An interview was published this week on the ReaderViews site. Sharing that with you this week here as well. If you would like to see the full write up, please go to
MEET THE AUTHOR – A conversation with Sloan Blecher, author of “The Shadow”
Posted on July 31, 2023by Reader Views

The Shadow

Sloan Blecher
Tellwell Talent (2023)
ISBN:‎ 978-0228888840

Q. Hi Sloan. Thank you for joining us today at Reader Views! Tell us a bit about your writing journey. (When did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you decide to actually sit down and write your first book?)

A. I’ve always enjoyed writing. My earliest recollection is while at primary school, winning a book club prize at the local town library with a story about a wombat. The prize was $6, which I was very grateful for. I remember during career discussions at high school, asking the career counsellor about journalism. I grew up on a farm in a rural community and I wrote to some regional papers and TV stations regarding a cadetship, but nothing came from that.
When my employment circumstances changed about 5 years ago, I had more time, so I made a list of things I wanted to do. One of them was that I wanted to write a book of substance that would be interesting enough to be worth publishing. Another was that I wanted to learn a language. I haven’t finished with that, but I do a language lesson every day and I’m making progress.

Q. What is The Shadow about?

A. I think it is about the complexities of family life in rural Australia in the 60s and 70s. It’s about what works so very well in small communities with people and families supporting each other and what can go so terribly wrong when people step outside accepted norms. More importantly, though, I highly value what readers say that the book is about. Reader reviews talk about love and heartbreak, despair and survival. They talk about the challenges of the era, as well as the day-to-day demonstration of the very best and worst of human behaviour and the effects that has on those around them. There is also a theme of psychological violence and the struggles of women of that era to overcome those threats and to have a voice. All seem to agree that The Shadow is an accurate reflection of life, especially the challenges for rural women, at that time.

Q. What was your inspiration for the story?

A. I grew up on the farm described in the story. While a work of fiction, the significant majority of the book is based on actual events. This is a case of life being stranger than fiction. I lived many of the scenes in the book. Others I observed from a distance or through talking to the people that experienced those events. I wrote from memory and emotion in reliving many moments that I’d hidden in the back of my mind. Frankly, I shed a lot of tears along the way as some of those memories were brought to the surface. There are many scenes where I knew of the outcome but not the detail of how that outcome was arrived at. That’s where the fiction comes in. So, my inspiration was knowing that I, with my family, had lived through some difficult emotional times and that it was a story worth telling.

Q. The Shadow intricately explores the life and struggles of rural communities. What research did you undertake to ensure the authenticity of these representations?

A. The majority of research was simple. Having been close to many events in the story, I needed to do some fact-checking to ensure that my recollection of events made sense. Then it was a case of fictionalizing events into a story that held together chronologically. There were other major elements where I had to do a lot of research. For example, when one of the main characters is in hospital, I had to research what would have happened and what specialist advice that person would have received. So, Dr. Google played a part, as did a medical specialist that I asked to review my writing to ensure that I hadn’t impinged too much on the treatment that would have actually been given at that time.

Q. The shadows of power and history appear to be overarching themes in your novel. Could you delve deeper into your motivations behind exploring these themes?

A. My motivation was high, simply because I, along with many others that lived elements of this story, carry psychological wounds from the events that unfolded. For example, many of the values that I have lived my life by were shaped by what was demonstrated to me as a teenager, of what to do and conversely, what not to do. In many ways, the difference is so stark as to be confronting. I saw and experienced non-physical power utilized in destructive ways that left shadows over many people. Many of those shadows remain today.

Q. Could you elaborate on the characters of Jack, Eileen, and Liz, the Campbells, and what led you to choose the year 1966 as the starting point for their journey?

A. That’s simple. That was the year that the elements described in the story actually started. Jack, Eileen, Liz, and the Campbells are all pseudonyms of people in that community. They were real people living as part of a close-knit rural community that were at the heart of what unfolds in The Shadow that causes so many unintended consequences that left some of those people, and others scarred for life.

Q. The Duncans, a new family that moves into the valley, are described as catalysts for further complications. What was the thought process behind creating the dynamics between the Campbells and the Duncans?

A. Another simple answer here. The thought process was on recalling and reliving moments of my youth and to string those together into a story that somehow depicted the emotion and challenges of the time. While not complex, it wasn’t easy, as I had mentally archived many events. I suspect this was to protect myself from recalling painful memories. The dynamics of the Duncans with the rest of the community is an interesting play on how it can be very challenging for new people moving into a long-established, small community with accepted norms and an expectation of compliance.

Q. Can you explain more about the title The Shadow, its significance, and how it encapsulates the core themes of your book?

A. I don’t want to give away too much of the story here, so I won’t go into this too deeply. I’ve had readers’ feedback that suggested that the book’s name perfectly fits the story, but that it is not appreciated until the place in the book where that alignment is revealed. It is about a long-lasting negative legacy that an individual’s actions can leave on others and a community – a shadow. It will be very clear to readers as they unpack the story.

Q. Your characters are said to be relatable, particularly for those who have experienced intense family situations. How did you manage to craft such relatable characters despite the book’s intense and sometimes harsh scenarios?

A. I didn’t set out specifically to make the characters relatable. I worked on trying to describe the unique characteristics of the players, their environment, and feelings and how they interacted with others. I think that building a character over time and describing their place and role through writing help to build that sense of being relatable. The world, and especially so in rural areas, is made up of so many interesting and unique characters. I am thrilled that they are being assessed as relatable because that says to me that I have done them and the environment of the time, justice.

Q. It’s noted that your narrative is based on real events and personal experiences. Could you share a bit more about how you wove these elements into your fictional narrative?

A. I’ve covered some of this in prior questions but in summary, it started with many thoughtful hours recollecting events from my past and trying to capture them in a meaningful way that expressed the emotion of the time. Of course, there are many elements that I fictionalized, simply because I wasn’t there and didn’t have any personal feedback from those that were. For example, I don’t know the details of how the Judge interacted with key individuals when making his assessments in relation to Liz and Jack, but I do know the outcomes. The same applies to many scenes, such as exactly what happened at the hospital, so the details of those events, for example, are by necessity fictionalized. Also, there are some parts of the story that continue today in the life of the community at the centre of the book. To bring The Shadow to conclusion, I fictionalized some scenes to provide the reader with an end to a storyline.

Q. Your book touches on the sometimes-stifling aspect of family ties. How did you balance these intense relationships with the overarching narrative, and how did you approach depicting their unraveling?

A. Yes, those words; ‘stifling aspect of family life’ say a lot about what I tried to capture. The hardest thing I needed to do in depicting the unraveling was to convert painful memories into a narrative that flowed and was interesting. I really had trouble in the early days in doing this and maintaining order of chronology. It took a level of discipline I didn’t have when I started work on this. It was a discipline that I learnt I had to apply to balance the relationships with the ultimate unravelling and their consequences.

Q. Your writing style is praised as dramatic and refreshing. Can you discuss your writing process and how you ensure each chapter holds something unexpected yet satisfying for the reader?

A. I’d like to take credit for some wonderful and unique insight that makes my writing ‘dramatic and refreshing’, but I can’t. I simply tried to make each chapter stand on its own in terms of having interesting events (hooks) at the start, depth of story in the meat, and moments that would have the reader wanting to turn another page at the end. I was very happy when reviewers of my initial unedited draft provided feedback that they were staying up late to read extra pages or chapters because they just needed to know what happened next. I think that being widely read has also helped. While I haven’t studied any other author, I am sure that reading widely has helped me to, almost inadvertently, structure my story in an attempt to maintain the interest of the reader.

Q. The book ends with readers wondering if the characters will ever find their way again. What guided your decision to leave your readers with this level of uncertainty? Will there be additional stories in the future?

A. Some people in the story emerge from the shadow with futures that hold promise. That said, there are others where their futures could develop in many ways; destructive or constructive. There are certainly those in the story that might be looking for revenge if there were to be a follow-up story. I have the broad outline of much of what that might look like in my head, but for now, I am focused on getting word out about The Shadow. Whether there is a follow-up or not might well depend upon my success in doing that. I applaud ReaderViews and similar forums for helping to promote Indie author endeavours.

Q. The Shadow has been compared favorably to the show “Yellowstone.” How do you feel about this comparison?

A. Hmm, I feel inadequate. “Yellowstone!” Wow… No, I don’t think that is a valid comparison. After all, there are no horses in The Shadow! That said, I am honoured with that level of praise, but it isn’t a comparison that I would make.

Q. You’ve managed to weave a complex and intense family drama that has resonated with many readers. What do you hope your readers take away from The Shadow?

A. Firstly, I hope that readers are emotionally engaged from start to end and enjoy the story. Along the way I hope that they get an appreciation of how challenging life on the land and in small rural communities can be. Lastly, I hope that readers relate to the characters and look at themselves to draw on the behaviours that are good and make a difference to people’s lives and avoid those that cause distress and heartache.

Q. Based on your debut writing/publishing experience, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

A. Oh, I have lots of advice! I’ve been writing about my experience from thinking about writing to being published on my website Blog (see below). For those interested, I share many tips that I learned the hard way – from not doing it right but eventually fumbling my way through. Those tips have to be underscored by two things before embarking on such a venture: a goal and passion to achieve the goal. If the goal can’t be defined, then it probably isn’t worth starting.

Q. Is there anything you’d like to add today?

A. Simply that we all have a story in us. If you want a challenge, think about bringing that to life. More people will be interested in it than you think. It will be so challenging but hugely rewarding. Lastly, thank you for the support of Indie authors. We are a growing community that is unrestricted by traditional paths to readership.

Thank you.