A Point of Pride: Interview with Christina Delia
Christina Delia is a horror writer from New Jersey, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Her stories are included in the anthologies What Monsters Do for Love: Volume 3, Shadowy Natures, and most recently in Dark Dispatch and the LGBTQ+ dark fiction anthology Unburied. Christina has a story forthcoming in Planet Scumm.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was a very quiet child and I learned how to read late, but I always enjoyed hearing my mother read stories aloud to me. So when I learned how to write as a kid, the desire to write just took off and a writer was all I ever wanted to be.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I don’t have to be nice. There is something incredibly validating in that freedom that has helped foster my inner-wildness and creativity. I always want to be kind in real life, and I never want to hurt anyone, but when I’m writing horror I get to really just channel my feelings, my own triggers, anxieties and fears; all of these energies that sometimes I surprise myself with. I love that there are so many subgenres within horror; truly something for everyone. And the horror community is quite welcoming. That surprised me, because they are honestly in my opinion the cool kids compared to a lot of other genres, and yet there has been so much warmth and kindness exuded from these fellow horror writers and editors I’ve met; often a lot more thoughtfulness than authors and editors I’ve encountered who write in other genres. That might surprise some people, but it’s the truth. Maybe the horror writers are so pleasant because they too get their stressors out on the page?
Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
As I’ve become more so comfortable with my own sexual identity, I have become increasingly comfortable writing LGBTQ characters. My aim is to portray characters who are struggling, who are figuring themselves out. I also tend to have religious imagery within my stories because I was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic household. This duality between religious and societal expectations and characters coming into their own I would say mirrors my own journey.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
Writing horror has expanded my horizons regarding what a story is. There’s a story in a gnarled tree that looks like it’s giving me the middle finger; maybe my story’s going to be a gory one! The resulting work of fiction might not be what I expect when the idea strikes me, when I sit down and start writing it. It might take an even-stranger detour, but I’m going to let it lead me down a new path. Writing horror makes me feel that excitement I’ve felt for years on Halloween, yes, still, but especially when I was a kid. The world just feels more so full of wonders and horrors and I get to consider these and channel them and elaborate on them. Every day gets to be Halloween. I wish I knew that as an anxious kid with a runaway imagination; that the pile of clothes that look like a monster in the dark corner of the room could be turned into a story. I would have realized my personal power. I wouldn’t have been so afraid.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
When I first started getting published, I dabbled in writing horror, but I wouldn’t have had the courage to submit to a lot of horror publications because I (erroneously) perceived them as boys clubs who wouldn’t want me and my work. I was (and still am!) a fan of Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice and Billy Martin writing as Poppy Z. Brite, but I thought at the time that they were exceptions, and that the majority of horror writers were male. So I wrote and had stories published in genres that never felt exactly like me (Chick lit, for example.) Now I have been very fortunate to work with wonderful editors like Rebecca Rowland from Dark Ink publishing and Sandra Ruttan from Dark Dispatch. They are strong and accomplished; they could have easily made me feel small, but would never. And they helped me to realize that I have to be true to my own voice, and my voice wants to write horror. And publishers like Michael Aloisi from Dark Ink aim to bring diverse voices to life in the pages of their books. The anxiety about not being enough of a horror writer was in my head. That call was coming from inside the house.
I do recognize that this is not every female horror writer’s experience, and I know of several female horror writers who write under pseudonyms, use their initials, or who have otherwise felt pressure to conform or felt it was a struggle for them coming up in the genre. They have paved the way for writers like me, and I am grateful to them. I am fortunate to be writing horror at a time when there is more diversity, and I am mindful that this was not everyone’s experience.
I think that horror will continue to evolve more boldly and beautifully because horror is a genre that feels like a creative safe space to exorcise your personal demons and dream up new ones.
How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
I think in a lot of past horror, the LGBTQ representation was often represented in hints and undertones. I know this has changed more recently, and I hope that future representation in the genre will have more LGBTQ characters being dynamically fleshed out within compelling horror stories and more LGBTQ voices being heard.
Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
Nothing and Ghost in Lost Souls by Billy Martin (writing as Poppy Z. Brite) are my favorites (although Ghost’s sexuality wasn’t expanded upon yet). Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Miriam in The Hunger, and Ramona Royale (as a character, although not everything in the storyline, and I don’t think Ramona was represented enough) and The Countess from American Horror Story: Hotel.
Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Moments of humor in the story will balance brilliantly with the frightening scenes.
And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
I would say that for me writing has been really freeing and validating and healing, and I believe if that’s what you’re seeking, it could benefit you in that way, too. And if writing feels like a calling to you, too, then don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. You have a right to self-expression, and a responsibility to yourself, and don’t let anyone give you self-conscious pause to reconsider or doubt your dreams and abilities. Work at it, improve upon it, but remember this life is yours.