AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sheldon Higdon

INTRODUCTION:

 Sheldon Higdon’s work has appeared in nearly 50 publications such as Rue Morgue magazine, Tales from the Lake, Vol. 4, Anthology Year Three: Distant Dying Ember, The Portland Monthly magazine, Writers on Writing, Vol. 4, and the anthology MADHOUSE, to name a few. He is also an award-winning screenwriter, and has a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He is currently writing a novel. Visit him at http://www.sheldonhigdon.com.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:

  • What inspired your story and characters? [If multiple books, please write in separate paragraphs].
    Inspiration comes from many sources, but for the two novels I currently have out with agents (a dark suspense novel for adults and a middle grade cont. fantasy novel) my kids inspired both novels. For the adult one, the idea came out of fear of being a parent of a young child and the need to protect that child from the dangers of the world. The idea for my middle grade novel came with the arrival of twins; growing my family, exponentially. The middle grade characters were based on all three of my children. With the simple plan of writing a novel for them, so they could read it when they’re older. A novel that was adventurous, funny, and a bit scary. That in order to win out the day the characters had to rely on each other, because family is a power that cannot be broken.
  • How do you come up with character names?
    For the most part they just come to me. Other times the name comes to me based on the character’s traits or world view. Where they’re from. Sometimes I use a first or a last name based on people I know. Never their full name. I like unusual names.  
  • Other than your own, what book do you wish you would have written?
    Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend comes to mind. Part horror, part science fiction. I remember reading that book as kid and thinking it was so cool. The last man on earth in a world of vampires? C’mon!    
  • What inspired you to begin writing?
    In part, my mom. As a young kid I knew she wrote poetry and songs, and she read a lot. The other part, I think, was born out of the fact that I was an only child. Imagination became second nature. One gets creative while playing by yourself. So that carried over to writing.
  • When did you begin writing – what age approximately?
    Early on. At first a here-n-there kind of thing, but I picked up the pace when I was in my teens. I still have a mystery story I wrote in second or third grade, and crudely illustrated, on my book shelves.
  • What inspires you while writing?
    The characters. To see them grow, change, and become something unexpected.   
  • How do you start a story?
    I spend a lot of time starting my stories and novels. I rework the beginnings many, many, MANY times over until I finally feel good about it. The beginning is where you want to hook the reader right away, or at least give them reasons to turn the page, and it’s where you and the reader have come to an understanding of what the novel will be about. I start it

by writing something bad until I can turn it into something good. That and the overall   structure. I spend a lot of time on that as well. 

  • Do you outline your story ahead of time? Or do you just wing it? Why?
    I used to never outline. Would always let the story unfold as I write. Now I do both, with the exception of short stories. Those I don’t outline for some reason. Maybe because of their length and their room for what’s needed in the story. Short works force you to use only the important pieces of the puzzle. Word choices and information. Novels I kinda do an outline. More like chapter breakdowns with bullet points for important targets I want to achieve in each. But novels are more in-depth, have more characters, and have more plot lines that all need to be arranged in a precise manner. But that doesn’t mean you need to follow the outline. It’s alright to deviate from it. I liken outlines to maps and cross-country trips. In order to get to your destination you stay on the highways, toll roads, using the map as a guide, but every now and then it’s okay to exit and explore the small towns, eateries, and quaint shops along the way. The map will get you back to the highways so you can finish your journey, reach your destination.
  • Do you think the movies are better than the books? Why or why not?
    That’s very subjective. It all depends on the person’s perspective. One person might say they think the film version of The Shining is better than the book. Another might say they think the book is better than the movie. They should probably understand the author’s and film director’s take on their respective works to better gauge which is better. Their Whys. Their Intentions. Themes. What were they trying to tell the readers and movie goers? I love the novel and film.
  • What is your relationship like with your characters? Like them, dislike them? Why?
    I like all my characters. Even the bad ones. For me all the characters I write are in some way me. (Sometimes a mixture of other people.) But they’re people that represent the light and the dark. Good and bad. Everyone has both in them. Even if I were to write a romance novel, the characters would have these two elements in them because it’s life. Reality. And it’s honest. The happiest, go-lucky person in the whole world has skeletons in the closet, has a darkened basement in the bottom of their mind. Whether a character acts on that darkness is the staple of their character’s morals. The reverse can be said about the gloomiest person. There’s light in them. They just haven’t found the light switch yet.
  • Do you base your characters off of yourself or people you know? Why or why not?
    Both. As stated before, I based the characters in my middle grade novel on my own kids. To me, the characters were my kids but older. In my adult suspense novel the characters were a mixture of me and other people I know. Coming from a place of reality helps me write much better. 
  • How much of your work is based on real people/events in your own life?
    The middle grade novel took place in a fictional town/island, but based on a real island I used to visit every once in a while when I lived in Maine. In all my writing I base my work on either real places or real people to an extent. It’s not by choice. The sense of realness, or truth and honesty, in my work is part of the goal, and it’ll be that much more real for the reader. It brings them into your world faster, because to some degree they know the world too. As Stephen King once said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”  
  • What is your writing process like? Explain it to us.
    I always listen to music while writing. Sometimes to block out the real world. Sometimes to set a certain mood for what I’m working on. Outline or no outline, my mind takes me to where it feels I need to go. And I go. Like a historian, I write what happens or is said.
  • Do you have a favorite character you’ve written?
    All of them, or I wouldn’t have written them.
  • Do you have a favorite story you’ve written?
    Several. A few years ago I had a story called Drowning in Sorrow in the anthology, Tales from the Lake, Vol. 4. About a boy who comes across his doppelganger whose intentions are to… Well, you’ll have to read it. That story got a lot of great attention. I have another story that will be out this Summer that’s about a girl who lives in a divided world and she starts…. Another one that will be published this Summer is about a parent who refuses to love his child because his child is different, and therefore he pays the ultimate price for denying his child’s true self. It’s about acceptance, and how we all should accept each other for our differences—no matter what. 
  • What is your favorite book?
    I don’t just have one. I have many, and for different reasons. But Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this Way Comes and The Halloween Tree come to mind. As does the aforementioned I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Stephen King’s Misery, Pet Sematary, The Shining, The Stand all raise their hands. Everything by Edgar Allan Poe. The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The Graveyard Book, Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, Skinjacker trilogy, and Challenger Deep. I could go on and on.
  • Who is your favorite author? Why?
    As with the previous question I don’t just have one, and those previous authors are some of my favorites, but some of my favorites today are Victor LaValle, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, Alma Katsu, Jonathan Maberry, Tomi Adeyemi, Zoje Stage, N.K. Jemison, Josh Malerman, Tim Waggoner and so many more. 

FUN, RANDOM QUESTIONS:

  • What’s your favorite movie? Any genre.
    Again, so many, and all for different reasons. I can recall where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when I saw the films that became my favorites. And there are many. Especially horror films; they were a staple of my childhood. I’ve always loved Star Wars and its sequels. Back to the Future series. The Goonies. Teen Wolf, The Monster Squad. Poltergeist (original), Jaws, Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, E.T., Gremlins, Friday the 13th series, Night of the Creeps, The Gate, Rawhead Rex, The Lair of the White Worm, the Candyman series, Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street series, the Indiana Jones series, The Hitcher… so many. Too many.
  • What’s your favorite TV show? Why?
    I can’t name one. These are shows I watched a lot as I grew up, and watched in reruns/syndication like the Twilight Zone and Kolchak the Night Stalker. But I watched Family Ties, Family Matters, X-Files, Bosom Buddies, What’s Happening, Scooby-Doo, Bionic Man, Fall Guy, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Muppet Show, Millennium, G-Force (and its precursor Battle of the Planets) and so many more. When it came to cartoons Saturday Mornings were the best.
  • What’s your favorite color?
    All colors. What’s the fun in only liking one?  
  • What’s your favorite genre for books, movies, or TV shows?
    I’ve always gravitated toward Horror. I grew up a latchkey kid of the 80s. I was fed a steady diet of horror and kung-fu VHS movies to watch. Stephen King paperbacks on the shelf. Comic books on the floor. With a TV dinner in hand, I was set.
  • What are some of your hobbies?
     I used to collect toys. I have about 500 (used to have more) unopened action figures (Star Wars, X-Men, Spider-Man, and Horror figures) hanging on my office walls, along with another two dozen or so unopened Star Wars play sets. I had a lot more but I gave a few boxes of stuff to kids years ago, and I’ve let my own kids open a few items (25 year-old items) to play with like blasters and light sabers. Now, if I buy anything it’s usually a horror toy. Someday I’ll let my children go at it and open everything, unless I sell it all for their college fund. lol.    

Published by Taryn Ambrose

Aspiring author, part-time librarian, and full-time college student.

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