Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Deborah Sheldon to Chat About Books.

Deborah Sheldon

Many thanks to Claire Fitzpatrick, Senior Developmental Editor @ Oscillate Wildly Press (http://www.oscillatewildlypress.com) for arranging the following interview…..

For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?

I’m a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. I write short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. My releases, through several publishing houses, include the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the bio-horror novella Thylacines, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot, the bio-horror novel Devil Dragon, and the crime noir novellas Dark Waters and Ronnie and Rita.

My short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. My work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. Most nights after dinner, I trawl the Internet, looking for oddities that I can use as a springboard. For example, my short story “Angel hair” (which was nominated for an Aurealis Award, I’m happy to say!) came from a feature article about the phenomenon of spiders floating on their silks to escape floodwaters. I had major surgery in January, so I used this experience as fodder for an as-yet-unpublished psychological- and body-horror story. I’m often inspired by memories, dreams, nightmares, hurtful words. Very rarely, I come up with a title first and find the story later. My flash fiction “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” came about this way. It is Latin for “After this therefore because of this”, which is a type of logical fallacy that mistakes correlation with causation. It took me a few years to find the story to fit that title.

Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?

It helps to have an idea of what my characters look like. Sometimes, I’ll pick someone I have known or else seen on TV. Occasionally, I’ll notice a stranger and be so taken by their appearance that I’ll file them away for future reference. Just a single trait will often do the trick: a person’s gait, posture, or a distinguishing characteristic such as an interesting beard.

However, I never base a character on the personality of anyone I know. My characters have to fit my plots and themes.

How do you pick your character names?

I’m guided by my character’s sex, ethnicity, age and socioeconomic status. I also have a baby name book that includes 50,000 names from around the world, so I’m never short of inspiration.

Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?

First comes the initial idea. For example, in my short story “Across the white desert”, I wanted to focus on the technique of writing an action-adventure story centred around a chase. Ultimately, I chose Antarctica because it is a treeless expanse with nowhere to hide; I built up the story elements from the setting. Other times, my idea is based on something in the real world. For example, I wanted to write about de-extinction science and my research led me to write my bio-horror novella Thylacines. It’s about a genetically-engineered litter of an extinct Australian dog-like species known as the Tasmanian tiger.

I rewrite as I go along. Moving forward in my first draft is impossible unless I’m happy with what I’ve already written. Once I’ve completed my manuscript, I let it sit for a few weeks, then edit ruthlessly. Beta readers and professional editors are, in my opinion, essential before submitting any manuscript to a publisher.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Only five? That’s a tough one! With apologies to the dozens of authors I admire, respect and love, I would have to choose (in no particular order) Annie Proulx, Daphne du Maurier, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler and Stephen King.

If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Homer, the legendary author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I wouldn’t have any question in particular to ask. Instead, I’d just tell him that his works are still read and revered some 29 centuries after he wrote them. Wow, can you imagine his reaction? The look on his face? I’d probably take along smelling salts – he’d need them to recover from his faint.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Reading was – and still is – my number one hobby. From a young age, I always had my nose in a book. As a little girl, my favourite books were by Enid Blyton. During primary school, I became interested in science and medicine. By the time I hit my teens, I was a sci-fi addict.

When did you start to write?

Before I knew my letters. I used to draw my stories instead. They all had essentially the same plot: someone gets kidnapped by a bad guy and then a team (including animal sidekicks such as dogs and birds) would rescue them. Not very sophisticated but, in my defence, I was only about three or four years old!

By the age of 11, I knew I was a writer. At 18, I sold my first piece of writing – a feature article on steroid abuse – to a bodybuilding magazine. That was during my first year at university, and I’ve been writing professionally ever since.

If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?

That’s a difficult question. The books I hold close to my heart are, in their various ways, perfect to me, including their endings. I’m an admirer of noir, where the endings are never happy. Those that make me cry are, paradoxically, the best kind. I want fiction to move me. If I felt the need to rewrite the ending of a book, chances are I’d have wanted to rewrite the whole thing because I didn’t like it.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

Oh, so many. Every book that imprints itself on my heart is one that I wish I had written, if only to have it closer to me. I’d love to have been privy to the creative processes.

If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?

I’m very private, so the idea of writing an autobiography is excruciating; akin to parading naked in the streets. But, if I had to come up with a title, it would be something like: I Did the Best I Could and underneath in smaller text: (Considering the Circumstances).

If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?

Raymond Chandler’s famed detective, Philip Marlowe. I’d take him to a little hole-in-the-wall dive in an out-of-the-way place, maybe in one of Melbourne’s dim, graffitied back lanes, and make sure the barista had a bottle of bourbon to liven up Marlowe’s coffee.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.

I love solving cryptic crosswords.

What are you working on right now?

A range of short stories. A few will be kept aside for inclusion in my dark fiction retrospective collection (as yet untitled) due for release in 2019. The others I’ll submit to horror and spec-fic magazines as I complete them. Later in the year, I intend to start on a novel in a horror subgenre I’ve never attempted before. Should be fun, I hope!

Tell us about your latest release?

300 Degree Days and Other Stories is a petite collection. First published in March 2014 by Ginninderra Press, it was re-released by Oscillate Wildly Press in February 2018. It’s available as an ebook and in paperback.

The back-cover blurb reads:

Sometimes, the ties that bind are sharp enough to cut. In these eleven stories, set in contemporary Australian suburbia, Deborah Sheldon examines the darker side of family relationships. Unsettling and incisively written, each story of betrayal, envy, loss or bad blood resonates for a long time after reading.

Do you have a new release due?

In September 2018, IFWG Publishing Australia will release my horror novel Contrition. I’m pleased to say that the cover design is by Bram Stoker Award-winning artist, Greg Chapman.

The back-cover blurb reads:

In her late teens, Meredith Berg-Olsen had had all the makings of a runway model. Now in her late forties, after everything she had been through – including horrors that John could only guess at – she looked bloodless instead of pale, skeletal instead of slender, more dead than alive… John Penrose has two secrets. One is the flatmate he keeps hidden from the world: his high-school sweetheart, Meredith. His other secret is the reason he feels compelled to look after her. Contrition is a horror story with noir undertones and an atmosphere of mounting dread.

What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?

I always have a few drinks! Chardonnay is my tipple of choice. My husband and son like to take me out to dinner.

How can readers keep in touch with you?

I have a monthly newsletter that includes updates and ebook giveaways. The signup button is on my website: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

I’m not on Facebook personally, but one of my publishers, IFWG Publishing Australia, runs a page on my behalf: https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/

I love being friended on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon

And I try to keep my Amazon author page up-to-date: https://www.amazon.com/Ms-Deborah-Sheldon/e/B0035MWQ98/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Reader reviews on Amazon or Goodreads mean a great deal to authors and publishers. Please consider leaving a review after reading a book, whether your opinion is good, bad or indifferent. Feedback – of all kinds – is very much appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Deborah 🙂

And thank you so much for having me on your blog. Your questions were really thought-provoking!

300 Degree Days cover

‘Sheldon’s stories lift the skin of small, suburban lives to expose the raw nerves beneath. Her writing is intimate, compelling and alarming…’ – The Short Review, UK.

Sometimes, the ties that bind are sharp enough to cut. In these eleven stories, set in contemporary Australian suburbia, Deborah Sheldon examines the darker side of family relationships. Unsettling and incisively written, each story of betrayal, envy, loss or bad blood resonates for a long time after reading.


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