Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Thanks for having me back on your blog, Fiona. My name is Deborah Sheldon, and I turned the big five-oh this year.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.)
I’m married and we have a teenage son. I have always wanted to be a writer. During the first year of my Bachelor of Arts degree, at the age of 18, I started selling feature articles to magazines. For the past 32 years, I’ve been a professional writer with credits across a range of media including television, medical writing, and non-fiction books. For the past 10 years, I’ve focused on fiction. I write short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. My work has been nominated for a number ofAustralian Shadows Awards, and my short fiction included in various “best of” anthologies.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My most recent release is the horror collection, Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (IFWG Publishing Australia,2017).
I’m absolutely thrilled that I’ve got three titles coming out in 2018: the horror novella, Thylacines (Severed Press), the horror novel, Contrition (IFWG Publishing Australia), and the dark literary collection, 300 Degree Days and Other Stories(Oscillate Wildly Press).
300 Degree Days and Other Stories was first published by Ginninderra Press in 2014. It is a petite collection of eleven stories about dysfunctional families, and I believe it contains some of my best work. The Short Story Review UK wrote, “Sheldon’s stories lift the skin of small, suburban lives to expose the raw nerves beneath. Her writing is intimate, compelling and alarming…” The comprehensive review on the Whispering Gums website included, “I enjoyed 300 Degree Days for its authentic portrayal of how people behave and respond to challenges in their relationships. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real, and that made it a winner for me.”
I’m very excited about the collection’s re-release in March. Oscillate Wildly Press may be a relatively “new kid on the block” in Australian publishing, but they have already garnered plenty of attention, including national award nominations.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My process for titles differs from one work to the next.
For 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, “300 Degree Days” was the title of the first short story I ever sold, way back in 2005 to Quadrant magazine. In fact, it was also the first short story I ever wrote, and Quadrant was the first place I approached. I call that little miracle my hole-in-one! It fooled me into thinking that publishing short stories was easy. Ha, then reality set in! It’s a tough market (since good writers are a dime-a-dozen) but it forces you to constantly strive and improve your craft. If you’ve got skin thick enough to withstand the staggering rejection rate, you’ll find yourself getting better and better.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m paraphrasing, but Raymond Chandler said that the mark of a proficient writer was the ability to communicate character via action and dialogue, rather than inner monologue. I try to keep that in mind. Writing dark fiction is challenging because you are trying to evoke fear, sorrow or anxiety in a reader, without the advantages that films or TV shows have of visuals, sound effects and music to help you. With only words on a page at your disposal, you have to dig deep and use every technique in your repertoire to try to reach the reader’s heart.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Each one of the eleven stories in 300 Degree Days and Other Stories has a kernel of reality to it. We all experience loss, betrayal or ill-treatment in our lives. Many writers like to take such moments and transform them into works that, hopefully, resonate with readers on a number of levels. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Whether or not I physically travel depends on the needs of the story. For example, for my horror novel, Devil Dragon(Severed Press), I drew upon my interactions – from a safe distance! – with crocodiles on a family trip to Darwin, and went to a Victorian national park to soak in the atmosphere of the Australian bush. The fictitious town of Brownbeck in my romance-suspense novella, The Long Shot (Desert Breeze Publishing) was based on a number of areas in the Yarra Valley, a popular rural region east of Melbourne. I took photographs and extensive notes prior to writing my first draft so that I could capture the “country” in my story.
For 300 Degree Days and Other Stories and my upcoming horror novel Contrition, I travelled into the past and drew upon various memories, using them as a springboard to fire my imagination. My horror collection, Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, required extensive travelling around the more obscure nooks and crannies of the Internet to ferret out the origins behind fantastical creatures such as faeries, brownies, bunyips and mermaids.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Overall, my writing reflects that life – while always worth living – includes suffering and unexpected challenges. However, each of my works has additional, specific themes.
For 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, I wanted to address the theme of family. People from (or in) dysfunctional families often feel deep shame. However, the myth of the perfectly happy family is just that – a myth. I hope readers will feel some kind of connection with the stories, andappreciate that to be human often includes “surviving” family relationships of one toxic kind or another.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’m a voracious reader of short stories, both single-author collections and anthologies, and I’m impressed by far too many new writers to mention by them all by name!
Some of my favourite reads of 2017 included Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado, Seconds by David Ely, The Long Valley by John Steinbeck, The Life and Loves of a She Devilby Fay Weldon, The Other by Thomas Tryon, and The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers. Upon reflection, each of these works deals with the vagaries of family relationships.
More than anything, when I read I want to feel something. The books I love most are the ones that grab me by the heart – or the throat!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Publishers who believe in you and your work are worth their weight in gold. Nobody can champion you like an enthusiastic publisher. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are passionate about Australian stories. For them, it’s not all about the bottom line: it’s about nurturing Aussie voices and literature.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I most recently finished the horror novella, Thylacines. It concerns a de-extinction lab that brings back the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, which was hunted to extinction some eighty years ago. I learned a great deal about resurrection science, but only the tip of the iceberg made it into the story. A writer has to be very careful not to “overshare” their research with the reader!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
My advice for any writer, regardless of experience level, would be to join (or start) a writers group. Writers, particularly those who share an interest in the same genres,can be a great source of support and motivation.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you so much for your support! I appreciate every rating and review on Goodreads and Amazon, including the bad ones! And an extra-big thank you to those readers who have taken the time to contact me via email, Goodreads or Facebook to let me know how much they enjoyed my work. Your messages mean a great deal. (Most recently, a reader described Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories as “a treasure trove”. That’s the kind of comment I like to hug to myself.)
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg, and Holy Sh*t: a brief history of swearing by Melissa Mohr. (The latter was an unexpected gift from my mentee when I participated in the 2017 Australian Horror Writers Association Mentorship Program. I had mentioned, perhaps a few times during our conversations about craft, my appreciation for swear words!)
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website, http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com, lists all of my published works with links to reviews and purchasing sites. My monthly newsletter includes updates and links. Starting in January 2018, my newsletter will also include ebook giveaways exclusive to subscribers.
You can follow me on Facebook (which is run on my behalf by one of my publishers, IFWG Publishing Australia) – https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/
And friend me on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon
And here is my Amazon author page – https://www.amazon.com/Ms-Deborah-Sheldon/e/B0035MWQ98/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1 (not as up-to-date as my website, but I try!)