INTERVIEW: SELAH JANEL

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Selah Janel who is giving away a PDF copy of Mooner to one random commenter on this interview.

Selah is originally from a small town in southern Illinois. She loved that it was very friendly and town-oriented, but there were also lots of woods and open farmland around it.

“Driving along the highways around it you’d see trees forming arches with their branches and their roots and the undergrowth would be trying to bust through the guardrails, like they were fighting back against the town that was trying to tame it,” she said. “There were all sorts of little rotting barns off to the sides of the roads and things that my little-kid self just ate up. I wanted to explore all of that and know what went on there! There’s something about having that kind of possibility to grow up around and that safety net of kind people that’s just brilliant.”

Selah is finishing up the work on her next release In the Red, a kind of an urban fantasy story that takes elements of the fairy tale, The Red Shoes, and put it in a world of rock’n’roll. She’s listened, of course, to a lot of classic rock and blues-based rock while writing it—Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Bowie, and Motley Crue. She’s also really into instrumental tracks. When she’s thinking about how her characters would act emotionally to a situation – especially if it deals with relationships – she’ll zone out to G Tom Mac.

She’s found that In the Red has become much more of a personal story than she expected, emotionally speaking.

“There aren’t direct experiences in here but a lot of things I care about are in this story. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait for people to see it!, ” she said. “I really hope that I don’t randomly get run over by a bus or something before In the Red comes out, because my research file for it would probably make people think I’m a lunatic. I’ve looked up everything from addiction and withdrawal symptoms, recovery for certain types of injuries, how to break satanic contracts, and I’ve hit up every musician I talk to to get a feel for what goes through their heads while they’re playing. The bar-none weirdest thing for this one has been where I had to track down what pitch the sound of a heart monitor when a person flatlines is.”

Selah has been surrounded by stories since she was a child. She grew up in a small town where people were always telling tales on each other and talking about local legends.

“I’ve been really lucky to also grow up around some insanely talented professional storytellers, so I’ve been constantly immersed in stories on paper, at the dinner table, and as performance. From the time I could read my mother was very adamant that I spend a lot of time at the library and Reading Rainbow was always on when I was little,” she told me. “I was always sending my toys on adventures and that slowly grew to using construction paper and crayons to ‘make books.’ It was a natural progression to just start writing it all down. Most days I feel consumed by ideas – if I didn’t let them out who knows where they’d all go!

“I’ve written for years and not submitted because I scared myself out of it. Last year I had a slight health scare that sapped a lot of my energy and made me think. Any day that a person’s alive anything can happen. I didn’t want to suddenly turn around and realize that I’d never taken a chance on something that could make me very happy. So I made the pact with myself that I’d submit as much as possible for a year and just see what happened. I wasn’t allowed to give up or get down on myself until that year was over. I’m perfectly healthy now, but that downtime gave me the kick in the rear I needed, plus the time to work on my writing while cooped up. I was hoping for maybe one acceptance letter – I definitely have pages and pages of rejection notices. But at the end of the day I surprised myself: so far I’ve had acceptances on three e-books, two stories for magazines, a story in an anthology, and a poem in an e-zine. You just never know what’s going to happen until you give yourself a chance.”

Ray Bradbury is Selah’s favorite author and has been for a long time.

“He’s so good at finding realistic emotions for the most bizarre situations, and his mind and thought processes have no limits. He’s a little more literary than current sci-fi and horror, but it works so well. A genre shouldn’t be all about the razzle dazzle; people should have to think and he drags his readers on some incredibly intelligent journeys,” she explained. “There’s no doubt in my mind that anything he writes could be possible somewhere, and his passion for his subject matter just drips off the pages. His range is also huge – he’s so good at creeping people out or building outer space worlds, but he’s also written some incredibly graceful and gentle stories, as well. I’m always excited when I find a Bradbury title I haven’t read before.”

I asked her what authors have influenced her.

“Bradbury made me realize that I can really let go in my descriptions and be as poetic or minimalist as I like and people will follow. Madeline L’Engle fostered my love of strong female protagonists. She really shows that you can have love and also be a strong person; there’s no reason to make one overshadow the other. They may not happen at the same time, but I feel like her progression of Meg is a great example of how to write a female protagonist and keep it balanced. I think Neil Gaiman’s unadultered passion for stories made me realize that it’s okay to love folk and fairy tales and to incorporate elements in my work. That may seem like par for the course now, but it’s not easy convincing people that readers will follow you if you do something like that. Usually fairy tale revamps or fairy tale inspired stories are saved for anthologies. He reminds people that all stories started from somewhere and it’s perfectly acceptable to love them and play with them. Clive Barker’s Imajica made me realize that a big scale isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s doable in a modern-day setting; it doesn’t have to be reserved for epic fantasy. Some stories need that time and build up, no matter what genre they’re in. The Sonja Blue series by Nancy A. Collins really opened my eyes to the horror genre. I wasn’t used to a woman writer being so graphic and badass. It really struck a nerve; some of her works made me downright nauseous or gave me nightmares. It’s powerful stuff and it made me realize that I want to be able to get that powerful a reaction from people.”

About the Author:

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.

She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror but has a deep love of children’s and YA literature and can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane. She’s written two e-books with No Boundaries Press with a third on the way, and has had stories included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, the upcoming anthology Bedtime Stories for Girls, and an upcoming issue of Stories for Children Magazine. Selah also writes about gender roles in genre fiction and film for the online zine Fandom Scene.

Find Selah online at

www.selahjanel.wordpress.com
Fandomfest Column: www.fandomfestblog.com/blogs/selah-janel
FB: www.facebook.com/authorSJ
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SelahJanel

: Like many young men at the end of the 1800s Bill has signed on to work in a logging camp to earn a fast paycheck to start his life. Unfortunately his role model is Big John, the camp’s golden boy known for blowing his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and the lives of so many. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows, something that badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door or does someone have their own plans for his future?

Comments

  1. Great interview! Submitting your work does require confidence. I love riding in cars and seeing the barns as well.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. I’m happy for you on taking a chance on submitting your writing. It’s even better to see it paying off and other people getting a chance to meet your characters.

    Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

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