It’s truly my pleasure to welcome the captivating raconteur, Selah Janel, to The GL Giles Files again. First, here’s her amazing bio. to bring everyone up to speed:
Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield. Olde School is the first book in her new series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, and is publishedthrough Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.
Facebook author page – http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/SelahJanel
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Selah-Janel/e/B0074DKC9K
Olde School by Selah Janel
Book One of the Kingdom City Chronicles
Cross-Genre: Fantasy, Fairy/Folktale, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Horror
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians.
Q. One of the many things I appreciate about your “Olde School” is that I see in your characters (be they trolls, kings, brownies, a strange bird, princesses, ogres and other Folk) a nod to many traditional renderings, but they also almost defiantly resist being categorized by ‘old school’ characteristics. Is this an accurate assessment?
A. First, thanks so much for having me on and reading the book! I’d definitely agree with that assessment. Some of that was purposeful and some of it evolved during the writing process. I’d always envisioned Kingdom City as a modernized folktale-ish world, so I wanted a lot of modern elements and a lot of traditional elements. It’s always intrigued me that a lot of character types in that type of fantasy are very similar in most renderings across the board. There’s nothing wrong with that consistently. A lot can be said for keeping things to a certain structure. Personally, though, I don’t like boxes and labels, and I began wondering why those types of characters were always done in certain ways. The real difficulty was tapping into their personalities and portraying them so they wouldn’t become a gimmick. That was extremely important to me. I didn’t want this to be seen as someone trying to hop on the fairy tale/fantasy popularity train. I have a deep love for these traditions and stories, so if I was going to shake things up, it was important to me that everything was grounded and felt like it made sense. Not only was it fun for me to write these new types of trolls, animal helpers, royals, and whatnot, but it really got me thinking as to what it might be like for them to be typecast one way but not be that way at all.
Q. I can only imagine the amount of work you put into capturing the amazing dialects, atmosphere, character strengths and flaws, et cetera that brought this, Book One of “The Kingdom City Chronicles,” to life. Are you a believer in creating elaborate character profiles first?
A. I’ve become the sort that takes notes as I go, honestly. I’ve done some extensive character profiles for other projects, but this one actually started out as a short story then grew. I stopped and started and re-worked things so many times it probably would have made things easier, but I ended up writing out things in notebooks to refer to as I went. I definitely have timelines, some character backgrounds fleshed out, a general city history, and some other things to keep me honest. I always feel like I’m not the best on keeping things filed at the ready, so that’s something I’m working on. A lot of things like the dialects were finalized in edits – I’d get a better idea of what generations or creatures used which slang and go through and make sure it was all consistent. That was probably one of the hardest aspects. Ippick’s speech differs from Paddlelump and Uljah, Clyde and his ilk tend to not use contractions except in certain cases, there are all sorts of slang terms, specific names for things, and curses I invented…I definitely think they add a lot, but I was ready to smack myself for being that detailed in edits!
In terms of personality issues and flaws, a lot of the times the character traits are so embedded in the characters for me, I don’t necessarily need to write those down. It becomes more of an instinctive feel – I can tell if something Flora says doesn’t ring true, or if Clyde is getting a little off. That being said, there have been some things that have popped into my head that seemed very out there at first, but were definitely dead-on for the characters or plot. Paddlelump is probably the hardest because in this book, at least, he’s very reactionary and well-meaning. It took a lot of sitting down and reworking his character to get him to feel right, but I’m really pleased and proud of how he turned out.
Q. Me, too! He’s definitely a well-drawn character. And, I know that I personally liked the feisty and capable waitress over the inept, but beautiful, maid. However, did you favor any of your characters in this book? In your other books?
A. This is one of the books that I really have a huge, huge love for my entire cast. Even those that may not be likeable or are considered antagonists I’ve come to adore. I’m a firm believer that in Kingdom City, everyone has their story, their reasons, so what you’re seeing in the first book is just a sliver of why the characters are doing what they’re doing. Some of that will be explored in later books, and I want to do some short collections in different points of view so readers can really understand why some characters may be acting the way they are.
I think for me, my opinions differ since a lot of characters were fun to write even if they differ from my personal tastes. I really came to feel protective of Paddlelump, but I absolutely love writing Nobody. She is a wreck, but she is endlessly entertaining because I can just let myself go and have her do say just horrible things and it works. Flora is definitely more in my wheelhouse, and I have a lot planned for her in the future. Ippick is probably my excuse to let out my subversive, inappropriate humor, though I think he’s going to do some awesome things in the future. Clyde is definitely the little winged devil on my shoulder, and I’m always discovering just what he will and won’t do. He’s fascinating to write, and definitely stretches me sometimes. Everyone has their fun points and their frustrating ones for me. It’s like there’s several levels to them and I have to be aware to keep them well-rounded and believable instead of just getting them to do silly things. Even the minor characters like some of the schoolgirls, Addlebaum, Ran, or Grimclaw intrigue me.
Q. You allude, in the Acknowledgements, to how difficult and time-consuming it was to make “Olde School” a reality—and I know readers will be happy that you persevered because it’s incredibly well-written and great fun—but, have you ever been so frustrated by the process of a novel coming together that you decided to take a ‘gap year’ before sorting everything out?
A. Oh, definitely. Olde School is the result of what I thought was a short story evolving into something much bigger. The very beginning of Kingdom City started in 2006, but I didn’t like the ending I had in mind for the short, so I put it away until 2011, where it grew to a short novel. I still didn’t like the ending I had in mind, but when I was approached for a series idea, I realized that I was having trouble because the world of Kingdom City was so much bigger than I’d originally realized. It’s one of those series where I immerse myself in it and step away constantly. It’s the only way to stay semi-sane. I get ideas for it all the time, but it’s like letting a massive tidal wave become something more manageable. There are definitely times I need to breathe, and that’s when I can shift through what’s really going to work and what has to wait. Even during edits I had to take a few days or a week here or there to just get my mind together and catch my breath. My brain tends to throw everything at me at once, and sometimes even my to do lists just make things seem mountainous. I had it in my head that fantasy world-building was going to be easier than urban fantasy because I could invent everything my way. This is a horrible, horrible lie. It wasn’t awful because I enjoy the creative process, but it was definitely more than I had expected because I really, really wanted Kingdom City to be a full-bodied world. I want people to get excited and imagine what it’s like to explore those streets and the other parts of The Land. That area is so diverse, I think anyone could picture themselves as a tourist or a resident there, and I wanted people to have enough detail to be able to do that in their own imaginations. Granted, the process drove me a little crazy getting to that point, and I’m sure as things change and develop it’ll continue, but it’s definitely a labor of love. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t keep going back to it. I’m very lucky to have a publisher and an editor who get it and who communicate freely with me, but also give me a little space and support so I don’t wear myself out.
Q. Thanks for the wonderful insight which I’m sure many writers can appreciate. Switching gears, please give readers a glimpse into the lives of your oft-endearing trolls.
A. I have three trolls in the book: Paddlelump Stonemonger is the youngest and the main character, Uljah Toothgnasher is his older friend, and Ippick Bonecrusher is the oldest. Ippick is the crotchey bachelor of the group, the one who inserts his commentary whether they want it or not. He leans toward wishing for the ‘good ol’ days,’ but definitely takes advantage of modern convenience. He’s in real estate, but because of his off-putting nature he tends to have a lot of odd jobs on the side to make up for his lack of sales.
Uljah at times acts as a father figure to Paddlelump. Unlike his two friends he’s pretty gaunt and bony compared to their substantial sizes. He’s the married one of the group, and it’s strongly hinted that he’s bossed around by his wife quite a bit. He’s affable, amiable, and hard to ruffle. Like Ippick, he’s pretty good at fighting if he has to, but his personality is a little less abrasive. He’s a butcher and is still trying to reach a place of financial stability (no thanks to his wife’s habits with credit cards).
Paddlelump is the most successful of the three, the youngest, and the most unique. He’s young and approachable-looking, and he has a kinder, gentler nature than his friends. He’s progressive and tends to give others the benefit of the doubt. His recent inheritance and his ability to use it to fund a booming toll bridge business means he’s often the target of different opinions from townspeople, the local government, and those who may not wish him well. Although he has a kind nature, he can be a little reactionary and tends to blame his circumstances for his misfortunes a little bit.
All three of these guys bring different things to the table. All have their fun and amusing qualities, their likeable qualities, and all three have their irritating aspects. That’s what makes them fun for me. They hang out at Trip Trap’s diner for lunch everyday, pick on each other, help each other out, antagonize each other…for me, their friendship is very real and is reminiscent of those who have known each other a long, long time. They’re fun to write together. It’s nice to know that even creatures that are traditionally seen as bloodthirsty or dumb or as bad guys can not only have very different types of personalities, but also cultivate long-term friendships and have each other’s backs.
Q. Speaking of trolls, I’m curious how you weigh in on the subject of a different sort of ‘troll’: an internet troll. Some might argue that this is the most insidious sort. Now that the Internet is a town square of sorts should there be more gatekeepers to keep out these new trolls?
A. Great question! I have to admit, it’s a loaded subject. I’ve seen stuff posted on memebase that make me laugh, but anymore I can see how frustrating being at the receiving end of that sort of behavior is. It’s hard enough sorting through things online because of the nature of text responses, but having people purposefully making things difficult makes it harder. I guess it’s one thing if it’s more playful or being dumb, but when you’re getting into trolling boards or comment threads of topics that are already hot-button subject matter, what’s the point in stirring up all that ire or emotion? I don’t know how you patrol something like that, honestly. Admittedly, any time I see that sort of thing going on now I think of a scene in Trip Trap’s where Ippick is intentionally stirring up online forums and laughing about it. It’s funny in the book, but I’d hate to be on the receiving end of his hijinks.
Q. What’s on the horizon for the rest of 2014?
A. I’m currently working on promoting Olde School and working on a short story collection to go with it before I start book two. Beyond that I’m polishing a couple novels to start shopping, and working on some anthology submissions. I’ll be working with Fortress Publications later this year for an issue of Trail of Indiscretion themed around my fiction, Mocha Memoirs Press just re-released my historical horror story Mooner in e-book format, and I’ll be appearing at Imaginarium in September. Besides all that, you can (usually) catch me Wednesday nights at 9pm est as a co-host on The Star Chamber Show podcast on blogtalk radio!
Q. Where can readers go to connect with you and your wonderful work?
Facebook author page – http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Selah-Janel/e/B0074DKC9K