Q&A With Deborah Shelton

Please welcome the lovely Deborah Shelton to the blog this week!


Deborah SheldonSo what have you written?

I’m a professional writer living in Melbourne, Australia. My latest releases include the crime-noir novella ‘Dark Waters’ (Cohesion Press, 2014), and ‘Mayhem: selected stories’ (Satalyte Publishing, 2015). My short fiction has appeared in dozens of well-regarded Australian journals such as Quadrant, Island, Midnight Echo, and [untitled], as well as in various anthologies including ‘Hard Labour’ (Crime Factory), ‘The One That Got Away’ (Dark Prints Press), and ‘Lighthouses: an anthology of dark tales’ (Black Beacon Books).

Other writing credits include TV scripts such as ‘Neighbours’, ‘State Coroner’ and ‘Australia’s Most Wanted’; feature articles for national magazines; stage plays performed in Melbourne and Sydney; award-winning medical writing such as the adolescent health CD ROM ‘SomaZone’, patient information for various Australian and Australasian medical associations, and the ‘Better Health Channel’ website; and non-fiction books for Reed Books and Random House Australia.

For more information and links, please visit my website.

Already, 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year. I have short stories appearing in SQ Mag, Aurealis and Tincture Journal, and a flash fiction piece in the anthology, ‘100 Lightnings’. In the second half of the year, Cohesion Press will release my bio-horror action-adventure novel, ‘Devil Dragon’, and Satalyte Publishing will release my contemporary crime novel, ‘Garland Cove Heist’. I’m hoping for more acceptances as the year progresses!

What are you working on at the minute?Dark Waters front cover

The second draft of ‘Devil Dragon’, my bio-horror action-adventure novel. ‘Devil Dragon’ will be the first in a new series by Cohesion Press called ‘Natural Selection’.

The premise of ‘Devil Dragon’:

The hunt for a prehistoric beast… Dr Erin Harris may be a scientist, but she has an unscientific obsession: to find a living Varanus priscus. This giant Australian reptile, ancestor of the Komodo dragon, is believed extinct for some 12,000 years but like Big Foot or Nessie, there are occasional sightings. Spurred by a credible witness, 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?

What genre are your books?

I write across the darker spectrum: horror, crime-noir, contemporary crime, romance-suspense, and literary.

300 Degree Days - High ResolutionHow much research do you do?

It depends on the project, but generally speaking, enough to ensure verisimilitude. Since I’m writing fiction, I allow myself a degree of artistic licence.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I aim for a minimum of 2,500 of publishable, final-draft words per week. Using this method, I can write a novel in about six to eight months. Some projects are written faster than this, depending on my schedule. For instance, over the Christmas break, I wrote a 13,500 word novelette in about six days but that kind of output is unusual. I’d exhaust myself if I produced that much every single week!

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I always outline. I’ve tried ‘free writing’, and I find it frustrating, time-consuming and wasteful. My outlines are usually less than a page: just a line or two for each major plot-point. And I need to know my ending before I write a single word. Knowing what I’m driving towards helps me to create my characters, themes and motifs.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Definitely the business side of it. The market is glutted and therefore extremely competitive.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

Never. Having an outline instead of winging it is like following a recipe – you know what you need and what you’re trying to make. I also believe that writer’s block is a symptom of boredom or burn-out. I keep myself enthused by writing in different genres and lengths. For example, in 2015, I wrote: the final draft of a romance-suspense novella, four horror stories, one flash fiction piece, two (short) crime plays, the first draft of a bio-horror action-adventure novel, and a romance-horror novelette. With so much variety and fun, writer’s block can’t even put its foot in the door.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?Degrees of Clarity - High Resolution - Version 2

Draw up an outline! Secondly, if you don’t feel enthusiastic about your project, you’ll get writer’s block. Stop writing what you think the market will buy, and start writing stories that excite you. Thirdly, challenge yourself with new techniques and genres. Nothing saps passion like doing the same old, same old.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I’ve always got a book (or three) on my bedside table. At the moment, some of my favourite authors include Daphne du Maurier, Walter Tevis, Dashiell Hammett, Shirley Jackson, Larry McMurtry, Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler, Annie Proulx, and Pete Dexter.

Mayhem coverWhat would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I’m from the old school. If I can choose between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I’ll go traditional every time. Firstly, because I would rather write than worry about issues like cover design, marketing, and distribution. And secondly, competition in the marketplace lets me know where I stand. When I’m vying with hundreds or thousands of other writers for limited publishing slots, over time, I can get a rough idea of my competence because industry professionals are constantly judging my work. Self-publishing doesn’t put your work through the same trial-by-fire. (And I say this as a writer who occasionally self-publishes.)

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write because you love it. Whenever the business side of writing gets me down, I think: if I was the last person on Earth, would I still write? And the answer is always a resounding ‘yes’. Do what you can to hold on to your passion.

And find a writing group of like-minded individuals. Nothing improves your skills and boosts your enthusiasm like hanging out with other writers.


Thanks so much to Deborah for joining us on the blog this week! Please make sure you follow her and check out her books!

Blog: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Deborah-Sheldon-936388749723500/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/deborahsheldon

Book links:

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/

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):

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

Degrees of Clarity (FREE ebook on all platforms)

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/544700

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/degrees-of-clarity-deborah-sheldon/1122070384

Itunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/degrees-of-clarity/id1002085497?mt=11

300 Degree Days and other stories (FREE ebook when you sign up for my monthly newsletter – no spam guaranteed)

Deborah Sheldon http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

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