Author Selah Janel guest post

Thanks for the great post Selah. It’s all about how in Selah’s case her writing influences come from a very young age.


Growing up in a variety of Midwest small towns, I will admit that I didn’t pay much attention to my friends’ families growing up. We were all mostly in similar circumstances and although I’d sometimes get irritated that they had better toys or cool older siblings, for the most part their lives were pretty much like mine…except for one glaring, horrific difference: summer vacation. I didn’t notice this great divide as a young child when even going to the grocery store was a grand adventure, but as I hit my pre-teen years I definitely paid attention. While a lot of my comrades did go to see family they also went to places like Gatlinburg, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and scores of other waterparks, amusement parks, and institutions designed for the sole purpose of having a ragin’ good time.

My family, on the other hand, not only shunned motel rooms in favor of piling into our little pop-top tent trailer, but our version of crazy was museums. To be fair we lived near amusement parks and went when we were at home, and we finally went to Disney when I was thirteen. But for the most part it was natural wonders, living villages, archaeological digs, historical sites, and every museum in a twelve-mile vicinity. And yes, I usually required a few days of acclimation which usually involved me sighing longingly at the pamphlets for waterparks and shopping meccas that I grabbed at rest stops.

But once we actually found a rhythm, I have to admit it wasn’t that hard to get into half of the places we visited, though I definitely had my preferences. I could deal with ten million historic train rides to humor my father if it meant that I got to feed my growing interest in tribal art and culture. Walking around at random in the Land Between the Lakes was okay given that we also hit the teddy bear factory and a million chocolate shops when we went to Vermont. And my folks and I could both agree that Old Sturbridge Village, Shelburne Museum, and Frankenmuth, Michigan were pretty cool (Either that or I finally just gave up trying to convert my parents to the ways of mindless fun).

The trips we took also gave me stories that none of my friends had. None of them had ever stood looking into exposed burial grounds at a random museum in Illinois or had climbed up the side of cliffs at Mesa Verde when they were five, though to this day neither my parents or I can figure out why the either seemed like a ragingly good idea at the time, especially since I think both of those experiences are now off-limits to tourists. I saw dinosaur fossils, Niagara Falls, gorgeous woods in Appalachia, and the Grand Canyon from every angle through my growing-up years. In an almost genius move we also took a trip to every major site of the Revolutionary and Civil wars in an attempt to open the world of American history. I call this almost genius because we did both wars on the same trip and to this day I still tend to get some of them mixed up.

Through it all I gained a very real love of history. You can read about everything in books but until you have an experience to put with what you read, you don’t always get it. I’ve always been drawn to the story aspect, as well. Seeing exhibits of toys and everyday items from various time periods finally got it through my skull that the past wasn’t something meant to torture the young on history tests. It was a bunch of everyday experiences and events, just like the things I was going through. For some reason for a long time I had it in my head that people didn’t use electricity or used manual versions of things because they were either dumb or they liked doing things that way. It wasn’t until I began to allow myself to enjoy what I was learning that everything fell into perspective.

Though through it all I had my own coping mechanisms and quirks. When we toured the colonial hotspots of Philadelphia I was more concerned about learning everything I could about Ben Franklin so I could imagine his restless spirit was following my unsuspecting family around. When we hiked in parks along the Blue Ridge Highway the view from my eyes was that of a primordial jungle planet that needed to be discovered. For a long time we had a tradition of touring Victorian homes that were open to the public and I can’t even remember all the soap operas my brain invented as we meandered around the different floors and for every amazing and legitimate Native American museum or burial site we visited I had a pack full of stories I created on the spot (Thankfully this kicked off my love of mythology and folk stories which gave me a legitimate reason for doing things like that).

For better or worse I’ve always had the tendency of taking a perfectly good learning experience and warping it, even in the classroom. For all my perfectly amazing school projects there were always the ones that didn’t quite jive up with the lesson at all. I’ll never forget the time in Jr. High I was supposed to be writing an extra credit report for social studies and history, and the only thing I could even remember that had been mentioned in class that day was Transylvania. Yep, you know where this is going. Instead of turning in something that was actually researched and meshed up with the lesson I turned in a ten page vampire story, the first I’d ever attempted. I think I was given three extra points on pity.

Suffice it to say, I have no qualms with alt history fiction and historical fiction. I read some time periods more than others, and I don’t write it unless something inspires me the way I was inspired on those trips so long ago. But for me, there’s something about early American life, be it pioneer, miner, lumberjack, whatever.  Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have always been very dear to me and in my teens I considered it sacrilege to miss an episode of Dr. Quinn. My mother’s side of the family boasts pioneer blood, so I’ve grown up with farm stories since I can remember. During the family vacation years we toured all sorts of early American towns: colonial, mining, western – so branching out and attempting to merge logging culture with a creature in the night in my story Mooner wasn’t too much of a stretch. There were a lot of things to worry about back then and adding something elusive, something else to the mix was too good of a thought to pass up. After all, just because there aren’t any concrete reports about pioneers or loggers being carried off by supernatural creatures doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen…it just means that said creatures did their jobs well.

It’s probably no coincidence that my loves of storytelling and history evolved at the same time. In a lot of ways I have to give a big thank you to my parents for forcing me to learn something and allowing me the opportunity to use it to feed my own growing interests. And they should be thrilled that after their efforts for all those years I did, indeed, learn something…if they don’t regret it in retrospect, first.

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