20 April 2015

#Beyond: Selene Grace Silver

Selene believes in two true things: love and the power of stories. Everything else is up for debate. 

First and foremost, she's been an avid reader her entire life. In high school, her English teacher told Selene that she was also going to be a high school English teacher (probably because she actually read the assigned novels). Horrified by this prediction (think about it--eternity in high school?!), she fled home for university. She did her best to make it a permanent stay--changing majors back and forth multiple times, completing classes that had nothing to do with any of those majors, transferring to new colleges several times--eventually earning more than double the credits required for a BA in English. She promptly enrolled in grad school, where she managed to stretch a two-year masters program into a four-year MA in Creative Writing by teaching composition as a TA and dillydallying over her thesis. Then, her beloved university kicked her to the metaphorical street and told her to GET A REAL JOB! 

Selene currently teaches English to the brightest public high school honors students in the land. Mrs. Unkenholz was right. Oh yeah, and Selene writes. Romances to be specific.

Like the HEAs of her novels, her love life has a happy ending. She's married to a seriously romantic guy (he's Scottish, folks) and travels abroad every summer. The family cats keep the mice away. Life is simple, but good. 

She lives in sunny Southern California, but remains a snowy Midwestern girl at heart.
Who in your personal life was the biggest supporter of your writing?

My husband, Alan. The first story I published, The Swing of Her Hips, is loosely based on how we met. He happens to be Scottish just like the hero of that story. Without his support and understanding, I’d never get anything written. If a writer also works a full-time job, like I do, that means lots of recreational family time gets subjugated to the writing time.

Do you prefer quiet or background noise when writing? If background noise, what?

I generally listen to music when I’m writing. I’m love music almost as much as I love books. I listen to a lot of alternative rock, rock and pop music, but I also like other genres including dance, country, rhythm and blues, even classical. But I admit that once I’m in the writing zone, I’m not really listening to anything but the words I’m composing in my head. I can’t write to the sound of people talking—too intrusive, so I don’t listen to the radio when writing.

What is one thing you wish your readers could understand about the writing process?

Sometimes the characters take over a story and wrench the events in a direction the writer hadn’t intended, or they become people even the writer isn’t sure she likes. If a writer honors a story or a character during the writing process, she gives up some control to the words on the page. There’s a saying—no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. So if a reader doesn’t always like the way a story unfolds, it might have been beyond the writer’s ken.

For example, in my first full-length novel, the heroine Adara is slow to understand herself and her situation, slow to act. At the start, she’s painfully young, naïve and inexperienced, but hopefully, readers give her the time she needs to come into her own sense of power. I found her journey worthwhile in the end. Not every heroine is born a kick-ass fighter. Adara eventually becomes powerful, but not until she’s been run-over a bit. It seems that in most romances, the heroine’s losses and lessons are in the backstory, but I find the progress of toughing up as interesting to watch as what the character does after she learns to act on her own behalf. I guess that’s why I wrote that part of her self-discovery into the novel, but I didn’t really understand what I was doing at the start.

If your characters could come to life and be a real human, which one do you think you would get along with best and which one would drive you crazy first?

I think I care for all of my characters, but, in real life, some of those overbearing heroes might get on my nerves on occasion. Probably Adrian from Crash Into My Heart would annoy me the most. He’s young, arrogant and over-confident. Still, he’s a good guy at heart and he falls head over heels for Janice, which redeems him for me. If a man cares for a woman enough to place her needs first, I can forgive a lot of other character flaws.

When did you start writing and what was your inspiration?

Born to read, I’ve been writing since my late teens. For me, writing is an extension of my reading. I studied writing at university, earning both a BA and MA in English and Creative Writing. During those years, I concentrated on writing literary fiction. I became a snob about books, but then I got bored with most of the contemporary literary fiction that was being published, and that I was taught to write. Focused heavily on style, it failed to deliver characters to care about or stories with compelling plots.

I’d read a lot of romance when I was in high school, and a few years ago, I gravitated back to the genre, discovered some amazing writers working in romance, and they inspired me to try my hand at it. Writing good romance is actually quite difficult. So many plots and character types are clichéd, which earns some scathing, and at times warranted, criticism. But writers like Kresley Cole (paranormal), Sabrina Jeffries (historical) and Joanna Wylde (contemporary), all who write as well as any top literary fiction author, manage to create fresh, exciting stories and characters in the genre. When I read their work, I get sucked in and want to stay there—which inspires me to write. As long as there are great writers in the genre to read, I’m going to stay inspired to write romance.

Is there a genre or type of book that you love to read but could never write and if so why?

I love to read regency romance. I might consider writing them someday, but it’s unlikely. You have to know so many historical facts like weddings always took place in the morning, never in the afternoon. I’ve read a lot of reviews on Amazon in which knowledgeable readers tongue-lash errant author for every perceived anachronism. If I tackled historical romance, I’d likely research American pioneer days in more depth and set stories there because I think I understand the mindset of  late 1800s immigrants and Western settings (my own ancestry and heritage) better than Regency aristocracy. Plus, I’m a sucker for mail-order bride stories. At the moment though, I’m overwhelmed with keeping straight the world building aspects of my paranormal and a futuristic novels I’m writing. Unlike contemporary novels, historical, futuristic and paranormal novels take more mental effort to write and keep consistent.

Since you've been writing how much has the genre changed? Good, bad?

Probably the introduction of the New Adult category is the most significant change. I don’t read a lot of contemporary NA romance. I prefer third-person narration over first-person narration, which is fairly standard in NA books. Also, I prefer humor over angst and melodrama. In NA, some of the violence that the hero directs towards the heroine, but is then forgiven for, is pretty hard for me to accept. Toni Morrison once said that if someone shows themselves to you, believe them the first time. If the male protagonist in a contemporary story coldly rapes or beats the female, for me, there are rarely plausible defenses. In a historical, a paranormal, or a futuristic story, I can understand it because the characters might be living in a different time and place with different values and rules, but in the modern Western world, there are few if any excuses or reasons to justify rape or violence, especially by a man against a woman he’s purportedly going to fall in love with.

Seeing more and more authors going the "self-pub' route. Thoughts?

Self-publishing was inevitable once books went digital. We’ve always had vanity presses, but going digital made publishing inexpensive, fast and easy. Add to that fact, big corporations have largely shafted established authors by refusing or being slow to modernize contracts to share in the cost savings of going digital. Also, traditional publishing had a strangle-hold on what and who got published. Some prolific authors were restrained in how much they could publish while other authors were creatively restricted in the stories they could tell because publishers refused to contract and market unusual stories that didn’t fit their designated categories.

The beauty of the self-publishing explosion is that readers get a wider variety of stories from more authors at lower prices. The downside—there’s a lot of really awful stuff being self-published and currently, there aren’t a lot of ways to distinguish between the good and bad stuff until you’ve spent your money and started reading. Unfortunately, many new indie authors don’t seem to understand that good writing is difficult, a skill that takes years of study and practice to become competent at, and that being a reader first and foremost is essential. I can’t tell you how many indie authors I’ve encountered online who don’t like to read, have never been readers, but want to be famous writers.

Currently, I tend to buy books by hybrid authors. They’ve had work traditionally published, suggesting their writing is good enough to warrant the investment of a publisher but they also wisely self-pub to boost their income. There are exceptions, of course. Although my first novella is traditionally published through a small press, when I realized I could completely control my published work myself, I jumped on board the self-pub train. I’m a bit of a control-freak. Also, most writers don’t make a living writing, so the appeal of keeping what little profit a book sale earns, especially for some of the mid-list and top writers, makes a lot of sense. I expect to see most skilled writers go hybrid, if they can, and to see a lot of current indie authors eventually disappear, once they realize they aren’t the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts, they aren’t going to become rich, and no one is buying their book(s).

How much thought do you as an author put into your cover, cover models etc. And has that changed since you started writing. If so, have you or will you go back and re-do covers you’re no longer pleased with?

I put a lot of thought into my covers. I do plan to up-date my covers with time, though. A benefit of digital publishing is the ease with which these things can be changed. As an indie author, I have been making my own covers and they are slowly improving with practice and experience. I buy my artwork from online image retailers and put them together with text in Photoshop. But, truly, if it ever became financially feasible to hire this work out, I’d probably do it. I have to say that I don’t like the current trend of covers in which the models’ heads are cut off the page. It’s a personal thing…I don’t know…it just creeps me out to see bodies so objectified. I like faces.

What is the most intense scene you have ever written? Did you find it difficult writing that scene?

The “rape” scene in The Binding of Adara was difficult to write. Although the characters are essentially taken over by the Goddess and her Consort during the act, in the end, Bo and Adara are still aware of what is happening. I think the difficulty in writing the scene is that Bo is not a rapist and I needed to show how he is compelled by a higher power and external circumstances to have intercourse with a drugged Adara. I fear it really complicates the reader’s ability to like him. The scene threatens the possibility of the relationship moving towards love. Fortunately, Adara is a pragmatist and not particularly self-pitying. She’s a survivor and knows how to turn the event into something positive. I worry that readers might not like her consequently though, because her quick acceptance and forgiveness could be interpreted as weakness rather than strength.

I’m a feminist, but I think that contemporary women often see any form of submission or passivity as a flaw, as a sign of helplessness or stupidity. Yet, it’s a woman’s ability to submit during violent events that often allow her to survive and later thrive. So much of women’s emotional superiority is dependent on her ability to disconnect physical events from mental or emotional ones. A significant number of women have been raped at some time in their lives, yet we don’t live among a society of walking wounded women. Women are survivors; they move on, they don’t let these moments define them. Sure, we need heroines in fiction who fight back, who refuse to submit, but we also need to see heroines who submit to survive because that is closer to reality. If every single heroine in our books fights back every time, how to we show the way women really overcome these events. To fail to show both types of responses and their consequences is to condemn those who submit to criticism. It implies the damning question: why didn’t you fight back? Only weak women submit? I disagree. Submitting requires as much strength and intelligence as fighting back, sometimes.

If you could write in any genre that you've never tried, what would it be and why?

I am only interested in writing romance these days. I want happy endings and love. Even if I return to literary fiction, the stories and messages will still center on the idea of love as an enduring and essential part of human experience.

When thinking about writing any specific genre, what triggers your fears and insecurities the most?

I’m not sure what this question is asking. Are you asking about my fear as a writer approaching the writing itself? Because of my training and years of endless practice, because I teach writing as well, I’m fairly confident about my writing skills. No matter my level of expertise or what I write, I fear having the work misunderstood. In the end, though, I realize that I have no control over a reader’s response, so generally, I try to put it out of my mind. All writers seek acceptance and approval, like anyone, but writing (and publishing) is, at its core, an act of courage. Once a book is written and published, it’s out there, defenseless like a newborn babe. Readers can be excessively cruel or excessively kind in their responses. A reader’s response to a work of fiction is intensely personal and frequently says more about the reader than about the work. For the author, it’s important to keep her writing process separate from the public criticism, or the responses will cripple the work on the next book. Criticism and reviews are for readers, not for writers.

When writing, what comes first? The characters or the plot?

In romance, it’s generally about the characters. Plot is critical, because the genre has a lot of clichéd stories in publication. Therefore, original world-building and unusual plots can transform a romance from competent to memorable. But in the end, character reigns.

Do you find that you write what you love to read? Or a different genre?

I am currently writing what I love to read: romance. I am my first reader so I write to please myself first, others second. If I am not interested in the characters and what happens to them, it’s unlikely that any other reader will care either. That said, I know that readers have different tastes and expectations. I dislike certain kinds of stories and characters. A book can be well-written and simply not appeal to me. Fr example, I hate contemporary romances with a secret baby plot line. I avoid those stories like the plague. Meanwhile, other stories and characters are like catnip to my inner feline and I’ll read even mediocre, clichéd books with those elements and like them.

I think it’s important to read outside the genre one writes in, but that it’s much more essential to read in the genre one is writing. Art is not created in a cultural vacuum. Writers are not going to succeed writing in a genre that they don’t themselves read extensively. Awhile ago, I came across an online discussion in which new writers were claiming that it was ridiculous that romances had to have an HEA. They clearly didn’t understand genre classification or respect reader expectations. Calling one’s book a romance when it doesn’t deliver a romantic relationship with a happy ending is to attempt to redefine categories, thwarting the whole purpose of categories. What these writers really wanted was to write some other kind of story and then call it a romance so they could appeal to and capitalize on the largest book-buying audience in the world, romance readers. If an indie author is going to label their book a romance, there had better be a romantic relationship foregrounded in the story and the likelihood of that relationship lasting beyond the pages of the book or I’m returning the book for a refund. Mislabeling or mis-categorizing a book’s genre is a blatant sign that an indie author doesn’t read much, and therefore, probably isn’t a very good writer either.

Do you ever write your own personal fantasies into your books?

Hell, yeah. Of course, that’s why writing is an act of courage—it’s an act of public exposure.

How much if any of your story line comes from real life people or events?

Though my life experiences and the people I’ve met might inspire a scene or a character, I don’t base my characters on anyone completely, nor my plotlines on real events. The closest adaptation is probably my first published story, The Swing of Her Hips. The hero Duncan’s personality is very similar to my husband’s personality.

How many times do you read what you wrote and think "where the hell did that come from?!"

Occasionally, but not often. I can usually track it back to something stored away in the depths of my bottomless, disorganized brain. Just give me a day or two to locate and haul it up.

Do you have to look at the keys when you type?


How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?

Can canny Crystal create countless creative critical critiques on countless chronicles of courtship and carnality?

What are you two favorite 80’s movies?

The Princess Bride

Why are man-hole covers round?

Aren’t all holes, and therefore their covers, round?

The Witches and Warlocks of Los Angeles series is a blend of paranormal and contemporary romance, with a twist of science fiction.

What’s real?

Imagine witches and warlocks walk among us. They look and act like regular humans, while they hide their special abilities. Unlike humans, who live a continuous life in which things done cannot afterwards be undone, these special individuals can tap into adjacent realities and shift the present to a new reality with a single thought. Their powers, inherited from ancestors dating back to the medieval era, have the potential for good equal to the potential for evil. A strong leadership and a supportive community is essential in maintaining their secrets and keeping their most talented on the side of the good. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles community is on the verge of a serious split between those who only want the best for everyone and those who only want power.

For better or worse, when these special individuals shift their life trajectories in new directions…they sweep everyone else along with them.

It’s 1977 and Brianna Marston is a feminist finishing up her final university courses. She’s a little bit wild, but isn’t that what being young and free is all about? It’s a new age for women and she intends to reap the benefits that new status provides her. She’s focused on developing a rewarding career and finding an adventurous lover. She’s also a witch. Her inherited powers are growing faster than her ability to control them though. In fact, she’s not sure whether one of her reality shifting spells is the reason she’s become the love interest of one LAPD officer.

Jack Ross never does anything without a well-thought out plan. On track to make detective within the year, he’s lined up a perfect woman to be his wife and raise their children. She’s thoughtful, gracious, and lovely to look at, and best of all, she’s not one of those radical bra burning feminists. She desires a traditional life as a wife and mother. If he doesn’t exactly love her yet, he’s sure that he will once they marry. He’s never been in love and it seems to him that it’s as easy to love one attractive woman as another. Then one unruly, mouthy blonde lands in his arms, disrupting all his carefully-laid plans.

    A smart, professional, self-sufficient single mom, Janice has learned never to depend on anyone but herself. But when her tire blows out and her car lands in the ditch, stranding her on a lonely desert highway, the help she gets from a sensual, dark stranger driving a sexy sports car makes her reconsider her fierce independence.

An aggressive executive, dedicated to running his successful company in a competitive industry, Adrian doesn't have time for anything—or anyone—else. Until he comes upon a beautiful woman in need of rescuing. Maybe he does have time for more than business.

Can Adrian make time for love?

Can Janice trust enough to love?

"Crash Into My Heart" is a sensual, romantic short story. It is meant for mature readers.
The holidays are a time for family. So what if Darla doesn’t have one. She’s a trained psychologist and well-versed in all the dangers of inflating the importance of one week of the year. Besides, she has her clients who need her. Unfortunately, one of them seems to have a dangerous obsession for her. She doesn't need Santa to bring her a family. What she really needs to find under the tree is a strong protector.

This novella runs 110 pages. It contains explicit descriptions of sex. Recommended for mature (17+) readers only.
    Cursed to bear 12 sets of twins in 12 years by 12 different men? That is twenty-year-old innocent Adara Lane’s terrible fate until a reluctant warlock steps in, altering one significant part of the spell, thus creating a new destiny for both of them. Like the heroic knight from her childhood fairy tales, he rescues her at the moment the spell is manifested. While she’s grateful for his help, being bound to an overbearing, controlling, potentially violent man who may never love her, who despises what she is? Well...forgive Adara if she believes she would be better off had he just minded his own business and left the rescuing to someone else. But, this troubled knight-in-tarnished armor seems to need Adara as much as she needs him.

Bowie Marston knows he’s damaged goods. Home from a tour of duty in Vietnam, suffering shell shock, the young man discovers his family destroyed because he wasn’t in L.A. to protect them. After witnessing the senseless deaths of his comrades overseas, the death of his parents only deepens his disenchantment with the world. Blaming his parents’ murder-suicide on their involvement in magick, Bo vows to never use his own latent powers. It’s too late to rescue his family. On the other hand, it’s not too late to rescue a beautiful, young woman caught up in a web of danger. Knowing what he does about witchcraft, can he involve himself in a spell that spans a lifetime, a spell that ties him evermore to a powerful witch...and all her bless’ed offspring? Can he resist?
A Scotsman and an American woman. He swore he’d never fall in love. She swore she’d never fall in love again. Then they met.   

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