Interview with author Sheila Dalton
Sheila Dalton was born in England and came to Canada with her family at the age of six. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Toronto. After dropping out for a year she sold arts and crafts on the streets of Toronto.
Sheila was a Contributing Editor for OWL magazine, and a Project Editor for a kids' science magazine called Discovery. Somewhere along the way, she earned a Masters of Library Science degree, and currently works as an Adult Services Librarian for the Toronto Public Library. She lives in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband and two cats.
Tell us a little about Girl in the Box.
It’s a story of redemption. A traumatized, mute Mayan girl is rescued by a psychoanalyst, and kills him. His long-term lover, a journalist and meditation student, sets out to discover why. She’s pretty traumatized herself by it all.
What was your road to publication like?
It took a long time to place the book, but even longer to write it. I kept working at it, off and on, for ten years. Sometimes, I would put it away for months on end, to get perspective, and also to work on other projects.
Was it a long one?
Once the book was completed, it didn’t take too long. But I did send it to several publishers before it was accepted by RendezVous, who then sold it to Dundurn.
Do you have an agent? If not, how did you find your publisher?
I used to have an agent. I found her when I first started working on this book, and Doubleday Canada had expressed interest in it. However, it took me so long to finish it, she dumped me! By the time I’d completed it, Doubleday Canada wasn’t accepting un-agented fiction.
I did try to find another agent, both in Canada and England (where I was born) but then I decided to send it to RendezVous who had published my teen novel, Trial by Fire. They’d seen an earlier version which they didn’t like, but they were encouraging, and when they saw the final version, they told me they really liked it.
In your opinion are agents even necessary?
I’m not sure. Here in Canada, they aren’t totally necessary. I’ve had over ten books published, and not one was placed by an agent. I’d like one, though, as I think they up your credibility and open otherwise closed doors. They also take some of the hard work of submitting a ms. off your hands. My English aunt was a writer, and she told me that she’d had an agent, but found she did a better job of selling her work than they did. So, it depends, I guess.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.
I’m just one of those typical writers with a Gothic childhood and an oversensitive nervous system who took refuge in books, seemed to have a natural way with words, to a certain extent anyway, and loved stories. Books were practically the only things that didn’t scare me, back in the day. Writing runs in my family, too. I’m sure it’s partly genetic. I just kept slogging away at it because I loved it, and needed it.
Where readers can purchase a copy of Girl in the Box?
The Girl in the Box can be purchased through amazon.com, or amazon.ca, or directly through the publisher, Dundurn.
How much of the marketing do you do?
I’m on Facebook, and “Girl” has a Facebook page of its own. In the past, I’ve done readings and been on radio and television. I do what I can. I just hope the professionals know more than I do about these things. I don’t feel like a marketing expert, I just try hard.
Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?
I wish I had some spectacularly helpful pointers, but I’m afraid I don’t. There was a twelve-year gap between my last book, and this one. The Internet has changed things a lot in the meantime. I’m hoping it will help me reach more people, through sites like Goodreads and Library Thing, among others. Goodreads allows you to run contests with your book as a giveaway; Amazon gives you an author page. I think all these things will help. I hope so. I like reaching out to people online. I also workshopped “Girl” on two writing sites, and that helped me reach other readers and writers. It placed in the top ten on both sites. “Girl” was also a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. I think all these things help.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I’d suggest joining one or more of the online writing sites, to make connections, and get feedback on your writing. The critiquing “Girl” received online was a huge help, and an important source of encouragement. When ready, enter contests, for more exposure. And don’t give up.
What have you had published to-date?
Trial by Fire, a mystery for teens; Doggerel and Catalogue, kids’ picture books, Tales of the Ex Fire-Eater, a novel for adults; Blowing Holes Through the Everyday, a poetry collection for adults, and several other kids’ books, mostly non-fiction.
What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.
I’m working on an historical novel for adults, set in the early 17th century, the age of exploration – and pirates. Its working title is “Slavery in Black and White: My Life as a Kept Woman and Most Peculiar Pirate”. I hope it says something about freedom and choice, as well as tells a rollicking good tale.
Where can readers find you?
The Facebook page of The Girl in the Box is at
I have a website, but I’m not good at keeping it up to date. It’s still pretty amateur:
You can find me on Amazon, and also at Dundurn:
And my Goodreads author page is:
Thanks for asking me these questions. I think they’re good ones.
The pleasure was all mine, Sheila. Thanks for stopping by to answer my questions!