Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Selah Janel

Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of town as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Selah! Thank you for joining me today!

SJ: Thanks so much for having me again!

NTK: How did it feel to be named 2020’s Best in Blood winner?

SJ: I’d say pretty shocked is a good description for it! I was not expecting it at all!

NTK: You are very deserving! Tell us a little about “Wallpaper” your winning story.

SJ: I had originally written it as a flash story for another project, but it started going over word count, so I just kept it saved in my files for a while. It’s a pretty simple concept story of a woman at a crossroads in her own life stumbling into a haunted hotel and dealing with some particularly strange interior design. (Laughs.) Something is in the wallpaper, so it’s a short that focuses on that discovery and spirals from there.

NTK: What projects have you been working on since last we chatted?

SJ: Well, 2020 has obviously changed a lot of things and I was already doing a lot of changing and dealing with some things last year, as well, so the writing has been forced to slow down a bit. I’m starting to come back to it here and there, which is awesome and necessary. I’ve been typing a lot from my notebooks to edit, going through old files, submitting, etc. This summer I started helping the crew at Legendary Tales Magazine as a slush reader, and that really brought about a new perspective on what editors look for and how things work on that end. I’ve been going through a lot of my old shorts from anthologies and other places and hope to be putting some of those out on kindle soon as individual titles, too. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I’m rebuilding a bit and working on a few original manuscripts and ideas.

NTK: Legendary Tales Magazine is lucky to have you! You’re very involved in acting and costuming. Have these experiences inspired any of your stories?

SJ: Oh definitely, in a lot of ways. In general, I think my years of acting classes in college taught me how to approach characters a little differently, to use techniques like sense memory while writing to get more into their heads or into certain moments. And improv classes have been great for latching onto unintended plot development and rolling with it. Costume work has made me detail obsessed so a lot of my stories, especially my longer work, have several layers or little hidden details or researched bits. I live for stuff like that. I usually overthink clothing details and try to make them matter, as well. In terms of content-wise, yes and no. I think I avoided some of that trying to put distance there for a while, but enough time has passed that I’m ready to incorporate it more. There’s an old vampire story I did for the anthology The Big Bad, the title of the story is “Real Wild Childe,” and there’s a seamstress character in it who ties a lot of the plot together. Her specific backstory isn’t mine, but her frustrations at trying to get ahead and have her work be appreciated, the long hours it takes to do something well, and the sheer amount of scars from seam rippers and rotary blades and needles is pretty much from my life. I’ve set a story behind the scenes of a haunted attraction and that was a lot of fun to do—with all my life stories in that and the amusement park world, I’m pretty much looking for excuses to use those settings at this point. An old, out of print novel I’m working on re-editing dealt with a midwest small town guy becoming a rockstar and a cursed pair of shoes, so a lot of that book was looking at aspects of the entertainment lifestyle and the work involved, as well as a lot of costume detail there. I tend to not like description for description’s sake—I want to know what a character is wearing has a reason or fits the world or whatever. And I think with acting, it’s kind of the same skills involved that you’d take into scene work—only now I’m playing all the characters and responsible for all the emotional moments landing true, if that makes sense.

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NTK: Where can our readers find you in the future?

SJ: I’ve had to take a break from media while dealing with life and putting my health back together a bit, but I’m starting to get back to it again! People can look for me at my website and I’m on Twitter and on Facebook. I’m on Instagram, but haven’t had a chance to really play there and start posting yet. My historical horror/kinda vampire story Mooner is on Amazon.
I’m really hoping to have two shorts up soon. These were either done under another name or showed up in other places, but I’m still working on edits and tweaking some things. Hopefully soon for those, though!

NTK: Sounds wonderful! I’m sure the readers look forward to it. Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah. It’s always a pleasure, and congratulations on winning Best in Blood!

SJ: I always love talking to you and the rest of the Horror Addicts! Thanks so much!

I’m still shocked and touched!

David’s Haunted Library: Midway and Mooner

25321000Sam Berlitz wanted to prove he could do the impossible. He joined a British long distance swim team and is in the process of swimming across the Atlantic Ocean. Each member of the team takes a turn in the ocean while the rest stay on the ship. On Sam’s latest turn he looks up from his swimming and is surprised to see that his ship and teammates have disappeared without a trace. He is now alone in the ocean without food or fresh water. Or is he? Something large is stalking him in the water and  Sam can’t escape it. Sam slowly starts to lose his sanity as he realizes that he will soon become dinner to whatever creature lurks in the ocean below.

Midway by Nathan Robinson is a thriller about survival in a desperate situation. This book is a journey into a man’s mind as he realizes that he has little hope for a happy ending. He thinks of things such as who will attend his funeral, what exactly happened to his crew and he also thinks about the beauty he sees around him. He describes the water around him, the sunset and the sunrise and he goes through a wealth of emotions.  The best way to describe this book is as a psychological horror novella that reminded me a lot of the movie Open Water.

In addition to the horror of what’s going on in Sam’s mind, there is a very real monster stalking him, which added another level of suspense to the story. I loved how the monster is revealed slowly. You catch glimpses of it before the big reveal and then you are left to wonder if he will die from the monster eating him or from being lost at sea. We also have the mystery as to what really happened to his ship. Is the monster strong enough to pull the ship down? For this being a short read there is a lot going on and it’s all told from the thoughts of one man who has little hope left.

This is the second book I’ve read by Nathan Robinson and one thing I like about his work is that the story starts to go in one direction and then at some point it takes a turn and goes somewhere totally different. What impressed me about Midway is that I felt like this is really what someone who is about to die would feel. In the beginning you don’t really like Sam much, he seems kind of shallow and egotistical but as you get into his fearful thoughts on dying you start to feel for him. Midway is a good horror novella that may scare you out of swimming in the ocean.

22507616Another short story I read recently is Mooner by Selah Janel. This is a historical horror story set in an 1800’s saloon and centers on a worker in a logging camp named Bill. Bill is trying to make enough money to start a new life and his path to doing that is a hard job that many men can’t handle. His role model is Big John and after a hard day’s work they head up to the bar, but what they don’t know is that someone else has plans for them. The setting really comes to life in this one, as the story begins you really feel like you are in an 1800’s bar. The description of it and the language used really adds to the atmosphere and you feel like you are in a different time. To show how much research went into this little vampire tale, there is even a little glossary of terms in the back. It amazes me how much research went into this little tale and the payoff is a horror story that sticks with you.

You really feel for Bill in this story as you get the impression he doesn’t fit in at the bar and he is the only one that pays for his drinks. Even without the vampire element you get the impression that this would be good historical fiction and it has some great characters. There is a sense of building dread as a stranger comes into the bar and only three people seem to understand what’s happening as the other patrons get the stranger to perform tasks for drinks. This is a masterfully told story that had me thinking of the old Tales From The Crypt comic. The vampire is terrifying and sympathetic and for a short story it still has a couple of great twists, this is a must read for horror fans. Considering how good Mooner is I would love to read a  longer historical horror novel from Selah Janel.

Kidnapped Blog: The Need for Vampire Variety by Selah Janel

halogokidnappednotdateThe Need for Vampire Variety

By Selah Janel

One of the things that typically comes out when I talk writing, horror, or urban fantasy is my love of the vampire genre. It’s interesting to me how much people jump to conclusions about why I love it and why I’ve fallen into writing it off and on. Somehow, whether it’s because I’m a gal or because we’ve fallen into a genre trap, people assume that when I talk vampires, I mean vampire romance. I mean, sure, yeah, I’m not against some smexy undeadness, and that’s probably a good portion of why the genre is successful (even going back to Dracula), but that’s not all it is.

Vampires fascinate me because they basically upset the food chain in an unsettling way. You’ve got creatures that are more powerful than humans and are somewhat animalistic, but they look pretty much like people. Depending on the sub-genre, they use that to their advantage in different ways.

In a lot of ways, I think we’ve gotten distracted by assuming that vampires either have to be mindless creatures (a la 30 Days of Night or I Am Legend) or pretty and angsty. While the attractiveness factor definitely works to their advantage (presuming they use fang), we don’t really see that played out all too often, except as the token “this person is walking home with so-and-so on a date OMG VAMPIRE!!)

Yeah, you can tell I grew up in the eighties. Oh, well.

I think we forget that anyone could essentially be a vampire, and stories that do that well can provide some legitimate creep factors. There’s a magnificent scene in American Vampire in the 1950s arc where a slayer is dating a suburban girl and you think her family is being a pain because they look like the typical upright couple and he’s a greaser…and then you find out they’re vampires and using the girl as bait. The Moth Diaries works because you can’t quite tell if the new girl at a boarding school is something nonhuman or if the narrator is unreliable, and part of the disbelief comes from the fact that it just seems so atypical to see a 1950s-60s schoolgirl as a horror staple. It’s not just the bait and switch that makes it interesting – it’s that their covers are so far removed from what we’re used to seeing these days that makes those scenes unsettling. It’s why kid vampires were big for a while – the implications of that kind of transformation are pretty awful to consider once you start to think about it, and there’s a lot you can do with that.

We also tend to think of vampires these days in the modern Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and even Buffy sense that they’re running around in the here and now. While the modern vampire is awesome – I love writing deranged teen vampires, don’t get me wrong – there’s a whole other world out there. Part of the power of Anne Rice’s characters is that they have epic backstories that take the reader to another time and place. It’s interesting to see how these characters not only coped with the changing of time, but also how they survived in the eras they came from. Tom Holland’s Lord of the Dead grabbed me by the throat because he makes a hell of a case for Lord Byron as a vampire; you’re totally immersed in the time period and that makes everything so much more interesting. American Vampire thrives on putting the undead in unusual, historical situations (admittedly with more success with some situations than others, but they’re always interesting concepts and provide a lot of great obstacles for the characters). One of my first pieces that I had published was Mooner, which involved contemplating what settlers and loggers in 1800s America would do if confronted with vampirism, and it’s a concept that I want to revisit because it’s so rich in material and possible tension. Guns and weapons weren’t the same then, plus it was that much harder to make a living and protect a family – never mind whether that family is human or not.

Like a lot of horror subgenres, vampires work well when played straight. I think that’s my basic plea for authors and filmmakers these days. Let’s get away from the typical and go back to using the archetype for something interesting.  Know your characters, put them in certain situations, and see what happens. Don’t try to force a relationship because they’re hot, but play with the odd things that could come from actually trying to date Dracula. See your set-ups through, people. Don’t make the whole story some weird slayer/undead war vendetta, but see what happens when you throw clashing personalities together during a time period that may make things harder for them, anyway. Here’s the thing: the archetype of the vampire has hung in there for so long because it’s an enduring metaphor. It’s versatile and open to a lot of different things. Despite what people say, the vampire genre isn’t going to go away any time soon, so we might as well celebrate it and do some interesting things with it.

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MoonercoverLike many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending 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 lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Mooner-Selah-Janel-ebook/dp/B00JSVJEU4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403494482&sr=8-2&keywords=selah+janel

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mooner-selah-janel/1108368128?ean=9781312118119

 

Selah Janel is the author of horror, urban fantasy, fantasy, and cross genre fiction. Also a costume designer and seamstress, she lives for weird. Check her out in the following places:

Blog – http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/SelahJanel