Hi, Delancey! So happy to meet you and have you come by the site today for an interview. I am looking forward to getting to know you. How are you?
Wonderful! Thanks so much for having me! I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too!
Let’s get started then, have a seat in my virtual café….
Q: Your book, Through a Dusty Window, is a collection of short stories sectioned from each decade of mostly the 20th Century. Such a unique idea – where did your inspiration come from?
A: When I lived in New York – first on the Upper West Side and then later down in Chelsea – I spent a lot of time wondering who had lived in my apartments before I did. The buildings were both pre-war buildings (in this case meaning pre-WWI), so both had seen plenty of history before I lived there. The building in Chelsea was especially interesting to me. I had a studio apartment, and the front door had been created on an angle, the same as the one across the hall. Between my apartment and that one, we split the first half of the second floor, and it felt quite obvious at some point those doors had been added, and the wall between us inserted. Since it was a brownstone building, I imagined that at one point it’d been a single-family home like the one that I wrote about in the book. I have never been able to find a history of that particular building, though.
The concept of the buildings standing as quiet sentinels above and around us while we lead our lives beneath and inside them was what got me started on the concept for Through a Dusty Window.
Q: I like the idea of glimpsing out an upper city window and imagining how life was at different eras of time in a same locale. Why do you feel showing the phases of history is so important?
A: Each story in the book tries to capture a mood that indicates a bit of what was going on at that time in history. For someone to really understand a city like New York, you have to learn about its history. How did it come to be the way it is today? I think every generation discovers things anew, but it’s important to look backwards and see what lessons we might learn from those who’ve come before.
Q: Do you catch yourself daydreaming? If so, what do you imagine?
A: Always. Usually about a quiet house. (I have two very noisy little boys!)
Erin Comments: haha! I have 3 children too and can relate!
Q: What do you feel was the most creative and/or inspiring time in history?
A: My grasp of history in its entirety is not great…I only really study the times that are interesting to me. That said, I read anything I can find about the 20s. I feel like in some ways it might have been a little like the 90s – a mad rage before a devastating fall. I love stories about flappers and Prohibition, anything about the scads of writers and artists working in Paris at that time.
Erin comments: Me too, I love 1900s in NYC and Paris and how that Paris culture crossed over to our culture, within the arts. Now people don’t realize how much French influence we have in American life.
Q: What do you feel has been the most instrumental “window” in history for women?
A: That is not an easy question to answer, but I think that for the US, WWII was an important period for women specifically. While the bulk of men went to fight, women found themselves in positions they’d never dreamed of. They replaced the men who left in all facets of professional life, and many learned that they were not only interested in professional achievement, but that they had talent and intelligence that allowed them to excel at it. I think that era changed what women went on to expect from life and started the movement we are still experiencing, where women believe that they might be able to have both a fulfilling professional life and a satisfying family life.
Q: Which story, if any, is your personal favorite in the collection, and why?
A: I’ve loved “The Harbinger” best since I wrote it. I think there’s a very relatable tragedy there – something that people might be able to identify with on several levels. That story hinges around the concept of feeling understood and being truly understood, and attempts to illustrate what a difficult thing it is, to really understand someone else. I think many of us take those around us for granted, believing that we know them well, and in the process of that belief we build boxes to put people inside that make it impossible for them to ever change – at least in our minds.
Erin comments: I said that in my review, that I liked “The Harbinger” the best. I agree, trying to categorize people, especially women, is a common trait and the world would be better if we didn’t do so.
Q: On to writing, do you feel that women writers should “schedule” time for themselves to write? Why do women feel so guilty sometimes about pursuing dreams?
A: Writing, like any other profession or serious hobby, takes commitment and that certainly means time. I definitely never got any traction until I found a schedule that I was willing to commit to and held myself to it. With two boys under the age of six, and a “day job,” that means getting up at five so that I can get one full, uninterrupted hour to write. I do that at least five days a week, and it’s the only guaranteed time I get.
I think women are taught to be caregivers, and in our efforts to pursue our dreams we are only taking care of ourselves. It’s easy to decide to feel guilty about that, but I really believe that guilt is a choice. The only person who can make you feel guilty is yourself. If your dreams are not important enough to you to stand up for them and declare that you will pursue them without feeling that you are hurting someone else in the process, then that is a choice as well. My mother always taught me to take care of myself first. She loves to quote the adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and at my house, it’s absolutely true. (P.S. My mother doesn’t use the word “ain’t” except when saying this. She was an English teacher!)
Q: What advice do you have for other writers?
A: If you want to be a writer, then write! Put aside everything that you believe is stopping you, including your own critical voices. I cannot guarantee you success – because that is determined by your individual definition of the word and also by any number of outside factors depending on that definition. But I can guarantee that you will fail if you never try.
Q: Lately I’ve interviewed several journalists and/or PR people who’ve transitioned to fiction writing. How do you feel your transition has been – does it make it easier or harder to write fiction with a non-fiction writing background?
A: I think it helps in some ways. If nothing else, you have the experience of having sat down regularly to write. The blank page becomes less intimidating. It also helps to have had to think in a linear fashion about telling a story – whether truth or fiction. And having a PR and marketing background can only be a help in this day when authors are also the biggest promoters of their own work!
Erin comments: I always say, the more you write, then the more you write!! And having all that background myself, I certainly agree.
Q: What other interests do you have in addition to writing?
A: I am a ballet dancer and love spending time in the gym or going for a run. I have to move regularly or life doesn’t work for me. I’m kind of a wine snob, and I’m definitely an ice cream snob, if there is any such thing! I also love gardening, and I tend to read a lot, but that probably goes without saying!
Erin comments: Yes, I am also an ice cream snob. We can start a club. Except I don’t run mine off. lol
Q: What authors have inspired you?
A: It depends on what day you ask. Lately I’ve been blown away by Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I have a growing fondness for Hemingway, who I used to say I despised. I love Fitzgerald, admire George Saunders, and enjoy Philippa Gregory.
Q: Favorite television shows or movies at the moment?
A: I am in love with Game of Thrones, and am enjoying Revenge as well. I watch The Vampire Diaries, though feel like it’s losing steam, and think I’ve finally given up on Grey’s Anatomy, which was a constant for the past few years. I watch Gossip Girl as a study in plot twists! I was hooked on Breaking Pointe when it was on, and if we subscribed to cable, I’d be glued in front of HGTV at all hours.
Q: Where can readers connect with you?
A: I have a blog at: delanceystewart.wordpress.com
Thank you so very much for coming by and talking with me today. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and sharing writing stories and wish you continued success!
I had a great time – thanks for such thoughtful questions! This was lots of fun!
Through a Dusty Window, Synopsis~
It’s impossible to live in a city like New York without feeling the presence of those who have preceded you – on those streets, in those subway cars, in that apartment. The city thrums with vibrations of lives and eras passed, and traces of that history are left imprinted in tangible ways everywhere we look.
Through a Dusty Window is a collection of ten short stories spanning a century of lives inhabiting one New York City brownstone on the Upper West Side. They are the culmination of the author’s experience in that city, during which she wondered constantly who had occupied her apartment before her, and what stories they might have lived.
Ten vignettes offer historical perspective on real events from Prohibition to World War II; the Vietnam-era Summer of Sam killings to John Lennon’s murder.
Through a Dusty Window allows us to be voyeurs, seeing the fascinating lives of others as they experience the history that New Yorkers today hear whispers of around every corner.
Delancey Stewart, Biography~
Delancey Stewart is a fiction writer living in Southern Maryland. She’s a military spouse and the mother of two small boys. When not writing, she can be found ballet dancing, eating ice cream, playing video games or building with Legos.
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