Eating Authors: Delilah S. Dawson

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Delilah S. Dawson

I’ve been away for most of the past week, hanging with dozens upon dozens of Klingon speakers, arguing points of grammar, singing songs in a made-up guttural language, and enjoying the fellowship of this unique family that I began bringing together back in 1992. Switching gears back to English and EATING AUTHORS is hard, but bringing you this week’s guest, Delilah S. Dawson, makes it easier.

I’ve only met Delilah once. It was last January during the most excellent convention known as Confusion. Our paths kept intersecting during the weekend, but I think we really bonded as we trudged alongside one another on Diana Rowland’s Frost Fun Run Walk Roll Crawl Gasp Flail. We survived (I have the medal to prove it) and along the way she told me about the book she was working on with Kevin Hearne (which came out last week) and I shamelessly played upon her hypothermia to get her to send me a meal for this blog.

You probably already know her work. She’s the best selling author of several Star Wars novels, the Blud series, the Hit series, and short stories in a wide range of anthologies. She also writes comics, including Ladycastle, Adventure Time comics, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special, to name just a few. Under the name Lila Bowen she’s written the acclaimed Shadow series. And along the way she’s won the Fantasy Book of the Year from RT Book Reviews and the Steampunk Book of the Year, and more starred reviews than there’s space to go into.

Whether it’s media tie-in SF, Young Adult, Steampunk, or Paranormal Romance, Delilah S. Dawson delivers the goods.

Something new for this blog: Trigger warning: suicide

LMS: Welcome, Delilah. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

DSD: Once upon a time, I flung myself into the sea, and the sea threw me right back. It seems strange to condense a suicide attempt into one simple sentence, but I’m a writer, and that is my job. It was over twenty years ago while I was part of a student exchange program in France, and although I know my reasons were justified, I can definitely see the flaws in my proposed solution. When I crawled back onto that beach in Biarritz, squeezing water from my lungs and surprised to persist in existing, I had returned from a very dark, primal place, and I have never been the same since.

My exchange family had no idea what I’d tried to do, what I’d almost done. They were happy on their summer holiday and enjoying themselves, lounging and reading under the colorful umbrella, whereas I had undergone a seismic shift down to my bones. It’s very strange to choose death and then find yourself alive again, especially when no one else is aware that a tragedy was barely averted. There is no guidebook for how to go on living.

Kill the Farm Boy

I flopped on my back in the sun and realized I had to learn to go on. With my arms flung out, I practically begged the world for clues, but no answer was forthcoming. And as I lay there, I began to catalogue sensations, noticing and appreciating things in a way I never had before. The wind in my hair. The scent of suntan lotion and salt water. The sound of children laughing in the waves and calling to one another in different languages. The world felt entirely new, as if it were suddenly in focus after years of being unrecognizably blurry. When we left the beach that afternoon and walked along the boardwalk to find dinner, I was overcome with gratitude for being alive.

Papa chose a tiny seaside restaurant, the kind with maybe two tables and a basement kitchen, where a younger family member tells you what they have and brings it to you piping hot while Maman shouts orders out the window. The meal was so simple: fried haddock, white rice, green beans, and water without ice. But it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. Even the French word for haddock brought me delight: aiglefin. I ate everything on my plate, marveling at the tastes and textures with each mouthful, overcome with the beauty of the sunset and the feel of salt drying on my legs. My host family continued on as usual, and I was filled with love for them, this family that had taken me in for a month, a complete stranger, and treated me like their daughter and sister.

Wicked as They Come

That’s when I realized what I needed to do. On the way back to the hotel, I asked if we could please stop by a stationery shop, where I bought a notebook and began listing all the things that I loved.

I love the sun on my skin. I love the wind in my hair. I love the sound of children laughing in the waves.

I love the taste of fried haddock, fresh and hot, served over fluffy white rice.

For the rest of my trip, I kept writing in the book.

I love Nutella on day old baguette. I love sitting under dappled trees by the river. I love pluots. I love sitting by a bonfire in the middle of nowhere, translating Led Zeppelin lyrics for cute French boys.

And I didn’t stop writing in that book when I got back home. The entries changed, but the love remained.

I love walking barefoot in freshly cut grass. I love curling up in cold sheets at bedtime. I love eating frozen Twix bars on a hot summer day.

Phasma

That book got me through one of the hardest years of my life. Even when things got dark, even when I might’ve again considered throwing myself into one sea or another, I could read that book and think of all the things that I had loved, all the things that I did love. I could find some small thing each day to write down. I could go on, knowing that I needed to fill that book completely—and then buy another book and fill that one, too. And I could know in my heart that no matter how hard the present moment might seem, I could find something new to love. If not that moment, if not that day, then tomorrow.

I have never tasted fried haddock again. If I did, I know it wouldn’t taste like it did in Biarritz that summer, in the moment when the world came back full force to remind me why I was alive and to show me, fiercely, that love was worth fighting for.

Truly an inspiring and life changing book. Thank you for sharing the tale. But… I draw the line at pluots.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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