The name on her books is Victoria Selene Skye Deme. When I decided to do an interview series, she was automatically the first choice. Selene wears many hats: author, poet, fitness guru, single mother, and teacher among others. I’m proud to refer to her by an additional label: friend.
Selene’s surreal, sharp, potent poetics have filled several collected volumes. She is a word weaver, spinning language into her unique style, an unforgettable voice that haunts the pages and takes the reader into places both dark and magnificent. Take this excerpt from her recently released book, Unfairy Tales From Underland:
Chimera Of Calliope~
Dispositions of my multiplicity
dew drop words
comparable to tar
compose poetry in the corners of my gaze
until I phosphoresce
Radiance becomes crystalline in my pores
magenta and alabaster berry drops
painting roses on my choking vines
no sword could rend asunder
for they are the ribbons
that hold my paper skin in place
and the thorns
are the crown
that keep my nightmares
from flooding the world
I could sing the praises of Selene’s wonders until my voice grows hoarse, but I was fortunate enough to get her to answer a few questions for me instead. So without further ado, here is the interview:
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I honestly can’t classify myself as a “writer”. A writer has focus and discipline, a set of parameters for a story, a poem, they enter into the content with a set of well defined ideas.
I have no idea how a piece of writing will center and conclude. Anything can kick start a flow of words, an image, a scent, a sound, and then it takes me where it wants to go. These things I write, write me, I’m just a conduit for the subconscious, the global subconscious ness. The difference in the last four years is that I’ve mindfully learned to edit these writings. To make them coherent, and center them with an articulate significance.
My father always said I was born creating stories. So I guess whatever it is I do with words I’ve been doing since I could hold a pen and compose a thought.
Your way with words is quite unique. How would you describe your style of writing?
Part of the unusual distribution of metaphors and organization of illustrative content is a byproduct of being trilingual. I think in three different languages, sometimes simultaneously, which produces the atypical format of my poetic and prose compilations.
I’m also a synesthete, which means my senses tend to crosswire. In simpler terms, there are times I taste music, and hear colors, and see concepts. My brain is constantly active, but not in an intrusive way, in more of a melodious and kind way.
Is the mingling of your history with your art a conscious effort, or something that just comes naturally?
It inserts itself of its own accord, because I am my history. The concept of future/past/present is always blending together in my world. There’s no separation of what happened twenty years ago and what will happen twenty years from now.
I was brought up in such a strong culture, where traditions were emphasized through daily life, that it is me. I wear my history close to the surface.
Continuing on that line of thought: your poetry is quite personal, including many painful experiences of abuse in your past. Do you ever feel that you give too much of yourself to others through your writing?
No. I have a separation between the abuse and myself. Some call it disassociation. I call it surviving. There’s a theory in psychological texts that describes how children fragment and rebuild themselves after traumatic incidences. In essence fortifying their emotional/psychological structures by resurfacing and reinventing themselves each time. Some will argue this is unhealthy for the psyche. Boxing things into an eternally building maze. Who knows, they may be right. But it works for me. I never talk about the past in a direct way. It’s there, bundled up inside a thousand poems and stories.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Sometimes, I still write free hand. I have a quill and liquid ink, parchment. Some of my most intimate pieces were written in ink. It soothes me.
Describe for us your path to publishing. What advice can you give for those considering entering the business?
The most basic advice is, don’t be in a rush. That was my mistake when I entered into a contract with a publishing house we will keep unidentified because all I have to say about them after seven years is that they are a scam. Be smart, read the contract from beginning to end, question everything, negotiate, be your own editor. Ask for feedback.
The best move I made was self-publishing my eighth book. The entire playing ground changes when you become your own publisher/editor/promoter. Because it’s completely in your hands, you are more motivated to pay very close attention to the finest details to produce the best product you can for your audience.
It there a certain time that you write, or do you stick to a writing schedule?
No schedules, no discipline, no forethought. I can’t function like that. In everyday life I live completely in the moment. That’s how I write. Whatever triggers a piece about to be, I give myself to it then and there.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, of course. I’ve been a reader all my life. And I love horses, so riding is close. But most of all I love my kids and my grandson. My happiest moments happen in their company, so I spend as much time with them as they let me. I’m very, very lucky to have been given these two girls as my daughters by whatever fates decide those things. They have taught me as much as I’ve taught them. They are treasures.
What does your family think of your writing?
At this point in time, my relatives across the sea display each book on their mantles. My sweet mother, who used to write poems as a young girl, is so proud. My eldest, Una, writes also, and she has her own unique voice. As for the teenager, she’s a teenager, so clothes and a social life take precedence over reading my writings which she thinks are weird, which just makes me smile. Although, when it’s to her benefit, she is not shy about announcing how her mother has eight published books and a hardcore fan following.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing?
That people can relate even to the most obscure or sharpest of things in my writings. It taught me that I’m not unique or all that freaky, which was a lesson I needed to learn both to knock down my ego a few notches and, ironically, to also refurbish my sense of self worth.
You’ve published several volumes of collected works. Do you have a favorite?
I do love UnFairy Tales, but The SurrealStalks And Times Of A Gutter Girl, showcases the richest and most eclectic of my poems and stories. It still irks me to no end that the publisher I was with at the time did me completely dirty on the horribly bland cover which does not draw the eye or an audience. It’s my lowest selling book. Which bothers me. Because the insides are pretty amazing.
I can attest to that, because I own a copy. Let’s talk about the state of poetry today. As you know, there is an abundance of mediocre to just awful poetry proudly displayed on writing sites and churned out by vanity and self-publishers. Do you feel as though poetry is a lost art? How can a serious poet stand out from the masses of amateur writers?
I have to clarify how I personally define poetry before I can answer that. Poetry is the honest and raw skinning of a human soul, the instinctive plugging into the connective subconscious Tapestry that connects everything to everything else throughout the universe. That is poetry. It’s personal myth. Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, Ginsberg, Kerouc, are poetry. This is not a lost art, though it is a severely underappreciated art, because what this form reveals is the inside of the mirror, not the reflection, but the tides of the human being underneath. Today’s society is either too distracted, too dumbed down, or terrified of facing and examining the honest textures of existence, life, purpose, meaning, etc. Poetry delves into all those areas, and more. It also has no parameters, true poetry has no borders. In a world where humans have been conditioned to think within the box, stepping outside of it engenders fear, but most have forgotten how to step past guidelines, and are to comfortable in their monotonous drone world to even entertain the thought. That’s sad. That’s how myths die. Poets keep the myth alive.
As for how one can stand out from the crowd in the art of poetry, don’t worry, the internet and social networking sites has opened up a beautiful, connected world. Don’t seek your readers, be you, create your art around you, be honest, practice full disclosure through your writing, and your audience will find you.
Let’s talk about your photographic artwork that you’ve delved into recently. What kind of tools are you using for your surreal portraits?
Corel Draw and Photoshop are my primary tools. But I also skip over to online editors such as PizZap, PicMonkey and BeFunky for specific layering tools available only on those specific sites.
I have a expansive visual interior world, but I don’t have the artistic skill with brushes and pencils I would like to have been able to translate these images beyond minimum two dimensional frames. Digital Art has opened the world to my brain and my imagination. I can literally translate the image behind my eyes onto the screen through these programs. It’s crazy amazing watching what’s inside taking shape in front of your eyes. It’s addictive.
Tell us what you think about your own writing. What does it mean to you personally?
“When I was a young girl, writing was escape. When I was a teenager, writing was purging. As I grew into a woman I began to understand the power of words, and that’s when I started writing with respect for the art that in and of itself creates human reality.”
I posted this as my status on FB not too long ago, which answers your question better than anything else I could add.
Let’s talk about the future. What projects are you currently working on? When will we get a novel from Selene?
Plugged Into The Alloy Forest is my next book of poetry and short stories. I’m also working on a collaboration with my daughter, Una, yet untitled. And then there is Pan’s Unpuzzled Puzzle Girl, the novel thing, which is sooo hard for me to write, because I can’t think or create in a level manner. I think in pieces. Puzzle pieces fly all around, and I write them individually. Putting them together into a whole picture is a nightmare for someone like me. It may never be completed because of that. I get bored and distracted and irate, and walk away from it constantly.
How can readers find you, and where can they purchase your work?
My books can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes&Noble in paperback, and the new one, UnFairy Tales From UnderLand can also be purchased on Kindle through Amazon. Signed copies are available directly from me. All one needs to do is email me on my Facebook Author page for information.
Is there anything special that you’d like to say to your readers?
Always. I want them to know how grateful I am for their steadfast and unwavering support throughout the many years. How much they give me through their feedback, presence, and friendship, how their words and insights into my writings have revealed more about me to myself than I was able to see so closely linked to the works, and how it has helped me mature as a writer. Constructive feedback permitted me shed my often times overblown sense of self and taught me that in order to grow not just as a human being but whatever art that human being undertakes, criticism is not an affront but care shown on part of the critic who wants you to evolve and achieve your personal best.
My audience, my readers are a hardcore group, who tirelessly promote my writings. They are the ones to whom I owe loyalty, not just for their faith in me but also for their own selfless revelations about themselves and how parts of them connect to my stories, my poems.
That connection is crucial between the performer and audience if both are to benefit and grow from what they give and get from each other. It is the most intimate and gorgeous forms of symbiosis.
It is indeed. Thank your for your time and in depth answers.