BackStory: Five Questions with Christina Dalcher
Author of Tilda Always Did Love Her Flowers
What inspired you to write Tilda Always Did Love Her Flowers?
I’d read a story a few years back about photographers setting up a shot for a post-mortem photograph. The idea stuck with me.
Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?
The original piece, which I wrote back in late 2015 as a vignette, focused entirely on the process of photographing a child who had succumbed to cholera. I put it away and never looked at it again until a month ago, when I kept the title and rewrote it as a rather grim story.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece?
The process of Daguerreotyping needed a bit of research, which I did for the original vignette. The most interesting discovery was the use of props and subsequent coloring-in of the image. Creepy.
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?
Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve seen nearly as much historical flash as I’d like to, but I have a few favorite historical novels! My good friend Ellen Bryson did a fantastic job of portraying the human oddities in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, and of painting a glorious picture of 1865 New York City. I remember enjoying Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth when I first read it, and I sped through George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo recently (admittedly, I have a love-hate relationship with that one!). I’ve also just added Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to my reading list.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
You mean besides in a present-day country that has an aversion to mixer taps? I kid. I’d probably go back to late 19th-century Italy. For one thing, it’s the time and place of my great grandparents. Also, I’d like to see Matilde Serao’s Naples–up close and personal. I have the idea it was fairly gritty.
Matilde Serao is one cool historical figure. Journalist, novelist, founder of the newspaper Il Mattino, six-time Nobel Prize in Literature nominee. Not bad for a woman born in 1856. Plus, she penned Il Ventre di Napoli (The Belly of Naples). It’s an in-your-face-account of life in the city after the cholera epidemic of 1884.
Christina Dalcher is a linguist from the Land of Styron and Barbecue, where she writes, teaches, and channels Shirley Jackson. Find her work in The Airgonaut, The Nottingham Review, and New South Journal, among others. Her debut novel VOX will be published by Berkley Books (Penguin Random House) in September 2018. Laura Bradford represents her. Find her online at http://christinadalcher.com and @CVDalcher on Twitter.
Image detail from the US Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalogue, cph 3c25962.