Interview With an Author: Dahlia Adler

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Dahlia Adler and her book His Hideous Heart

Dahlia Adler is an associate editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of young adult and new adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books. Her latest book is His Hideous Heart, a collection of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories reimagined by some of today’s best YA authors and she recently agreed to talk about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for His Hideous Heart?

All credit for my inspiration goes to a teacher named Jaclyn to whom the book is dedicated in fact! The collection came about when I posed a question on Twitter asking who readers would match up if they could pair any author to retell any story, and she responded that she’d love to see a Poe anthology with contributions by certain authors. I loved the idea but had some very different authors in mind, and it just spun off from there!

What was your process for putting together this collection? Did you reach out to specific authors regarding specific stories or did you approach it in a different way?

Since the collection started to come together publicly on Twitter, I had a few authors come to me that way. Once I realized this was actually going to happen, I jumped offline and contacted the rest of my dream contributors, and that’s how the lineup came to be. It was only in my initial tweet that I paired up authors myself—I specifically said that I envisioned it done with Tiffany Jackson doing The Cask of Amontillado and Stephanie Kuehn doing The Tell-Tale Heart. Otherwise, except for asking poet Amanda Lovelace to take on The Raven, I simply asked the contributors to send me their top-choice stories, and thankfully, there was almost no overlap.

You wrote a reimagined version of Ligeia for the collection. Is that your favorite Poe story? If not, what is?

It certainly wasn’t when the collection first came about; The Cask of Amontillado was really my number one. But now that I look at Ligeia through a different lens, it certainly has special meaning for me!

Why do you think Poe, and his works, are as popular today, if not more so than when he was alive, 170 years after his death?

Poe’s work revolves around such perpetually relevant themes, especially in the realm of the darkness of humanity, and I think it’s something that’s always a little exciting to explore. He writes about the natures we fear acknowledging we possess, which makes them all the more fun to work with creatively. I think we love to test our limits and his work allows us to do that, to see what madness and a thirst for revenge or a quest for the truth can make us do. It’s a little funny to say, but as we see the rise of the domestic thriller in adult readership, I think it comes from a lot of the same space. We’re fascinated by how ugly we can get and what lengths we’ll go to hide it.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I tend to read books in one shot, so they rarely make it to my nightstand! But I’m currently reading I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kim Jones and Gilly Segal, and up on deck are Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Crier’s War by Nina Varela, and Caster by Elsie Chapman.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I loved reading this book that felt so big and important but centered on a girl who was my age and was just an ordinary girl of sorts. Historical fiction was also very much for favorite for a long time, and it put me in that time and place so well. (Granted, I’m from the NYC suburbs, so it didn’t take much to put me in that place, but I think I loved it all the more for that.)

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Thankfully not! As the youngest child by a number of years, and an early reader, I was constantly reading wholly inappropriate books, and I’m so grateful to my parents that they never blinked at any of it.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

As far as influence, certainly Judy Blume. As someone who writes books for teens, usually centered on teen girls, there’s no question I view her as someone who made me feel like there was such strong merit in that, literary and otherwise. Summer Sisters, in particular, was really influential to me in showing me that there was a way to present relationships between girls that clarified they weren’t nearly as mundane as they might look to outsiders.

Megan McCafferty—her Sloppy Firsts was probably the first book that made me feel like a voice like mine, a brain like mine, was welcome for teen characters. I’d been growing up on these very packaged series books like Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High and part of why I loved them is that they were so foreign to me in their voices and in their lives, but Sloppy Firsts was sort of a revelation in that part of me could be the main character too.

Courtney Summers—one of my absolute favorite authors who knows how to give the quietest characters the sharpest, boldest voices.

Stephanie Kuehn—she writes these incredible psychological thrillers that feel really true to teen characters and I think beautifully and skillfully portray just how much trauma and craftiness are both possible from so young.

Stacey Lee—probably the author who mostly writes the kinds of books I loved reading as a teen, back when I devoured historical fiction. Her work is so beautiful and brilliant and different because she writes Chinese American protagonists in American history, which isn’t a perspective I got to read much as a kid. So I get the same kind of great writing style and well-done settings I loved in books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but from what feels to me like a fresh angle.

What is a book you've faked reading?

Jane Eyre. I’m so sorry. I just couldn’t do it. I am forever grateful to my friend Sasha for giving me a synopsis on the bus to school so I could get a 96 on my test on it anyway.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

The Temptress Four by Gaby Triana. I’ve owned it for years and I haven’t read it yet, but I just love the tropical drink aesthetic so much.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Not in an emotional or spiritual way, but in a technical sense, Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas can take some credit there. It’s a book I really love and felt wasn’t getting enough attention when it was published, so I think it’s the first traditionally published book I really fought for with everything I had as a blogger and general social media bookish loudmouth, and it was amazing to watch it make a difference. When I was approached to blog for Barnes & Noble, that was the book I ended up hinging my first post on, and now I’ve been there for over five years.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

A new one every month or so! Right now I’m obsessed with getting everyone ready for The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, and before that I was spreading the gospel of Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, and at times it’s Final Draft by Riley Redgate or Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake or The Wicker King by K. Ancrum or Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston or Pointe by Brandy Colbert or Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig or The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes or Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones. But my most tried-and-true is still Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, because it’s my most guaranteed slump-buster. It’s just the most brilliant execution of a mixed-media thriller.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Maybe The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I loved it so much again the first time that I read it again the very next day.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

A free day in Manhattan in which I visit a bunch of bookstores with my author friends and have fancy coffee with lots of macarons and end with a fancy dinner with my husband somewhere and then get home just in time to read my kid to sleep is pretty much it. I’m laughably simple. Though I wouldn’t say no to having this exact same day in, say, Amsterdam.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

If you were given control of your dream bookish project, what would it be? Of course, now that I’ve gotten to do His Hideous Heart, any other answer feels a little lukewarm—how am I going to out dream this??—so now I just dream of doing this endlessly, having a whole shelf full of these beautiful anthologies in classrooms and libraries and on people’s bookshelves. And thankfully, that dream is coming along nicely!

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a new contemporary YA manuscript called Cool for the Summer, and I’m also in the process of putting together my next anthology! Similar to His Hideous Heart, it’s a collection of reimaginings for a young adult audience, but in this case, the source material is the work of Shakespeare. It’s called That Way Madness Lies, and it will hopefully be releasing from Flatiron Books in the spring of 2021, so keep an eye out!

Book cover for His Hideous Heart: Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe's Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined
His Hideous Heart: Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe's Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined
Adler, Dahlia

Young and New Adult author & editor Dahlia Adler provides some YA authors the opportunity to reimagine thirteen of Poe’s best known works. The results are stories with periods that range from Poe’s lifetime to the near future and characters that are as inclusive and diverse as the original stories can be homogenous.

This is a must-read collection for fans of Poe and his works. While this collection is being targeted at Young Adult readers, it could be enjoyed by any Poe enthusiast. It could also be a great introduction for someone unfamiliar with Poe’s short stories and poetry because all of the original versions of the reimagined titles are included in the collection.

His Hideous Heart is a marvelous celebration of not only the groundbreaking and enduring work of Edgar Allan Poe, but also this group of new authors that took up the challenge of recreating his timeless tales