Open the floodgates

Will local writer/musician Sheldon Birnie’s debut novel make waves?

  • Local musician and writer Sheldon Birnie wrote his debut novel, Down in the Flood, over the course of five years. – Supplied

Victoria, B.C. born, Dawson Creek raised and current Winnipeg resident Sheldon Birnie is known to many locals as the singer/guitarist for Cheering for the Bad Guy and editor of Stylus Magazine.

He’s also an accomplished fiction writer, recently releasing his debut, self-published novel Down in the Flood.

The story of a few “good time” buddies who want something more out of life isn’t directly influenced by anything that happened to the 29-year-old author, but there are moments pulled from Birnie’s own life.

“The story itself is just a story that came to me,” he says. “There’s a bit of myself and a reflection of people that I know in the characters. There’s maybe a couple incidents in the story that were lifted out of real life and the names changed around.”

Taking place in a summer among floods, love interests and hazy booze-filled times, the book is mostly about friendship.

“It’s a breakdown of this guy and how he deals with it ... or doesn’t deal with it.”

Since Birnie is a busy guy, the book is a real back-of-the-drawer project. He started the first draft over five years ago.

“It’s sort of removed from myself at this point in time,” he says. “If I were to sit down and write a story now this likely wouldn’t be on my radar, but at the point where I was first writing it, it was definitely a story that resonated with me.”

Eventually all good stories find their way into the hands of others, and with interest piqued, Birnie took the next step.

“I’d passed around some drafts for people to read and felt like it was something that shouldn’t die on the vine,” he says. “I found a buddy who was doing his master’s in English and asked him to give it a once over.”

After some firm but fair criticism, the novelist decided to release it online as an ebook.

“Of course I always wanted to have a paper copy because I like books, I like records and stuff, but not making use of that technology at this point is kind of backwards,” he says. “The response was good enough that it warranted the extra investment in (publishing hard copies).”

The response to Down in the Flood has been positive. However, the grounded Birnie is keeping his head strictly out of the clouds when it comes to his aspirations for the book.

“Ideally, I’d like anyone who’s interested in the story to pick it up,” he says. “I don’t expect the demand to outweigh my supply. I’d like it to have a life of its own and not just be something forgotten about.”

As for what’s next, writers are always writing.

“I’ve got another couple stories in my brain and one that I’m working on whenever I get time. I have to keep doing what I’m doing now and hopefully the audience will grow and people will enjoy the book if they come across it.”

Sheldon Birnie will read from his novel, Down in the Flood, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Kustom Kulture. Down in the Flood is available at Kustom Kulture, McNally Robinson and Mondragon. You can also find it online at www.sheldonbirnie.com.

Published in Volume 67, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 26, 2012)

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