Deborah Sheldon is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. Some of her latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the novella Thylacines, the collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, and the novel Devil Dragon. Upcoming titles include the novel Contrition later in 2018, and a retrospective dark fiction collection in 2019. Her short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.
Synopsis and Review:
The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was hunted to extinction some eighty years ago. Now, Professor Rosie Giuliani and her staff at The Resurrection Lab have done the impossible: created a living, breathing litter from a preserved specimen. Yet Rosie can’t share this scientific breakthrough with the world. The cloned animals are more like monsters than thylacines. By chance, a small band of activists hears about the caged litter, and their decision to free the tigers will unleash a deadly havoc upon the campus of Fraser University.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
This short story/ Novella is truly frightening. If you are a lover of the horror genre and are looking for a quick, exciting, horror read then I thoroughly recommend Thylacines.
Thylacines (a dog like marsupial extict since 1936) were more commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger a team of scientists use a preserve specimen to create a litter of the extinct creatures. The litter are different, twice the size and deathly dangerous, they are released by a group of activists who have no idea of the horror that they are releasing onto the poor college campus.
For a relatively short story (122 Kindle pages) this story packs a huge punch.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Throughout most of my years at primary school, I wanted to be an illustrator for superhero comics. Then it dawned on me: I enjoyed composing the story much more than illustrating the panels. I knew by about the age of 11 that I was a writer. My goal was to write novels. However, university exposed me to a fascinating range of options that I hadn’t considered before, so I spent the next 20 years or so writing feature articles, TV scripts, and various non-fictions including books and medical information. I came to fiction in my late thirties, writing my first short story in 2005. These days, I mostly write across the darker spectrum of crime, noir and horror.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
Oh, I have so many favourite things. I can’t choose!
Writing gives me a mental high. The deep level of absorption while writing feels like an intense meditation session, where the world and the self drop away.
I enjoy the research phase a great deal. Thorough research opens a story to many possibilities. For my horror novel Devil Dragon, I had to learn about guns, palaeontology and herpetology. Once I exhausted my own research methods, I turned to experts. I love that “a-ha” moment when you stumble upon a nugget of information that blossoms into a scene within your mind’s eye.
And yes, it sounds like a cliché, but writing is a kind of therapy. For my dark literary collection, 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, I rifled through memories, and re-imagined the emotions I’d experienced in fictional form. It’s cathartic when you manage to pin down a particular feeling on paper.
I also relish working with editors, publishers, cover designers, PR people. Getting feedback from readers is so rewarding. Recently, a reader described my horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories as “a treasure trove”, and that’s the kind of praise I hold close to my heart.
HAVE YOU BEEN INSPIRED BY OTHER AUTHORS? IF SO, WHO?
Every short story, novella, novel, and film I’ve ever enjoyed has influenced me, sometimes profoundly. My background in scriptwriting affects how I write my prose fiction: I visualise each scene as if watching it on-screen, and then transcribe what happens. It sounds counter-intuitive for a prose fiction writer to say this, but screenwriters are my greatest inspiration. The best ones use plot and dialogue to convey a raft of subtext. This was especially true for the old Hollywood horror and noir films that were constrained by censorship rules. Raymond Chandler once said that a good writer is marked by the ability to tell a story through action and dialogue. I try to keep that in mind when I’m writing.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK BY ANOTHER AUTHOR?
I can’t pick just one. Some of my favourite books in the spec-fic genre 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. My all-time favourite authors are Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Annie Proulx, Flannery O’Connor, and a few dozen more.
DO YOU HAVE A SET NUMBER OF WORDS TO ACHIEVE IN A DAY OR ARE YOU FLEXIBLE?
I write three or four days a week, for about four or five hours per day. Generally, I aim for 2500 words of a publishable standard per week, give or take. That means, broadly speaking, I can write a novella in four months and a novel in about eight or nine.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED WRITER’S BLOCK AND IF SO, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
I believe writer’s block is a symptom of an underlying complaint: either burnout or boredom.
I always experience burnout after finishing a long-form project such as a novella or novel, and I’ve learned not to fight it. My brain needs a few weeks to “decompress”. I live quietly, read lots of books, and binge-watch old Hollywood films. When I feel my mojo returning, I might focus on other forms of writing for a while, such as drafting up a short stage-play, composing a non-fiction article, or researching an upcoming project. When I start playing with sentences and scenes while cooking dinner, showering or driving, I know I’m ready to hit the keyboard again.
Boredom happens, I think, when you keep writing the same kind of material, over and over. I avoid boredom by switching up my work schedule. For example, after completing a novel, I’ll focus on short stories or flash fiction. I also experiment with new techniques or subgenres. You must constantly push yourself to feel challenged, engaged and curious.
IF YOU COULD MEET ONE AUTHOR, ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD IT BE?
Raymond Chandler. Prior to reading his novel, The Lady in the Lake, writing prose fiction had not occurred to me. Add to that his brilliant screenplay for James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, starring the fabulous Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, which is loaded with double entendres and whip-cracking dialogue…wow! I devoured every Raymond Chandler book I could find – except for three of his short stories. They have remained unread for about 14 years now. Call me crazy or sentimental, but I don’t want to live in a world with no more Raymond Chandler stories to read. I guess I’ll read them on my deathbed – if I’m lucky enough to get a deathbed.
DO YOU PREPARE AN OUTLINE OR DO YOU WRITE AS YOU GO?
I’ve always outlined to some degree. Over the years, I’ve heard versions of the old chestnut, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader”. So once, I tried writing a short story by the seat of my pants and went around and around in pointless circles. Frustrated after a couple of wasted days, I went back to outlining, and ended up with a pretty good action-adventure tale that sold on its first submission.
Yes, I outline, but not meticulously. For example, an outline for a novel might be 25 to 30 plot-points, with each point being just one or two sentences. When I sit down to write, I glance at my outline to remind myself of what I’m working towards. Then the creative process takes over, and I write on the fly. I’m not strictly a “plotter” nor a “pantser” – more like a hybrid “plantser”.
I think of an outline like a map. Beginnings are easy. So are endings. The middle is the monster. To drive your car from Melbourne (the beginning) to Perth (the ending) is a daunting distance of about 3,400kms. You have to cross the Nullarbor Plain, which is a flat, arid and treeless expanse (the middle). Yikes! Having a few pit-stops along the way prevents you from wandering blindly across the whole country.
Plenty of writers abandon good projects because they didn’t figure out beforehand how to cross their metaphorical Nullarbor Plain. Instead, they wasted time, kept hitting dead-ends, and ultimately drained their enthusiasm, confidence and energy until nothing was left.
DO YOU CARRY A NOTEBOOK TO JOT DOWN IDEAS?
I have a work diary, a couple of jotter pads, and a handful of post-it notes on my desk at all times. Yes, I jot down ideas. I also bookmark interesting articles that I find during my travels around the Internet. One article – on the phenomenon of spiders reacting to floods by sending out silks, floating in the wind and taking refuge in trees – inspired my short story “Angel Hair”. This story, published in my collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, was recently nominated for an Aurealis Award (as was the collection, I’m also delighted to say).
My horror novella Thylacines was inspired by my interest in de-extinction science, and the failed attempt by a team of Australian scientists to bring back the extinct Tasmanian tiger, a dog-like marsupial killed off in 1938.
Rarely, I’ll write down a title, and hope that I’ll eventually come up with the story that fits. My flash fiction piece, “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”, first published in a spec-fic magazine and then included in Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, is such an example. (In Latin, it means “After this, therefore because of this”, which is a type of logical fallacy where correlation is mistaken for causation.) It took me about three years to find the story to suit the title.
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE WRITING AND DOES IT INSPIRE YOU?
No, never. I crave silence when I’m writing. That said, I love music and play it to relax, change my mood, or have fun. Just not to write.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE THAT WAS BASED ON A BOOK?
Oh, I can’t possibly choose only one! In alphabetical order, here is my (sorry, very long) list of some of the best A+ films that were based on A+ novels (and yes, I have more favourites not listed here):
- Blade Runner (1982)
- The Colour Purple (1985)
- Dances with Wolves (1990)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Fight Club (1999)
- First Blood (1982)
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Jaws (1975)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
- Rebecca (1940)
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories
Synopsis and Review:
A collection of twenty-one dark fantasy and horror stories by Deborah Sheldon.
Mysterious. Creepy. Disturbing. Including:
– A funeral director, who steals body parts for cash, takes delivery of an unusual corpse.
– The crew of a nineteenth-century fishing boat encounters an unknown but irresistible danger.
– A dog-sledder on a secret mission in Antarctica fights for his life against the monsters that have fuelled his every nightmare since the Vietnam war
Rating: 5 Stars
This collection of bite sized horrors has bite!
Each story is very different and very frightening. I can honestly say that there was not one that I disliked. I don’t have a favourite but I genuinely enjoyed (felt creeped out) by every one of them. From space to sea, complete fantasy, to tales with their roots based in myth and legend each story is completely unique and really cleverly written.
Like all the talented horror authors Deborah Sheldon knows to leave us with the fear of the unknown. Cleverly crafted and well researched, the stories have a sense of possibility at times.
This is a book that should not be passed by any lover of the horror genre.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ms-Deborah-Sheldon/e/B0035MWQ98/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0