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Deborah Sheldon is a … I don’t even know where to begin.. if it can be written, she’s probably written it! In recent times however, Deborah has published crime novels, a short story collection called Mayhem, and has a bio horror novel forthcoming form the very cool Cohesion Press.

Deborah Sheldon (1)

Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and have about 30 years of professional writing credits across a range of media. I got my Bachelor of Arts (Multidisciplinary) way back when the Toorak campus of Deakin University was still Victoria College. I’m married to a wonderful man, Allen, who supports my writing both emotionally and financially, and we have a teenage son, Harry. Atlas, our pampered and bossy little budgie, keeps all of us in line.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?

After many years of focusing on medical writing, journalism, and TV scriptwriting, I started writing fiction in late 2007. At first, I wrote literary fiction; specifically, short stories with a sad or melancholic aspect. Then I moved into crime writing. My crime noir, in particular, tended to include scenes of horror. In mid-2014, after signing contracts for two crime novels, I found myself at a loose end. Where to now? I felt uneasy, restless; itchy to try something new. I decided to write a horror story, and loved the experience.

What draws me to horror is the same thing that draws me to crime noir: life is a grisly exercise. There’s something cathartic about putting anxieties down on paper.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?

It’s a cliche to say it, since so many others have said it before me, but Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ scared the absolute bejesus out of me when I was a kid. I make a point of re-reading it every five or so years, just to remind myself how it’s possible to transform the most ordinary things – a fire hose, a locked door, a row of hedge animals – into objects of terror, given the right words and attention to detail.

Q. What is your favourite horror film?

Oh, too many to name just one! ‘Psycho’ still gives me the creeps, particularly the look on Anthony Perkins’s face in the last scene. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is a glorious and gory take on paranoia that just gets better every time I watch it. ‘Aliens’, a perfect balance of suspense and shocks, will always be in my Top Five. While ‘Cape Fear’ (1962) isn’t a horror film by strict definition, the escalating sense of helpless dread always leaves me in tears. Then there are particular scenes in horror films that stay with me even when the rest of the film fades from memory… the eerie journey through the cane fields in ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ (1943), and the first time the monster appears in the original ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951).

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

In 30 years, I’ve written a lot, too much to list here. More recently, I’ve had horror stories published in Midnight Echo, Pulp Modern, Lighthouses: an anthology of dark tales, and Aurealis, and upcoming in Tincture Journal, SQ Mag, and Allegory. One of my stories got an Honourable Mention in the AHWA 2015 Flash Fiction Awards, which was great. My most recent projects are the crime noir novella, ‘Dark Waters’ (Cohesion Press 2014), and the collection, ‘Mayhem: selected stories’ (Satalyte Publishing 2015). There is a full list of credits on my website.

I don’t have a favourite work overall. I tend to fall in love with each project asI’m writing it. Therefore, I’m constantly in love.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

DS: I love writing in all its forms. I’ve sold drabbles, flash, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels, as well as stage plays, radio plays, TV scripts, and a telemovie shortlisted for production by Australia’s Channel 10. As a reader, I devour all types of storytelling media, including film – I’m a sucker for mid-20th century Hollywood. In both reading and writing, I crave variety.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

DS: My bio-horror novel, ‘Devil Dragon’.

It’s about a scientist, Dr Erin Harris, who is obsessed with finding a living Varanus priscus, a giant Australian lizard that apparently went extinct some 12,000 years ago. There are occasional sightings, like Big Foot or Nessie. Erin cobbles together an expedition party and travels into the unexplored heart of a national park. A nerdy scientist, an elderly farmer and two gun-toting deer hunters stranded in the bush versus an apex predator the size of a campervan – what could go wrong? I intensively researched herpetology, firearms, and hunting. What a steep learning curve! I’m very grateful to the professionals who helped vet an earlier draft for technical accuracy. ‘Devil Dragon’ is due for release in October 2016 through Cohesion Press. It is to be the first in a new series, called ‘Natural Selection’, of stand-alone bio-horror novels.

In between rewrites of ‘Devil Dragon’, I’m currently working on a horror short story that involves spiders… a few billion of them. And soon, I’ll be working on the final edits of my contemporary crime novel, ‘Garland Cove Heist’, due for release in November 2016 by Satalyte Publishing.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

Ds: Don’t make me choose! Top three, in no particular order: Annie Proulx, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson.

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?

I would love to collaborate on a project, maybe a short story anthology.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

DS: I always have a stack of books on my bedside table. At the moment, I’m reading Aurealis #87 (which has my short story, ‘Across the white desert’, beautifully illustrated by Andrew Saltmarsh by the way); ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood; and ‘Killing Pablo’ by Mark Bowden.

My TBR pile includes ‘A Hell of a Woman’ by Jim Thompson, ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne du Maurier, ‘Doctor Sleep’ by Stephen King, ‘The Quiet American’ by Graham Greene, ‘The Scapegoat’ by Daphne du Maurier, ‘Mockingbird’ by Walter Tevis, ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent, ‘One Count to Cadence’ by James Crumley, and oh God please help me I can’t stop buying books…

Q. What films are you looking forward to?

DS: Zoolander 2! I loved the first film and can’t wait for more silliness.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges you have faced that are complicated by your gender?

DS: It’s a presumption that men write action/crime/horror, and women write romance/chick lit/erotica. The members of one of my writing groups – all women – are convinced that female writers are considered substandard by the industry.

Grudgingly, I agree. Why else would we need our separate spotlights, such as the Stella Awards and the Women in Horror Month, unless we are marginalised?

Q. Why is ‘Women in Horror’ Month important?

DS: The reading public needs to know that plenty of women are writing some seriously kick-arse horror fiction. Readers will catch on fast. In a few years, a ‘Women in Horror’ month will no longer be necessary, I hope.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

• Read a lot, across a range of genres.

• Write a lot. Ignore the marketplace, and write what stirs you.

• Join a writers’ group, preferably with people who are around the same level of experience. Feedback and constructive criticism are invaluable.

• Revise and edit, over and over, until your piece is the best you can make it.

• Don’t worry too much about rejection. When you’re a writer, rejection comes with the job. Have a glass of wine, steel yourself, and submit to a new market.

Deborah Sheldon links:

Website: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3312459.Deborah_Sheldon

Facebook page (run by Cohesion Press): https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/

Latest Individual Works

  • Dark Waters (paperback)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/dp/0992558158

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558154

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-waters-deborah- sheldon/1120936372?ean=9780992558154

Fishpond: http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Dark-Waters-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558154

  • Dark Waters (ebook)

http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00QZ6UKD0

  • Mayhem: selected stories (paperback)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah- Sheldon/dp/0992558077

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayhem-deborah-sheldon/1121223029?ean=9780992558079

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558079

Satalyte Publishing: http://satalyte.com.au/product/mayhem-selected-stories-deborah-sheldon/

Fishpond: http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Mayhem-Selected-Stories-Deborah-Sheldon/9780992558079

Mayhem: selected stories (ebook)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com.au/Mayhem-selected-stories-Deborah-Sheldon-ebook/dp/B00TP1FCZI

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayhem-deborah-sheldon/1121223029?ean=2940046583090

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/520178

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mayhem-selected-stories/id968888076?mt=11

Satalyte Publishing: http://satalyte.com.au/product/mayhem-selected-stories-deborah-sheldon/

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Comments
  1. GNBraun says:

    Great interview!

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