Author Interview: Seluna Drake

Seluna Drake, author.

I’m Seluna Drake. The sum of it is that I consider myself a writer/poet, high school English teacher, occasional artist, and witch interested in astrology and runes. I have written/published 5 other books under a different name: 2 fantasy novels, 2 illustrated children’s nonfiction books, and 1 poetry chapbook. I have just recently had a poem published in an online zine featuring works on the seven deadly sins. I am primarily interested in writing on the speculative spectrum with fantasy, science fiction, and the like, usually with a sprinkling of romance. I am active on Twitter: @SelunaDrake

Would you say that writing is a hobby, a passion or something else? What does it mean to you?

Writing for me is a creative outlet. I would probably classify it more as a passion than a hobby. It’s stress relief, it’s a pursuit of art, it’s escapism, it’s my contribution to the world. It’s many things bundled into one activity that can have many variations and results. I know many in the writing community approach their writing pursuits from a business standpoint, a way to make money. Which is great! I’m not in a place in my life where I feel like devoting my time, energy, and attention to transform my writing into a more marketable money-maker, but I do try to monetize when I can (publishing books, posting on Medium). However, my end goal isn’t really to make money or attention, it’s to share my ideas.

…Apparently, I am fashion-conscious. Never realized this about myself until my editor pointed out HOW OFTEN I describe my character’s wardrobe. It kind of cracks me up because I never imagined myself that interested in couture. 

Seluna on things found in editing.

Tell me about your favorite part of the writing process?

The beginning and end. I like gathering the ideas and inspiration to form a new project. It’s really the most creative I can be in approaching a new book or story. The opportunities are boundless, I don’t feel limited to any self-imposed constraints with my plotting or worldbuilding. It’s like, anything can happen! You want to add a minotaur that doesn’t jive with the rest of the manuscript that your editor recommends taking out? By golly, you add that minotaur. 😤 (spoiler alert, the minotaur stayed)

Alternatively, I also love the end, when a project or book is almost finished. I love seeing everything come together when all of your hard work is rewarded with the Thing you set out to make.  

…the hardest part?

I guess that it speaks for itself: the middle. The place where you get stuck, you write yourself in a corner. You have to figure out the mundane details, the consistency issues. How to make it from Exciting Scene A to Amazing Scene B on the Boring Train of Monotony. Not that the middle parts are all necessarily boring, but I guess it’s all the less glamorous part of writing. The tedious bits of fitting the puzzle pieces together. The beginning part is like setting your border, which is pretty easy because it works itself out. The middle part is all your brainpower at work, which is consequently the slowest parts for me to work out.

Flame in the Palace (Click the picture to go to the book page)

What is something you learned with your most recent writing project?

Professional editing is the way to go. I feel like this is a no-brainer, though? Sometimes you need that cold douse of truth to shake you back into reality. I use adverbs, em dashes, and italics WAY too liberally in my writing. Now it’s easier for me to self-edit things like that, including some of my writing crutches: passive voice, showing vs telling. Also, apparently, I am fashion-conscious. Never realized this about myself until my editor pointed out HOW OFTEN I describe my character’s wardrobe. It kind of cracks me up because I never imagined myself that interested in couture. 

Tell me about a couple of books that have been impactful for your writing life.

I honestly haven’t read that much in terms of craft and structure but I’ve found a few pieces helpful, especially for inspiration: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, for poetry, Natasha Tretheway resonated with me, particularly Native Guard, a few Webtoons helped inspire me back into some form of consistent reading when I wasn’t reading much (Lore Olympus, Edith, Let’s Play, SubZero, Siren’s Lament, Suitor Armor, Midnight Poppyland, just to name a few). A student introduced me to the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas last year which also helped jump-start me into reading again. If it wasn’t obvious, I have been struggling on maintaining my old love of reading, and I’d say that’s impactful because reading helps cultivate writing.

In terms of general impactful books in my life, there is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This was introduced to me by a friend in middle school that helped broaden my fantasy horizons and was especially appealing to me in terms of writing when I learned that he wrote the first book when he was fifteen. Pride and Prejudice and general Jane Austen works are special to me because they were a shared love with my mom, and also the English teacher I bonded the most with gifted me with her special copy of it. Amanda Hocking is one of my favorite authors. Also, my current favorite book, which I read a few years ago, is Severance by Ling Ma, which was absolutely phenomenal and took me on an emotional journey I still reflect on occasionally. 

What are you currently reading?

*nervously tugs at collar* So I’ve got a huge TBR list. The size is absolutely devastating. I’ve got a book-buying problem. Seriously, I’m descended from a family of hoarders, so I’ve always been meticulous about clutter and minimizing and getting rid of things I don’t need so I don’t revert to my roots. But apparently, books are my crutch. Sometimes I’m reading multiple things at once for different purposes and I’m reading them very, very slowly. (Like I said, it’s been difficult for me to jump back and focus on reading though I still maintain my love of reading). But the books I’m currently working through are:

  • Eros & Thanatos: An Anthology of Death & Desire – edited by Cassandra L. Thompson and Damon Barret Roe
  • a poetry book by Nikita Gill, I think it was called Where Hopes Comes From
  • I Read It, but I Don’t Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers by Cris Tovi (this one shows my teaching roots, I think)
  • Teaching Frankenstein by Viktor James

That’s a pretty eclectic collection for you!

What book are you currently working on?

Oh! It’s a fantasy adventure novel with slowburn/forbidden romance called Flame in the Palace! I wrote this book in the middle of the pandemic (2020) and it really rekindled my love and passion for writing (after a severe writing drought). After much work with my editor, I am excited to announce that it’s almost ready for release! It was a labor of love and I’m thinking of a May 13 release date for this year! Imagine, if you will, The Bachelor meets A Knight’s Tale. Our protagonist, named Myria, enters a noble contest to seduce the prince and become queen, and all the while, she learns magic and has a rip-roaring good time. Or does she???

If there was one thing you could go back and tell yourself before you wrote your first book, what would it be?

Oof. After some thought, I feel like almost anything I could tell myself back then would be more related to life advice than specific writing advice. Which makes sense because our lives impact our writing. I was very young when I published my first book (21!) so I definitely didn’t have the same experiences I do now. So here’s a few things for my 21-year-old self:

  • Listen to your mom

Okay, wow, that wasn’t as much advice as I thought it would be. 

For the self-published or soon-to-be self-published out there, can you tell me a little bit about the experience of using a professional editor? What kind of editing was it? Just grammar and punctuation? or was it also developmental?

The ABC’s of Shakespeare a children’s board book written under the name Kelly Bahney

So in the past, I’ve had my friend do most of my editing work, which was mostly line edits for syntax and small errors, and I relied on a few close friends/family to volunteer for beta reading to help steer my own development edits. With my latest, upcoming novel, I decided I wanted to have someone else edit for a few reasons. One, I felt like I was burdening my friend who did the work for free. Two, I wanted a completely unbiased third party to edit my work and be truthful about its quality. There are several ways you can find a cost-effective freelance editor. I know of a few personally on Twitter now, but I started my search over a year ago on Fiverr. I’ve used fiverr a lot in the past to commission artwork. As I looked through profiles and messaged a few editors, some had no current availability. One editor, in particular, said he would reach out to me in February (a few months away), when he expected to be open. February came and I heard nothing from him. So I reached out again only to find he was busy again and then he completely ignored me after that. Oof. That’s something I’ve found a lot in the freelance world is people flaking on you occasionally. It makes me a little salty

So I went back to my search, sifting with slightly higher criteria. I wanted a fantasy-specific editor who could help me with the medieval historical accuracy. I also looked for someone who might have a different perspective/approach than me so that could catch things I would have never thought of. And then came the fated conversation where I found my editor—B. K. Bass who hit every category. He had several five-star reviews so I reached out, took a chance, and after a year, we got the book edited! He was perfectly willing to work with my needs and preferences (editing one chapter at a time instead of the whole manuscript). He offers different editing packages, tiered to meet different needs. Simple copyediting versus developmental editing with commentary on tone, characters, theme, etc. I went for the full package just because I never worked with a professional editor before and I wanted my book the best version of itself as possible.

If you are willing to divulge this, how much did you end up paying for the services you received?

Like I said, I used the Fiverr platform for payment + delivery/other business correspondence. For the most part we did one chapter at a time and I bought the most expensive services he offered (which wasn’t really that bad, to be honest). Basically, I paid $10 for every thousand words, if my math is correct. So like, my chapters could average around 5,000 words, which would be about $50. At our peak productivity, we’d get through a chapter per week (depending on his work schedule). There were some slow times (when I lost my job, lost my inspiration). But my 120,000 word book effectively cost around $1,200 to fully edit. Fiverr also has a tip system and I always tried to leave him good tips, and of course, my editor always offered to look over chapters a second time for free if we made any major changes. Plus he did a check through the whole thing one last time.

What does self-editing look like for you? When does it factor into your projects?

Self-editing is usually a constant process for me. I try not to get too wrapped up in editing as I write (because then I become too distracted to actually write). But if I’m going to work on a new chapter, I’ll probably reread the previous chapter to re-familiarize myself with the tone and current questions faced for the new chapter. I’ll also start some self-editing to clean up glaring errors. Once I’m done with the whole book, then I’ll read through it again to edit. Working with a professional editor really helped me narrow my focus so I can address the errors I really struggle and repeat. Since we edited my book a chapter at a time, it allowed me the opportunity to read the next one and fix what I thought would be marked in his comments based on prior feedback. Currently, I am “proofing” the book. It’s already seen the editor. Now I am being very picky about what I let in the final version, going through with a fine-toothed comb. Cleaning up overused italics, adverbs, contractions. Any repetitive stuff. Small typos and the like. I use editing software in conjunction with this, such as Grammarly (gag) and ProWritingAid (the best).

Poetry has been a recent pastime I’ve re-indulged in, and my poetry is a much different approach than it used to be. To me, poetry has no rules so anything can go. No pressure or restrictions.

Seluna on writing poetry

How did you stumble upon writing as a thing you were really passionate about? Are there any real life stories mixed into your fiction?

Archer of the Lake by Kelly R. Michaels a.k.a Seluna Drake

My passion for writing stemmed from the fact I liked telling myself stories. I had a lot of childhood insomnia growing up. My dad would read bedtime stories to me and my brother (who had a lot of the same issues) but because my brother was younger, he got the most attention, and I was left taking care of myself. It didn’t occur to me to write things down until about middle school when I realized that Christopher Paolini wrote when he was 15 years old (and I was 14 years old!). So I began my writing journey then. I was determined to write an epic fantasy series (lol) that never came to fruition beyond the first few chapters. But I had fun with it and my friends, who I wrote as the badass female heroine protagonists. Upon high school, I entered the world of fanfiction and things got pretty deep there. My old fanfiction profile boasts of almost 100 published stories. Some are cringe of course, but honestly, writing fanfiction really helped me build a foundation for my craft. I still write (and read, *cough*) fanfiction to this day.

Warrior by Kelly R. Michaels a.k.a Seluna Drake

To become the Best,
we are plunged into fiery trials to burn away,
hammer out the impurities.
Forged by flame, we emerge
shining, victorious,
we hope.

We hope we do not crumble to ash,
cinders that float away, forgotten, on the next passing wind.
We hope that the Smith watches the temperature,
does not let us burn too hot or too long
lest we join the embers of the fallen around us.
We trust this Smith with a flickering hope
and hope we are significant enough to demand the right attention.

The crucible surrounds us, unyielding to our fingers
as we hiss and jerk with pain.
This is necessary, we are told.
We hope it is worth it.

That hope sees us through,
holding fast to ourselves as we disintegrate,
holding fast to life,
ferrying us through pain,

we are human.

Hissing. Silence. Tears.

Tears, too salty. They burn,
running down charred cheeks. I long for the rain 
to quench us. Soothe us.
No comfort here. Only a torched husk
made brittle by water,
lingering in a bed of ashes.

Even when I’m removed from the white blaze,
I feel those flames still licking,
hungry, devouring every last inch of me.
Darkness as 
I’m poured into our new mold.
I did not choose this shape;
it was chosen for me.
More tears.
So much pain—
Who gets to decide?
Then, rage.

Stoked as hot as the forge that remade me,
breaking the mold.
Shaping myself.
Fuck the Smith.
The Smith is no more, never here. Nonexistent.
Only the cogs of a machine, always rotating.
I break the machine.
Let someone fix it. I’ll break them too.

I published my first book when I was 21 The story was inspired by a dream I had when I was 19, I think. I was in college. I remember being SO inspired that I furiously wrote my book, determined to complete one for the first time. It consumed a lot of my time, but in a good way. I remember writing during biology lectures in college and my professor asking me questions because he thought I wasn’t paying attention. Or cutting myself off during lunch breaks to cram as much writing as I could. The idea of self-publishing came when I read about Amanda Hocking’s success. I never expected to reach that level of notoriety, but it made me realize that publishing was accessible for me.

If you are willing, can you share your favorite poem from your recent poetry book?

I am quite fond of this one, called “Forge” (warning, there is a curse word):

 Have anything in the pipeline for your next project?

Oof, the only thing that could put my TBR list to shame is my TBW (to be written) list. Aside from Flame’s sequel (which has about 4 chapters drafted), I have several other book projects simmering on the back burner, more fantasy and some scifi. The scifi book will probably take a long time because it’s going to be a pretty personal project (and also I have very limited experience with scifi). I am undecided which *big* project I am going to tackle first. But, in the meantime, I am constantly writing poetry, some of which gets posted to Twitter or to Medium, and more is just added to the huge document for my next chapbook. I am also practicing a bit more of my shortform writing, particularly short stories that I can potentially submit to small presses/journals/anthologies. We’ll see how that goes. But I suppose after Flame is published, I will focus on its sequel, just to keep that momentum going.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Usually some sort of waiting is involved. I try to distance myself from the project, give myself some space. Reset the brain muscle by indulging in something that requires zero creative energy from me, like video games, watching a new show, or reading a book. I am trying a new creative endeavor. Poetry has been a recent pastime I’ve re-indulged in, and my poetry is a much different approach than it used to be. To me, poetry has no rules so anything can go. No pressure or restrictions. Literally, just write whatever, so it can also work as a freewrite exercise. I’ve tried journaling, and while it doesn’t necessarily work for me, it can work for others. I’ve also started experimenting with more visual arts, such as digital painting. It’s a new/different way of expression where I still feel accomplished even if I’m burnt out on a project. Sometimes, these are not instant fixes. Sometimes it is just a matter of waiting out the block or starting something new. Sometimes, it’s forcing myself to put SOME words down with the full intent of going back to write it just so I can keep the manuscript moving (I write chronologically).

What are you doing for fun (not including work and writing?)

I play a LOT of video games. Because my job usually requires so much brain power, it’s easy to unwind and relax with something that requires little mental investment on my end. My video game of choice is usually single-player RPGS, especially ones with a lot of focus on choice-based narratives. Bonus points if you can romance certain characters. My current obsessions include: Bioware titles, Dragon Age specifically, I restarted the series by playing Origins and now I’m on DA2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 (currently in Early Release). I also love Besthesda titles (Fallout & Elder Scrolls) but I’m a bit burned out. Also, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Sea of Thieves, which is an online PVP multiplayer, so it breaks the norm. I am exceptionally bad at it though 🙃 

I have also been experimenting with art lately, specifically digital painting. I don’t have a lot to show for it currently, but it’s been an avenue I’ve enjoyed exploring.

In conclusion, what does the next 1-2years, 5-10 years look like for your writing, stories, etc?

I really, really hope I can get faster with my writing process so it doesn’t take me 2 years to put out one book because I have MANY books planned. Hopefully in the short term I can finish the current trilogy (for Flame) that I am working on. I’m trying to NOT write many trilogies/book series because I know my attention span struggles with making sure it gets completed.

In the 5-10 year span, I’d like to have an additional 2 – 3 series completed. (Even if there’s just one book in the series). Hopefully I can revisit my original high fantasy book series to complete it but I’m not going to stress myself out with that right now. I plan on releasing more poetry. I am going to try to submit to anthologies but maybe not many because it takes a lot of social energy I don’t have to put myself out there. Despite over having 20+ premises recorded for future use, I definitely do want to finish:

  • 2 more poetry/chapbooks (one personal poetry, one more narrative)
  • a sci-fi duology that tackles a lot of feelings I have about my teaching career
  • 2 – 3 standalone fantasy novels (but I’m afraid some of those might expand in a series, sigh)
  • I had some inspiration to start a Kindle Vella story but I am not sure how I will produce it.

I also want to set up/establish my own publishing house! Not just for my work, but I’d like to host other work, anthologies, and an online journal. That’s the dream job is to work with fiction all the time! So maybe look out in the future for an update on that?

Thank you to Seluna Drake for taking the time to answer these questions. You can find her works on Amazon, Twitter, and Medium and click any of the photos above to be taken to their relevant webpage or purchase location.

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