The Girl in the Box – author interview – Sheila Dalton

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Join Sheila Dalton, author of the literary mystery novel The Girl in the Box as she virtually tours the blogosphere in December 2011 on her first tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About 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. She has worked as a barmaid, an art gallery assistant, and an independent craftsperson and artist.

Sheila was a freelance writer and editor for many years before becoming an Adult Services Librarian for the Toronto Public Library. She lives in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband and two cats. She has written over ten books, including a collection of adult poetry, three children’s picture books, a literary novel, and a YA mystery which was shortlisted for a major Canadian crime writer’s award, the Arthur Ellis.

You can read more about The Girl in the Box and Sheila’s other her work at her website:



About The Girl in the Box

Caitlin Shaughnessy, a Canadian journalist, discovers that Inez, a traumatized young Mayan woman originally from Guatemala, has killed Caitlin’s psychoanalyst partner, Dr. Jerry Simpson. Simpson brought the girl, who may be autistic, back to Canada as an act of mercy and to attempt to treat her obvious trauma. Cailin desperately needs to find out why this terrible incident occurred so she can find the strength to forgive and move on with her life.

Inez, whose sense of wonder and innocence touches all who meet her, becomes a focal point for many of the Canadians who encounter her. As Caitlin struggles to uncover the truth about Inez’s relationship with Jerry, Inez struggles to break free of the projections of others. Each must confront her own anger and despair. The doctors in the north have an iciness that matches their surroundings, a kind of clinical armour that Caitlin must penetrate if she is to reach Inez.

The Girl in the Box is a psychological drama of the highest order and a gripping tale of intrigue and passion.




Q:  Give us an example of a typical writing day.

I work fulltime, so a whole writing day is a luxury. I’m a restless writer. I start early, and I’ll work into the evening, but I take lots of breaks. Maybe every 15 minutes, I get up to do something, anything, such as make a cup of tea, or clean the kitchen. But I’m thinking about my writing as I do it. I think better when I’m moving. I also often go on walks, go to gym, or go shopping, to break up the intensity. My body craves doing something physical, and doesn’t seem to like sitting at a computer all day. Sometimes I meditate for half an hour at a time. In the summer, I’ll go out and garden for a while. Sometimes my husband works long hours. Usually, I’d rather he didn’t – but on a writing day, I hope he comes home late!

Q:  Who is your favorite author, and why?


I have many favorites, but someone I really admire is Karen Connolly, a Canadian author who writes both fiction and non-fiction about her travels, notably in Burma. The book I enjoyed the most was called The Lizard Cage. It sounded so depressing at first – about a political prisoner caged in solitary confinement in a horrible prison in Burma – that I avoided reading it. But when I finally read it, I was glad I did. The story is actually quite uplifting, and the writing style is gorgeous.

Q:  Do you have a writer’s studio? Describe it for us and what is the view you see from the window?


I have what I call a “computer room” upstairs, where I used to do my editing work when I was freelancing, but I write mostly in my living room. I have a computer desk on wheels that I roll in front of my favorite armchair and I use a laptop. The chair faces my bay window which looks out onto our apple tree. I like the way the sun filters through the branches, and I also like watching the squirrels stealing apples in the fall!


Q:  Time Frame: From start to finish


My latest novel, The Girl in the Box, took me ten years to write! I’d better explain that, because it obviously wasn’t ten years of straight writing. I went to Guatemala with a friend back in the seventies. It was during the Civil War there, and we saw some things that shocked us, such as Mayan men taken off buses never to return. We learned later they had been killed. When I got back, I wanted to write about what I’d experienced, but it didn’t seem right to turn it into fiction. The story emerged gradually, and I got to working on it seriously in the nineties. Then I kept putting it away and taking it out again, only to think that it needed more work. If publishers didn’t have deadlines, I’d probably still be working on it today!

Q:  Have you ever abandoned any books/novels in progress?


Not yet. I’m working on two new novels right now, though, and I keep getting a feeling that I might drop one. It’s about a group of young women living together in a house in a big city. They are trying to create an alternate lifestyle. A young woman from Borneo comes to visit, and then she disappears, leaving them with her baby. There is just something about it that I don’t feel sure of. The other one, an historical set in 18th century England and Morocco, is already on its second draft, and I know I’ll finish that one.


Q:  How did you feel holding your book in your hands for the first time?


Very good! I love the cover, and the book is a trade paperback, and fairly big, and it felt substantial, real, and complete. I’d waited so long to see it in print, and sometimes thought it never would be, that I remember feeling a bit teary. Happy teary, of course.



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