Name Deborah Sheldon
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
In 1988, I graduated from Victoria College (now Deakin University) with a Bachelor of Arts. I majored in scriptwriting and journalism. My minors were literature and philosophy; my electives included fiction writing, psychology and editing.
I got married in 1998. My husband and I have a teenage son.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Cohesion Press published my crime-noir novella, ‘Dark Waters’, in December 2014. The book includes a bonus novella, ‘Ronnie and Rita’, which Cohesion Press first published last year. http://cohesionpress.com/our-books/darkwaters/
In February 2015, Satalyte Publishing will release my collection, ‘Mayhem: selected stories’, which includes a range of my crime-themed short fiction published between the years of 2007 and 2014. http://satalyte.com.au/product/mayhem-selected-stories-deborah-sheldon/
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As a preschooler, I drew action-adventure stories in the form of panel cartoons – not because I liked to draw, but because I didn’t know any other way to express my stories. I don’t know why I love writing. The passion for it must be hard-wired into my DNA.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I sold my first piece: it was an article on steroid abuse, published by a bodybuilding magazine. I was 18 years old – nearly 30 years ago – yet I still remember that wonderful, overwhelming feeling of shock and gratitude when I opened the envelope and discovered, not a rejection letter, but a cheque.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first books were non-fiction, published in the 1990s by Reed Books (now defunct) and Random House. My first long-form fiction was ‘Ronnie and Rita’, a novella originally published by Dark Prints Press in 2013, then later that same year by Cohesion Press when Dark Prints Press closed its doors. The original idea came to me in 2000. In the waiting room of my doctor’s surgery, I happened to read a magazine article about the attempted kidnapping of a baby. As a new mother myself, I was horrified! But the writer’s side of my brain was thinking… what a great idea for a story.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I try my best to express a character through his or her actions and dialogue. Whenever possible, I leave it to the reader to connect the dots.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Sometimes, I take titles straight from the story itself, such as ‘Ronnie and Rita’, the names of the main characters. Other times, I use an image. For example, water is a recurring motif in ‘Dark Waters’. My upcoming collection is a gathering of dark and tumultuous stories, so I chose the title ‘Mayhem’ to best describe the overall mood.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The main theme of ‘Dark Waters’ is redemption. More specifically: is it possible for a bad man to atone for all the bad things he has done in his life? And if so, at what cost?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
‘Dark Waters’ is set in the world of Melbourne outlaw motorcycle clubs. Even though the two clubs in the novella are fictitious, I needed a lot of research to ensure verisimilitude. My publisher had valuable suggestions too, which I incorporated into the manuscript.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Generally, I don’t write from real events, but I do write from real feelings. For example, I might take a painful experience from my own life and infuse a character with the emotions and outlook I had at the time. This technique helps me to write honestly.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life? a mentor?
The works of Raymond Chandler would have to be my greatest influence. Discovering Chandler was like finding a light-switch in the dark.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Actually, it’s a literary journal that has one of my short stories in it. The December 2014 issue of Tincture Journal is an eclectic mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from contributors all over the world, including Australia. http://tincture-journal.com/contributors/
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I buy most of my modern-day books from small and medium presses, mostly from Australia but also from other English-speaking countries. I love old-time noir, so I enjoy finding obscure US titles from the 1920s onwards. Thank you, Book Depository!
Almost every new author is interesting to me in some way, even if I don’t connect with their style or topic.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Satalyte Publishing and I are in the throes of finalising the manuscript, ‘Mayhem: selected stories’, for publication.
This year, I made a sideways move into horror writing, which I’m enjoying immensely. I’m proud to be included in the ghost anthology, ‘The Day Death Wore Boots’ (Alfie Dog UK). http://alfiedog.com/products-page/alan-cadman/the-day-death-wore-boots-a-collection-of-ghost-stories/
Right now, I’m working on my first monster story. It’ll probably be novella-sized and finished sometime around March or April of next year. Then, I’ll have the hard graft of finding a publisher.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’ve been a member of various writing groups for about six years. Having your work critiqued by other professional writers is a great way to sharpen a story.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It’s the only way I’ve ever made money since I turned 18 – from working as a magazine journalist, a television researcher/script editor, a TV scriptwriter, a health and medical writer, and now as an author. That said, there’s very little money in fiction. If you want to make the big bucks, concentrate on writing non-fiction!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I’m perfectly happy with how ‘Dark Waters’ turned out. That’s because I rewrote, revised and edited the manuscript until it was exactly how I wanted it to be. My publisher’s input was invaluable. Together, we created a great final draft.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a child, I was an avid reader.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is an excerpt from ‘Dark Waters’:
On the night of the accident, Brendan was driving home from the pub after the meeting chaired by Four-Eyes. He’d driven the route hundreds of times over the past three decades. It was raining. This time there was oil on the road. Or black ice. Or road kill, smeared by traffic into a slick consistency. Whatever it was, it loosened the car’s tyres. He turned the sedan into the hairpin and aquaplaned.
The lift and drift of the car had a feel that hit him first in his guts, second in his brain. At eighty-something kilometres an hour, more than twenty over the posted speed limit, the Holden lost its grip and shrugged its shoulder towards the fence.
Brendan watched the crash coming at him.
The barbed-wire fence screeched over the bonnet. Lines broke, snapping and twanging. The car dug into something, perhaps the gutter. Unexpectedly, the sedan launched into a cartwheel, turning end over end through the air so smoothly, so easily, that it reminded Brendan of a tossed pancake. The car took forever to complete its flip. Items in the console – wallet, mints, small change, debris in the footwells – became airborne. Brendan wondered what would happen when the car hit land.
But it didn’t hit land.
Sudsy curds of dirty water smashed against the windscreen. The noise came as a surprise. Despite the seatbelt, Brendan’s head hit the ceiling. For a moment, he didn’t know where he was. Something hurt in his mouth. His collarbone hurt too. A vision of Max briefly came to mind, the boy running, laughing. Then the coldness of water against his scalp shocked Brendan awake.
The sinking car made odd noises as the cabin flooded, a cacophony of whooshing, burbling and gurgling sounds. Dazed, Brendan couldn’t fathom what was happening. He was upside-down, he knew that much. The seatbelt was cutting into his neck. He touched his face where it hurt. The dim light from the dashboard made the blood on his fingertips look black. The rushing noises became reality as freezing cold water ran over his eyes, his nose, his mouth.
He understood that the car was upside-down in water.
Properties in Burleywood Creek routinely had rectangular-shaped dams that ran alongside the roads. Brendan realised that he had flipped his car into one of these dams. But he could get out of it. Typically, the dams were only three or four metres deep. He pressed the seatbelt release, fell into water, righted himself. His fingers scrabbled against the electric button for the driver’s side window. The suction of air leaving the cabin was deafening, the blurp sound popping his eardrums, as dark water consumed him. The water felt cold enough to seize his heart.
The engine cut out. The dashboard lights disappeared, the button died under his fingers. He didn’t know if the window was open wide enough. Shoving himself through the gap, scraping his back on the glass, he jettisoned himself into the murk. He was now desperate for air. There was no air. He didn’t know where he was. Follow the bubbles to the surface. But there were no bubbles. He struck out with arms and legs, swimming, hoping to find orientation. He was neither up nor down, suspended in blackness. His lungs inverted in on themselves. His heart boomed. The blackness squeezed.
The cliché of life flashing before his eyes didn’t happen. Instead, he saw a moment with Nicole.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find the business side of writing to be quite challenging. For example, even after all these years as a professional, rejections still get me down. (While composing these answers to Fiona’s interview questions, I got a rejection e-mail from a literary magazine – ouch, no kidding! – and yes, it hurt.) The best way to deal with rejection is to send the piece to another market that same day.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have too many favourite authors to list just one! Some include Night of the Hunter by David Grubb, Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven, The collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway, and Deadwood by Pete Dexter.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Generally, no: although I like to do the odd location-shoot to help me envisage a story’s environment. (My hubby is an excellent location manager, driver and photographer.)
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Dean Samed of UK-based Conzpiracy Arts designed ‘Dark Waters’, which is tremendously exciting, since he has also designed covers for Clive Barker and Stephen King. http://www.conzpiracy.co.uk/
The cover of ‘Mayhem: selected stories’ is still in its mock-up stages, so I don’t know yet who the artist will be. However, Satalyte Publishing has produced some gorgeous covers by renowned artists, so I’m confident that I will love the final look of ‘Mayhem: selected stories’.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I always get emotionally attached to my characters. For example, it became increasingly difficult to put my protagonist of ‘Dark Waters’, Brendan Reilly, through so much strife. I had similar struggles with the characters of my short stories in ‘Mayhem’. There’s a part of me that always wants to rescue them! And occasionally, I do.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That writing is the best kind of obsessive behaviour you could ever wish for.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write the stories that you want to write. Don’t worry about the marketplace. Publishing fads come and go. Editors, publishers and readers all want the same thing: stories written well and from the heart.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking a chance on me! Buying a book is always a gamble.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I was a big fan of Enid Blyton and her Famous Five books, and her Five Find-Outers and Dog series. Science fiction featured strongly too. As a kid, I loved Harry Harrison’s ‘The Stainless Steel Rat’ series, and any book that related to Star Wars. ‘Splinter of the mind’s eye’ is a title I remember – even though I don’t recall the story.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Just being alive. It’s a mad, crazy, beautiful world that breaks my heart and mends it in turns all the time, every day.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Aristotle from the 4th century BC – just to see the look on his face when I tell him that his dramatic theories are still relevant today.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I actually don’t want a headstone.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Hobbies include: reading, noir movies, cryptic crosswords, gourmet cooking, live action entertainment such as a circus or rodeo, belly dance.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch a lot of TV. However, I love Law and Order: SVU, and black-and-white films from old Hollywood.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Favourite foods: curry laksa, Italian cuisine (you name it, I’ll eat it), crispy-skinned salmon from the BBQ
Favourite colour: purple
Favourite music: blues rock such as Free, Bad Company, Bob Seger; and iconic Australian bands including Cruel Sea and Cold Chisel. (See how old I am?) Just so you know: I also appreciate Justin Timberlake. I’ve learned the lyrics and I frequently dance to his albums, much to the everlasting embarrassment of my son.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
That’s a tough question! I suppose a behavioural psychologist – people and what motivates them are endlessly fascinating to me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com
My Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon
Cohesion Press is currently running a Goodreads giveaway of ‘Dark Waters’ with three copies to be won. The giveaway is open to residents of Australia, Great Britain, USA, and Canada, and finishes January 20th 2015. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/120217-dark-waters