When I first heard about this YA series from D.K. Dailey, I was immediately intrigued by its premise. The first two books in the series are now available for purchase, and are especially relevant in the current times we live in:
Finding out who you are has never been so deadly.
In the ruins of San Francisco California, survivors of an epidemic that swept the nation have pooled inside the cities, restructuring life as we know it. Now it’s the strong against the weak; the rich Golden against the poor Dreg.
The Golden govern everything. Living above the city in four sectors, they look down on the Dreg slums. Against all odds, the Dreg have become survivors. Unable to afford proper care, their immune systems have adapted to protect them against the diseases now infecting the Golden.
Seventeen-year-old Kade Shaw is a privileged Golden. Kade and his family have the best money can buy, living in the wealthiest area of Sector One. A bored rich kid, Kade’s tired of his mundane life, and regularly sneaks out to the skate park and the slums to take risks and feel alive–maybe even kiss a Dreg girl or two. Until one night at an illegal party, everything goes horribly wrong.
When the cops accuse Kade of falsifying his Golden status, an offense that carries a death sentence, he is forced to question his true heritage after his powerful parents won’t save him. Then, on the eve of his execution, he’s rescued by a guerilla Dreg group–but why? What do they want from him? As he lives with them in squalor, trained in raiding for food, fighting, and how to survive, he slowly gains respect for the Dreg people, seeing them as more than “other”, confusing the age-old lines of good and bad. But despite his infatuation with Saya, a beautiful Dreg girl, Kade still wants his old life back.
In the brewing deadly war between rich and the poor, Kade must make a choice between fighting for his Golden status or helping the Dregs who saved his life. Golden or Dreg?
Only the Dreg survive.
After a particularly dangerous mission, which not only brought back Saya’s past but changed Kade’s future, Kade is at a crossroads.
A group called the Revisionists has joined Kade’s rebel Dregs to help them care for their sick but their support comes at a price. After Kade meets another Dreg leader, Kahina, he learns that she has ties to people from his past and holds secrets imperative to Kade finding out about his true heritage.
When Kade is asked to go on another mission, he refuses, and says he won’t do anything for free anymore—he wants a favor from the rebels. The leaders, of course, want a favor in return. Torn, Kade agrees. He needs their help but knows he can’t trust all of them. The deeper Kade digs into his past, the more his beliefs collapse around him and it becomes clear that there might be only one person who can help him.
As each mission proves more dangerous and deadly, traitors are revealed, and friends are lost. Though lives depend on his success and his ability to stay alive, Kade’s one goal might not be achievable. And that truly scares him to death.
How has your writing process changed since you first started?
I think my process changes all the time. I don’t feel the same every day, so why should I stick to one routine? My main routine is simple – just write. No excuses, no procrastinating, just write. However, a few things have remained the same in that routine and I made a list because I like lists.
1. I write or do something writing-related every day (reading, plotting, goal-setting, even thinking and daydreaming counts…).
2. I’m a plotter but I also give myself free rein to change things as needed. So I always plot the scenes out beforehand and the general direction of the novel.
3. I’m an avid goal setter and I shoot for the moon by setting goals a little out of reach because it motivates me to get stuff done. I follow that saying that goes something like shoot for the moon then you’ll at least be among the stars.
4. I have encouraging friends and family who I consistently write alongside. This helps me stay on track and remain accountable.
5. I give myself a pass when I don’t reach my goals, fall into an internet hole, or when I nap too long. Since I have a full-time day time job (even during COVID) and other things are always happening in my life, I don’t stick to a strict daily word count goal (except during NaNoWriMo) unless I’m behind on a deadline.
That’s a great list! GOLDEN DREG BOY: THE SLUMS directly confronts the dangers of privilege. What do you hope readers experience from Kade’s journey?
I felt the best way to explore privilege was through a white persons’ eyes. Through losing his Golden status, seventeen-year-old Kade Shaw is forced to explore who gets oppressed and why. And why he has privilege while others who he thinks are on or close to his level in status, aren’t afforded the same privileges. So it really shines a light on what privilege means to people. In writing this future world, I didn’t want to ignore the root of the struggle in our country (racism and a multitude of other “isms”) so I built a history to address it. I have hung onto Rudine Sims Bishops’ quote since I heard it that basically says books are sometimes windows and doors and can transform the human experience and reflect it back to us. Many dystopians brushed over or ignored issues that were real to me and people who looked like me so I wanted to address these issues which are uncomfortable to some but affect me on a daily basis. It’s hard to ignore the fact that a lot of places brown and black people live are considered third world countries because of their lack of access to true freedom, shelter, money, healthcare, technology, and other resources. People of color have lived dystopian lives for a long time as the “other” so this is what I based my poor vs. rich world on.
And books like yours are ones we need to see more of. What has it been like releasing the books in the series at the same time?
It’s been a wild ride. I started writing the first book in 2014 and had a little luck querying but was mainly told that the Big 5 were buying dystopians in smaller numbers and that it had to be a really unique story. First of all—thank you very much gatekeepers—I thought I had an extremely unique story. And second of all, I read YA dystopian consistently and there are SO many books still coming out in this genre. But the fact of the matter is that it came down to agents thinking they couldn’t sell my book and they, alas, are the gatekeepers. I spent many years crafting my world and getting to know the characters so after a while I decided I’d invested too much time and money to let a Big 5 publisher take the majority of the money. Also, I was tired of waiting for someone to legitimize my writing (though it felt like I was waiting on them to actually legitimize me). As an indie author, I hold the reigns and I say what, when, and how. There is a lot of work you have to do on your own and you have to find people that help you elevate that work (editors, designers, etc.). And you really can only do so much research and preparation beforehand and most of the time you’re working with a small budget. However, once I made the decision that I would self-publish about two years ago I started saving money to launch how I wanted—with all the whistles and bells. I’m lucky to have an awesome group of writer friends who told me the truth when I needed it and encouraged me to no end. I also have run across some great editors and a wonderful cover artist. I am learning every day but putting my books out there is a different type of learning and doing and it’s one of my greatest accomplishments.
It’s indeed a great accomplishment! What are some of your current projects?
Golden Dreg Boy is one series in a very big world. So far, I have 20 books and novellas planned so I will be working in the Golden Dreg world for a while! Right now, I’m putting the last Golden Dreg Boy into editing and I am working on 2 more series (6 books) in that world that predate Golden Dreg Boy. One is called Golden Dreg Army and the other is called Golden Dreg Quake and those series will come out in July 2021. And then I’ll keep publishing until I reached 20 books. I also have a sci-fi alien-hunting Middle-Grade adventure I am working on self-publishing as well. And I have two series and one stand-alone that I am going to start querying again since I took them out of the querying trenches to make changes and couldn’t work on them as I geared up for my big release this year. So obviously, you will see a lot from me in the near future but you can always keep up with me on www.dkdailey.com.