What is your book about?
Divide by Zero is about the people of a small town, united by family and friendship, divided by tragedy, and reunited by a small child’s wisdom.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I’d written a number of short pieces involving the same set of characters but I wasn’t really planning a novel. Then something happened to surprise me in one of the stories. I wanted to know more and found myself arguing with the characters in my head (or out loud as I walked the dog). The plot kind of grew out of those arguments and then I wrote the novel.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
All the characters grew to feel very real to me though they only exist in the book or in my head. Maybe the real question is how much of my characters is hidden in me but, if that’s the case, I’m not sure I want to know the answer.
What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I hope the characters themselves will attract readers to the book. And I hope the question of love and forgiveness will pique their interest too.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
Divide by Zero was “finished” several times over. The first draft was finished when I knew what had happened and had it all written down with a beginning, middle and an end. The second draft grew out of a desire to know more about why it happened. By the third draft I was still learning about one of the characters—his motivation became really important to me. Then I tidied up the timelines while working with my editor (Shirley Ann Howard). Maybe “finished” is a moveable feast—“finished enough” is when the publisher and editor and writer agree, and I’m really glad I didn’t release that first version to an unsuspecting world.
What is your goal for the book, ie. what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
Most of all I want people to enjoy the story, and I want the characters to feel real, like strangers they’re glad to have known. As to taking something away, I guess I want readers to feel like they’ve seen something of how we all hide things, how hard it is to really know anyone, and how that makes judging people a dangerous thing.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
That people are important?
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
There are some fairly dark events in the book. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I dared explore them or write them down, but then my characters would pester me, as if they really wanted their story told.
Do you think writing this book changed your life?
I’m not sure writing has changed my life yet, but I’ve always been telling stories, ever since I was a kid. If the book sells well that might make me finally believe I can be a professional author. But the best thing about writing is it gives me a way to explore ideas. The characters may not be me, but they represent aspects of me perhaps, personifications of memories and fears. They give me a chance to argue ideas with myself and recognize I don’t need to have all the answers.
How has your background influenced your writing?
I’m a Catholic Protestant, English American, mathematician writer—a contradiction whichever way you look. I think my mixed up identity helps me identify with my characters when I write. My faith and my questions about faith come out in some of their attitudes. And my feeling that none of us knows it all or even knows ourselves, none of us is perfect, and there’s always something more to be understood… all that probably feeds into my writing too.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?
I’ve just started editing the sequel (or companion novel) to Divide by Zero. It’s called Infinite Sum:
Every picture tells a story, but what if their sum is a truth the artist really would rather hide, and what if their secret is something that might once have saved a life?
Where can people learn more about your books?
Divide by Zero is available from
and other online bookstores.
You can find out more about me on
my website: http://www.sheiladeeth.com
my books’ site: http://www.sheiladeethbooks.com
Click here to read an: Excerpt From “Divide by Zero” by Sheila Deeth