Author of "Angel Hair", the sixth story in The Fourth Corona Book of Horror Stories
Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Her latest titles are Man-Beast, Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories and The Again-Walkers. Her award-nominated titles include the novels Body Farm Z, Contrition and Devil Dragon; the novella Thylacines; and collection Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories.
Her collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Collected Work’ Award, was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and long-listed for a Bram Stoker. She has won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award twice: for Midnight Echo 14 and Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies.
Deb’s short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines, been nominated for various awards, and included in ‘best of’ anthologies. Other credits include feature articles for magazines, non-fiction books (Reed Books, Random House), TV scripts such as Neighbours, stage plays and award-winning medical writing.
Her website can befound at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com
What made you decide to write horror?
After a long career of writing TV scripts, medical information, feature articles and non-fiction books, in 2007 I switched my focus to fiction. My short stories were literary but always explored dark themes. (I tend to be a “glass half-empty” kind of person.) In 2014, I followed my heart and wrote my first pure horror story, “Perfect Little Stitches”, which is about a funeral director who trades in illegal body parts. It was published the following year in Australia’s premier horror magazine, Midnight Echo, and subsequently shortlisted for the Australian Shadows “Best Short Story” Award. “Perfect Little Stitches” is my most reprinted story; just this year, it was translated into Galacian for a Spanish spec-fic magazine. Horror has a myriad of subgenres and no strict rules, unlike, for example, romance or westerns. Horror allows me to give full rein to my thematic preoccupations in whichever way I wish to express them.have
Do you write in any other genre?
Yes, including crime, literary, noir, romantic-suspense, dark fantasy, and sci-fi. This year, I’ve taken a deep dive into writing poetry in traditional forms such as the terzanelle, triplet and French ballade.
Do you have you a reason for doing so?
I’ve had a lengthy and varied writing career. The variety was mostly driven by the urge to take on new challenges. Once I feel I’ve become proficient in a writing medium, I need to explore something different to keep the “magic” alive and stave off boredom. For example, my hobby of writing short plays grew from my love of TV scriptwriting. Both forms rely on dialogue, but playwriting is constrained by the physical stage, which demands a completely different style of storytelling. My short plays have been performed in Melbourne, Sydney and regional Victoria. I’ve dabbled in radio plays too. I find the threat of failure invigorating – can I figure out this new writing medium or not? (So far, the answer has always been “yes”.)
What genres do you read? Is it all horror or have you eclectic tastes?
I cast a wide net when it comes to reading. Generally speaking, any fiction from early 19th century onwards rings my bell, although I enjoy non-fiction too. It honestly depends on my mood. I treat reading like I treat eating; while I have my favourites, I relish novelty and unusual delicacies.
How much do you value reading the work of other authors?
It may be a cliché, but it’s true – you can’t be a good writer unless you read widely. The more you read, the more you inform your own writing style. I’m often inspired by a brilliant piece of work to attempt a new subgenre. While it’s not always as successful as I would’ve liked, a writer must be open to challenges or risk going stale. I’ve got at least three books on my bedside table at any given time. Our house is groaning with packed bookshelves – the compulsion to buy paperbacks is my dirty little habit. My husband understands and indulges me, bless him!
Does reading other people’s work affect the way you write?
Absolutely. Reading substandard prose reminds me of what not to do. Reading wonderful prose makes me try harder with my own plots, characters and themes, and inspires me to put in the extra effort to craft flowing sentences.I
What are your favourite and/or least favourite tropes?
My favourite trope: an underdog takes on a challenge, and either wins or loses. My least favourite trope: a perfect “Mary Sue” character wins, wins, and wins again. Ugh!
Which authors inspire you?
This is a tricky question because I’ve loved so many books and stories over the course of my life. It may sound like a cop-out answer, but many authors inspire me, for example, to attempt the literary devices they’ve employed. Raymond Chandler and Daphne du Maurier are cases in point: they both craft authentic characters that feel real, and plots that are gripping. But there are plenty of other authors I admire, too many to mention here!
What inspired your story “Angel Hair”?
I frequently browse the Internet and lose myself down rabbit holes in my search for story inspiration. Angel hair is the real-life phenomenon of spiders trying to survive a flood by throwing out webs and floating on the wind, attempting to reach higher ground, and subsequently landing in trees or other structures. Angel hair looks weirdly like fairy floss. Since my story is horror, I pushed this natural phenomenon just a little bit further.
What are your latest releases, and what are you working on at the moment?
The supernatural-Viking novelette The Again-Walkers (Demain Publishing, 2022), the collection Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories (IFWG Publishing Australia, 2022) and the Sasquatch-inspired novella Man-Beast (Severed Press, 2021).
Currently, I’m working on my anthology Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite, which IFWG Publishing Australia will release worldwide in June 2023. This publication follows my two previous anthologies – Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies and Midnight Echo 14 – both of which are award-winning and multi-award-nominated.