A warm welcome to Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, co authors of the July 17 released fairytale farce extraordinaire Kill the Farm Boy. Kevin kindly returns to the FanLit interview seat where we’ve spoken to him in the past about his fabulous IRON DRUID series.
Taya: Tell us about the genesis of Kill the Farm Boy. Whose idea was the premise and how did it evolve?
Kevin: Delilah and I were in the Dallas airport after a signing and killing time before our flights in a seedy barbecue joint. We were discussing how it would be fun to do an anthology of trope-flipping fantasy and I said we should “kill the farm boy.” That sounded like fun and we pursued the anthology idea for a while but it kind of died because anthologies are a lot of work.
Delilah: And we’re very lazy, especially when it comes to math. So I emailed Kevin and suggested we just write it together. That’s half the work per book!
I’ve always been curious about how Co-authors divide their labor. (And I’m sure it varies project to project.) How did you work together?
Kevin: We create characters and rough outlines together, usually in the presence of food and drink and good times, and then we trade off writing chapters. We’ll each write characters created by the other as well as characters we created; there’s no ownership of characters or darlings, so it’s a true partnership.
Delilah: Yep! So we do a rough 30-chapter outline and then begin writing. One person writes a chapter and sends it to the other person, who edits the chapter and makes comments like OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WENT THERE, and TEE HEE THAT IS BRILLIANT. And then they write their next chapter and send it back. The books come together pretty quickly and organically. I think the key is working with someone you like and trust, whose writing you admire and whose skills are on a similar level as yours. And then you just remove your ego and dive in.
Between the two of you, who is the most brutal editor? Details about your dead count?
Kevin: I don’t think either of us are brutal; I think we’re both conscious that the editing process creates a great hybrid voice that works well. But I’d say that because we have different processes, I tend to edit more in the initial stages and Delilah edits more in later stages.
Delilah: Agree. Kevin is great with consistency and timeline issues and also keeps me in line regarding how the story corresponds to the map. I tend to come in later and add silly jokes and lines of dialogue. We don’t keep a dead count, though, and any major characters we kill are discussed beforehand. It’s one thing to leave your writing partner with a fun cliffhanger they can build on, but we’re not in it for cruelty.
Do you have a favorite lines or short scenes you would like to share with us here?
Kevin: I really like the bit where the party is saved from certain death by an epic sneeze. And the fact that the elves live in the Morningwood so that whole chapter is essentially collection of elf boner jokes.
Delilah: Anything with Gustave in it. He’s essentially the straight man who calls the book out on its ridiculousness while… also being ridiculous. As soon as he said, “Y’all are intense,” it just set the tone for the entire series.
Kill the Farmboy pokes fun at anything fairy tale. Is there anything to take seriously?
Kevin: Absolutely. In Kill the Farm Boy, we’re taking aim at the white male power fantasy in which white males of humble origins are secretly special somehow and deserving of special attention and privileges. Decades of stories like that have contributed (along with systemic white supremacy) to the creation of a pretty fragile and tetchy generation of men who react violently when confronted with evidence that they’re no more special than anyone else.
Delilah: That’s part of our goal—to poke fun at the tropes of the Fantasy genre that don’t reflect today’s world. Our warrior in the chain mail bikini isn’t sexualized. The fairies and dryads aren’t there as hot women to be abused. The dark lord isn’t all powerful. White and straight is not the default. I would say we take character seriously—motivation, agency, and the very real emotions of secondary characters who are often neglected to boost the hero’s journey. The love story between Fia and Argabella, for example, is very real and treated with respect and tenderness.
Can you tell us anything about future projects, collaborations or individual work?
Kevin: Book two of the Tales of Pell is No Country for Old Gnomes and that will be out next April. I’m working on book two of the SEVEN KENNINGS trilogy now, A Blight of Blackwings, and I’ll have an Oberon’s Meaty Mystery coming out in February in an anthology called Death & Honey with Delilah and Chuck Wendig. Also the Iron Druid comics are out now and folks can enjoy that.
Delilah: And No Country for Old Gnomes is now up for pre-order—and has a gorgeous cover by artist Craig Phillips. Pell Book 3, The Princess Beard, will be out sometime after that. As for me, October brings Treason of Hawks, the fourth and last book in my Shadow series, which I write as Lila Bowen. And also my next creator-owned comic, Sparrowhawk, which is out from BOOM! Studios. November should see the first issue of my all-ages Spider-Man comic with artist Fico Ossio, out from IDW and Marvel. And my story in Death & Honey will be Grist of Bees, which is set in my Shadow world.
So I’m going to call this question: Open Mic, for both of you to respond to. Please use it judiciously.
Kevin: Llamataurs—a llama neck and head on a human body—are simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.
Delilah: If you want to play around in Pell, visit TalesofPell.com, check out Kevin’s amazing map, and try the Give Me Pell name generator. You get to choose female, male, or non-binary plus your species, and it gives you a name and a little backstory. You can’t be a llamataur, though. They don’t have names. But they do spit.
Thank you so much for providing this interview. Best of luck with this work and many more in the future!