Editor Lauren T. Davila featured a few authors in both of her Outland anthologies: When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead (out now) and To Root Somewhere Beautiful (currently on Kickstarter). One of these is D.C. Dador, a Filipino American SFF author whose stories are about finding love in dark places. In the first, Dador's story, "The Veil and the Cord," is a chilling tale of a wedding ceremony that carries the tone of a funeral; in To Root Somewhere Beautiful, Dador's action-packed space opera is as much about a lost love as it is about saving a planet.
We chatted with D.C. about her writing, for these anthologies and beyond!
Outland: What’s it like to write stories in these different genres?
D.C.: Since I write stories featuring love in dark places it was natural for me to incorporate that theme into the gothic and horror genres of the two anthologies. I can’t seem to write stories without a touch of horror or the supernatural and I can’t seem to write SFF without a touch of romance. I also love meshing genres. Give me vampires, dystopia or space and I’ll make it into a rom com!
Outland: What is it like to go into these genres that have preconceived notions and ideas and tropes and try to write something new?
D.C.: I felt super empowered by these anthologies. I approached my stories with a big "why not?" Why not set this atmospheric gothic story retelling in the Philippines in the 19th century in an old village church? And what does it look like incorporating Filipino traditions within the story’s wedding-slash-funeral? Or in my eco-horror, why not make my Ripley-inspired final girl Filipino and how does her upbringing impact how she, and only she, can defeat the baddies. (Can’t wait for you to find out!)
I think the genre’s preconceived notions are the result of gatekeepers who publish and produce the books that make it onto the bookshelves and our screens. It’s not that underrepresented perspectives don’t exist, but they don’t get turned into the books that make it into readers hands.
The world has billions of people full of rich history and culture so why not give these genres a fresh take? I give lots of kudos to Outland for picking up both anthologies, which amplify underrepresented voices in the genres we all love and hold dear.
Outland: Also, specific voices have often been published in these genres—what is it like to write in them for you?
D.C.: Riffing off my previous response about gatekeepers, when I began writing I was worried that incorporating my heritage into stories wouldn’t be accepted by publishers. This concern was based on what I’ve seen on bookshelves i.e., lots of stories featuring characters who don’t look like me. However, as I began to grow as a writer, I realized that incorporating my background into my stories was not only personally fulfilling, but also made them stronger.
A great piece of writing advice I learned along the way is the more specific and personal a story, the more universal it is to readers. It seems contradictory, but it makes sense. For example, though I don’t share much in common about a story with a brujo trans-boy who falls in love with a ghost he’s summoned, I’m still personally invested because his plight to be “accepted and seen” is universal. The deeper we read and experience a character’s point of view the more we can identify with their common humanity. (Or it's why we all identify with most Taylor Swift songs.)
And since I like to write character-driven stories the background of my characters always impacts my plots in a unique way that is authentic to me. And that’s another great piece of advice I love: write stories that only you can write. In that spirit, I know both anthologies are filled with fresh and exciting tales that bring unique perspectives of voices not often heard from in the gothic and horror genres. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps!
Outland: What has your experience been in being a part of both these anthologies?
D.C.: If you could see our group chat, you’d see an endless amount of heart emojis, celebration confetti, and my personal favorite: the laugh-cry emoji (how writers feel most days). Seriously, I’ve been pinching myself over how lucky I am to be included among our group of TALENTED and supportive writers. Sharing cover space with cool kids like Alex Brown, Amparo Ortiz, Laura Southern, Katalina Watts, Nisha Addleman, Gerardo J. Mercado, Michelle Melon, A.M. Perez, Desiree Rodriguez (I really just want to list everyone, but sadly I have a word count limit) has been a real treat!
The anthologies have brought an amazing group of creators from diverse backgrounds who support one another and believe in the importance of lifting one another up. And this spirit is completely embodied in editor Lauren T. Davila. Lauren is a sharp and talented editor with an eye for making our stories shine. She’s a visionary and creative force for spearheading multiple anthologies, while all the while tirelessly advocating for diverse books. She doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. Lauren’s also an amazing friend to the entire writing community. So yeah. I’m a fan :)
I’d happily throw back a cold one with any of my fellow contributors, and who knows? Maybe we throw a huge gothic and horror-themed ball in a dark castle atop a misty cliff one day and do just that? #GothicAuthorBall
D.C. Dador, who also writes as Celeste Dador, enjoys weaving her heritage into her tales. Growing up, she accidentally disturbed a dwende’s ant hill home and suffered the consequences when the spiteful spirit cursed her with hair loss. Fortunately, one of her Filipino aunties was able to find a cure!
D.C. was a finalist on the reality TV show “America’s Next Great Author” produced by Kwame Alexander and the Book Doctors. She’s an alumni of the Author Mentor Match, Avengers of Colour, and WriteMentor programs and a writing conference co-chair for SCBWI’s Mid-Atlantic Region. D.C. resides in Virginia where she enjoys exploring historic (sometimes haunted) sites with her family.