Friday, 22 February 2013

Guest Post - Delancey Stewart, Author of Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001

What was it that prompted you to write Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001?

Through a Dusty Window was inspired by my time living in New York City in my early twenties. I was a West Coast kid, and the idea of living in a building that had been there since the 1800s was mind-boggling.The concept of a city that had existed since the 1600s was beyond that for me. I lived a bit of a wild life there, definitely living in the moment. But all that time -- which was only four years -- I was conscious of the ghosts that lingered in the city. I felt them on the sidewalks, in the park, on the subway, and especially out on the stoops of the brownstones that I wandered past when I was having my adventures. I always wondered who had lived in my apartment before me, and what it had been like before the building was sectioned off into studios and the whole building was one house. I lived on the Upper West Side, where the book is set, for a year, but not in a brownstone. I eventually moved down to 15th Street, and the building I lived in there had once been a single family home, I believe. 
How much research did you do prior to writing?
As I wrote each story, I did a lot of research around the specific time frame involved. For some stories -- like Darkness Unleashed, which is about the blackouts in 1977, an event inspired the fiction. The blackout of 1977 came during a summer that had already seen racial discord on the Upper West (and the rest of the city), the Son of Sam slayings in Queens that had everyone tense and afraid, and a general degradation of the city as the economy suffered. I read about how there had been a blackout in the city in the mid-sixties, and how neighbors had mingled in the streets, laughing and having parties until the lights came back on. The blackout in 77, though, saw people staying in their homes, afraid of the darkened streets and of their neighbors. So much had changed so quickly, and I thought it was a great backdrop for a story.

The Internet makes research so easy, and it was fascinating to increase my own knowledge of my favorite city while I prepared to write about it. My favorite stories are The Vault, which is loosely based around the liquor vault at the 21 Club, which I've read about in several places; The Harbinger, which was based on the sighting -- and subsequent newspaper reporting -- of two rhesus monkeys on the Chambers Street subway platform (I changed the date on that one to make it work for my story); and Darkness Unleashed, which really focuses on the way the city changed and degraded so quickly from the late 60s to the late 70s. The last story, which is somewhat autobiographical, was also obviously based on real events, and deals with the downing of the World Trade Center.

For each bit of fiction, I tried to overlay the atmosphere and consciousness of the City at that point in time.
Were you tempted to turn this into a non fiction account of a specific address in New York?
Though each story is set in the same fictional building, I never thought to try to do a non-fiction version of the same idea. Though I enjoyed the research involved in the work I did, I think that trying to track down enough specific detail about an anonymous building might be tedious enough to put me off wanting to write about it! And for me - learning is fun, but the writing is the best part!  
What are you currently working on?
My current projects are pretty drastically different than Through a Dusty Window, though New York City still figures prominently. I've signed a deal with Swoon Romance to publish a series of New Adult novellas called "Girlfriends of Gotham." The first one, Men and Martinis will publish in June, and I'm very excited about it. The books follow a group of young women through their trials and tribulations on the work, social and dating scenes of New York in the late nineties, when the Internet economy was in full swing.

I've also signed with Swoon for a young adult romance novella, and am working on another series of contemporary book-length romances that are loosely tied to wine varietals. (I know, it sounds odd, you'll just have to read to understand!).

Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001 by Delancey Stewart is available from Amazon.

You can follow the author via - Twitter * Facebook * Blog

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