Some Thoughts with ... Delilah Waan
I am a literal bookworm who alphabetically devours my way through the shelves at my local library.
My preferred diet is fantasy epics—full of complex intrigue, morally ambiguous characters and tragic ends—though I do enjoy the occasional quippy, fast-paced action adventure. (Sappy romances, however, give me indigestion.)
When I’m not binge-reading the next doorstopper on my TBR or engaging in frantic theory crafting in between Brandon Sanderson and Will Wight book releases, I like to spit bars in my best Angelica Schuyler impression and walk my cat.
Welcome to another post from my favourite section of the website. Today we get to interview Delilah Waan, author of Petition, the first book in the Resonance Crystal Legacy series.
Let's dive in!
1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
I had a baby.
No, really: I got into self-publishing because I wanted to raise my daughter as bilingual. It was a real shock to discover that most Chinese children’s picture books were written in Simplified Chinese for Mandarin speakers. The few I could find written in Traditional Chinese were vocabulary lists pretending to be stories and none of them were written in colloquial Cantonese (the spoken form of Cantonese, which is different from the formal written Chinese).
Passing on a second language is hard enough without lacking something as basic as books. I was in Facebook groups with other parents desperately looking for Cantonese books. There are over 85 million Cantonese speakers worldwide; it’s one of the most common Chinese languages, especially among diaspora families. If I wanted to encourage my daughter to read and speak in Cantonese, I needed books as fun and whimsical, and heart-warming as her English ones.
Yet there were no Cantonese picture books on the market. A lot of families were making do with DIY home translations or using Mandarin books.
Clearly, no traditional publisher was or would be interested—and this bothered me on so many levels.
In my previous corporate life, I was a Chartered Accountant. I worked at a Big 4 accounting firm auditing tech, media, and entertainment businesses. I had a number of big name traditional publishers as clients so I understood the publishing industry fairly well before Amazon and print-on-demand technologies came along and made self-publishing widely accessible. Once I identified the market gap, it was a very short step to taking the plunge into self-publishing.
2.- Petition is your first novel (if I’m not wrong), which part of the writing process did you find the most difficult?
It’s actually the second I’ve written but the first original novel. (My first novel was a fix fic—a kind of fanfiction where you “fix” all of the issues you have with the canon.)
The most difficult part is whichever part of the process I’m currently up to. If I’m outlining, I wish I was revising. (It’s so much easier to figure out what’s wrong and fix it instead of coming up with something entirely new.) If I’m writing new prose, I wish I was working on line edits. (It’s so much easier to make existing words better than to put new ones down on a blank page.) If I’m revising, I wish I was writing something new. (It’s so much easier to start over instead of trying to make a million broken bits work together.)
Basically, I would always rather be doing any other bit of writing than whatever writing I’m currently doing.
3.- How does the Resonance system work?
The core idea is that emotions resonate through time and space.
Most sapient creatures are born with some level of resonance ability and exercise it intuitively. If they want to, they can train and develop that ability further.
The majority of the resonance disciplines deal with sensing and manipulating emotions in the present but some are future-focused and some are about delving into the past.
4.- From all the characters you created for this novel, who became your favourite?
I don’t have one!
The most surprising character was Lhorne: he didn’t exist in the outline. At all. But if I had to guess at the fan favorite, it’s probably either Dharyas or Ghardon.
5.- What inspired you into creating the world of Petition?
The idea for the magic system came first. I was doing a lot of reading about the blockchain and it made me wonder. What if the truth was an absolute law of nature, like gravity? Why do we place such a great value on witnessing something first-hand? I think it’s because we feel it.
The Houses essentially operate like professional services firms. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life working in consulting firms and the drama fuelling these places makes excellent fodder for fiction. The kind that you’d have to pare back and tone down because if you used the exact plot beats as they unfolded in real life nobody would think it plausible.
While the setting and culture are Asian-inspired, none of the nations in the setting are analogs to real-world nations. I wanted something that wasn’t the default of “medieval Western Europe” but I didn’t want to do fantasy not-China or not-Japan, etc. That’s already been done by other authors—and done far better than I ever could. In addition, culture is deeper than aesthetics; it lies in tightly-held beliefs and orientation of values and expectations for standards of behavior.
I wanted to present a world that someone with a similar cultural heritage to me would immediately recognize as familiar without landing in the immersion-breaking uncanny valley. So I don’t draw on real-world languages or maps for character and place names, and I don’t lean too heavily on descriptions of physical attributes or objects and settings to convey “Asian-inspired”. Mostly, I try to let it come through the way characters perceive and act. It’s been very interesting to see how readers react to this approach.
6.- I find the story of Rahule and her family one that you can empathize with, with all the sacrifices made by her parents to give her a future. Why did you decide to use this theme as one of the main ones in your history?
Themes are interesting.
Seth Dickinson’s The Masquerade series—also better known by the title of its first book, The Traitor Baru Cormorant—is a complex work with complex themes. I stumbled across Dickinson’s blog shortly after being emotionally devastated by the book. His blog article, “The secret design of The Traitor Baru Cormorant”, then blew me away. I will never cease being in complete awe at the level of forethought Dickinson puts into crafting his world, the narrative, Baru’s journey—everything.
Meanwhile, I’m over here having to confess that there was no clever intent or grand design behind the themes in Petition. It just…happened.
7.- Scaling into the social ladder is one of the present themes in this novel. What made you choose it as one of the used in your novel?
Same as above. I’m sorry; I wish I had a better answer. I’ll elaborate more to try and shed some light as to why I don’t.
For me, a story is all about the what-ifs and following those what-ifs to their conclusion. Theme/s develop organically during the writing process and become evident afterward; I don’t think I could write it convincingly if I did the reverse.
When I write I pick a POV and try to establish that POV as quickly as possible. The first line has to be unique to them and it has to lead to the next line and the line after that and all the lines beyond in a seamless emotional progression until we get to the end. To do that, I have to feel what my characters feel and understand why.
So in thinking about Petition, which is Rahelu’s story:
Why do people uproot themselves from their homeland and move to foreign country where they have nothing and know no one and don’t speak the language? Because they want a better future for their child/ren. What does it mean then to be the child in that equation? How do you repay that debt to your family? What if you can’t? What are the consequences? Why does it matter if you fail? At what point would that debt be considered repaid—can it ever be fully repaid? When do you stop owing your life and what you are and who you are to those who came before?
These are the existential questions Rahelu grapples with; their weight drives her emotional reactions and her decision-making. Sacrifice—familial and individual—in the pursuit of success is something that emerges naturally from trying to answer those questions.
8.- What can we expect from Delilah Waan in the future?
Supplicant, the sequel to Petition, will be coming out in 2023. I’m currently scoping the extent of my alpha revisions of the manuscript (which I hope to finalize tomorrow) so I can begin revisions this week.
The best place to get updates is via my website where I have progress bars reporting my progress or subscribe to my newsletter where I give more detailed updates. And if you want more extras or behind-the-scenes details, I have a series of annotations on my website that dig deeper into the decisions I made while writing and publishing the book.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to be featured in this interview. Thank you so much for inviting me and for reading my book!