Dahlia Adler is a busy woman these days. She is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for the B&N Teen Blog by night, and a writer of kissing books at every spare moment in between. She's the author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University series, and a contributor to the upcoming historical young adult anthologies The Radical Element and All Out. She's also the founder of LGBTQReads, a resource dedicated to promoting LGBTQIAP literature for all ages. She lives with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves in New York City. We're so excited that Dahlia was able to find some time to talk with us today. Let's get to it!
James: Hi Dahlia! Thanks so much for joining us today! You've published six books, three for young adults and three for new adults. How are those two genres different? And is there one that you prefer?
Dahlia: Everyone's mileage on this might vary a little bit, and I know the common response is something like "Young Adult is about working toward what you're gonna be when you grow up while New Adult is starting on that journey," and that's true. But I think the big difference to me is how much the characters get to be in charge of their destiny. A funny thing a lot of people don't realize is that my characters are all basically the same age: Ally, Van, and Lizzie are all 18 when you meet them; Reagan and Victoria are 18 by the time you leave them; and Josh, Cait, and Frankie are all 19 when you meet them. But even the YA characters who do their best to shake off the influence of their parents, even the ones who outearn their parents, are still tethered to them in a way that affects the path of their story. On the flip side, the NA MCs might have storylines that revolve entirely around their parents, but they're forced to be the grownups who make their own decisions in those scenarios, and it's their families who have to fall in line. So my preference is really about whichever mood I'm in - do I feel like writing a character desperately struggling for her independence? Or do I feel like writing a character who's just gotten her independence and balances between embracing it and being terrified of it?
James: Out of all your books, which of your characters is the most like you?
Dahlia: As a teen, it was definitely Ally - defined by insecurity, full of grand plans, always feeling like she was in someone else's shadow... but as an adult, I think Lizzie's my kindred spirit. We're both crass, we both get thrown by new situations in a way that might make us act out of character, and we both can't help but like brainy guys who look good in flat-front pants.
James: You've been an outspoken advocate for marginalized voices in YA. Why do you think it is important for marginalized groups to see themselves in what they read?
Dahlia: I think it's a very easy thing as a teen to feel weird, or alienated, or misunderstood, and that's not because those are childish emotions; it's because you only have so much control to take yourself so far, to see so far outside you. Your school, your neighborhood, your summer plans...these things are so rarely really in your control, and that limits who you get to know exists in the world. So if, for example, you were assigned male at birth, but you know you're a girl, but you've never gotten to see that truth in someone else? You've never gotten to know how real that experience is? You've never gotten to know that has a name and a community? That can be terrifying, and it can also be invalidating. You deserve to know what world awaits you, even if you can't get out there just yet. You deserve to know that even if no heroes in the stories around you look like you just yet, they do in the real world. And I think so many of us benefited from, say, coming of age stories, but when they don't feel like you, there's only so much they can do. And everyone should have one. Everyone should get to be the hero. Everyone should get to envision themselves in a romance, or in a life without one. Everyone deserves that validation. And, speaking as an author, I believe everyone deserves to feel like they have stories worth telling.
James: You wrote a sex scene in Under The Lights that really stands out for a lot of readers, including myself. Can you talk a little about that scene and why it's important, not just for the book but for YA in general?
Dahlia: That's probably my favorite scene in any of my books, so I'm glad to hear that! When I wrote it, I'd only read one sex scene between girls in all of YA, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking and decidedly not part of a happily ever after. I wanted there to be one that showed the simple joy of that intimacy, and that felt every bit as much like a "first time" scene as those in hetero books, and, I'll admit it, I wanted queer girls to have a book to dog-ear and hide under their mattresses. But I also wanted it to have the big thing I don't think gets talked about enough in queer YA: how sexual consent between people of the same gender, even when there's no obvious differential in physical power dynamic, is still extremely important. It's interesting because it's really not very different from a hetero sex scene in YA at all, but I think that's what made it so important. And since its publication, I'm really thrilled to see how much more common it's becoming to have sex scenes between girls on the page.
James: So what can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Dahlia: This year brought an interesting challenge in that I got asked to contribute to two anthologies, which meant writing short stories for the first time in...ten years, maybe? More? "Daughter of the Book" is my contribution to The Radical Element, and it's about an Orthodox Jewish girl in Savannah in the early 19th century (the whole collection is about girls in American history), and "Molly's Lips" is my story for the all-queer historical anthology All Out. (If you can guess what that one's about, you might have the same favorite band I do.) Both of those will be out in 2018. Until those come out, I'm sort of dancing between things, particularly a YA lesbian sports romance, a gay YA contemporary novel based on the biblical story of David and Jonathan, and a lesbian NA romance set at a bachelorette party in Iceland.
James: All right, speed round! But we're going to do it with a special Dahlia twist! You've developed quite the reputation in the YA community for giving some pretty spot-on book recommendations, both on your Twitter page and on your blog posts over at Barnes and Noble Teen. But I'm here to test the limits of your rec-ing power. Let's see what books you'd rec...
Dahlia: Ooh, love this! Let's see how I do:
For the teen who dressed up like Eleven from Stranger Things? The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid
For the people who skipped Thanksgiving so they could watch Gilmore Girls? Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
For someone who's binge-watching all of Jane The Virgin for the third time? The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
For my fellow Hamilton nerds? Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
For someone who's got Bey's Lemonade on non-stop? Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
James: Wow! My TBR just got longer for sure! Thanks so much for joining us today, Dahlia! Wishing you a wonderful new year!
That's it for today's interview with Dahlia. But if you have any questions for Dahlia or want to let her know how her books have impacted you, be sure to check out her website and reach out to her on Twitter. And be sure to stay tuned to our Twitter for an upcoming giveaway featured a signed book from Dahlia herself!
Beyond The Bio will resume on January 8th, when we'll be interviewing Francesca Zappia. See you then!