Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interview: Deborah Sheldon (author of RONNIE AND RITA)

Deborah SheldonDeborah Sheldon lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her short fiction has appeared in many literary journals such as Quadrant, Island, [untitled], and Page Seventeen. Her work also appears in anthologies such as The One That Got Away (Dark Prints Press), Hard Labour (Crime Factory), and the upcoming 100 Lightnings (Paroxysm Press). In 2013, Cohesion Press will publish her crime-noir novella, Ronnie and Rita. In 2014, Ginninderra Press will publish her literary collection, 300 Degree Days and other stories, while Satalyte Publishing will release her crime-themed collection, Mayhem: selected stories. Apart from fiction, Deb's writing credits include commercial television scripts such as Neighbours, Australia's Most Wanted, and State Coroner; stage and radio plays; magazine articles for national magazines; award-winning medical writing; and non-fiction books for Reed Books and Random House.

Deborah was kind enough to answer some questions about her new novella RONNIE AND RITA. Read my review HERE.

(Josh) What was the inspiration behind Ronnie and Rita?

(Deb) The inspiration came thirteen years ago. I had taken my newborn son to the doctor, and while in the waiting room, read a magazine article about the attempted kidnapping of a baby. I was horrified - especially so because I was a new mother - but the writer's side of my brain was struck by the potential for storylines. Years later, I wrote the first draft of 'Ronnie and Rita'. It stank. I shelved the manuscript but the characters kept nagging at me. Last year, I dusted off the manuscript, cut it down to the bone and rewrote extensively. The process took about three months.

Ronnie and Rita embodies the noir tradition; capturing that omnipresent feeling of hopelessness and ever-impending sense of bloodshed. Who are some of your favourite authors in the genre?

I don't have favourite authors in particular, but some of my favourite noir novels include Night of the Hunter by David Grubb, Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven.

Rita is an interesting character with obvious flaws and a determined sense of self-preservation. What was it like creating someone who readers can both sympathise and loathe?

To me, noir fiction explores self-destruction; the idea that the seed to your doom is carried within you own psyche, dormant, waiting for the right catalyst. For Ronnie and Rita, the catalyst is each other. To this end, I had to make Rita McNaughton a complex person, capable of loving and being loved despite her mean streak. Rita was great fun to write. In fact, probably the most fun I've ever had writing a character.

I enjoyed the Rita/Ronnie dynamic and felt you crunched much more of their relationship into the novella than some novels I've read. How important was it to establish their connection so early in the piece?

Everything that transpires hinges on the fact that Ronnie loves Rita with every fibre of his being. Communicating Ronnie's love to the reader - in all its intensity, desperation and compulsion - is one of the reasons why I chose to write the novella as a first-person narrative from Ronnie's point of view.

Australia is just starting to become more noir-relevant to the broader fiction landscape (a genre typically dominated by UK and US authors). Do you read much Aussie crime/dark fiction?

Occasionally. I prefer to support the small Australian presses.

If you could describe Ronnie and Rita in one sentence, what would it be?

Be careful what you wish for.

Do you have plans to write more noir novellas?

I wrote one earlier this year and submitted it to a novella contest. It's the blackest noir story I've written so far and has more criminal elements than 'Ronnie and Rita', so it will be interesting to see how it fares in the competition. At the moment, I'm writing a crime novella with an upbeat ending. This is quite a challenge for me, considering my writing naturally leans towards the darker end of the spectrum. However, I like to write outside of my comfort zone. I try to do that with every project in some way.

Links:

- Deborah Sheldon website
Publisher website 

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