Fascinating Interview with Author Sheila Deeth
Where we talk about unusual genres, the relationship between
math and fiction, and the benefits of chocolate and red wine to cope with the
ups and downs of the publishing world.
Hi Sheila! Welcome to MB4 and congratulations on your latest
release Tails of Mystery. You
write spiritual speculative novellas. What does the genre entail and what are
some of the themes that run through your speculative fiction?
I like to call those novellas spiritual
speculative, but really I'm not even sure it's is a genuine genre, or what
defines genuine. What I mean by spiritual speculative fiction is fiction
that veers over the edges of the real world, inviting readers to see there's
more to life than human experience and science can explain. In a sense, I guess
there's some element of spiritual speculative in everything I write, not
just those novellas.
My novels are set in the contemporary world, but
characters struggle to rise above the ordinary and see light beyond the
darkness invading their lives. There's almost bound to be some spiritual
element to their enlightenment. And my children's Bible stories are clearly
spiritual, but they include speculation about the historical, scientific, and
sociological world of the Bible. You've got me wondering though - are my
mystery-solving dogs in Tails of Mystery spiritual, or speculative.
Probably not - they're the exception that proves the rule, or the author, or
the genre, or something...
Your diverse body of work includes speculative fiction, but
also bible story books, children’s novels and romance novels. How does it all
come together and what is the goal or thread that connects your creativity?
Actually, my romance novella is kind
of languishing, having lost its publisher before it was released, but I do have
a second contemporary novel coming soon from Second Wind Publishing - a
follow-up to Divide by Zero. I guess my background invites me to
identify with people on the outside looking in; I'm the daughter of a Catholic
and a Protestant, studied math in a world where women were seriously
outnumbered by men in lectures, and now I'm an English American. It's hard to
take things for granted when you're not sure you belong. So I've always liked
to question everything, including faith, forgiveness, and what makes something
a fact. I love to see patterns emerge as ideas come together. I suspect the
pattern-matching instinct is what fuels my writing and connects the things I
write. Mathematics is a world of patterns, symbols and signs. So is writing.
And so is faith.
You describe yourself as a “mongrel Christian mathematician,
inspired by faith and science.” How do you reconcile faith and science,
mathematics and fiction in your books?
I really don't see any dichotomy
between faith and science - both invite questions (or should, anyway) and both
build on looking beyond what's seen, seeking patterns in what might be. In
(mathematical) science we use patterns to derive formulae and create
predictions, so we can test our hypotheses. In faith, I rather suspect God uses
patterns to invite our curiosity, leading us to see beyond our senses. And in
fiction, patterns are what give you that sense of awe and inevitability when
something begins to work and the answer's in sight. Actually, mathematics gives
you that same sense of awe, so maybe looking for "awe" is how I
reconcile it all.
Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum.
What are these novels about and what inspired you to write them?
Infinite Sum is the second novel of the series, but it's actually the
one I tried (and failed) to write first. It's inspired by my own journey
through depression, caused, in part, by things that happened in secret when I
was a child. When I started trying to write novels, an imaginary character who
was far too much like me kept invading the page. Eventually I decided to write
my own story, maybe to get it out of my system. Then, of course (since
nothing's ever simple), the imaginary character morphed into someone other than
me. She was even able to teach me quite a bit, but the resulting novel was
seriously dark and heavy, and I'm quite glad it never got published.
wrote Divide by Zero, creating a tapestry of characters who might be
affected by the revelation of crime in their neighborhood. It gave me a chance
to see abuse from many different points of view, and it offered that much
needed separation from real events. When I'd finished, the character of a girl
from Divide by Zero demanded a story of her own. She's not me, and
her story's not mine. But the ideas and the feelings I poured into that first
novel all took readable shape at last. I'm very proud of how the story turned
How did you become a published author? What is your favorite
part of the publishing process? What is your least favorite part?
My first published work was one of
those (now unpublished) spiritual speculative novellas. I'd complained that
entering contests was even more demoralizing than trying to find a publisher
(which is as bad as looking for a job). But someone whose book I'd just
reviewed suggested I enter this contest, and I won. So much for complaining! I
guess my favorite part of the publishing process is still that moment when
somebody out there says yes. It's dance-around-the-room,
beg-someone-else-to-read-the-email, squeal-and-shriek-with-glee time, and it's
great! My least favorite part is rejection, of course, but now I've learned to
celebrate with chocolate. If the rejection includes a personal message, I
celebrate with chocolate and red wine.
Chocolate and red wine. LOL. Now we know your secret. What
are the main challenges you’ve faced in your writer’s life? What are some of
My biggest challenge was when the
publisher of my novel closed his doors. Ouch! The big reward was when a second
publisher accepted not just Divide by Zero, but also Infinite Sum,
Subtraction, and Imaginary Numbers.
What’s next for Sheila Deeth?
I'm writing the next in my
Five-Minute Bible Stories Series at the moment, hence my frequent absences from
the internet. (Well, visiting family in England caused a pretty long absence
too). It's going well, but it's a lot of work. I'm more than halfway through
writing Subtraction too, and Imaginary Numbers is undergoing a
major rewrite. Infinite Sum should be released really soon. And I'm
writing a sequel to Tails of Mystery. Then there are those novellas,
soon to be reissued with another publisher. So lots is happening, and I'm still
reading and reviewing tons of books in my not-quite-spare time.
Thank you so much for visiting with us, Sheila. I
really enjoyed chatting with you.
Thank you so much for inviting me,
Dora. And thank you for a fun interview.
Sheila Deeth is the author of
contemporary novels, spiritual speculative fiction, children's fiction, and the
Five-Minute Bible Stories series. She's an English American with a Masters in
Mathematics from Cambridge University, England. But she has always told
stories, from the day she learned to speak. When her sons were small, Sheila
taught chess to school-children, using stories of chess players and their
games. Now the boys are all grown into men, she spends her time reading,
writing, caring for the home, and walking around the neighborhood, where she
loves to meet her neighbors' dogs and cats. Her latest book, Tails of
Mystery, is based on the wild adventures of dogs and cats everywhere.
Contact Sheila Deeth at:
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic
fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up
in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a
taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but
different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. When she is not writing fiction, Dora
also writes features for Murder By Four, an award winning blog for readers and
writers and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and three
very opinionated cats.