Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Deborah Sheldon.
About the author
Deborah Sheldon is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. Her short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines, journals and anthologies. Her latest releases include the horror novel, Devil Dragon, the crime-noir novellas, Dark Waters and Ronnie and Rita, and the horror collection, Perfect Little Stitches and other stories, all of which are with traditional publishers. The title story of her horror collection, ‘Perfect Little Stitches’, was nominated for an Australian Shadows Award. Other writing credits include television scripts, stage plays, magazine articles, non-fiction books (published by Reed Books and Random House), and award-winning medical writing.
Visit Deb at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com.
AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH SHELDON
Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my husband and our son. I’ve been a professional writer for thirty years, and have written in just about every medium from feature articles, to TV scripts, to medical information for patients, to short stories and novels. Most recently, my writing has focused on speculative fiction.
How did you become a speculative fiction author? Have you always been interested in writing stories?
When I was a little kid and didn’t yet know my letters, I used to draw stories cartoon-style or act them out with my toys. I was about eleven when I decided I make my career in writing. University introduced me to non-fiction and script writing, two avenues I fell in love with and explored for a couple of decades. I came to fiction relatively late in life, at the age of forty. Initially, I wrote literary and crime-themed stories. But I was always drawn to darker topics.
My first spec-fic sale was the short story, “Perfect little stitches”, to Midnight Echo magazine in 2014. To my delight, the story was shortlisted for an Australian Shadows award, and reprinted in a few “best of” anthologies. I’ve written nothing but spec-fic, in various forms, ever since that sale.
What I love about the genre is that you are free to make up your own rules for each story. As long as the universe you create stays true to its own rules, your imagination can run wild.
Have any authors, books or stories influenced your writing style?
I’m paraphrasing, but Raymond Chandler believed the mark of a good writer was the ability to express character using dialogue and action, rather than inner monologue. That advice has stayed with me over the years.
Every book I’ve read, and every film or TV show I’ve watched has influenced my writing in one way or another. Some of my all-time favourite authors, in addition to Raymond Chandler, include Ernest Hemingway, Annie Proulx, Flannery O’Connor and about a few dozen others! Favourite spec-fic novels include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Haunting of Hill House, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Shining, Flowers for Algernon, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. I love discovering new writers, so I’m forever buying short story anthologies, particularly horror-themed ones.
Your short story collection, Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, was published by IFWG Publishing Australia (September 2017). What kind of a collection is it?
Dark fantasy and horror, with twenty short stories and one novelette. Eight stories are original to the collection, as is the novelette, “The Again-Walkers”. The remaining stories were first published in various well-respected magazines such as Midnight Echo, Aurealis, and SQ Mag.
What is the target audience of Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories?
Anyone who enjoys dark and disturbing fiction, and short stories with the touch of the bizarre. However, some stories include adult themes. This collection is not suitable for children!
What can readers expect from this collection?
Some creepy chills, I hope! It contains dark fantasy and various types of horror stories, ranging from body horror to psychological horror to the supernatural.
Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories features a story called “The Again-Walkers”, which is inspired by your interest in ninth century Danish mythology and superstition. Did you have to do research before writing this story?
Yes, and plenty of it!
My husband is Danish on his mother’s side. Because of this, our son has always taken a keen interest in the Vikings, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me.
One of the challenges of “The Again-Walkers” was that Vikings weren’t great at keeping written records. The surviving accounts about their lives come second-hand from the people who encountered them. The devil is in the detail, and it took some dedicated hunting to find all the details I required to give my novelette the kind of verisimilitude I felt it needed.
I find it intriguing that this collection has a diverse selection of flash fiction and short stories of supernatural, dark fantasy, physical horror, and psychological horror. Has it been challenging to write in different genres? Which genre do you prefer the most?
I get bored easily, and like a challenge. That’s why I’ve hopped from one writing medium to another throughout my career. I take the same approach to my short story writing, and enjoy experimenting with different styles and techniques.
When I first thought about writing enough stories for a collection, I made the conscious decision to vary the stories as much as possible, to both keep myself entertained and to ensure the collection would feel fresh to the reader.
As far as which subgenre I prefer, I honestly don’t have a preference. I love them all! Each offers its own rewards.
What inspires you to write dark fantasy and horror fiction?
All fiction explores the same theme – what it means to be human – but dark fantasy and horror explicitly focus on fear, morbidity and death. In that sense, the genres are cathartic, both to read and to write. Being alive yet knowing that the delicate, fragile little meat-sack you’re living inside will, on one random day, fail and die is difficult to accept. Even more so the inevitable deaths of those you love. Dark fantasy and horror fiction let us stare at this terrifying Void, experience it, and survive it.
What can readers expect next from you?
I’m working on a creature-horror novella that’s in a similar ballpark to my novel, Devil Dragon (Severed Press, 2016). I don’t want to give too much away, but the story involves body horror and a lot of action. I’m having a great time writing it, and hope to have it finished by the end of the year.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Yes, thank you for having me on this site!
And a big thank you to the readers who buy Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories. Please drop me a line on Goodreads or visit my website to let me know what you thought of the collection. I always love hearing from readers. Even better, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (via my website homepage) and you’ll receive a free ebook, 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, first published by Ginninderra Press.