Amelia Estelle Dellos is a lifelong Chicagoan and the daughter of second-generation Greek immigrants. Currently, she is an MFA candidate and a writing instructor at Columbia College Chicago. Her novel, Delilah Recovered, won the 2017 Watty on the international platform Wattpad and was published by Atmosphere Press.
Her work has been published in Big Shoulders Press, Grand Dame Literary Journal, Carmina Magazine, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. Her short story Psychopomp was published in Writing in Place: Stories from the Pandemic, which debuted on Amazon at #4 in Essays. As a screenwriter and director, Amelia’s films have appeared on PBS and Amazon Prime. Her films received the following accolades: Sundance International Writer’s Lab finalist, Chicago International Film Festival Pitch Winner, and the Women’s International Film Festival finalist.
She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, teenage daughter, and two feisty little dogs who video-bomb her Zoom meetings.
For more info, follow her on Instagram at @aedellos or visit her website at ameliatellsstories.com.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The title was easy to find. I had the character in my mind long before the story came to me. I had this character, Delilah, who was living a half-life because she didn’t really understand her strength. The book is about her recovering and discovering her power. I wanted to write a story about the hero’s journey through the female lens. I wanted to write a book that turned the trope of the innocent woman falling for the bad man—he corrupts her and she saves him. I wanted Delilah to save herself.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
Honestly, I had such a hard time selecting a book cover. All the designs the Atmosphere design team presented were so good! It was a tough decision between two covers! I kept going back and forth. When I first held the galley copy in my hands, it was pure elation. It was like the culmination of a lifelong dream that began when I was in third grade. I want to say it was almost like holding my daughter for the first time after she was born. Not to sound like a total nutter but it was a close second.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I love to read. I read everything from literary works to commercial fiction and everything in between. My parents, Mary and George, were voracious readers. They were always reading. We would go to our little Chicago Public Library every week. I grew up reading. My father really planted the seed to be a writer. I find my inspiration at the intersection of still-life art with writing that is hyper-focused on slice-of-life moments, those small, quiet, ordinary moments of everyday life, and heartache with a fabulist element. I aim to write strange, heartfelt stories focusing on internal and interpersonal conflicts. Charlotte Brontë is a huge inspiration, and I planted a few easter eggs as a nod to her and Jane Eyre in Delilah Recovered.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I believe a well-crafted story can change the world. I have seen firsthand how clear, concise messaging can change an organization from the inside out. I’m an MFA candidate and writing instructor at Columbia College Chicago.
I have what they call an integrated marketing communications background. What does that mean? I’m an enthusiastic big-picture creative type who can strategize, conceptualize, and create meaningful content from start to finish. A maven of a well-crafted pitch that producers book.
In my twenty-five-plus year (but who’s counting) career, I’ve worked in publishing, internet start-ups, the for-profit world, the nonprofit world, boutique communications agencies, and the Illinois Lottery. These communications positions have included the following vertical markets: healthcare, hospitality, business travel, retail, the arts, real estate, gaming, and government.
I’ve also launched not one but three businesses. After the birth of my daughter, I created AED Communications and specialized in working with small, women-owned businesses. Most recently, I led COVID-19 crisis communications for the Illinois Lottery. I’m working on a certification in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from Northwestern University. As I work on my creative projects, I’m also mentoring and coaching writers.
Since co-founding Corn Bred Films in 2011, Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer, a historical documentary I produced and directed, aired on PBS Chicago and currently airs on the Hilton channel. The film was also selected for the 2014 Women’s International Film Festival. Other Plans, a romantic comedy I co-wrote and produced starring comedian Jamie Kennedy was released on video-on-demand in 2015. Our current project, Oriole Park, a coming-of-age thriller, is in pre-production and was the winner of the 2015 Chicago International Film Festival’s The Pitch and was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Sundance International Writer’s Lab.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
I have lived with Delilah for so so so many years. So to have her out in the world is exciting and scary in equal measure. I love her, and it is my intention that the reader will love her at much as I do. It feels like jumping off a cliff!
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
I do have a soundtrack!!!! There are a few songs that are super on the nose, like Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T’s, Delilah by Florence + the Machine, and Joan of Arc by Arcade Fire. Some songs are moody and witchy like Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader, Season of the Witch covered by Lana Del Rey, The Killing Moon covered by Greg Laswell, and Samson by Regina Spektor.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
I want readers to have fun reading my book. First and foremost, I hope that they enjoy the time spent with Delilah and the world she lives in. I don’t have a perfect reader, in my mind! There are so many things calling for our attention and for me it is such an honor when a reader picks up my book. I love to read so my hope is that the reader just enjoys reading my book.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I am finishing up my thesis for my MFA at Columbia College Chicago. It is a sharp turn from Delilah Recovered. Right now, while writing Mary’s Daughter, Room 209, I am exploring the cultural dysphoria that I am experiencing in my mid-life; the little deaths that come with aging, empty nesting, and grieving. I really want to do another film project and I have a few ideas I am knocking around with my writing partner and husband, Eric. I will graduate in May and I will need to find a job.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
I really enjoyed working with Atmosphere Press. It was such a smooth process from start to finish. I felt like I was in good hands throughout the process. Everyone was so helpful and supportive.
I would tell other authors that if you are looking at a hybrid publishing model, you will be in good hands with Atmosphere Press.