Selina Rosen lives on a rural Arkansas farm with her partner, her parrot, assorted fish and fowl, several milk goats, an undetermined number of barn cats, and her dogs, Spud and Kari. Besides writing and editing, Selina is a gardener, carpenter, rock mason, electrician (not a plumber), Torah scholar, and sword fighter. In her spare time she creates water gardens and builds furniture.
Selina's short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies including Sword and Sorceress 16, Such A Pretty Face, Distant Journeys, three of the MZB Fantasy Mags, The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Vol II, Tooth and Claw, Turn the Other Chick, and the new Anthology At the End of the Universe. Her critically acclaimed story entitled "Ritual Evolution" appeared in the first of the new Thieves World anthologies, Turning Points; and her second TW story, "Gathering Strength," appeared in the new anthology Enemies of Fortune. The Bubba Chronicles is a collection of her short fiction which features, strangely enough, bubbas.
Selina Rosen's novels include Queen of Denial, Recycled, Chains of Freedom, Chains of Destruction, Fire & Ice, Hammer Town, Reruns, and The Host trilogy, as well as the novellas The Boatman and Material Things.
Finally, her new novel, Strange Robby, is due out this year from Meisha Merlin Publishing. This will be her first hard cover release. Bad Lands, a gonzo-mystery novel co-written with Laura J. Underwood, is due out from Five Star Mysteries in 2007.
In her capacity as owner and editor-in-chief of Yard Dog Press, Ms. Rosen has edited several anthologies, including the award-winning Bubbas of the Apocalypse, The Four Bubbas of the Apocalypse: Flatulence, Halitosis, Incest, and . . . Ned, and two collections of "modern" fairy tales, the Stoker-nominated Stories That Won't Make Your Parents Hurl and More Stories That Won't Make Your Parents Hurl.
Kenneth Mark Hoover: Selina, one thing people like about you is your candor. Frankly, it's very refreshing. But does it ever get you into trouble?
Selina Rosen: No, never. . . . Yes, yes, all the time. A friend of mine once said that I could get along with the devil himself, but he wasn't so sure the devil could get along with me. That about sums it up. I like just about everyone, but I won't put up with anyone's crap for very long, and I'm not afraid to tell people what I think.
KMH: (laughs) With those parameters in mind, let's get started. Have you had any personal influences that shaped your career as a writer?
SR: As a writer, Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, Poe, Agatha Christie, Robert E. Howard, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I used to always answer this question wrong because I started naming the people I know now whose writing impresses me. I recently realized, though, that these people—though I admire their work a lot—didn't shape my writing because I started writing when I was twelve.
KMH: What was the impetus for that?
SR: I started writing because of the books I enjoyed as a kid, wanting to tell stories like those. By the time I started reading more modern authors, my style, my voice, had already been set in stone.
KMH: Any influences on you as an editor?
SR: No. As an editor I try to be fair and deal with writers the way I'd want to be dealt with, so, no, no personal influences there.
KMH: Well, let's talk about your work as an editor. What is Yard Dog Press?
SR: Yard Dog Press is a micro press that isn't afraid to say that we publish entertaining science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We publish real complete stories with an actual beginning, middle, and an end that's conclusive. You won't find a bunch of atmospheric crap wrapped in a layer of angst that leaves you asking what the hell happened when you close one of our books.
KMH: What strengths do small presses have that the larger ones don't?
SR: We don't have to bow to the number-crunching morons who decide what is and is not profitable, and therefore what the reading public gets to read. We can afford to take risks and give the reader a real choice. We can let our authors write what they want instead of ordering them into a box and telling them what the public wants.
But our biggest strength is we not only put out totally different books, but we can compete by offering the reading public something the big houses can't, something that isn't easy to pigeonhole, something truly different.
KMH: What's your best advice to new writers who want to submit something to Yard Dog Press?
SR: Read the guidelines; they're up at the site. If it says I'm not reading for anything, it means you. The biggest problem I have with brand-new writers is that they never seem to think the rules apply to them. They haven't been around enough to know that their brilliance won't shine through their pages and make me change my mind about accepting submissions, word count, or topic.
KMH: What's the one major misconception new writers have about editors?
SR: That the writer's work is the most important thing in your life. That and an idea that your edit is just a suggestion.
KMH: Let's talk about your writing for a bit, and how it fits in with your job as an editor. When and where did you sell your first story?
SR: It was in 1989 to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. I made really good money, so it totally ruined me.
KMH: Since you're both editor and writer, are there any major differences between editing a novel and writing one?
SR: Writing definitely takes more time, but it's a labor of love. A writer who doesn't enjoy the actual process of writing should quit and do something else. I actually enjoy editing my own work because it gives me a chance to make my story better. You've got it all hammered out, and now you're just fine-tuning it.
Now if you're talking about editing someone else's work, that's a whole different ball of wax. It's a royal pain in the ass. It doesn't take as long to edit a novel as it does to write one, but there is nothing pleasant—at least for me—in editing someone else's work.
KMH: How do you reconcile the two?
SR: Being a writer, I have to work very hard not to let my style bleed into another person's work. I need to recognize the difference between "this is wrong" and "this is the way they write." That can be hard. If you get an author who won't take an edit, well, then you've got a big-assed fight on your hands. As a small press we can let the writer have their head as far as story line and character go, but you can't turn the other way when the writing's bad.
KMH: What do you feel are your strengths as a writer?
SR: I have a blue-collar background. I've spent my life with real people, working-class people, not the rich and the powerful or the privileged—though I have worked for them often enough. I think this gives my characters some real depth. Poor people, working people, have to think on their feet, they have character because they have to solve their problems with their wit because they don't have any money. Therefore, I think I bring a sense of reality and a sense of humor to my work that is authentic.
KMH: Is there anything about your writing you'd like to improve?
SR: I'm really egotistical about my work, so it's difficult for me to admit that I might be lacking anywhere. However, my editors will tell you that I don't write enough descriptive narrative. I don't like to read it, so I just don't write it. A bar is a bar, a dinner is a dinner; I see no need to describe the number of peas in detail.
KMH: Do you have any personal goals you've set for yourself as a writer?
SR: As a writer I have the heady goal of making a living.
KMH: That's a worthy goal. What about as an editor?
SR: As the editor of Yard Dog Press, I'd like to see our authors and artists become household names. Mostly my goal for Yard Dog Press is for it to remain as it is now, a community of artists who work together to try to get our work out there, and to make more money.
What I absolutely don't want is any backbiting and bullshit within the group. To this end I try very hard not to hire assholes.
KMH: As a writer, what is your favorite format to work in: short fiction or novels?
SR: I really don't have a favorite. You get a different satisfaction from both of them. Some ideas are novel ideas and some are short story ideas.
KMH: Which authors do you like to read?
SR: Lee Killough, C.J. Cherryh, Brian Hopkins, Douglas Adams, and lots of others. But my all-time favorite author is Joe Landsdale.
KMH: Why Joe Landsdale?
SR: Because when you read one of Joe's books or short stories it stays with you. He has a style all his own, and he's not afraid to just get way out there when he feels like it—that's where the humor comes from. Joe writes just exactly what he wants to write, and it's funny and in your face and brilliant.
Besides, Joe's the only writer I know who uses as much "bad language" as I do and also doesn't make any apologies for it.
KMH: What themes most often appear in your stories? What do you enjoy writing about most?
SR: Normal people—and sometimes genetically engineered soldiers and cyborgs—stomping the living shit out of some stupid-assed bullshit government power structure. But, hey, I'm not bitter.
KMH: (laughing) What do you enjoy writing about the most?
SR: For the pure joy of the writing I probably enjoy writing comedy best, and in fact, even my "serious" work is littered with humor.
KMH: What are you working on now?
SR: I'm getting geared up to start promoting my new novel, Strange Robby, which comes out from Meisha Merlin this year. I'm also working on the sequel to Bad Lands—which will be released from Five Star Mystery in 2007—called Bad City with my co-writer, Laura J. Underwood. As always I'm working on three different novels in different stages.
KMH: And when you have your editing hat on?
SR: Editing-wise I just finished Flush Fiction, a Yard Dog Press anthology which will be released in February and is a collection of flash fiction by YDP writers and artists. I am currently wading through the pile of submissions for chapbooks and the submissions for Houston, We've Got Bubbas—the fourth book in our ever-growing Bubbas of the Apocalypse universe.
KMH: It sounds like you're pretty busy, Selina.
SR: It keeps me out of the bars.
KMH: Do you have time for any hobbies or activities?
SR: The short list . . . I run a small farm; fence saber, foil, epée, and rapier. I used to fight heavy weapons in armor, but I'm too old for that shit now. I do still sculpt in concrete, garden, and build furniture.
KMH: I know you attend several conventions. Which ones are your favorites?
SR: Midsouth-Con in Memphis, Tennessee is always a hoot. A new con called Apollo-Con down in Houston, Texas has quickly become a good con. They like to put new writers and artists center stage, and I like that. The big shots don't need the publicity. Conestoga in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a really great convention that has supported both me and Yard Dog Press from the get-go. In fact, this year they will be celebrating their tenth year as a convention with YDP, which also turns ten this year, and with my main publisher, Meisha Merlin Publishing, also turning 10 this year.
My favorite "have a good time" con is a little relaxacon called Contraception which is held in Kansas City. I don't really like the bigger conventions much. I often leave them feeling as if I've talked to everyone and no one.
KMH: What do you take from these cons that help you as a writer?
SR: Besides learning what the fans want, I get to pick my colleagues' heads to find new markets, discover which editor has moved to which house, and which house is looking for what sort of fiction.
KMH: Do they help you as an editor?
SR: As an editor I get to learn firsthand what the fans want, what they're sick to death of, and what they miss. This helps me decide what stories to take and which ones to take a pass on.
KMH: So what do fans want in fiction?
SR: The fans I talk to want their science fiction back—adventure stories, space opera, humor, action adventure—and they want whole stories. They want a real plot.
KMH: Don't they get that now?
SR: Mark, you have to realize that the people who read heavily in the heyday of science fiction are now baby boomers. That generation reads more than the new one, and they want to read the stuff they grew up with. If you don't believe me, look at how well the reprints on some of these older titles are doing. Since they can't find anything new to catch their interest a lot of people are going back and rereading the stuff they read as a teenager.
KMH: But don't the larger presses take these wants and desires of fans into consideration?
SR: In all honesty I don't know what the big houses do when it comes to seeking out what the public wants to read, but if you check the numbers I think you'll find that with all but a few breakaway hits, sci-fi has been consistently selling fewer and fewer books over the past 20 years. I think it's because they don't know who their audience is anymore. I, of course, could be wrong, but I thought I was once, and I was just mistaken.
Having said that, what the fans all seem to be sick to death of is the series that never ends. That and angst. They are all sick to death of the hero that whines his way through 750 pages.
KMH: So why are the big houses willing to leave this field open to the smaller presses?
SR: Most of the big houses—there are of course exceptions to all rules—are willing to basically leave anything that doesn't mean big bucks to the small presses. If it won't sell a million copies they basically don't want it. A lot of the corporations that bought up the big houses in the last 20 years have never dealt with books before. Traditionally, books have only ever brought a 25% profit; that isn't good enough for them. I look for a lot of the corporate-owned houses to slowly start phasing sci-fi and other genre fiction out altogether because it simply doesn't make that much money for them.
Small houses fill a niche market. The big guys aren't happy with anything but the whole pie.
KMH: I'm surprised to hear you use the term "sci-fi" when describing genre. Do you think there are any differences between "sci-fi" and "science fiction" as some writers and editors claim?
SR: Gee, is there a new snobbery built up around the term "sci-fi?" A sub, sub sideways and backwards genre that I wasn't aware of because I didn't read the right trade magazine this month? I guess I'm out of the loop—and I'm not sure, but I think I'm bragging when I say that "sci-fi" is an abbreviation for science fiction. At least it is where I come from. Perhaps I lack vision, but when I say sci-fi I mean science fiction. I'm just trying to sound cool and hip by abbreviating it.
KMH: I've always thought small presses like Yard Dog Press have made a real impact in the publishing world. Is this a trend in the business—faster and smaller?
SR: Unfortunately, for every new small house that makes it through their first year, there are dozens that start up and fold, taking the dreams of those writers looking for a fast track with them. With so many houses starting up, putting out inferior crap, and/or going up in flames, it can make it very hard to make a name for yourself as a micro press. The only way to do so is to continue to put out good product and to stay in the game long enough to build a reputation.
KMH: Will they ever influence the larger publishers out there, you think?
SR: New York as a whole isn't going to take their lead from the smaller presses. Not until there are a lot more successful ones out there than there are right now.
KMH: Thank you, Selina.