Vision: A Resource for Writers
Fear Not the Hurling Monkey
An Interview with Selina
Selina Rosen lives in a strange world filled with hurling monkeys, feral Chihuahuas, bubbas and all manner of other odd things. After all, she is an author, editor, and a small press publisher. Unusual things are part of the business.
She has written several books, including Queen of Denial and Recycled, and edited books like The Four Bubbas of the Apocalypse (Flatulence, Halitosis, Incest and... Ned). She also has a serious writing side, as she's proven with Chains of Freedom and Chains of Destruction.
Selina is a very busy woman, not only authoring two popular sets of books for Meisha Merlin, but also working as editor and owner of Yard Dog Press. She spends much of her time running a micro farm -- at least when she's not at conventions selling Yard Dog Press material (which includes games, comics, chap books, and perfect bound books) or publicizing her own publications.
Selina is outspoken and fun. If you would like to read more about her opinions on everything from publishing to aging, check out the Today's Bitches section of the Yard Dog Press website.
Vision: Tell us about yourself. (How's that for an open-ended question?)
I'm over forty, fat, tired and pissed off at the world, but then it's Monday.
Vision: Which came first, the publisher or the writer?
I started writing when I was 12. I started publishing in 1996 because obviously that third nervous breakdown had driven me completely insane!
Vision: What inspired you to start Yard Dog Press?
Dagh, the insanity. Seriously, though, it just sort of happened. My friend Brand Whitlock and I had been in the business for a long time -- he as an artist and me as a writer -- and we started talking about publishing our own comic years before we actually did it. That's how we started with the comic, and then it grew like a bad rash. What motivated me? (Besides the madness.) I was tired of watching good authors and artists getting the short end of the stick simply because they weren't turning out the product that the corporations and their computers had decided that America wanted to read.
Vision: You've written two fun, popular books titled Queen of Denial and Recycled. How much of you is there in the character of Drewcila Qwah? Are there going to be more of the books?
Drewcilia is who I would be if every fiber of my being had not been permanently impregnated with guilt. I am far too responsible to be Drewcilia. If you're one of those people whose entire life has been dictated by responsibility, then you love the control that Drew has over her life. Fun people with good senses of humor love these books. I know many people will think this is an out and out lie, but if someone frowns when they pick one of the books up I don't even try to sell it to them, because I know they'll hate it.
I could write Drewcilia Qwah books for the rest of my life and never get bored. There is one in the works now with the working title "The Big Trash."
Vision: So, how about Chains of Freedom and Chains of Destruction. Were people shocked that you could write something serious?
I'm sure some people were, but let's face it, there is still some really funny stuff in the Chains books. In fact, I think I'm incapable of writing anything completely serious. That's just not me.
Vision: And how did you get Claudia Christian (Susan Ivanova from Babylon5 ) to write that intro to Chains of Destruction?
I asked her. For the rest of the story you'll have to buy Chains of Destruction and read the intro. Suffice to say that we had entirely too much fun down in Houston.
Vision: How about Michael Sheard's (Dr. Who, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Empire Strikes Back) intro to Recycled?
I originally asked Michael to write a blurb, but he insisted that he knew me much better than Claudia did, and if she had written an introduction then he wanted to as well.
Vision: Tell us about the Bubba books. Whatever tempted you to that insanity?
The Bubba Chronicles happened completely without warning. I had written all these short stories, and after a reading I did at a convention one of the audience members came up and asked if all my short fiction featured bubbas. I insisted that it didn't, then ran home, went through all my manuscripts, and found that most of them did.
I had this short story called "Prom Date" which many of my fans were enamored of, but which no publisher would buy. So I grabbed it and a bunch of others and stuck them together to make up The Bubba Chronicles.
It sort of snowballed from there. Bill Allen, Gary Jonas, Keith Berdak and I were sitting around at a convention talking about the need for more bubba-based Sci Fi, and then I just blurted out, "Bubbas of the Apocalypse... It's a shared universe anthology." The demented minds started to roll and before you could call Cooter in off the porch we were printing our second book in the series.
Vision: You have written police procedural novels like Fire and Ice and edited a set of children's books (Stories That Won't Make Your Parents Hurl and More Stories That Won't Make Your Parents Hurl). Is it easy for you to move between different genres and such widely different projects?
Between genres, yes. I'm a storyteller, so it doesn't seem to matter what sort of story I'm telling. Between projects? Not so much. When I'm on a roll writer-wise, the last thing I want to do is have to stop to edit someone else's book or go through a huge pile-o'-slush. The problem is that every writer thinks that his story/book/project is the most important thing in your life. It's never easy to shut down your own writing project to work on anything else.
Vision: As an editor, what is the biggest problem you see with new writers? What can writers do that would improve their chances of publication?
Unrealistic expectations, especially from the small press. They don't know the business yet, and they think it's going to change their life. Then it's your fault when it doesn't.
Simple things... learning manuscript format, reading publisher's guidelines thoroughly, writing a real story, with a beginning, middle and an end. I realize some of the big houses and big writers have said it's time to throw away conventional storytelling, but that's what I want.
Don't burn bridges by writing nasty letters when you are rejected, or by going up to the editor at a convention and telling her off. A rejection letter isn't a personal attack. The main reason a manuscript is rejected is usually that the editor has too many submissions for the number of slots she has to fill. Sigh a little and send your piece to the next publisher on your list.
Vision: Tell us about how you judge manuscripts sent to you.
I look for good flow, a real story, strong characters, and conflict resolution at the end. Enough set up so that an axe doesn't fall out of the sky in the final scene just when the protagonist needs it, but not so much set up that it's laborious and you never get to the actual story.
There are of course other things. Does the writer have a following? If so, even if their work is flawed, I'll work with them if I know they can be worked with because they will sell books.
Is that fair?
It's still a business.
Vision: What have you found the hardest part of being a writer dealing with another editor?
Actually, I've been damn lucky in dealing with editors. I don't send anything in until it's been gone through by at least two other people, so it's pretty clean. After that if the editor says change this or that I do it. I don't understand writers -- especially new writers -- who think their work can't use editorial guidance.
Vision: What is a work day like for you?
Long. I put in between 12 and 18 hours a day between running the farm and the company and writing.
Vision: What do you like about being an editor and publisher?
Working with the YDP writers and artists. Except for a couple of malcontents (and which family doesn't have its black sheep?) the people we work with are some of the best and brightest in this business.
I love the way they have formed this kind of community where they all help each other out. Unless they want to, no YDP writer or artist is ever alone at a convention if there is another YDP author there. We support each other.
There is nothing quite as gratifying for me as to throw a YDP party at one of the conventions and look around at a sea of black and white YDP t-shirts and see that these people are not only getting along, but are introducing their fans to the other writers and embracing any newcomer.
This camaraderie is important to me. As I've said over and over again in this past year, if you don't like the way we conduct ourselves at conventions, or run our business, if you don't want to be part of the YDP family, then don't send me your manuscript and certainly don't sign with our house.
Vision: What do you like about being a writer?
The writing. Everything else about it sucks.
Vision: What is a convention like for you?
Lots of work, mixed with lots of fun. I genuinely like the fans. I prefer fun conventions to so-called "literary cons" because not only is there more fun, but we sell a lot more books. Literary cons are mostly about people who want to be writers standing around the pros in the hopes that something will rub off. Writers don't buy books; they're trying to sell them. Readers -- fans -- buy books.
Give me a con where the fans "bug" the writers all day long over a convention where people stand around and act stuffy any day.
First and foremost I'm at a convention to sell books, and I need fans, actual readers, to do that. Talking to my peers all day long won't get me one step further in this business.
Vision: What new things should people look for from Yard Dog Press and from you as an author?
Yard Dog Press will open a new line next year called Double Dogs which will be two novels by two different authors in one cover with two fronts.
We also just came out with a Bubbas of the Apocalypse card game, written by Bill Allen with art by Sherri Dean and James Hollamen.
The third Chains book, Chains of Redemption, will be released in May of 2004. I just finished writing a gonzo mystery novel with Laura J. Underwood entitled Bad Lands which will be looking for a home as soon as we do the rewrites. I just finished the last rewrite on an epic fantasy novel entitled Sword Masters which will also be looking for a home.
I'll have a piece coming out in the next Thieves' World anthology and my story, I Look Good, will be in the next Chicks in Chainmail anthology.
Currently I'm working on a Chains tie-in piece called Everything in Between, which will be in a Double Dog, a sci-fi novel called Reruns, a mainstream novel called The Ghost Writer, and, of course, The Big Trash.
My police procedural/mystery/scifi/adventure novel, Strange Robby is scheduled for publication by Meisha Merlin Publications sometime in 2005.
Vision: Anything else you'd like to add?
Buy my books!!! Buy YDP books!!!
Vision: Oh, and maybe you'd better explain about that hurling monkey...
I started making up drink names in Queen of Denial, and people encouraged me to create the drinks. So was born the Hurling Monkey, the beverage now swilled at most YDP parties and here at home.