Interview: with Deborah Sheldon
Deborah Sheldon writes across the darker spectrum of crime, noir and horror. Latest works include Contrition, Thylacines, and Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”) and Breach #08. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books and award-winning medical writing. Deb lives in Melbourne, Australia. Read more at deborahsheldon.wordpress.com
Hi Deborah, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and made my first sale at eighteen during my first year of university. Thirty-two years later, I can happily say that I’ve spent my whole adult life as a writer. In 2007, I turned my hand to prose fiction. I’ve been writing horror, in its various subgenres, since 2014.
You’re quite prolific, with novels, novellas, short story collections and even TV scripts to your name. What drives you to sit down and aim for finished, published stories?
I can’t imagine doing anything else with my professional life. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed such a long and varied career thanks to my low tolerance for boredom. For example, I wrote a vast amount of freelance feature articles for magazines – the bulk of them health-oriented – for about ten years. I stopped when I felt there was nothing left for me to learn in a technical sense.
I like the feeling of a specific type of writing-related stress: that of not knowing if I can achieve something or not. The anxiety creates a kind of fizzing mental energy and a deep level of absorption while I’m figuring out how to write in a medium/genre/style I’ve never attempted before.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or subgenres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
I believe there’s no such thing as a bad idea, just bad execution. Tropes and subgenres stay fresh if the writer approaches them in his or her own unique way. As a writer, you only have your voice and worldview, so if you imbue these elements into your stories, you can make even the corniest cliché an interesting, entertaining read.
Tropes that I want to see more of? Any that encourage “parochial” or home-grown fiction. Give me stories with a strong sense of place and time. Give me stories with unique monsters, myths and legends. Aussie writers should be encouraged to write Australian stories, and Kiwi writers to write New Zealand stories. We mustn’t shy away from documenting and celebrating our own cultures.
What books are beside your bed right now?
Aurealis #113 by Chimaera Publications, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and The Dark Descent anthology edited by David G. Hartwell. (And a dozen more on my TBR pile.)
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
For the twenty-four years I’ve lived in this house, I’ve always written in my study. As soon as I sit down, I’m trained to write. It’s as routine as brushing my teeth before bed. I purposefully made myself this creature of habit to minimise procrastination.
What are your thoughts on indie publishing in Australia?
Gone are the days when large publishers would subsidise their fiction titles with sales from bestselling cookbooks or sportsmen biographies. Thes
e days, accountants rule the roost. On the other hand, indie publishers are passionate about literature, aren’t afraid to take risks, and are bringing out the most incredible and genre-mashing works. Apart from the classics, almost every book I read is from a small or medium press. Indie publishing houses in Australia are keeping Aussie literature alive and I absolutely love them for it.