The Making of Wings of Winter


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The Making of Wings of Winter

Faye: Hi, welcome back to Romantasy a podcast created by Dipsea. I'm your host, Faye Keegan, and we're doing a really special episode today. We're going behind the scenes with our Editorial Lead, Olivia, to talk about the process of making this content together, making Wings of Winter. So let's get into it. Olivia, introduce yourself.

Olivia: Hi, I am Olivia. Haha. I'm Olivia and I am the Editorial Lead, which means that I edit stories at Dipsea, but I had the unique pleasure of writing this story.

Faye: That's true.

Olivia: Which is, you know, my origin, but it was a little bit of a departure for this. I haven't been writing in a while.

Faye: It was fun. Like, we work with tons of really great freelance writers to bring a lot of our content to life and to add our next episodes in beloved series, but when we're going from scratch like this one, we thought we had to kind of cook it in-house.

Olivia: Yeah, I do think it's nice to kind of like get a model of what we want to make before we ask someone to make it for us.

Faye: Totally.

Olivia: You know, like once you have it, you can be like, can you deliver me something like this? But I'm like, I actually don't know what I want you to deliver me. So I feel like this series was just sort of an exploration of, “What does high fantasy look like at Dipsea?” And we decided, so much violence. Haha

Faye: More violence... Definitely wings.

Olivia: Elves… Wings... Witches...

Faye: Cruel kings!

Olivia: Cruel kings… Endless winter… Endless! I think this felt like maybe our biggest experiment, Ever.

Faye: But let's talk a bit about, like, why we made this in the first place.

Olivia: Because we wanted to. Haha

Faye: Because we wanted to... Because we're freaks, haha

Olivia: Because we love fairies… Haha

Faye: Because we wanted our fanfic to be public… Haha

Olivia: 100%... Because every day I'm slacking being like… let's make fantasy content. For like five years! Haha We also don't just make content based on what we want to make, but this was a case of it aligning with our interests. There was 📈data📈 that people wanted fairies.

Faye: It's true. Well, first of all, obviously I feel like fantasy is generally having a moment. If you look at like, S. J. M. and Rebecca Yarros, and these books just absolutely making waves. It's not like just us saying this, but fantasy and Romantasy as a genre, I feel like it's just generally blowing up and breaking into the mainstream in a different way, especially among women and women who listen to Dipsea. But it wasn't our first time writing fantasy at all.

Olivia: No. The first fantasy we ever did was the Greek mythology series, Forbidden Fruit, right?

Faye: Well, I think that it depends how you count it, because I think we, the first fantasy element we did was Night School, where we had vampire

Olivia: Oh, haha. Right, that's definitely a fantasy.

Faye: Right, right. Not real.

Olivia: First element, just a little vampire.

Faye: But it was like in the modern world. Like it was a contemporary storyline. But, like, we added a vampire character versus, I think, with Greek gods or with, like, full Romantasy, like, Wings of Winter, where we're building all the rules of the entire universe. It's much easier to just, like, add a vampire layer to, like, basically a professor grad student romance.

Olivia: Totally. Like, it's in some ways not different at all.

Faye: Right. It's just amping up some of the effects.

Olivia: He's, like, a little bit more dangerous.

Faye: But I do think this was a challenging one because we were testing a lot of things at once. Like, it was our first time doing full fantasy, it was our first time doing this longer format style, because these are like 20 minute episodes, which is very rare on the Dipsea app. And it was like a different performance style, it was much more like audiobook style, and it has this, like, direct to listener audiobook kind of mashup style where you hear the whole thing from Rowan's perspective, like, as if he's telling the story back to the human in the future. And so when we, we literally were like, we could, we had to get something out there. People react to it because it didn't know if it was going to work at all. There were so many things to test at once. And then when it like immediately resonated with people, then we had to scramble for the next like seven episodes. Um, so I think that like four through 10 were written in response, like, Oh shit, we actually had to think here. Um, because we just didn't know if it was all going to work together.

Olivia: Right. I think one other element that was sort of unique about this was… Dipsea is so, it's like a place of positivity, of safety, of like consent, and obviously those things exist.

Faye: No, like no jump scare as a Dipsea. No. Even when we have tension of like… we'll play with tension of like, cheating, but we're like, but you know, they're basically broken up. Haha

Olivia: We keep trying to do infidelity stories, but like, they are never actually cheating.

Faye: We just don't want it to feel bad. Like, this is a good, positive environment we're trying to curate.

Olivia: But this series, I was looking back at the script this morning, and reading the opening paragraph, and they're, like, in this banquet hall, the father's dining hall, it's Rowan's, like, you know, it's, like, the last night before the, the games begin or whatever, and it's, like, "one might expect the mood to be jovial, but we all knew it for what it was, a fattening before the slaughter." To have that word in a story is… I feel like it just sort of like set it apart immediately as like we can really do anything here.

Faye: Yeah.

Olivia: Which I think is also great because, I mean, I think there were some big swings. I think there were some misses. But, it is resonating. I think ultimately it's fun, it's good, and I think it kind of loosens us up in general in terms of content. I feel like we get so set in our ways… but when people could be getting “fattened before the slaughter” Haha.

Faye: It is a totally reasonable line in the universe… it's totally reasonable in fantasy. Like, there's tons of violence in fantasy stories, and we are trying to deliver on the genre, but like, it is the first time we had any, like, forget, bad feelings… We had like full on like killing.

Olivia: I thought listeners would be like, I'm so used to the safety of these other stories and this is like so jarring. But I mean, people are not just consuming our content, they're not like existing in a vacuum. Haha. But I do think that's also, you know, a pretty big difference for us.

Faye: And the big difference I think too of like, obviously, like, we couldn't have you like casually having slaughter in like our modern universe, like being in fantasy gives us a lot of freedom, which is like very exciting. Obviously. But was also very challenging to figure out, like, how far are we going to go along these dimensions.

Olivia: Right.

Faye: And setting up kind of this, like, Hunger Games-esque, like, everyone has to make it through this gauntlet, which is a very common thing you see in fantasy. You have that in, like, Throne of Glass, for example. Um, but also many other fantasy books helps us create a container for the violence that these people are all like just as dangerous to each other, which is a place like high stakes environment for some sex.

Olivia: Okay, question for you. What is your favorite episode of Wings of Winter? For any reason!

Faye: I think the first episode is very good. Like I think it has an interesting introduction of the human character who's a bit wily, and you hear Rowan kind of going through the path of being kind of a cold, unfeeling, like observer of her, to like more and more interested. I think it's like it's done well. I think you feel like you understand his character as this kind of cold, immortal fae character and this interesting little human character. And like a little bit of intrigue. I think the last one… we really wanted to do… So sometimes like when we have stuff like this, we have tropes we want to hit. And we have, like, heavy inspiration, obviously. And I think we wanted to do a like, taking-care-of-you-wounded-scene, which we had never really done before. So we had an opportunity to actually do, like, a taking care of everyone, or, like, hurt scene. And then, like, take that really beautiful dynamic to take into sex. I think like, this caring adoration. Where the context of the non-sexual context, like sets up the sexual context well. So, I like the last one a lot, too. I like the whole bath thing. I thought it was really good. Olivia, what's your favorite?

Olivia: Well, I mean quality-wise, first and last. Like, storytelling-wise. But, sort of in terms of just the weirdness of what we do… probably the swamp.

Faye: The bog. Bog episode. The Shadewalker. I think it's called The Shadewalker, but it has that really, like, boggy art. Like, I feel like I just, I think of it as a swamp episode before I see it.

Olivia: The bog, yeah. I think that that one was just, I think, well, listening to it… and um, Kara did like this crazy echoey sound design.

Faye: Kara's our Audio Producer.

Olivia: Yeah, our Audio Producer. It was just so, it was really fun because our stories have been in like the modern world. Like here, like to hear dripping cave sounds. I was just, cracking up and loved it.

Faye: There would never be a dripping cave. Like we got to do so many fun things.

Olivia: Totally. I love that one. Oh, and I also love the, the winter training episode where Hawthorne is training.

Faye: Training is a great, like a training montage sequence. Great trope.

Olivia: Yeah. We talk a lot about, um, trope stacking, which I'm not sure if that we made that up.

Faye: We do say it a lot.

Olivia: We say it a lot. But just being like, in this kind of content, the best thing is like more tropes. I feel like the more you can layer on top of each other, like, when we were doing early fantasy research, I was, like, on Wattpad and found this story that was, like, vampire love triangle, she's dating the werewolf and he's, like, her alpha bonded pair and he's a billionaire businessman and they've made a pregnancy pact and I was, like, and that was, like, the most popular and I was, like, okay, so more is more. Yeah. Um, so we're going to be needing to do more and we're like, we're just going to do a little vampire professor. Not enough. Not enough. Um, but I do think the best episodes I think are the ones that are really built upon some classic trope. Like, one bed at the end, which we have to do at every single fantasy series.

Faye: Yeah, every fantasy we've done it. We did it in Moonshadowe, we did it in this.

Olivia: I do love it. I love that trope. Do you have a favorite micro trope?

Faye: I think enemies to lovers it's just a classic awesome like hate-you-love-you thing. And I feel like kind of the “touch her and die” idea. Like super possessive like, you know what I mean, like this individual obsessive loyalty.

Olivia: Right. Well, it's I think it's so interesting to try to figure out the balance of tropes being what like drives a genre and like what you're familiar with and what you know and like why you might love it. But then also when you investigate the trope the psychology behind it… Sometimes you want to turn away, haha… Like how do you do like a feminist take of somebody being so possessive over you they turn to violence?… Yeah, they kill other people… but I think that's what's so great about fantasy, is that we can do stuff and be like we don't need you to imagine what this might look like.

Faye: Yeah, I'm not recommending you do this. I'm not recommending, like, find men like this and date them.

Olivia: And they don't actually exist because this man is a fairy.

Faye: Totally. I think it works so much better in fantasy. When we have sex in our contemporary content that is rougher, we like set things up so clearly. We're like, here is the safe word, here are the stakes of the relationship, here's what they've agreed to. Which I think it's obviously great and also it's like both extremely effective hot content and also good educational content. But we don't have the same rules for ourselves in fantasy.

Olivia: I also think it's interesting… because I was thinking about this play this weekend in our content, how like sometimes an arc of a series, I think can kind of model a relationship of like (this is not so much the case in fantasy, I guess) like early on in a series, having so many safeguards, having like so many check ins about consent, especially if things are going to be rougher. And then as the series goes on, obviously, you still have those, but there's like more trust built, I think, with the audience and with the characters of like, you actually know these people in the same way, like, if you had a sexual partner. You're like, I know this person, like, these things we do are, you know, normal for us. Um, but I just think it's funny in the ways that sometimes you like can really over air…

Faye: Totally. Too much clarity. Too much asking. Haha Well, I think what's interesting about like writing and editing a book, which I have not done haha, but I understand the basic process and then what we're doing, which is like much closer to writing fan fiction in process. In that, we don't basically conceive all 20 episodes of like Hometown or in this case 10 episodes of Wings of Winter and write and edit them and like record and then launch them all. Like the most up front we do… (For this, it was really short. It was like a really big test and a big pilot for us.) Sometimes we'll like up front plan for five, but we want to see how it lands with people before we invest in tons more content. We want to see what we can iterate and learn from. And so it is much more like reading fanfic where you're like, I feel like if you went back to the end of like Manacled and then edited the whole thing it might just be a little different. But you’re like releasing every week and it has that feel to it sometimes with us. Which I think feels more like fanfic-y in terms of process than writing a book.

Olivia: And also it's like more about the individual episode experience or chapter experience. Like, I feel like each one is kind of a world of its own. And if you're, you know, listening to content to feel turned on, it's like more important as well, versus like I need this holistic experience of the book to make sense. Like, as I listen to a long series of ours, I feel like I sort of forget what happened early on and that's fine, because I'm like, I am here, I am in the ice castle, I am being healed. Haha, and I don't remember what happened before.

Faye: I'm in the lavender salt bath. Haha I also think it was so much fun in the series, making up words. That was like, we went overboard, I think.

Olivia: Totally.

Faye: Upon reflection, I was like. Must we make up words for “pants”? Haha

Olivia: Also everything is like “battle leathers”. I was like everything's a “leather”. They're wearing like so much animal… the animal product in this universe. Haha

Faye: I know, and everything is like, it's not an apple… it's like a fire apple!

Olivia: Everything is a dash. That, I was like, so out of control with, but I was like, I don't know how else to make this feel like fantasy. I'd be like, oh, star apple tea… oh, like, death dragon… oh, like moon acorn…

Faye: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, even an acorn has to be a special acorn.

Olivia: It has to be… moon acorn. And acorn tea, no, I was like, there can't be coffee. They have to drink acorn tea.

Faye: Another thing in this universe that I felt like we... (clarifying Okay, I love Wings of Winter... I just happen to be critical of it because we're like giving behind the scenes. We’re like trashing our own work. Haha, but no, we love it.) I feel like I'm like… “Where are the wings?” Like, I feel like we're not sure… are they always out? Are they still out?

Olivia: I feel like there's something a little grotesque about wings, to me. Like, so…

Faye: Woah. Maybe, that's my micro-trope I like, love wings, more wings. Haha

Olivia: Wing reveal, like, to me, I'm like, are they made of flesh? Like, it's a little upsetting to me, like, flesh stretched over… bone… ligament?! And I think that I came up against that while writing, but one really funny thing I also screenshotted from Slack was I sent you, “gut check, how do you feel about the character being named, like, Crystal Fire?” You'll be like, “bad” haha. But I was like, hey, here's a list of names for this series. And some of them that I have were, first was Wings of Winter… Winter… Realm of Wings & Winter… Realm of Winter & Stone… Fate & Fae… Fated… The Huntress… The Hundred Year Winter… Ice & Dagger …a lot of, like, ampersands. Haha. But you said, wow, haven't read the next script yet. I think if we do Wings of Winter, there should be wings. Hahah

Making of Wings of Winter Blog - slack screenshot

Faye: Haha. It's like, totally, love that, but haven't seen a wing.

Olivia: Where are the wings?

Faye: We can't call it Wings of Winter and not deliver on the wings.

Olivia: And there are wings in episode two.

Faye: I feel like I added in wings.

Olivia: You did.

Faye: I feel like I was like, that was like a suggestion. I was like, where are the wings? He can get there by wing.

Olivia: I do feel like there's also, yeah, you did when he like flies through the window. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like, how did he get there? Of course. His wings. Wings! But also sometimes there's wings in the sex. Yes. And sometimes. Sometimes it's not wing focused. It's not always about the wings. I feel like if it was always about the wings, it would be intense. Yeah, like, are they popping out? Because I did have, I think the wings unfurl, using the word unfurl, like, a hundred times more in this past year.

Faye: Every two paragraphs, like

Both: What's unfurling?

Olivia: Everything's unfurling. But sometimes it, like, busts through the clothes. Which is also sort of a micro-trope in and of itself, like, the clothes being ripped off. But it's also sort of, you know, like, the werewolves, like, busting out of their jeans. Hahah

Faye: No, I do feel like some, some universes deal with it where people who shift, like the werewolves, are just comfortable being naked, which gives you a lot of entree into sex. Right, right. And then there's somewhere it's, like, when they shift, the clothes just shift

Olivia: Also, like, the wings are popping out of their back.

Faye: It's fucking magic. Who's to say? Like, you're turning into a hawk. Like, we aren't like constrained by reality.

Olivia: I do think that's why the werewolf thing is so funny. It's like so at the bridge of the mortal world. Totally. And immortal, like, unnecessary. Totally, totally. And also there's like jeans popping off.

Faye: Constantly, like, appearing places naked, I feel like it's just so weird. Storytelling wise, you get sick of being like, okay, he's gonna run through the forest, you got this, you know, oh fuck, he's naked when he gets there, it's like, I'm gonna throw him a coat before he starts talking (? haha), like, it just becomes cumbersome.

Olivia: Yeah, I do think you sort of write yourself into things, though, that you're like, I wish I never had this detail in here. Like, I'm just gonna maybe pretend that I didn't make this rule. You know? I actually do think that fantasy in particular was making me realize, like, there are a lot of things that I think are hard to write with other people, like writing is sort of a solitary thing and then you have an editor, obviously. But I was like, I think you really could co write fantasy, like, I feel like you can have one person do the first draft and then you're like, okay. Can you, like, layer this with more? And I, I think because it is less, like, craft focused or so, not that it's not a craft, but you know what I mean? It's less, like

Faye: There's more elements to keep track of, too. It's, like, helpful to have somebody else looking at it. Totally. Whereas, like, when we're writing, like, another, you know James Lecture Me, like hook up in a library scene, awesome to collab on it, but it's like one person's opinion is probably enough opinions… where this was like, you'd leave a note, like, “quote, magic sex question mark, like, quote, wing play”, like big questions to answer. And so having someone else there to help was really, really fun.

We at Dipsea had an absolute blast making this series and we had an absolute blast sharing it with you on this podcast. We have many more hot, spicy fantasy series like this on the app. And many are really different (many that include no fae and no battles and no Rowan at all). If you want 30 days free to explore all the Dipsea library has to offer, you can use code ROMANTASY

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