This week, Bookish Valhalla has had the honor of participating in Flatiron’s Blog Tour for the upcoming release of HIS HIDEOUS HEART, an anthology collection of retellings inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Not only did we get to review an ARC of the anthology (which you should totally check out, by the way!) , we also had the chance to chat with Dahlia Adler, editor and contributor to the collection.
[Bookish Valhalla]: Again, thanks so much for joining us, Dahlia. It’s truly an honor. Please, tell us a bit about yourself. What has been your publishing journey thus far?
[Adler]: Thanks for having me! It’s been a pretty varied ride! I’ve worked in publishing my entire adult life in a few different roles (I’m currently an Associate Editor at an academic publisher and a blogger for Barnes & Noble), and as an author, I have six novels out (three YAs through Spencer Hill Press and three self-published NAs) and short stories in four anthologies, including His Hideous Heart, which is the first one I’ve edited. I also have another anthology coming out with Flatiron in 2021 called That Way Madness Lies.
[Bookish Valhalla]: What led you to become an editor for His Hideous Heart? What has been your role as editor of this collection?
[Adler]: It was a funny story how this one came about, and definitely an unusual one! I like to pose questions on Twitter from time to time, and I asked what matches people would make if they could pair up the author of their choice to retell the story of their choice. A teacher named Jaclyn said she’d love to see a Poe anthology with [insert a few YA authors here] and I loved the idea but had a different direction in mind for authors. I tweeted that I’d kill to see it with Tiffany Jackson and Stephanie Kuehn on board for the respective stories they’re retelling, and they said they’d be into it, and it just kind of snowballed from there!
My role as an editor has had a lot more components than I think people realize when they consider creating an anthology. I did of course create the lineup, finalize which author was retelling what work of Poe’s, and edit each story as it came in, but I also handled the contracts and finances, purposefully chose the order of the stories, transmitted which versions of the original stories to use, wrote the author’s note and Poe biography, commissioned a reader’s guide, served as the middleman for copyedits and proofreading (which means a lot of transcribing corrections) and arranging the audiobook recordings (yes, it’s largely being read by the authors!), and did the publicity for the book in the same way any author would do for their novel. It’s definitely a labor of love!
[Bookish Valhalla]: As far as we know, this anthology is a collection of retellings based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Which of his stories have inspired these retellings?
[Adler]: “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” were the two that initially inspired by desire for this anthology, and I specifically asked amanda lovelace, who’s well known for poetry, to do “The Raven.” Beyond that, the authors themselves really chose from his entire catalog, and came out with both his best-known work, such as “Annabel Lee,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Purloined Letter,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” and his somewhat lesser-known, including “Metzengerstein,” “Hop-Frog,” “Ligeia,” and “The Oval Portrait.”
[Bookish Valhalla]: Was this collection put together based on a specific theme or thread of thought? In short: What is the inspiration behind this collection of Poe retellings?
[Adler]: It wasn’t based on anything specific because my feeling was that Poe’s themes, settings, and genres would tie the collection together sufficiently—I really just wanted to see YAs masters of thriller (psychological and otherwise), horror, and dark fantasy take on these tales of revenge, murder, longing, grief, and more. But it so far surpassed those expectations, and I think it’s also become a collection that’s excelled at taking classic works and giving them new perspectives both literally and figuratively, seeing how it’s transformed by centering characters from the margins rather than the white men Poe favored as his protagonists. That was a completely organic result of having a brilliant, innovative, and diverse contributor list and it’s definitely something I keep in mind as I put together future anthologies!
[Bookish Valhalla]: Out of all the stories in this collection, which ones did you enjoy reading the most? Or, if you don’t have a favorite (it’s so hard to choose, we know!): what has been the best part of editing this collection?
[Adler]: Honestly, the best part was getting each new story in and just being floored at the wild amount of talent in these contributors. I knew these authors were amazing, because that’s how I chose them, but I couldn’t believe how polished and brilliant the stories were right off the bat. Some of them had almost no edits, and not for lack of trying on my part! And the authors who did have more notes executed their revisions stunningly. It was really cool to see the process of each contribution from start to finish and it genuinely felt like a privilege I couldn’t believe I got to enjoy.
[Bookish Valhalla]: What has been the most challenging aspect of putting this collection together?
[Adler]: You really don’t know how much work it is until you’re in the thick of it! There were things I never considered would be part of the job, like comparing versions of the originals and analyzing origins and copyrights. Also, anytime you’re wrangling twelve other people, no matter how wonderfully responsive and brilliant they are, it’s going to be complicated. You only get one set of pages for each round of editing, and you have to get that out to everyone, get their notes back, and make sure you’re getting everything back onto a single document. It involves making some choices, being careful how you communicate for them, etc. But once you do it, it kind of feels like you can accomplish anything.
[Bookish Valhalla]: What do you hope readers will take away from His Hideous Heart? What themes, motifs, or other messages do you hope they’ll gain from reading this collection?
[Adler]: I really, really hope this allows thousands more readers to see themselves in classic literature that didn’t really make a space for them, that sees how they fit into these famous stories and how universal Poe’s themes are. I really love about Poe how he let people be ugly and do ugly things, and I think there’s something so powerful in how His Hideous Heart took that and let characters who so often have to watch their step and allowed them to be ugly in the same way. And I hope people who are new to Poe see how incredibly relevant he still is, how much his writing still matters, and also get a sense of his contribution to the mystery genre. I don’t think the average reader knows that he’s considered “the father of the detective story,” so I’m thrilled we have a couple of retellings of his Auguste Dupin tales!
[Bookish Valhalla]: If His Hideous Heart had a drink (alcoholic or not) named after it, what would it be called?
[Adler]: The Red Raven, which I imagine to be a Shirley Temple with extra grenadine and a black cherry on top!
Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books.
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”).
You can find His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler is available at: