Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author Interview: Selah Janel

Selah Janel


1.      Please tell the readers a bit more about you.

I consider myself a pretty typical gal – I grew up in Middle America in several small towns. I tend to do okay in big cities or small towns, but I think there’s something really magical about small communities where people know each other and have each other’s back. Plus, there’s something to be said for little farm towns where state parks or creeks and forests are a close walk away. I’m in mad love with ideas and bringing them from concept to reality – whether it’s writing, sewing, or performing. It’s so cool that there’s so much possibility in the world, y’know? Everyone keeps saying that there’s no new ideas left, but I think that everyone has their own filter and their own take on things so it’s impossible not to have new and original ideas all the time – the trick is getting people to accept that and not keep looking for or expecting the same old thing.

2.      What types of books do you write?

I write any genre that I have a good idea for. I’ve mainly been published for dark fantasy, magic realism, urban fantasy, and horror, but I also have a big soft spot for children’s literature and I’m not going to turn away from standard contemporary fiction either. If an idea or concept catches my interest enough, then I’m open to it.

3.      Who's your main audience?

I think anyone who’s attracted to surreal situations, genre fiction, and the unusual can find something in any of my titles. I tend to have a sideways approach to things so even the typical set-ups tend to get turned into something else in my work. If people are interested in reading about the magic or horrific in the everyday and appreciate strong female characters, then so much the better.

4.      When it comes to writing- what are your strong points? What are your weaknesses?

I think strength wise I’m very lucky to love the genres I write. If I don’t love it, I don’t do it. Love helps compensate for the rejection and the frustration. I’m also passionate about genre fiction and women’s roles – I want female characters to be like actual, regular women and I don’t see a reason that fiction should be panned or snubbed because it happens to be sci-fi or fantasy or something. I’m also very curious and very observant and I hope that through the years this has helped with my character development. It also means that I’m absolutely shameless and if I need to fact check or bounce ideas off of someone I just go ahead and do it. I tend to be a sideways thinker and that can be a strength and a weakness, honestly. It gives me some really interesting ideas but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re what publishers want to read. No matter what guidelines say people are still looking for a formula – they want things that they know for sure people are going to read. I tend to get frustrated with editing and have to make sure I’m focusing and get all my ducks in a row – sometimes I look at manuscripts I’ve submitted a few times and wonder why I didn’t catch things that could have been fixed much earlier. I also feel like I’m always pulled in two different directions: I want to constantly tighten things up, but to get things accepted by publishers I often have to meet larger word counts. I think epic fantasy and longer horror is great but I don’t think it necessarily takes 100,000 words to make a good story.

5.      What do you think of this term- Writer's Block? How do you overcome it?

If you write you’re going to face it. It’s very equal opportunity and I just don’t buy it when people say they don’t have a problem with it. I think it’s natural and sometimes a good thing. If I’m plowing along on something with the sole purpose of trying to fit a certain genre appeal or meet a deadline I may not be doing all I can to let the idea grow and be what it’s supposed to be. That being said, it frustrates me when all I want is to get a manuscript to work. I generally work on a few things at once so I can keep rotating and feel like I’m accomplishing something – I get moody if I get too frustrated and that never gets me anywhere. Sometimes I recognize that I genuinely need to put something away and go for a walk or focus on another area of my life – it’s not a bad thing, it’s a human thing. If I really feel that what’s going on is more me putting something off, then I try to power through. While I know work shopping and having friends beta in-process works help some people, I’m not comfortable presenting something in its infancy until I have a really good grasp of the full spectrum of the idea – otherwise it sounds much more one-dimensional than what I’m intending.

6.      How many books have you written?

I’ve got a lot in-process. If you mean actually finished then five or so.

7.      How many are published?

Three are eBooks and two I’m currently working on submitting

8.      Are you self published or traditionally published?

I’ve always gone through publishers. I personally like having a community available to help me with the process. I’m very independent but at a certain point I want to have people helping me, especially since I’m new to the game. I think that self-publishing is awesome for a lot of people, but I also feel that if you’re doing that to avoid drama or work around the system…well there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one magical way to do things or way to be safe from drama. That happens at any level. I may self-publish in the future but right now I like working with people and the gals at No Boundaries Press have been absolutely fantastic about communication and helping me get started.

9.       What's the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Pacing. I tend to either start too fast or too slow – or I get cooking and realize that I’ve glossed over something that I really want to highlight or that I could use more. I have to keep rereading and double-checking myself all the time to make sure everything in a manuscript syncs up.

10.  What type of books do you enjoy reading?

With fiction I read a lot of fantasy and horror, and I enjoy some chick lit, romance and cozy mysteries. I also really like a lot of creative nonfiction titles – I love learning about things that I may not bump into during my own daily life. I’m also a glutton for autobiographies and memoirs – especially if it’s written by a person who’s really far removed from the type of life I lead. I know there’s a vibe lately against memoirs but I think I’ve gained a huge appreciation for people at large by being willing to listen to lots of different types of life experiences.

11.  Who's your favorite Author?

Ray Bradbury. I’m in awe of his work. His ideas are innovative, but they’re also emotionally grounded. No matter how far removed the setting or plot is from the “real” world, his stories make sense to a reader because they tap into very real emotions. Some of his stories are stronger than others, but he runs the gamut: horror that’s genuinely creepy, science fiction that’s both commentary and fantastic, and gentle, touching coming of age stories. I also like that he’s not afraid to recycle themes: he’s used the concept of matter in a jar in a short story and in a novel in very different ways, and instead of it feeling like a cheat it’s like a gentle inside joke between friends. I feel like a lot of my learning to appreciate characters’ emotions and to genuinely love all sorts of plots came from immersing myself in his work.

12.  What's your all time favorite book?

I don’t know if I could pick just one! I love Dandelion Wine by Bradbury, but I also think American Gods by Neil Gaiman is pure magic. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is one of the best newer books I’ve read in a long time, and Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series is incredible.

13.  How long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the length and what it is. I had a novel I’m working on start out as a short story, sit for years, and then rocketed past 30,000 words in a month. I always end up thinking of subplots and details when I’m half-way through things, so then I end up going back to fix things.

14.  Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite? Why?

I really love the cast in the urban fantasy series I’m developing now, probably because they share a lot of the things I love about where and how I grew up. They all have magical qualities that are combined with mundane lifestyles but they all try very hard to do their best and figure out the world around them. And I won’t lie – a few of them definitely are outlets for my sense of humor so it’s hilarious to write them.

15.  What is one of the most surprising things you've learned as a writer?

How much you have to keep at it. I expected having to keep looking for outlets and writing, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of self-promotion or having to really put myself out there right away. Luckily I’m not afraid of hard work and I’m open to learning so I’ve tried to approach it with open arms and attack it with gusto. I also thought I was ready for the amount of rejection I was going to face, but some days it really bowls me over and still does. I try not to get too frustrated and just remember that it’s like dating: not everyone is going to love you and the point is to find the best match.

16.  What does your family think of your writing?

I actually didn’t tell them for a long time, since I wanted to actually have something to show for what I was doing. And I was nervous about showing them things that might be darker or weirder than what they’d expect from me. But they’ve been really supportive. They may not always get everything I write but they’re all for it and that makes me very happy.

17.  What does your writing schedule look like?

It depends on what else is going on. If I’m trying to meet a deadline I’ll hunker down and work on that specific piece. If I’m just trying to finish a manuscript I’ll try to get in a thousand words or more a day. If I’ve got other projects and work going on then I just have to take it as it comes. I’m always happier when I’m writing, though, so I try to carve time out for it every day.

18.  Do you manage to write every day?

During some parts of the year – it may not be a huge word count or it may just be the development of an idea, but I try my best to.

19.  What's the latest news you'd like to share?

I just had my second title The Other Man released. It’s a great, quirky story about relationships and the little things that can make or break them.  My third title In the Red, a glam rock re-imagining of the folktale The Red Shoes will come out some time in the next couple of months. I’ll also be at Fandom Fest in Louisville at the end of June promoting my work and speaking on different panels; in the meantime readers can check out my blog for the convention’s zine Fandom Scene.

20.  Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read a lot – don’t be afraid of genres that you’re not necessarily into and be sure to get your nose into some of the classics and some nonfiction. The point of reading as a writer is to expand your universe, not to check up on what everyone else is doing and copy it. Write a lot, even if it isn’t publishable. You have to start getting in a groove and making mistakes so that you can see what works and where your comfort zone is. Live your life and say yes to opportunities – even a trip to the grocery store could give you an idea for how a character might behave. I feel like I know so much more about emotions than I did when I was in my teens and twenties since I’ve gone through that much more life – and I hope I’ll keep feeling the same way with the more time I get under my belt.  Be prepared that it isn’t just about writing: it’s about business and promotion and keeping an eye on your work. There’s not a point where you can just sit back and say “that’s it.” 

Find out more about this author here:

Contact Links:

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The Other Man Purchase Links

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Anonymous said...

Wow, nice long interview, so much great information as well...

Armand Rosamilia

Writer San LinTun said...

This interview is really informative, and inspiring.


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