Interview with Dahlia Adler

When I was a teen, Edgar Allan Poe creeped me out, but in the most delightful way. I can’t wait to dive into this new anthology His Hideous Heart. An amazing group of authors have re-imagined his stories and now the collection is out there in the world waiting for readers to experience the chills. Today, the editor and contributing author, Dahlia Adler, is here to share about this intriguing collection and her work in publishing.


His Hideous Heart: Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).


As a YA author, editor, and blogger with family relationships to maintain, could you share a few things you’ve learned about balancing many roles?
The number one thing I’ve learned is honestly that balance is kind of a myth. There’s no way to do everything perfectly and make everyone happy. What’s worked for me is choosing what my priority will be at any given time and then backburnering things as possible. So, for example, when I knew I really wanted to finish writing a novel, I took a hiatus from blogging inasmuch was possible and took advantage of the fact that my in-laws come over every Sunday to see my child and put my butt in the chair for as solid a time block (usually 3-4 hours with of course some interruptions) on Sunday mornings as possible until I was done. When I take on extra blogging, it means writing is gonna get backburnered. Consistency is important and so is being firm on your boundaries.


What should we be expecting with His Hideous Heart — mild creepiness, full on terror, or something more in between?
It really does run a gamut, in the same way I don’t think everyone realizes Poe’s story did. In addition to the Gothic horror he’s known for, he’s also called the father of the modern detective story, and of course some of his works were far more melancholy than terrifying. I think all of his different facets are captured really well in the collection. Certainly, though, even in the ones with happy endings, you’re not gonna find sunny beach reads!


Why do you think Poe’s stories continue to fascinate readers after so many years?
Because his themes have never stopped being relevant or interesting. They’re so many of the darkest parts of humanity that we don’t necessarily get to live out; they’re some of our worst fantasies. Getting to live them out through literature, getting to take action against someone who drives us nuts or mourn ourselves into oblivion, is both a safe and satisfying way to explore them. It takes a brave writer to put that out into the world and I think it takes brave writes to adapt them and say, “Here’s how we’re still feeling those things in our current world.”


How did you choose which story you would re-imagine?
Well first off, I took a backseat to the others, because they’re all masters of dark fantasy or thrillers or horror and I am…not exactly known for any of those things! So I was only selecting from what they did not. And then from there, “Ligeia” was such an easy choice, because I knew I was going to stick my romantic contemporary strengths as best I could, and I saw immediately how that story would play out if I did. It didn’t even feel like a selection process; the idea was just…there, waiting for me to grab it.


What were some of the challenges and rewards of editing an anthology?
It’s always a challenge to corral that many authors, and it’s just logistically complicated. There are a lot of contracts and payments and agent negotiations and I don’t think people realize that it’s very rare for editors not to be responsible for that (as opposed to publishers). So that in itself is a lot of work before you even get to the editing, deadline enforcing, mapping over everyone’s copyediting and proofreading corrections, etc. But I have so much natural curiosity about the industry, especially as someone who’s been working in it for over a decade, that I really wanted to learn how more things on this side work, so that was actually a big reward for me! As, of course, is getting to read all these amazing stories early and working with such amazing authors. I really could not have asked for better.


What was the process for finding contributors?
This actually half happened on Twitter, where the idea arose and people I think are fantastic in these genres chimed in that they’d be interested, and then half happened in email, when I realized this project was actually going to happen and I wanted to make sure it had as many of my favorites as possible. Honestly, creating lineups is my favorite part of anthologies, so I just went straight to the authors I absolutely love who write in Poe’s genres and asked them to join up. It was thankfully easy!


Could you share a few books you’ve been recommending lately?
ALWAYS. I’ve had a lot of reason to recommend By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery, which has the college setting I know a lot of YA readers are looking for, plus a killer voice, great romance, awesome friend group, and covers really relevant topics. Another upcoming favorite is The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, which is a Sapphic reimaginging of Twelfth Night that I always pitch as perfect for fans of The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum and How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, both of which I love. As part of my Patreon for LGBTQReads, I have sort of a “book concierge” service, where I help readers find the perfect queer book for them, and so far Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi and Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan are in the lead over there; all hail the f/f YA Rom Com! And, obviously I’ve been getting some Horror/Spooky requests too, thanks to both His Hideous Heart and the fall season being upon us, and my standby faves there are The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco, Mary by Hillary Monahan, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, As I Descended by Robin Talley, and Wilder Girls by Rory Power.


Just for fun, since you are involved with publishing in a variety of roles, would you share one of your strangest experiences in the industry?
Oh man, it’s really hard not to respond to this with anything I…shouldn’t. But I’ll go with an embarrassing one that also involves one of the only times I have ever lied at work. My first job out of college, I was an Editorial Assistant at Simon & Schuster. There was an event for an Entourage book, by which, yes, I do mean a show based on the horrid show I was extremely into once upon a time and that fully influenced the character of Josh Chester in my Daylight Falls duology, but I digress. Anyway, I went to the event, which was about 10-15 blocks away from the office, and I reallllly wanted a signed copy, but I also reallllly didn’t want to take more than an hour for lunch because I was terrified of my boss. And since I worked there, I knew the name of the editor on the book, and I maybe used that to pretend I was her assistant so I could skip the whole line and then get my book signed. MAYBE. I cannot confirm or deny.


Thanks so much for sharing with Rich in Color. We look forward to reading these shivery tales.
Thank you so much for having me!!

Photo Credit Maggie Hall

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens and LGBTQ Reads by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her novels include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and she is the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart (Flatiron Books, 2019) and That Way Madness Lies (Flatiron Books, 2021). Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @MissDahlELama.