." Oh, and it sometimes depends on whether there's somebody around to lace me into a corset. I'll definitely be steampunk'd up at least once at the RT convention, and then again at RWA.

Can you think of a plausible explanation for gears on a top hat, other than decoration? 

Delilah: Oh, there's always a likely reason. I can imagine a hand-crank to open the top flap for air conditioning. Or maybe it's a stovepipe hat and contains a machine that transcribes whatever is said and can therefore be used by an underhanded journalist or spy. Maybe the dude is an automaton or lost the back of his head in a war and secretly has a Frankenstein brain. But I'm not actually against "gluing gears on it." I like the aesthetic of cogs and figure that plenty of folks throughout history have chosen to wear jewelry or prints of other symbols, like stars or flowers or flours-de-lis, so why not cogs? I don't always want to see the hot glue, but I don't mind the toggery.

Your next release is Scarlet Devices. Can you describe it in a limerick? And (not in a limerick), how it fits in with the rest of the series and also what makes it different from the first book, Gossamer Wing? I love to know what to expect in a series… and what will thrill me anew.

Delphine: Oh, challenge accepted *cracks knuckles*. 

She liked her velocimobile, 

Thought the hero was kind of a heel,

Then they entered a race,

And of course they sucked face!

But the villain was such a third wheel.

*drops mic* 

*picks mic back up* Okay, and now for the actual information. Gossamer Wing focuses on Charlotte Moncrieffe and Dexter Hardison, two reluctant aristocrats of the American Dominions who enter into a faux marriage for espionage purposes, and fall in love by accident along the way. Scarlet Devices picks up the action with Dexter's cousin Eliza, and his protegé Matthew Pence. They're competing against each other in a cross-continental steamcar and airship rally, and all the various sparks fly. They come together *cough cough* to defeat a common enemy, and...well, you know. You know it must be good, because it got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly! Which is apparently a thing. The whole series is full of romance, espionage, travel, adventure, intrigue, sexytimes...and fashion. 

Right back at you with the same two questions, because a) you know you want to do a limerick right now, and b) I haven't read your steampunk books yet (oh god, my TBR list...), but the descriptions contain all these wonderful words like rogue and sexy and genius and debauched, which all sounds ideal to me. Wicked After Midnight is the third Blud book, yes? So obviously I'll need to start with Wicked as They Come. Let me know what I ought to, going in (besides avoiding the bludbunnies)!


There was a young woman from Earth

Who equated her stardom with worth

She escaped from one cage

And alit on the stage

With a brigand of marvelous girth.

And, yes, always avoid the bludbunnies. And the bludsquirrels. And bludmares and peacocks and unicorns and…you know what? Just don't touch the animals unless they're made of metal and programmed to be nice.

Wicked as They Come is indeed the first book of the series and acts as the bridge from Earth to Sang, a Victorian parallel universe in which many of the people and most of the animals have evolved into blood drinkers. That makes the humans rather jumpy, and so they've invented dirigibles, submarines, trains, horseless carriages and these nifty muzzle caps for giant Clydesdales with fangs. So that's the best place to start reading the series to familiarize yourself with the world and the main characters.

That being said, I tried to write each book, e-novell, and short story so that if you picked it up knowing nothing, you wouldn't be completely lost. Since each book follows a different romance, it's not one long story broken up incrementally into books. But the characters are loosely connected, and especially in Criminy's Clockwork Caravan, we see several of them pop up again and again.

You can pick up Wicked After Midnight, available now, and Scarlet Devices, available next Tuesday. For more steampunk goodness visit our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy page!