After reading several reviews and becoming more and more inquisitive about Selah Janel's OLDE SCHOOL novel, I corresponded with this talented writer and author. Always interested in what makes other writers tick, and why they do what they do, and what their latest book(s) is about, I asked the following questions with the following responses from the author.
PW:WoHF: Why do you write? For fame and fortune? Simply want to be read? If you don't get the muse out you'll explode? Why do you do this crazy thing? :)
SJ: I write so that the ideas don’t eat my face off when I fall asleep at night.
Seriously, it’s because I have to. I’ve always been prone to stories of all sorts, ever since I was a kid. They may have taken the forms of daydreams or playing pretend or mapping out elaborate adventures for my Barbies and My Little Ponies to go on, but I craved stories the way some kids crave candy bars, a later bedtime and less parental supervision.
Maybe it’s me trying to make sense of the world or all the emotions that filter through me on a given day.
Maybe it’s that I see so much possibility around me, so many wonderful “what if’s” lurking behind an everyday façade…for whatever reason I feel the need to dig deeper and just explore all of it. I full well know I’ll never get to everything, but I’d like to think that I can at least do the ideas that I can get to some justice.
Writing, storytelling, for me is a need, a passion, a drive that’s hard to fully describe or name. It’s not necessarily about escapism or trying to be famous…it’s wanting to share all the cool things in my head and heart with those around me in the hope that maybe it will get people talking and exploring their own ideas and imaginations.
I feel like at some point a lot of people have given themselves rules for being creative, or think that it’s only something certain people do. I write because I want people to get lost in the things I explore and realize that it’s okay to get lost, it’s okay to think and ponder, it’s okay to feel.
PW:WoHF: OLDE SCHOOL is a conglomeration of, in your own words, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, horror, and comedy...and fairy tales. Is there a genre you wrote within first and foremost when you started, or have you always liked to blend things up a bit?
SJ: I think it’s always depended on the story. When I first started out, though, I would think of an idea and very purposefully be “Okay, well this should be horror. This will have to be sci-fi. This is fantasy.” Which is fine, but when I go back to those early pieces they are really stilted and borderline formulaic. I stand by most of my concepts, but I think I was trying too hard to do things the “right” way, and for me that line of thought wrecks a story.
Throughout that process I had started journaling (a habit that I employ off and on still), but I would take a page from Ray Bradbury and either jot down things that I was passionate about or things I noticed or felt in the day to day. Those prompts started to inspire ideas or concepts and I would just sit down and write. I wouldn’t try to make them anything or slant them any one way. Was it a magic hack into getting myself instantly published? Hell no, because I still had a lot to learn about structure and characters and all the rest.
Still, it really started to give me a sense of freedom and a confidence that I didn’t have when I was trying to fit a mold or “be” in any certain genre. I started to realize that I could take what I loved about different things and just write what’s best for the idea.
These days, unless it’s for a specific call, I rarely sit down and slant an idea to a certain genre. I don’t like being put in boxes and while I’ll admit genres help for marketing, if I go in consciously writing for one, it affects things, and not always for the better. Personally, I feel like if I have a concept or an idea in my head and other elements from other genres want to get in on the party, why not invite them?
Life is not one thing at a time. Emotions are not one dimensional. There are many layers to happiness, grief, anger, passion. Humans are complicated, emotional creatures and life is a complicated process so why should stories be any different?
Olde School started out as a short story idea and went through a very long evolution, but it got better the more liberties I gave myself. From the get go I had wanted a fantasy-type story, but I’d also wanted to defy the “roles” that specific creatures or people usually play. Why can’t I have the young girl be a conniving person? Why can’t the troll be the hero? Why can’t the whole society combine modern technology with fantasy tropes?
To me, as long as I can make things make some amount of sense and give them a fair amount of “truth,” I have no problem going off in different directions. It’s amazing to me that so many fairy tale or folk tale elements are close to horror, and not just in the “people get tortured” kind of way. There are some very creepy plot elements in a lot of those tales, yet I also fully admit it’s kind of hilarious to put some of that horror through a fairy tale filter.
For me, it was important that Olde School embrace all these different genres and traits and be something fairly unique, but to not take itself too seriously. The characters regularly call out different tropes or clichés for what they are, they will absolutely point out if something is ridiculous. To me that just adds to the fun.
It can be a hard balance, to be sure, but I’d much rather be knee-deep in something that’s going to keep me on my toes than something that’s rehashing the same old thing. I get that there’s comfort in the familiar, but I also think that there are ways to take the tropes and genres we’re comfortable with and dust them off and play with them. It’s like a mint in the box action figure. Sure, it’s awesome that you have it and it’s totally respectable to leave it as it is.
For better or worse I’ve always been the type of person to rip those boxes open so I could get my paws all over the figures inside. Genres are kind of the same way with me. I don’t expect everyone to agree or love my habit, but it’s the way I have to be. If I really want to play with the action figure, I’m not going to leave it sitting on the shelf in the hopes that maybe someday I’ll do something with it. If the story wants to incorporate a lot of elements, I’m not going to edit those out because they’re against genre and you just don’t do that. I’m going to ask why not and see if it’s possible. If it really doesn’t work, fine, but I’ve found that more often than not, people are more willing to go along with a mix of things, as long as they’re blended well and it’s not a hot mess that’s slopping all over the place. If all the elements contribute to a tight story with relatable characters that keep a reader intrigued, why not do what needs to be done, whether it’s typical for the genre or not?
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
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 published through 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