Lily Dodd's 'Search and Rescue' Wins With Its Badass Heroine You'll Love
College student Lily Dodd answered Cosmopolitan and Audible’s call for a hot new romance last summer and saw her mountain-climbing characters rise to the top. By Melissa BendixenMay 14, 2019 9:49 AM
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A chance encounter with Cosmopolitan last summer has given one college student a whole new opportunity. When Lily Berlin Dodd saw the Cosmo and Audible's #SoundsHot Steamy Story Contest, which offered the winner a chance to have their work professionally narrated, she took a chance and spent the summer writing one badass heroine with a sweet love story. Now her debut, Search and Rescue, is here, narrated by Ali Ahn and ready for primetime.
Listen in as Lily talks with Audible romance editor Melissa Bendixen about how she got here and where she's going next.
Note: Text has been edited and may not match audio exactly.
Melissa Bendixen: Hello listeners. This is Audible Editor Melissa Bendixen here with Lily Dodd, the winner of the Audible and Cosmopolitan#SoundsHot Steamy Story Contest, where we searched for the next big romance with a badass heroine.
Lily is a sophomore at Yale University. As the contest winner, Lily's work was professionally recorded and produced by Audible and it's now an Audible Original. Narrated by Ali Ahn, it's called Search and Rescue, and it's available for download in our store, and in the Romance Package. Hi Lily, thanks for joining us today.
Lily Dodd: Thank you so much for having me.
MB: Of course. For those of you who haven't listened yet, Search and Rescue is about Wren, a 24-year-old search and rescue technician, who catches the attention of Clay Arden, a famous free-climber, or someone who climbs without ropes, or equipment, or anything like that, so they can just like fall and die or whatever [Laughter]. She calls him selfish to a television reporter, and he hears about it, and then next thing she knows, she's being invited by Clay to be on his team in his next free climb in Morocco, to be his medic. And it's an offer that's too good for her to refuse. She gets to know him. She starts liking him more and more, but she has to be guarded, because he's doing this really dangerous thing. It's a slow-burn romance, but there's some pretty high stakes here because one of our characters is training to do a life-risking climb, so there's a lot going on here. First off, I want to say how much I really enjoyed Search and Rescue. And thank you for writing this lovely story.
LD: Oh yay, I'm glad you liked it.
MB: Yes. Of course. It was so much fun. I'm a climber myself and the slow-burn romance is kind of my thing, so I was super on-board with this the whole time.
LD: Yay. Okay, thank you.
MB: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write the story?
LD: Yes. I also climb during the summer usually, and I'm not even good I would say, but I just really love it, and I also sometimes work as a little bit of a climbing coach for young girls. I think that it's just such a fun and exciting sport, and when I saw this prompt in Cosmopolitan, I just thought, oh what could be a more exciting badass heroine adventure than something that involves this crazy free solo climbing, which I had become aware of, as I think did most people, with Alex Honnold's ascent in June of that obviously just won the Oscar [in 2018], the documentary about the climb of free rider.
LD: Yes, yes, exactly. Free Solo. Thank you. And at the time I was writing the first draft of this novella, which I then submitted to Cosmopolitan. I was climbing in California with a bunch of my friends who were much better climbers, more sophisticated, but since I have a car they let me go on their trips with them. And so, it was really fun to be on the ground with these people who are so talented and be secretly writing this story in my brain, but not telling anyone about it. I just felt like it was going to be a really fun setting and would fit into the badass requirement that Cosmopolitan had set pretty well.
MB: Yes. Totally was. I feel like, as a climber, I feel like I'm not a great climber myself, and it's really easy for us all to feel like oh, I'm not really that great. But I'm sure you're a good climber. Once you're climbing outside, that's already like, step one. Did you know anybody who was on Search and Rescue? I was really impressed with how detailed and technical the story was, so I was kind of wondering if you knew about it, or did you do research first? What was that like?
LD: I took a year between high school and college. And in that year, made it a priority to kind of get a bunch of wilderness skills. I took a Wilderness First Responder Course in Yosemite, and one of the teachers of the course was a woman who works Yosemite Search and Rescue. The National Park in the story is obviously fictional, but I was just so impressed by this person who literally is hanging off a cliff face, saving people's lives, and there are helicopters, and all these elements that are just so difficult to navigate. I do have the training background, although that certification is pretty minimal, it was a 10-day training. And it's actually since expired. But I do have that. And also I lead outdoor trips for incoming Yale freshmen.
LD: I have a little bit of the wilderness training background, but not to anywhere near the level you would need to be on a Search and Rescue team. But I have encountered those people and think they're very cool.
MB: Well you have enough experience to write about the story believably. And I think that's all that matters. I really enjoyed learning about Search and Rescue. You said that you saw the Sounds Hot Story Contest before you wrote the story, and then decided to submit, or had you kind of already thought about it beforehand? How did you encounter the contest and then what was your process for preparing for it?
LD: I started subscribing to Cosmopolitan because I think it's so fun to read, and I got, there's some really cool deal through Amazon that was like an entire year for five bucks or something like that. As I was flipping through it, I saw the contest listed. This was over the summer, or it was at the very end of the school year. And writing is so important to me, but at school, it's really hard for me to have the time to write creatively. Because I'm just churning out essays, so once it was the summer, I was really looking for a writing project. And I struggle with self-motivation, so it was really exciting to have this deadline and this word count, which was unlike anything I'd ever written before. It was quite a high word count for me.
MB: Oh really, you hadn't written something to that length before?
LD: Well, I had written something of that length or longer, but without ever intending to submit it anywhere. What I wrote that was that long was not a complete story arc. So what I felt like I was doing in this case that I'd never done before, was really having to have a finished product of a certain length, because all the other things I have that I think of as finished products are short stories. It was just this great motivator, and it was hard at some points, like I was working fulltime, and then I would come back and just sit in the library and try to just get words on the page. But the story was so fun that it was really a pleasure to write in a way that I found exciting and new.
MB: I love that. I love the way you sat down and you got it done. I think that's amazing. What did you do when you found out that you were the winner? Was it like that all paid off, satisfaction, yes?
LD: Yes, I was enormously satisfied. I was told immediately that I couldn't tell anyone, so it was kind of like a contained reaction. I heard from Cosmopolitan that I immediately had to sign an NDA and get them notarized and all that. I got the email saying I got it while there were people around me, but not looking at what I was looking at. So I exploded with joy internally, and then I stood up very abruptly and said, I must leave. And just kind of ran away to go be happy by myself because I knew I couldn't tell anybody. Yes, so it was definitely like a fun internal celebration.
MB: And now, you're going to hear your story read out loud by a narrator. By this time, the interview will reach listeners, Search and Rescue will already be out, but as of now, the recording is still underway. What are you most looking forward to about hearing your work in audio, Lily?
LD: There's a lot I'm looking forward to. I find it really exciting and it's something I've never experienced before. And so one of my short stories as a high-schooler was produced as a miniature audiobook. But I have always been so nervous to hear it that I haven't actually been fully able to listen to it all the way through. I don't know, is that okay for me to say?
MB: Yes, no. Authors feel that way all the time.
LD: Okay. Yes. I think I definitely, I think I'm definitely going to listen to Search and Rescue. It's a much, much longer thing, so I'm definitely going to listen to it.
MB: Was your other work also recorded professionally?
LD: Yes. Uh-huh. This was something we talked about at the very beginning once I heard I read, just to clarify, this very small thing has happened before, like is that okay? [Cosmo] said yes, it's totally fine. So that's good. But yes, so I'm really excited. I have listened to Ali Ahn's narration on other things, and I think she's really fantastic. I think she's the perfect fit for Wren, which is just so crazy to hear myself say that, because it feels like I'm talking about a movie being made. And to me, it really is this enormous dream come true, to have someone else also engage with my work on a level that's so intimate.
The thing I like least about writing, is how isolating it is. And I'm really a very extroverted person, and have often worried that my desire to become a writer is going to be impeded by my intense need to be around people constantly. And so this has been really thrilling to me to know that there's actually so many people, like you, and like my editor on this, Rose Hilliard, who is just so fantastic. And then Ali Ahn and all the people at Cosmopolitan, like are all actually there with you the whole time. It's just been really comforting. And I think for my professional development, and just being a young person starting out, there could be no better first experience.
MB: That's a really interesting take on the audio experience, but yes, I think that's definitely really accurate. Do you listen to audiobooks yourself?
LD: Yes, all the time. Especially because part of my prize for this was getting a Gold membership to Audible, so now I really can, because I get a new one every month. It's exciting.
MB: Do you listen to romance?
LD: My favorite audiobooks are Sophie Kinsella.
MB: Oh Yes, she's fun.
LD: Yes. She writes these fantastic, and they're only 14 hours, which is great, because I like them to be long, because then I can listen to them while I'm walking around. Yes, so I have a lot of her. I have one from, I'm not sure how to pronounce this name, Elin Hilderbrand, the woman who's writing in Nantucket.
MB: Yes, um-hmm.
LD: Yes. Then I have a bunch of my textbooks, which are easier to listen to than read.
LD: And yes, so I really love, oh I have Call Me By Your Name, which is certainly a romance novel, and that's narrated by Armie Hammer, which was really cool.
LD: Yes, so a ton of romance for sure.
MB: Yes. So one of the stipulations of the Sounds Hot Contest, was that the main character had to be a badass heroine, which I think Wren totally is.
MB: One hundred percent. What do you think makes someone a badass heroine?
LD: I think you can be a badass heroine without necessarily saving people's lives and battling avalanches and stuff. I think what makes Wren a badass, is that she really trusts herself. And she listens to herself and her instincts, and she knows that she deserves to be where she is. She takes up space. She's really surrounded by men in this story, and she still makes room for herself and is not at all -- as is her right to not be-- intimidated by them. The romance that develops with Clay is obviously the focus of the story but is in no way what got her there.
MB: Yes. I like that. She takes up space. That's nice. Okay. So my final question. Are you working on anything else at the moment? And do you see yourself writing more for audio in the future?
LD: What I'm working on at the moment is a very fun essay about the congressional record.
LD: So I think, yes. I definitely want to continue writing. I was really excited. This was my first foray into the romance genre, and I would love to write more. My goal I think always is to bring the maximum number of people the maximum amount of joy, and it seems that romance is something that does that really well, so I would definitely want to continue in that arena. But as of now, I'm trying to finish out the school year. The thing is, it's just that the summer happens and then I have time to think about my creative work. To me this seems like the end of Wren and Clay's story, and I don't see myself continuing this plot, but I do feel like romance is something that I would want to keep working in.
MB: Well, I know that everyone, once they get their hands, or once they get their ears on this story, they are definitely going to want to hear more from you. Congratulations Lily, on winning the Audible Cosmo Sounds Hot Contest, and I'm really excited to see more from you in the future.
MB: Listeners, you can download Search and Rescue by Lily Dodd on Audible today. Thank you everyone.