ABOUT THE AUTHOR : DEBORAH SHELDON
- Tell us about yourself.
I’m married and we have a teenage son. We live in Melbourne with a bossy little budgerigar and a tank full of freshwater tropical fish.
My credits include feature articles for national magazines; TV scripts such as Neighbours, Australia’s Most Wanted and State Coroner; short plays performed in Melbourne and Sydney; award-winning medical writing; and non-fiction books for Reed Books and Random House. My short stories have appeared in a range of literary magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Tincture Journal and [untitled], as well as in many anthologies. My latest release is my crime-noir novella Dark Waters (Cohesion Press), which includes my bonus novella, Ronnie and Rita.
- How do you feel about being part of Satalyte’s Women’s Month?
After a couple of decades of success in non-fiction, I turned to fiction. The road is definitely tougher. Generally speaking, male writers are taken more seriously by publishers, and receive the lion’s share of reviews and awards. ‘Women’s fiction’ is a subcategory in bookstores, but there is no subcategory called ‘Men’s fiction’. Women are sometimes asked to use their initials if they write outside the traditionally feminine arenas of romance, erotica or ‘feel good’ fiction – P.D. James and J.K. Rowling come to mind. As a writer of crime, dark fiction, crime-noir and horror, I experience sexism from time to time. (A back-handed compliment from an industry professional: ‘Wow, Deb, you write like a man.’)
I’m proud to be a part of Satalyte’s Women’s Month. I hope that Satalyte will inspire more publishers to make similar efforts.
- Do you feel there are any advantages or disadvantages to being a Female author, or is it totally irrelevant?
Every writer is a sensitive soul, whether male or female. Writers of both sexes have brought me to tears, and even to epiphanies, by the power of their words. I believe that we all share the beauty and terror of the human experience. As a reader, it is the talent – not the gender – that matters to me.
- If you could have written any book, other than your own, which would you choose?
What a tough question! I cherish so many books… out of dozens, my short list of ‘wish I’d written it’ includes The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Night of the Hunter by David Grubb, Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, and almost everything by Raymond Chandler.
- Is there any way you would like to see the publishing industry in Australia grow or change in the future?
Once upon a time, bestselling titles such as cookbooks allowed a publisher to offset the expense of fostering new Australian writers who might take two or more novels to find a dedicated readership. That time has passed. Today, accountants run the show. It’s all about maximum return and minimum risk. If I had a magic wand, I’d make the immediate ‘dollar value’ of an author less important than their talent. In the real world, however, the only way to do that is via e-book publishing, where overheads are so low that a house can afford to take a risk on a talented but unknown writer. That said: small and medium publishers consistently produce great titles from new authors, year after year. I’m hoping for a ‘trickle-up’ effect where bigger houses take the same kind of risk.
ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK
- Tell us about your book.
‘Mayhem: selected stories’ comprises 28 of my crime and dark-themed short stories. Most were originally published by magazines such as Island, Crime Factory, [untitled], Tincture Journal, and Shotgun Honey.
- What inspired you to write this book?
Every story nagged at me to be written. A line of dialogue, an opening sentence, a plot point, a thematic arc – something in each piece compelled me to work on it. Personally, I love the short story form. I buy and devour plenty of short story collections every year; my bookshelves are laden with them.
- Can you name your favourite character in your book?
My favourite character is always the protagonist of the story I’m currently writing. By that rationale, I have 28 favourite characters in ‘Mayhem: Selected Stories’. My job was to tell each of their stories as honestly as possible.
- Do you have any ambitions or goals for your next book?
At this stage, my next book is a crime novel to be released by Satalyte Publishing later this year. If you’re talking about goals for an unfinished project, however, I’m working on a horror/monster novella and making myself crazy with research about automatic weapons and such forth. I hope to finish the novella sometime within the next couple of months. In between, I’ll work on short stories that insist on being written.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there?
Fads come and go. Don’t focus too hard on the marketplace. Instead, write what is dear to you, have your work professionally edited before you submit, and don’t be daunted by rejections. Keep going until you find the publishing house that appreciates your work.
Interviewed by Alyssa Wickramasinghe