Interview with Author, Christina Delia
By Chara Kramer
Normally a humorous writer for “Bride Dish with Mags & Dags,” Christina Delia pulled out the stops for a very moving piece for PS Book’s Anthology, “Forgotten Philadelphia.” I got the chance to ask her some questions about not only her advice column, but about her piece, “Rainy Day,” for “Forgotten Philadelphia.”
Kramer: What do you think is the one event or single influence that initiated you into writing?
Delia: There was not one specific event, more like a series of events. My mother named me after the poet Christina Rossetti. I knew growing up that I was named for an important woman who was a writer.
I learned how to read a little late, but I loved hearing stories read aloud. The book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus helped me immensely. It taught me it was okay to learn at my own pace. When I finally learned how to read, it was like everything clicked. I spent more time in Oz and Narnia and Green Gables than anywhere else. I began writing my own stories. My second grade teacher Mrs. Glass had a class “publishing company” where stories were laminated. I remember how proud I felt when she selected one of my stories for publication/lamination. I still have it, complete with my author’s bio that reads: Christina Delia’s favorite food is pizza. Her favorite show is “Full House.” She spends most of her time reading books and writing stories. She wants to be a writer when she grows up. If you replace “Full House” with “Mad Men,” this holds true today.
Kramer: What would you say is your favorite genre to write in?
Delia: I like to move between humor and heartbreak. There is this beautiful balance. I feel like underneath all humor is the groundwork for heartbreak and if you know it’s there, you can laugh and be merry, just don’t look down. Not a genre per se, but this is how I write.
I do love writing humor, because it evens out the sadness. All of my favorite things are both happy and sad; movies like “Ed Wood” and “My Man Godfrey.” I remember as a kid, I loved the Shirley Jackson story “The Sneaker Crisis” and was fascinated when I read her other stories, like “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Lottery.” I couldn’t believe this woman could leave me so delighted after one story, and then so horrified after the next. My favorite short story is J.D. Salinger’s “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.” I can go back and re-read it and no matter what, one sentence will have me snicker and the next, tear up.
Kramer: For your piece “Rainy Day” in “Forgotten Philadelphia,” you wrote about a bank in Kensington. What kind of brainstorming did you need to do to get you to the story?
Delia: At the time I wrote this piece, I was pregnant and on strict bed rest. I didn’t know if I was going to have my baby prematurely, or at all. I was sad, scared and beyond frustrated. I started researching this building, and I believe I assigned a lot of my personal feelings to it. At one time the bank was so grand: it had all of this life in it, all of this energy. Now its future was uncertain. I felt like my life and the bank’s life were parallel. The opportunity to write this was a cosmic gift.
Kramer: What made you choose a more central view instead of a specific character point of view for your piece for “Forgotten Philadelphia?”
Delia: It never occurred to me to pick a specific character, because I kept thinking about this gorgeous, crumbling building, and all of the different lives that stepped in and out of it over the years. One character wouldn’t have been enough for all of that energy. I think especially since the bank is no longer in use, for me it was like there was all this time to reminisce. The building itself could yearn and mourn, like a widow who wears black well after the service, and for the rest of her days.
Kramer: You also write for the satirical advice column, “Bride Dish with Mags & Dags,” for Happy Women Magazine, which gives advice to “brides who don’t know any better.” As more of a humorous writer, what was it like reaching into a heartfelt and sentimental story like “Rainy Day?”
Delia: When I wrote “Rainy Day” I didn’t feel much like laughing, but I did nod at things I find humorous, like the differences between modern men and the no-nonsense men of days past. The idea of who would win in a fight, the man with the ergonomic baby carrier or the more macho guy…if it was a humor piece I would have expanded greatly upon that. Because it had a more somber tone, I just nodded in its general direction.
Kramer: Is there anything that you are coming out with soon that we can look forward to?
Delia: I am working on a short story collection, tentatively titled As I Live and Breathe. I have always loved that expression, and the idea came to me to interweave fragments of my personal and familial history into the fantasy world of fiction. As a kid, I lived in a magical world, but then you grow up and everything is bleak or serious. I like how the phrase, “as I live and breathe” denotes wonder and astonishment, which is what I aim to do with these stories: layer magic into my real world.