SJ: Weeell, if you really want to be freaked out right off the bat…I also work in the world of costumes and design, so I handle a lot of different materials and have gotten pretty good at making synthetic human skin out of latex. I try to hide my elitist geek side, it does come out…most recently someone made the mistake of asking me why I thought Nolan Batman movies were any different than the comics…let’s just say my reply was very long, very impassioned, and the other party will probably never make the mistake of talking about that with me ever again, heh. So yeah…if I really, really like something (especially comics, music, or stories), I will go on about it and debate it for a small eternity if allowed. I also have moments where I’m as far from tech-savvy as a human being can get. It’s not uncommon for me to burst out in a rant about how we should all just go back to living in caves because then I could actually keep up with everything and accomplish things faster.
BBB: What actors would you choose to play some of your characters if your book were made into a movie or a TV show?
SJ: I rarely go into writing a book or a story with the thought of an actor avatar, but after thinking it over once the story is done, I can usually come up with a few ideas. I absolutely love Joe Anderson in Across the Universe. I love that he can sing and handle a musical performance well, but also really get into the gritty emotion of a character. I can definitely see him as Jeremiah Kensington/J.K. Asmodeus. He could handle all aspects of the character and really bring a lot to the wild and really emotional aspects. I’d also really like to see Gene Simmons as Jack Scratch, the manager/devil-like character in the book. Not only does he have the physical differences I had in mind between Jeremiah and Jack, but he has a really intense, sly energy that is really right for the character. He directs attention really well and I think it would be a blast to see him in that kind of otherworldly role.
BBB: How do you keep track of your world building?
SJ:I take a lot of notes – sometimes in a document as I’m writing, sometimes on slips of paper, sometimes in separate documents. My brain works fast and at random times, so I really have to record stuff as I think of it. It also depends on how long an idea has been germinating and fermenting in my mind – I have notes on things that I’ve been developing for years and am just now starting to really sort out the structure and what I want to do with them. In the Red started as much more of a narrative short story – the second half of the book didn’t even exist in the original conception. As it evolved and as I realized that I had to not only ground things in the real world but keep things like the band’s history and what types of supernatural action I had going on straight and in order, it definitely came down to a lot of notes. Some details got changed every single day for a while until I was happy with the results.
BBB: Please tell us more about In the Red and the storyline that drives it.
SJ: It had started out as an idea to take some of the themes from the fairy tale ‘The Red Shoes’ by Hans Christian Andersen and modernize it, really run with it. It developed into a really odd, interesting urban fantasy story that ended up really striking a chord with me as I continued to develop it. Jeremiah Kensington is a Midwestern guy who feels stuck in all areas of his life. He wants out and he wants more than anything to be a rock star. Jack Scratch comes along and offers him everything he wants and more – all he has to do is sign a contract and change his image, including wearing a pair of red platforms. As Jeremiah goes along the platforms control more and more of his personality and he gets sucked further into Jack’s vision of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. He loses himself and makes some really bad choices that change his life permanently. The second half of the book is his attempt to not only figure out who he is and how to be human again, but ultimately decide if he even wants to go on. Jeremiah doesn’t necessarily fall because he’s in rock n’ roll – he loses himself because he never really had himself to begin with; he’s willing to compromise everything to get some version of what he thinks will make him happy. It’s definitely about the influence of these mysterious creatures and forces, but it’s also about the power of music, the power of what you believe in, and being able to move forward after being struck down. It’s got a little bit of everything and I hope it appeals to a lot of different types of people.
BBB: How many more books there be in this world?
SJ: At the moment, this is the only one. I’d like to revisit the world and I hope to sometime in the future. I think there’s definitely more to say there, but until I’m happy with an idea and have something that won’t just repeat the themes of In the Red, I won’t really work on it in earnest. It still occupies my thoughts, though, and I’m working on setting up a page on my blog where people can find tidbits about the world. That’s been an idea I’ve had for a few months and I’m still working on developing that.
BBB: Did you do any kind of research to determine the details of your characters lives / lifestyles?
SJ: Oh, yeah. The good thing is that I’m really into classic rock, hard rock, and some metal. As the first section of the book grew, though, I realized I needed to get more detailed and a little smarmier than I’d initially been willing to write. I’m relatively boring in comparison, which helped with the small-town bits, but there were definitely days that I had to do a little reading up on the party lifestyle and then get over my hesitations and dig deep to channel a Tommy Lee-type muse. I’ve been a singer and I’ve done performance work, but my experience has been drastically different than what Jeremiah goes through. Luckily I also have a lot of musician and performer friends who patiently subjected themselves to a lot of weird questions – not just on terminology and technique, but on what it feels like to play an instrument vs. standing there and singing, and the emotional aspect of music, too. I wanted to make sure the second half of the book held up and didn’t seem trite in comparison, so I grilled a lot of people. I also did a lot of research on different medical conditions and treatments, because the entire second part takes place within a hospital. For a while I was worried about not being technical enough, but I finally realized that the reader experiences most of the action through Jeremiah’s emotional reactions, so taking the story from that angle made it easier. I think what surprised me, though, was how emotional of a title it ended up being for me. While I’m way different person than Jeremiah and I’ve had way different life experiences, I definitely faced my own problems and tried to bring some of those anxieties to his personality. I didn’t go into the book thinking I was going to have to dig that deep, and I found myself exploring emotions and different situations that surprised and challenged me. I’m grateful for it, it definitely made me a better writer, but it wasn’t always an easy process.
BBB: Are you a plotser or a panster? or a Planster (a combo of both – lol)
SJ: I generally have a basic plot in mind and a definite end point. In the case of In the Red I had a narrative that went to the end of the first half of the book. When I realized it deserved to be expanded and fleshed out more, I had a definite ending image in my mind, but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there. It really took listening to the characters and how they’d changed and developed since I first thought up the story to fill in the blanks and make it work. At the end of the day I like to give things a little leeway because I never know what tangents will turn into great subplots or what asides will reveal shocking things about the characters to me. I totally had moments where I thought I had a clear idea and I was ready to drive the plot home and then something would pop into my head that would change everything up, but it was too good not to use. There was at least one character that was only vaguely mentioned in the original draft that has since become a pretty large and important part of the book. I suppose that makes me a Plantser, lol.
BBB: What types of creatures can readers expect in your world?
SJ: There are demons and people that are strongly hinted have been turned into demons or something ‘else’. For a while I leave it up to reader interpretation, but there very much are weird things and nothing is as it seems. As Jeremiah progresses in his journey you get to see more and more of what’s really going on. Plus when you combine demons with rock stars, you know you’re in for a fun time. The character of Jack Scratch, who fills the role of the devil character in the original ‘Red Shoes’ fairytale. He’s tempting but also repulsive, strong but for desperate reasons, and he is definitely a force to be reckoned with. There are some good guys, too, but I leave it up to the readers as to whether they think there are angels or something on the other spiritual end of the spectrum because in this book what spirituality is really depends on the individual character. There is also the pair of red shoes that tempts and somewhat possesses Jeremiah, leading him further into his role of J.K. Asmodeus and further along the path to damnation.
BBB: What’s coming up for you in 2012 and 2013?
SJ: I just released a holiday story with Mocha Memoirs Press in December, a mix of urban fantasy and chick lit titled Holly and Ivy. Right now I have work slated for a few anthologies that are still coming together and I’ve also got a piece scheduled to appear in The Realm Beyond’s issue 5. I’ve got some projects on the horizon and hope to have a few bigger things either coming out this year or at least being announced this year. It’s an exciting time and I’m really looking forward to what the year has to offer!
Read an excerpt of In the Red
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.
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
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 has four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including the historical vampire story ‘Mooner’
and the contemporary short ‘The Other Man’. Her work has also been included in ‘The
MacGuffin’, ‘The Realm Beyond’, ‘Stories for Children Magazine’, and the upcoming Wicked
East Press anthology ‘Bedtime Stories for Girls’. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal,
her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.
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Learn more about Selah Janel below
Blog – http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com
Fandom Scene Column – http://www.fandomfestblog.com/blogs/selah-janel
Facebook Author Page – http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ
Facebook Book Page – http://www.facebook.com/intherednovel
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5622096.Selah_Janel
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/SelahJanel
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