Name Dahlia West
Where are you from
I grew up in a two-stoplight town in Indiana. I have lived in Durham, NC for 15 years.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I have a degree from Purdue University in English Secondary Education, but I do not know where commas go. So THANK GOD I don’t teach your children!
I got married immediately after graduation at age 21 (like not even 30 days later) and have been married ever since (to the same man).
I have scooped dog poop in boarding kennels, been a framer at a chain art store, and been a dog groomer at a big box pet store.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m halfway through the first Rapid City Stories book titled Preacher. My Burnout series was popular, so I continued to write in that “universe.” I have Stark Ink, a four book series set in Rapid City, and a standalone novel called Preacher. I have at least four more Rapid City Stories planned over the next several years.
In 2016 I will debut a new series set in Wyoming. It’s a seven book series about a group of men working on a cattle ranch. The series is called Star Valley.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had been to Urgent Care too many times. Seriously. I love dogs but cutting their hair is not as easy as you’d think. I got bit a lot, had to squeeze anal glands all day, and finally when I took some time off to give birth to my daughter, I thought to myself, “Self, you’d better write a story so you don’t have to get bit by poodles named “Baby” anymore.”
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Honestly? The only reason I consider myself a writer at all is because I write almost every day. Not all of it is good. Not all the words are usable. I may be a writer, but I don’t consider myself an “author” and I actively try not to refer to myself that way if I can help it.
I’m a working writer and that’s how I think of myself…when I think of myself at all.
When I published my first book in October of 2013, I had a modest goal of selling 100 copies before Christmas. Lightning struck and I sold much more than that. It was then that I had a small hope that I might be an actual writer (instead of a dog groomer).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The Kindle. For years I didn’t want one. I didn’t “get” it. I got most of by books from the library and the few authors I bought in physical copy, I collected in hardback: Stephen King, Janet Evanovich. I just didn’t know what I would to with a Kindle.
My Mother-in-Law visited for the holidays and she brought her Kindle and I looked at it. She had, quite literally, thousands of books on it. And she said she’d gotten most of them for free.
Being a poor dog groomer myself, free was good. So my husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas. I started reading a ton more. And I started realizing that some of the books I was reading were self-published! Self-published, I thought. Maybe I could to that.
So, I gave it a whirl.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I do. I read a lot of non-romance books. Stephen King, Anthony Bourdain. They write in this, kind of, confessional style and that seems to be how I write, too. I prefer third person, probably because the majority of books I read are third person.
Also, and this will sound WEIRD, I listen to A LOT of Eminem. And you can see it in my writing style. Internal rhyme schemes, cadence, and punch lines play a big part in my writing style.
I read all my dialogue out loud before I hit publish. And I see all my heavy dialogue scenes in my head like a movie, so some of my writing comes across like a screenplay rather than an actual novel. See the scene in Shooter when Slick finally tells everyone what happened to her.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Plot based, usually. Shooter was a sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan and so the name seemed to fit. As for Burnout, I was doing research on biker bars, and I read about a bar that has a set of double doors on both ends of the building. Once a year, they open up both sets of doors, and allow patrons to drive their hogs through the bar, burning out on the wooden floor as they go. Hence…Burnout.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The Burnout series is very much about making your own family when your blood family doesn’t work out. That’s the central message in every book. In the Stark Ink series, it’s about sticking with your blood family no matter how hard it is.
There are all kinds of families in the world and Burnout and Stark Ink showcase two different kinds.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Oh, boy. I need to caveat this. Please don’t edit this out. I am not interested in Pity Reads. I am not here to make a buck off my life and my family. But this is a subject that I’m open and honest about, because I don’t know any other way to approach it.
My first series, Burnout, has nothing to do with me or my life. I just made it up, it sounded cute and sexy and fun and I went with it.
I will post this timeline ONLY so it can put things in perspective for your readers:
In Sept. 2013 I had been working on Shooter and Tex for about eight months. Some parts were easy to write, some parts were more difficult. Things were going well, though. I was super excited.
At the end of Sept. 2013, I got a shocking call from my mother saying that my father had bone cancer. They were going for scans and would get a prognosis soon.
On Oct. 4, a Friday, I uploaded Shooter (unedited) to Amazon and drove from North Carolina to Indiana where my parents live. I arrived on Sunday night so that I could go with them to the oncologist on Monday to get the prognosis.
On Sunday night, I showed my father Shooter on my Kindle. He was very, very proud of me and I was so happy that he got to see it.
The next day, Monday, the doctor told us he had less than six months to live. It still boggles my mind that modern science can’t be anymore accurate than that (or refuses to be). My mother called a nurse aside, though, who was willing to tell us that he had maybe a month, if that.
He died 10 days later.
For those 10 days, he was in hospice care at home and I handled his care and medication.
Those 10 days changed my life. And my writing.
Tex was mostly done, so I finished it in the wee hours when he slept. After that, though, the writing was harder. I couldn’t get Hawk’s storyline to work. I wanted Tildy to jump off a bridge. I wanted everyone to die. I was not happy. I could not be happy. I could not pretend to be happy.
I powered through the series, getting more and more dark and finally I was at my lowest point. The way I saw it, I had three choices: One, stop writing altogether. But I really, really wanted to be a writer by that point. So, the thought of giving up was heartbreaking.
Two, ignore the problem. But I had been ignoring it for three books and it wasn’t working.
Three, I could write through it.
So, I chose option number 3. I wrote Stark Ink. Which, selfishly, indulgently, is the story of my life (minus the tattoos and motorcycles.) The cancer which killed my father, the Alzheimer’s my grandfather suffered with, my brother’s alcoholism (which eventually killed him) and some other things I don’t talk about openly, all came out in that series.
I got it out of me and onto the page in a last, desperate hope to salvage my writing career before my clinical depression tanked the whole thing.
It was risky. I did it anyway. And I wrote, probably, the best book I will ever hope to write in my career: Stronger (Stark Ink 4).
It’s been seven months since I started publishing Stark Ink, and I don’t say this to be smug or self-important, but almost every week I get a private message from someone who’s gone through at least part of the issues addressed in Stark Ink. And they thank me for writing it.
And that’s all I really wanted. To connect with people.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Stephen King, Kristen Ashley, CJ Roberts, Laurann Dohner, Elizabeth Reyes…
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I find myself in love with all things 20s for reasons I won’t go into (because I could fill a novel with it. In fact, I might someday).
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jordan Marie, definitely. And I’ll say this, because she won’t mind. She ran a blog that asked me to do a takeover back when I had just started. She was so nice. And then she came to me and said, “I wrote a book, too!” And I thought, “Oh, shit.” Because I didn’t know what to expect. What if I hated it? What if it sucked?
Holy Shit, I loved it! And that was such a relief, let me tell you! She didn’t even have to ask me to review her books (and I don’t review many books for professional reasons). I just did it. I found an author who had my style, my thoughts, my opinions, my interests. It was like she was writing just for me.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
A standalone novel set in the Burnout/Stark Ink world called Preacher and a seven-book contemporary cowboy series set in Wyoming called Star Valley.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Oh, boy. If you are in my Dahlia West Reader Group on Facebook, you probably know a lot about me. Like you know that somehow I’m an atheist who reads tarot cards and follows astrology. I am ever-wary of jinxing anything.
I will say that I have been SERIOUSLY blessed and, so far, I have been able to work as a writer, just selling books, without having to go back to dog grooming or other outside work to supplement my income.
That’s all I’ll say. The universe is listening.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In the last book I published? Stronger (Stark Ink 4)? No. Absolutely not. No. That book, hands down, is the single best book I’ve ever written. I will be the first to admit that some of my books were not as stellar as they could have been (Doc Burnout 5, Harder Stark Ink 1). But Stronger is, quite honestly, the best book I will ever write.
Even if you don’t read anything else I write, if someone just read Stronger and though, “Well, that’s what a Dahlia West book is like,” I’d die happy.
That book nearly broke me to write, honestly. But I’m still here.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had always thought writing was “a cool job” but I am from a VERY small town (with two stoplights) where writers did not exist. So, I never really thought of it as more than the kind of thing where you want to be a pirate or an astronaut or something equally unlikely.
I secretly nurtured this flame for a few years until I took one creative writing class in college. I got a C and I was like, “Oh, okay. I suck at this. I should just not think about it anymore.”
So, I didn’t. Mostly. Every few years, I’d get an idea, and I’d scratch it out for a few pages. And then I would tell myself that people like me weren’t writers and so I should just not bother.
It wasn’t until the Kindle came out and self-publishing became so popular that I thought, “Okay. Probably no publishing house would ever buy a book I wrote, but I could publish one myself. And see what happens…” And so I did.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Shooter is hands down my most popular book. It was recommended on the USA Today Happily Ever After Blog and tweeted about by a lot of people. Because of events in my life, I’ve never been able to re-create that “vibe”. I hope that my Work In Progress, Preacher, can re-capture some of that Shooter essence.
Preacher is sort of “Shooter Through the Looking Glass”
Here’s a naughty excerpt:
Preacher, release date Nov. 27th
Jack put Duke through his paces the way Erin worked with King and Bee. They went through all the commands and a few of the hand signals Jack was working on. Satisfied that it had been a productive session, Jack produced the stuffed sock again and threw it across the yard.
The large dog barked once and sped off after it. He snatched it up and brought it back to Jack, dropping it at his feet and wagging his tail maniacally.
“Good boy,” Jack said, giving the goofball a pat on the head.
It was already hot outside, getting sticky in fact from the humidity. Jack sauntered over to the pump at the edge of the yard and tugged his sweaty t-shirt off over his head.
Duke barked again, nosing the handle of the pump and Jack lifted it. The mutt lapped happily at the cold spring water that rushed out of the head.
Jack reached down in between laps and cupped his hands. He splashed the water on his face and soaked his hair. His arms were getting tanned now, thick and brown and a bit more bulky, he thought. Probably from the hay baling.
In Rapid City, he’d never been without his leather jacket, which meant when he stripped down, he was practically see-through. He rolled one arm, then the other, inspecting them in the raging sunlight.
Not bad, he decided.
Duke headed off to the house and as Jack watched him go, his eyes fell upon Erin who was watching him from the screen door of the kitchen. She’d been doing that a lot lately, he’d noticed. At first, it had clearly been just her way of making sure he was working hard, trustworthy, no real threat. Since watching King take Bee, Erin’s gaze had taken on a decidedly different motivation.
Jack shut off the water and wiped his face with his shirt.
Erin stepped back from the door and disappeared into the shadows of the house.
Jack headed that way himself, following the dog. By the time he got to the door, though, Erin was nowhere in the kitchen. He had a feeling he knew just where to look. He lowered himself into one of the kitchen chairs, took off his boots—and his sweaty socks—and headed quietly up the rickety stairs to the second floor.
On the other side of the closed bathroom door, he heard the water from the shower…and heard the sound of Erin opening drawers. He grasped the doorknob, twisted it, and pushed in.
Erin, bent over, rooting through a pile of hair accessories, yelped and jumped up.
Jack grinned at her lazily, though he felt anything but lazy. “Sorry,” he told her. “Guess you forgot to lock the door. In a hurry?”
Erin had ditched her work clothes for a bathrobe and pulled it tighter around herself. “T—taking a shower.”
He reached out and snagged the tie to her robe, which was dangling on the floor. “You forgot this, too.”
Erin jumped back, out of his reach. “You’re…you’re dirty,” she said, pushing his hand away.
Jack grinned wider. “Oh, I’m pretty fucking filthy, Erin. So are you.”
She was up against the wall now, and had no where else to go.
Jack ran a finger down the collar of her bathrobe, trailing her skin just below her collar bone. “All sweaty. Looks like we both need a shower.” With one hand, he pulled off Erin’s robe.
“Hey!” she shrieked.
Jack picked her up around the waist and held her naked body against him as he stepped into the shower. The hot water pooled around his bare feet and he released Erin just long enough push her up against the wall.
She gasped and gripped his biceps, possibly to keep herself from falling, but there was no way Jack would let anything happen to her. He leaned in against her belly, trapping her with his denim-clad erection. He fixed his palms to the wall on either side of her and enjoyed watching as his little bird squirmed.
If she’d gotten past the Hank incident enough to sneak away and jill off every fucking day, then Jack figured she was more than ready to step back into the mating game.
Water cascaded down over both of them, over Jack’s bare chest and Erin’s breasts, which were pressing against him, making them look plump and full. Jack growled in approval. “You look just as fucking good as I thought you would,” he told her. “What are you doing in here, Erin?”
Her eyes flashed angrily, despite the precariousness of her situation. “I told you!” she snapped. “Taking a shower!” Her face flushed, though, and Jack didn’t think it had anything to do with the steam rising up around them.
He grinned. “Don’t worry, then. I’ll get you all nice and clean.”
Jack slid one hand of the shower wall and picked up the soap on the rack to his right. He palmed the bar and pressed it to Erin’s arm, just above the elbow. He ran it slowly up to her shoulder and across her chest, just above her breasts.
“What are you doing in here?” he asked again quietly.
He bent suddenly and took a nipple into his mouth. He nipped it. Hard but not too hard. A tiny punishment.
Erin cried out.
“That’s for lying to me,” he told her. Jack righted himself and ground his pelvis into hers. “You get hot watching me, Erin?”
She didn’t answer. Instead her breath became labored and her eyes widened.
He couldn’t tell if she was turned on or afraid or both. He figured it was a little of both, and yeah, it was wrong, but Jack had never minded that in a woman.
He ran the soap over her breast, washing the nipple he’d just marked. He squeezed and kneaded it until a thick lather foamed through his fingers. Then he moved to the other one.
“Jack,” Erin whispered, but didn’t fight him.
He slid the soap down, across her belly and dipped between her legs. He watched her shiver despite the heat of the water beating down on them. “I think you do get hot, Erin. I think you get yourself all worked up and then you come in here and grab that little toy of yours, don’t you? That poor excuse for a real man’s cock. That thing I’d never let you own if I. Owned. You.”
Jack lathered up both his hands, replaced the soap on the rack, and ran his hands over her hips, then to her firm little bottom. “You need me, Erin?”
She whimpered against his shoulder.
“You need me, then you just let me know,” he demanded, fingertips massaging into her skin. “Don’t come in here, letting a toy do what I’d happily do for you. Understand? Tell me you need me, Erin. Tell me that pussy of yours gets wet whenever you look at me.”
She looked up at him, eyes full of lust, and trepidation. Her mouth opened, those sweet cherry lips parted for him, but she couldn’t seem to get out the words.
Jack didn’t mind. He knew he was overwhelming her. He cupped his hand in the spray, rinsing it off, and filling his palm, then he reached down between her legs again. He parted her lips and rubbed gently. His fingers rasped over her clit, which was already standing at attention. He chuckled into her ear. “Yeah, you need me, little bird.”
Erin gripped his arms and pressed herself against the wall. She spread her legs, though, giving him better access to all those soft, swollen parts, parts he knew were aching for him right now.
He dipped into her, first one finger, to test her. She was tight, so fucking tight. Jack couldn’t remember ever having access to a pussy this tight. A groan escaped his own lips before he had a chance to bite it back. She’d be hell on his cock. Actually, Heaven was probably more accurate.
A tight, clean pussy, of the kind Jack hadn’t fucked in years. Hell, he couldn’t even recall what it felt like to drop a load in anywhere other than a condom.
With his fingers, he pushed and tugged, pinched and rubbed, exploring slowly, possibly enjoying it as much as she was. He slipped a second finger in and scissored them, stretching her.
Erin cried out.
“Pathetic little toy,” Jack chuckled. “Can’t even fill your pussy up for you. No wonder you’re all weak and needy…and humping my hand.”
She gasped as she realized how much she’d lost control.
Jack grinned at her wickedly then pressed his thumb to her clit.
“Come, Erin. Come hard.”
Her fingers dug into his arms and she twisted her hips. “I can’t!” she cried.
Jack took his hand away and replaced it with his cock. With his extra height, he lifted her up off her feet and pinioned her to the wall with his erection. “Come on this,” he growled.
She did. She wrapped her legs around him and ground her pussy into his crotch. Her belly tightened, her breasts heaved, and her little snatch was probably throbbing, though Jack couldn’t feel that because he was too busy throbbing himself. He smiled as he thought about his jeans being soaked with her juices as well as the water from the shower.
When she came down from her high, he lowered her feet to the floor of the shower and held her firmly for a moment before assuring himself that she could stand on her own.
She sagged against the wall, bewildered, but looking satisfied.
“That toy of yours is long gone, Erin. And if you get any smart ideas about buying yourself another one and I find it? I’m going to shove it up your ass, right before I take you over my knee and spank the hell out of you. Understand?”
She sucked in a sharp breath, eyes wide and fastened on him.
“There’s a man in this house now, Erin.”
He took her hand and rested it on his still-raging cock. “I’ll give you what you need. Whatever you need. All you have to do is ask.”
He stepped back, out of the running shower, and planted his bare feet on the rub. As he turned away he heard her say, “What…?”
He glanced back.
She looked nervous, unsure, and swallowed hard just before she spoke…or tried to. “What about…what you need?” She said the last part almost in a whisper, as if she was afraid of what would happen if she said it too loudly in his presence.
A better man would have walked away and taken care of himself in the barn.
Jack wasn’t a better man.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Prose. It’s hard for me. I walk a fine line between being too boring and too purple. Dialogue flows pretty easily for me but prose will trip me up every time.
A good book has maybe one or two AMAZING lines of prose that always stick with you. A great book is filled with them. I’m always hoping for those one or two lines that you carry with you where ever you go.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Tie: Stephen King. He’s the God of metaphor. He can write an entire story about a girl who has telekinesis and kills half the kids in her town. Except it’s not about telekinesis. It’s about being a powerless teenage girl who goes through puberty in a horrifying household with a zealot, abusive mother who locks her in the closet to pray her “filth” away.
Terry Pratchett: That man could make you laugh, cry, and seethe with anger, all in the same sentence. A master craftsman of the English language. RIP.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Interestingly enough, I am going to embark on my first business trip next month. Since Star Valley is set in Wyoming, I’m going to visit for the first time ever to get a feel for the place.
Hopefully, if the writing continues to go well, I’ll get back to Paris. I went there once after high school after working all summer to save money. It was magical. I want to go back.
I don’t go to any book signings. I write under a pen name and I don’t post pics of myself on the internet. I suppose if I ever have enough fans, I’d just say, “Screw it!” and go, but I don’t think I have the readership yet to go sign books for people.
Who would go to see me? Not many people, honestly. And plus, I would just drool over the other authors, and that’s not attractive.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I am having the Burnout series re-done professionally for paperback by mayhemcovercreations.com.
The covers for Stark Ink and my as-yet unpublished Beauty and the Beast series were done by covercreations.com.
My also as-yet unpublished Charm City and IMF series were done by artbykarri.com.
Preacher’s cover, along with the 2016 series Star Valley (and hopefully every other Rapid City Stories novels) are done by rebeleditdesign.com.
I get covers done as soon as I have ideas so that any given series is all done by the same artist. I have enough covers to take me through 2020.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Losing the narrative. Once I get an idea, I can go strong for about 30-40 thousand words before all the “easy” parts are done, and then the narrative stops coming into my head. Then it’s a week (or three) of me staring at the screen and telling myself that I’m going to have to go back to cutting dog hair for Baby the Poodle who hates humans. And scissors. And water. And hugs.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The most important thing I learned is that it is possible to get to The End. Seriously. That may not seem important or useful to people who don’t try to write themselves, but if you’re a struggling writer…you know what I’m sayin’.
I went through so many partial drafts before I finally got to write “The End” one one of them. Don’t give up. Power through it and once you get to the end the first time, it’s a game changer. Something in your mind clicks over and it becomes A Thing You Can Do.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write every day. Read every day. Rinse repeat until it starts “working.”
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for hanging in there. I’ve got some killer stuff in store for you. But it really, really, really helps me if you review my books. Most of my income derives from advertising, but I can’t just buy spots. There’s a selection process that starts with how many reviews you have. They don’t all have to be “good” reviews. Just honest ones.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I can tell you the first book I read on Kindle. It was Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
People rag on melodrama but I love it. Man, give me a heroine who’s been used and abused and is still going strong, I will bawl.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
No. I’m not so good in person. I met Jenny the Bloggess in person and I was a drooling idiot. I will write to people or tweet to people. Maggie Stiefvater has responded to me TWICE and still can’t get over it. In person I would just puke on their shoes.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Umm…not to be contrary, but nothing. My father was cremated, the first in my family, and I prefer that. Let’s say lightning struck, several times, and I was semi-famous when I died. I don’t want a headstone. I want you to go to the places I wrote about and feel me there. I want to have written settings so well that you have to go there and experience them for yourselves. I’ll probably be there. Out of the corner of your eye.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Video games. I have a Playstation, an XBOX, a WII, and a NeoGeo. I also collect Tarot decks. I started for a book idea, to research, fell in love and kept buying them for myself. I have over thirty now.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Anything 20s. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is my new obsession. She’s a great protagonist, smart, confident, sexy, but not all-powerful. I love her. I watch everything from Quentin Tarantino to Wings of the Dove. I love costumes, awesome dialogue, drama, action, mystery.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Eminem, Jazz music, I don’t listen to the radio, so the music I come into contact with is in music and television. (Or in a restaurant, God bless Shazaam.) I tend to hear that, love it, and buy it.
Thai food, Indian food, anything I can’t make myself (which, sadly, is almost everything). Colors: Oranges, Reds.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Open a tea store.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?