Author Sheila Deeth does not limit herself to one genre or age group. She explores mystery, spirituality, children’s fiction, and even nonfiction books on faith. I had the privilege to interview her and get to know her better. She had some very interesting things to say on writing and especially her works. See our discussion below. Her answers are in bold.
My readers love to know, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the North of England, near Manchester.
When did you become inspired to write?
Rumor has it I’ve always told stories, even before I could speak, but I was using real words by the time I started elementary school; I remember being loaned out to classes of older students so I could keep them quiet by telling them stories. Which was much more fun than learning to read and write. One day the principal plunked a huge great reel to reel tape recorder on the desk in front of me, accompanied by a mammoth microphone. She insisted that, if I wouldn’t learn to write my stories down, she would just have to preserve them by recording them. The pencil being less scary than the microphone, this inspired me to write.
Many writers say they have a story they wrote that will never be published, but they hold it dear. Do you have one like that?
Oddly enough, my second novel has just been released and, for a long time, it did indeed feel very much like that. It’s been rewritten several times, and the original version, thankfully, will never see light of day. It was way too personal, and very much just for me. I really thought the next iteration was the perfect rewrite, but publishers, very wisely, rejected it. Then came the current iteration where a character from my first novel takes over. It’s so much better (in my humble opinion of course).
How do you like to write? Peace and Quiet or jamming to music?
I struggle to write if people are talking around me, so coffee shops probably wouldn’t work. Peace and quiet is nice when I’m on my own. But music is cool, as long as someone else chooses what to play; choosing my own music would be too much of a distraction.
Who are some of your influences?
Faith is a major influence, especially in my children’s Bible stories. Logic – after all, I am a mathematician. Mythology – I discovered that myths were considered non-fiction at our school library, which meant I could borrow one fiction novel and one mythological book instead of one fiction and one (to me) boring fact. I guess being an outsider is a big influence too. In a sense, we’re all outsiders, but having a mixed background (Catholic and Protestant) as kid, being a mathematician who loved to write, becoming an English American… all of these tend to emphasize that sense of not quite fitting in.
Divide By Zero is your first book in Mathemafiction series. What exactly is Mathemafiction?
I’m tempted to reply that it’s a made-up word – I needed a title for my facebook page! But the patterns and logic of math do feed very nicely into the patterns and logic of fiction – at least I think they do. So I think of a mathematical “something” – like dividing by zero – I apply it to an everyday somewhere, somehow, and I see where the story takes me..
Tell us a little about Divide By Zero.
It’s the story of a small-town community, bound together by location and common interests, then torn apart by a horrifying crime. The crime is the “singularity” in mathematical terms. It’s what happens when you try to divide by zero. But what happens after depends on the initial conditions, and a small child in this community becomes the spark that binds it together again.
How long did it take you to write Divide By Zero?
It started with a collection of short stories written over a couple of years. The same characters kept reappearing, and then one of them committed a crime, much to my surprise. I spent the next year tying the stories together, sewing them into a tapestry I guess, cleaning up timelines, and working out where that vital thread had started coming apart.
It’s sequel, Infinite Sum, came out this month. Is it a direct sequel?
It’s not a direct sequel, no. In a way, it’s a completely different novel, but it grew out of the first. After Divide by Zero came out, someone asked about one of the characters, “Why didn’t she say something?” It was a good question. This was a normal, everyday girl who allowed herself to be abused. Shouldn’t she have spoken up when there were rumors of a predator in the woods? But she didn’t. Now she’s a normal, everyday mother, still struggling to forgive herself and come to terms with the past.
What does Sylvia, the main character in nfinite Sum, represent? What is the inspiration behind the character?
In a way, Sylvia is everyman (or everywoman, I guess). We all share some sense of hidden guilt, secrets we’d rather not expose, sins we can’t forgive. And however independent we may feel, our characters are always molded, in ways seen and unseen, by events of the past. Sylvia represents the possibility and wonder of forgiveness I guess. The inspiration behind her is probably my own path to forgiveness – hence that story that will never be published (mine) turning into a story that has been published (hers).
If Infinite Sum had one takeaway, what would it be?
Forgiveness is a gift that changes everything,
We’ve seen several book adaptions made into film, but also television as Outlander and The Leftovers shave shown. Would you like to see Divide By Zero and Infinite Sum get adapted?
Divide by Zero is told from so many different points of view, like a tapestry of lives. I couldn’t see it as a movie, but it might make a cool TV series. Infinite Sum is much more linear, and I’d love to see it as a movie.
How has your craft developed over time? Do you think your style has changed?
Sometimes I think my style has changed. Sometimes I just think I’ve developed more styles with age. Those stories I told as a five-year-old aren’t so far from my children’s stories today. But I couldn’t have written Infinite Sum until today.
When you began writing, who encouraged you the most to keep moving forward?
My mum, definitely. And she’s still encouraging me.
To conclude, what advice would you give to a writer who is starting his or her career?
Keep writing. Don’t be afraid to put something away and revisit it later. And celebrate rejection with chocolate.
That concluded our interview. Mrs. Deeth was both interesting and charming. Check out her blog and her Amazon author page. She also has a great Goodreads page as well. Be sure to pick up a copy of both Divide By Zero and Infinite Sum.
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