Monday, April 30, 2012

Singing the glory of Selah Janel

Selah Janel has a name that's a lot like her work, it just rolls right off the tongue. I met her through the wonder that is Facebook, and I've learned since that day to really appreciate her gift of telling stories.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My most recent release is The Other Man. It’s an unusual turn for me in that it’s a straight contemporary piece, but it’s still filled with the plot twists and little interactions that I like. Release info and purchase links can be found at my blog. Here’s the blurb:


All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a typical loving family. Instead he has a menial job, a small apartment, and children that remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. To add insult to injury, he’s well aware that he’s not the only man that inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. But how can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful dinner conversation when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life may never be the same.

I’m also offering a free read through No Boundaries Press called On Fire. It’s a short piece that explores an unnamed DJ who finds that he’s lost his gift and is bound to the music he spins. Both are struggling through their last gasps at life and he has to follow the path that’s probably inevitable for him. That one can be downloaded for free at the storefront at www.noboundariespress.com.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I find myself always trying to explore the magical and weird possibilities in the everyday. There’s so much amazing stuff that we gloss over in our daily lives, and it always gets me wondering ‘what if?’ I also really love visiting themes of music and relationships; the only difference is my stories usually involve vampires or faeries or other surreal elements along with the normal ones. I personally feel like fantasy and horror are great metaphors for the emotions everyone feels. There are certain books and films that everyone just seem to get because they tap into universal feelings. I love that genres like horror and fantasy can be the great equalizers when they works well. There’s probably a good part of my mind and heart that exists in another world, because I can look at the same everyday setting that my neighbors and friends look at and find something totally different there to work with.

I’m also a huge fan of strong women characters and with the longer projects I’m currently working on I’m really trying to let my female protagonists have some depth and not exist just for one particular emotion or conflict. There are so many nuances and little emotions and things that can be used, and no real person resorts to just one, so why should a girl on a page?

What would be your dream project?

I’ve got a series of novels that I’m developing that I’m really excited to seriously start writing. They involve a lot of things I’m really passionate about, take place in a small Midwest town, and really blur the lines between the old stories of legend and myth and the everyday. I’ve got the histories and stories of several different mythical species that make up this town all in my head and my hope is that it gels together with the modern aspects of day-to-day living.

But if we’re shooting for the moon… I have this horribly intense love of watching anthology movies and TV shows like The Twilight Zone and the Amicus horror movies. Even the old EC and Creepy comics - I love those! I would love to work on developing something like that. No matter how many there have been  or how successful they’ve been I still feel there’s a lot of room to do some really awesome things there. Even in manga that sort of thing has become a staple with titles like the fabulous Pet Shop of Horrors series. In some ways the episodic crime dramas have kind of taken the place of this sort of thing, but I really would love to do something new in that area. I also really love comics, manga, and graphic novels. My drawing skills are limited to costume designs, but I’d love to develop stories for that medium, as well, because it really opens door as to what an writer can do. There are stories that I’ve read in the visual forms that would never work as novels, or at the very least the characters in comics are allowed to be rougher and be messier in the ways they explore their emotions.

And if we’re really dreaming big I’d fall on my face to do anything with Henson Studios. Films like The Dark Crystal, The Storyteller series, and Labyrinth broke my mind and heart open as a kid and really got me thinking about what was possible. I’d love to do that kind of story-telling.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

My first e-book release, Mooner, involved a lot of historical lumberjack slang. I worked really hard to incorporate the definitions and intentions within the text of the story, but I realized after it was published that I probably should have included a glossary to make life easier on people. I do have one up at my blog, but if I had to do it again I would have made it part of the release.

What inspires you to write?

There’s so much possibility in the everyday and a lot of it gets ignored. I don’t know if it’s just a coping mechanism for me, or if I’m just wired to think about things sideways, but I always have these little ‘what-if’ ideas come at me. As good as technology and progression is, sometimes I think it’s become an anesthetic and people don’t see just how awesome the little things that make up a life are. Stories are so powerful, anyway. I was always influenced by books and stories I was told as a kid, and I think it’s  awesome to be able to potentially do that for others.

The genres I write could offer women a great chance to show all sides of our emotions and create some really great characters that are outside of expectations. I write a column for Fandom Scene about women in genre fiction and film, but eventually I want to turn my thoughts into more than that. I feel like if we understand where these characters are coming from and why they were written that way, we can begin to create different kinds characters and really stretch fantasy and horror beyond the typical formulas. I’m sure it all sounds really idealistic and ridiculous, but I firmly believe that it’s better to think something’s possible and go for it than sit around assuming it can’t happen.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Ray Bradbury, hands down. No matter how far-fetched the situation, he always finds the emotional truth. It doesn’t matter if his sci-fi isn’t “hard” or if his horror is light compared to the graphic trends of today – they affect me as a reader because they’re so easy to relate to. He’s also written some beautifully graceful stories like Hopscotch and A Medicine for Melancholy. Plus, his descriptions are just gorgeous.

I also really love Neil Gaiman and how he blends contemporary tales with mythological or folk tale elements. And his humor is just so fabulous; it adds another layer to his work because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. You can tell he’s always really into whatever story he’s writing. Growing up I was always intrigued by Madeline L’Engle. She wrote some really bold things and stuck to her guns all throughout her career. It doesn’t really matter if one agrees with her personal philosophy; her books are incredibly diverse and imaginative, but somehow always believable.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I think you do need to learn tips and tricks, but I don’t think there’s a set formula. As books turn into franchises it seems like a lot of people want to believe that if you hit the hot new trend and follow certain patterns, that it’ll equal a bestseller and that’s just not the case. As a reader I don’t mesh well with books that are obviously trying too hard or trying to hit a certain rhythm. I want to read things by people who truly love the things they’re writing about and have enough respect for their audience to craft a really good story. I suppose that would land me more on the art side.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I’m working on edits for my next release, In the Red. It’s a re-interpretation of the Andersen fairy tale "The Red Shoes" that takes some of the themes and puts them into a modern world of rock n’ roll and dark magic. Being able to combine my love of fairy tales with my love of rock urban legends is a lot of fun. It’s a story that’s been on my hard drive for years and I’ve finally find the right combination of all the components and the right outlet for it.

And people can read about my thoughts on gender and genre on Fandom Scene. I’m covering urban fantasy right now, and I plan to move towards more traditional examples of fantasy, and eventually horror. With every new title I’m diving into I’m finding that some of my assumptions were well-founded, and others weren’t, so it’s as much of a journey for me as it is for my readers.

I can usually be found hanging out in the following places:

Blog: www.selahjanel.wordpress.com

Fandom Scene Blog: www.fandomfestblog.com/blogs/selah-janel

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/authorSJ

Twitter: www.twitter.com/SelahJanel