Introduction from Amazon: “Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little when she wondered if fairies lived in the nearby state park and worried that vampires hid in the old barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either.
Everything she does feeds the idea machine and she often finds a story in the strangest of places. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror but will give any genre a chance if the idea is good enough. Her work has appeared in the winter 2012 issue of The MacGuffin, issue three and five of The Realm Beyond, and the back to school issue of Stories for Children Magazine. She has also contributed to multiple anthologies including The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, the upcoming Thunder on the Battlefield, and the upcoming Bedtime Stories for Girls.
She has multiple e-books with Mocha Memoirs Press, including Holly and Ivy and The Other Man. Olde School, the first book in The Kingdom City Chronicles will be out later this year with Seventh Star Press” (http://www.amazon.com/Selah-Janel/e/B0074DKC9K/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_2).
GL: You’ve been published by Mocha Memoirs Press and No Boundaries Press, but you recently signed with Seventh Star Press, too, correct?
SJ: Correct! I write a lot of different kinds of things, so I work with several publishers. No Boundaries Press is not in business anymore, but I’ve been lucky that Mocha Memoirs Press has agreed to reprint my shorter titles. I’m also currently working on finding a new home for my first novel, the urban fantasy/horror rocker tale, In the Red. Seventh Star Press has my series, The Kingdom City Chronicles. I’ve also self-published a book with my good friend and co-author S.H. Roddey. It’s a collection of forty-seven short, speculative pieces titled Lost in the Shadows. I also have work in a few different magazines and anthologies, so who I’m with really depends on what we’re talking about!
GL: What’s the release date of the debut novel in your “Kingdom City Chronicles?” How many books will you have in this series?
SJ: I just turned in my manuscript, so the editing and art processes are still very much going on. I don’t have an exact date, but I believe we’re shooting for fall/winter of this year. I definitely like to keep my readers up to date, so as soon as I have more specific information, they’ll get it! At this point I know it will be at least four books, and I’m probably looking at a slightly higher number once I cement some of the details. I’m so excited about this series because it gives me a chance to really break loose and have a ball with all the genres I love. It’s set in a fantasy world, but there are also elements of horror, mystery, conspiracy, and fairy tale, with a big dose of my own brand of humor tossed in. I hope that it will appeal to a lot of different people and give readers something they may not have seen before. It plays a lot with genre rules, creature/character stereotypes, and reader expectations, so expect to be surprised!
GL: You’ve been a performer, puppeteer, costume designer, etcetera. Do these talents help with your fiction writing somehow, too?
SJ: Oh, definitely! To me, everything is a story. For costume design I have to know a little bit about why a character/person looks the way they do, what their upbringing or status is, and how they make their way through life. All of that contributes to their look. If I’m designing a creature or costume from scratch without any history of a role to it, then I really have to have an idea of why this person or thing looks the way they do in my head. Otherwise, it’s just going to look like a bunch of things thrown together, which only works for so long.
All my performance work has helped with my writing, as well. I took a lot of different acting classes in college, and the way I handle my characters is very similar to the sense memory technique in acting. I may not totally base any one character on myself, but I try to find an experience or an emotion that I may have gone through, myself, to give myself a starting point or a way “in” with that character. If I can understand how they think in some little way, then that opens up the door to their behavior in general. Then, if I have trouble, I can always go back to that feeling as a starting point and reassess things from there. Puppeteering is a little more technical in some ways, but having to keep my mind on my body, voice, script, and a million other little details is the same as having to juggle a lot of details in a manuscript. One thing can’t necessarily overshadow the others—it’s all a balance that I have to constantly be mindful of.
GL: Did you also venture into sketch comedy at one point in your career? If so, then do you believe it aids your creative writing now?
SJ: I’ve been involved with improv groups, yes. They were involved with both comedy and drama, and explored scene work, improv, and short film work in general. For me, they gave me a chance to really work on being spontaneous and not getting too nervous about what was coming out of my mouth. Sometimes my anxieties can get the best of me, so that experience helps me to turn that part of my brain off and just go for it. People don’t realize that usually the more outrageous characters I write are closer to my inner thoughts, but it’s definitely true. That sort of spontaneity helps with a lot of my characters in the Kingdom City Chronicles, especially some of the more smart-alecky trolls. A lot of that dialogue is quick and razor-sharp, so that experience definitely helped. With the drama aspects, that gave me another chance to really work on my own approach to sense memory and tap into emotions that I may not have been ready to face beforehand. That definitely has given me the ability to fully explore my characters and really delve into the little things they feel that might propel a story along.
GL: What writing tips do you have for those beginning their foray into creative writing?
SJ: First off, if you’re in it with the goal to write professionally, don’t do it unless you really, really love it. If it’s a hobby, dive in and see all the wonderful places you can find in yourself. Professionally, though, don’t go into writing thinking you’re going to bank on one idea you have, or do it to be the next big thing. Do it because you absolutely have to write or the ideas will tear you apart when you’re not looking. Do it because you feel and see things others don’t and you’re compelled to get it on paper. The thing is, it’s not an easy process, and you’re going to hear a lot of rejection. I’ve been told fairly often that I’m something of a pit bull when it comes to wanting to get my way because I’m so tenacious. With all respect, I feel like I’m more like a hungry wolverine, but that’s me, heh.
That said, I’m learning that submitting and rejection is also a lot like dating: you can’t take it personally when you just don’t click with someone. I try really hard to keep an open mind and look at my manuscripts and try to see what others might be seeing. If you really want this, you absolutely cannot give up, but you also have to learn to take criticism and figure out what needs fixing and what needs ignoring. When I first started hard-core submitting, I made myself promise that I would give it a year and a day and submit at least one thing every week. To date I have a file of rejection notices that is about twenty-something pages long. That isn’t twenty rejections – that’s twenty pages of notations of rejections. Not everything you produce is going to be golden, but as you grow and progress, you may go back and find homes for those early ideas.
Read as much as you write, and read genres that are different than what you’re writing. Don’t read just the genre you write with the thought of checking out the competition or checking out what’s hot at any given moment. Write what comes from you, but read absolutely everything. I read a lot of nonfiction, and I feel like I learn a lot every time I pick up a title. I’m one of those curious cats that wants to know how everything works and what it’s like to go through every life event ever, even if I’m just reading about it through memoirs. I read comics, plays, short stories, novels, and all genres. Keep aware of grammar—I have a bad habit of mentally editing everything I read, but it keeps me sharp. For me, writing is fundamentally about paying attention. I’m always open to possibilities, whether that means new ideas or researching places to submit to. It’s a constant job to keep up with everything.
Also start learning business and marketing, simply because as you get published that’s going to be a world you’re going to have to venture into. You don’t want to be that person that’s forced to believe what they’re told because they don’t know, otherwise. A lot of people get caught unaware that this is part of the professional writing world and suddenly wonder why it should be their job to promote their titles or handle their business dealings. The fact is, this is how things are today. Unless you’ve been established forever, you’re going to need to do some promotional work long-term to keep people interested. Get comfortable with yourself and your work, because people are going to be talking to you about it and wanting to know why they should read it!
GL: Where can readers go to connect with you and your wonderful work? (social networking sites, etc.)
SJ: Readers can find me at the following places!
Facebook Author Page – http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/SelahJanel