Interview with Laura Selinsky: Whitstead Books

I post this today for those who celebrate Christmas, and who have a little leisure at this busy time – which may be a very select few! But I hope it will be of interest at other times of the year as well.

Back in the depths of last December, I got a lovely little gift-box of a book, Whitstead Christmastide.

More than just a collection of stories on a theme, this is a collaboration between editors and authors to create a small English village, complete with a map and people whose paths cross and intertwine. The book was good for my soul, and warmed and cheered the long winter nights.

The collaboration continues with Whitstead Harvestide (which I quite enjoyed this past this autumn), and Whitstead Summertide, which I’m hoping will come out next summer.

I was intrigued with how this creation came about, and had many questions. So I asked my good friend Laura Selinsky, who has stories residing in all three volumes.

Gemma: How did you find out about Whitstead Christmastide?

Laura: The Whitstead Christmastide idea was proposed by Abigail Falanga, a wonderful speculative fiction author whom I “met” via social media. We share associations with Realmmakers, an organization for Christian speculative fiction authors, and have both written for Havok Publishing, which produces daily flash. Abigail, who became Whitstead’s first editor, suggested developing a Christmas anthology of short stories set in an English village in Dickens’ era. I immediately offered to write a Christmas Carol-inspired piece for Whitstead. I’m a high school British Literature teacher, so that’s a world I enter comfortably.

Gemma: How did you go about becoming one of its authors?

Laura: Waving my arms and shouting “Pick me!” on Facebook was my foremost method of getting into the initial anthology, which is independently published. The project attracted an interesting mix of aspiring prepublication authors and accomplished ones. I volunteered my Christmas Carol for consideration before the first Whitstead book had a title, and I followed up consistently with every hint that the anthology would become a reality. My diligence doesn’t mean that the editors couldn’t have decided to reject my stories. Jane Yolan has 400 books published, but she still gets rejections! 

Gemma: How did the collaboration work? For example, how was the map decided on? Did you communicate with other authors, or only the editors? 

Laura: The Whitstead collaboration has run largely through a Facebook Group that allows us to share characters and ideas with both the editors and the other authors. That’s where the map developed and where people share information about stories. We also answer each other’s questions about the era, both its social and writing practices. You never know what obscure information you may need for a story or who may have the answers you need. I recently answered questions about the trees in Victorian cemeteries, information I had acquired while preparing to teach Dracula for the umpteenth time.

Gemma: Your stories largely center around Whitwillow Farm. Where is that on the map?

Laura: The map has been -uhm- flexible, as authors and plot lines came and went. Whitwillow Farm has theoretically been at number 26 in Books 1, 2 & 3. Last week, I saw the map for Book 3. On the newest map, my farm remains at number 26 between two other country farms. Keeping Whitwillow Farm outside of the village has been crucial to the plot of all three of my stories.

Gemma: How was the writing, submission, and collaboration different for the second and third books? 

Laura: As an author, I felt less terror that my work would be rejected once Book 1 went to print. For Book 3, my rejection terror level has subsided from “hysterical” to “moderate.” One very positive feature of writing a series has been the increase in collaboration and encouragement as the books have continued. In Whitstead Harvestide and the upcoming Whitstead Summertide, I made reference to a character having been lured away by a fossegrim, a Norwegian fiddle-playing demon that is the focus of another author’s stories. The fossegrim is only in my stories with the other author’s permission.

Gemma: Can the books be read in any order?

Laura: Certainly, the Whitstead stories can be read in any order. Our anthologies are planned for stand-alone speculative fiction stories. I wrote characters and subplots that connect from book to book, but reading all three books or reading them in publication order is not essential. When I drafted the third story, my critique group graciously read for consistency and development of character between it and the two previous stories. So if someone read my Whitwillow Farm stories in publication order, they won’t be disappointed.

Gemma: I have read the first two in order, and was delighted to see how many of the stories and characters progressed. (Some stories in the second anthology are independent of the tales in the first book, but still integrally woven into Whitstead.)

Laura: If you are interested in our adventures in Whitstead, my author page links to the first two Whitstead books, and a link for Whitstead Summertide will appear on that page when the book is released! https://www.amazon.com/author/laura-nelson-selinsky

Gemma: thank you for taking part in my blog and answering my questions, Laura!

Readers: if you are looking for some warm-hearted Christmas reading, or perhaps a very last-minute gift, I recommend Whitstead Christmastide. The e-book is available instantly on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and you can find Whitstead Harvestide both places as well.

If you’d like to read a bit more from Laura on my blog, here are a couple guest blogs, (one also Christmasy), and a different interview with her.

Wishing a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a happy, healthy mid-winter to all.

Holiday Gift Ideas 2021

Like the last two years, I want to post some ideas for mid-winter gifts. This year, to do my personal utmost to fight the pandemic and still support bricks-and-mortar and small businesses, I’ve mostly avoided crowded shops and post offices and instead ordered online. As always, my favorite gifts to give are books, and I ordered all these from my local indie bookstore.

But Christmas is fast approaching. If you have a local indie, check with them to see if they have time to get your books by Christmas. Or you can use Barnes & Noble – their website notes if you order by Dec. 20th you can get books shipped just in time with express shipping.

These are the books I’ve gotten for my loved ones – and some for myself!

my own copy

For picture-book lovers of all ages: The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper. The text is a poem from the Christmas Revels, and celebrates the return of light into the darkest of times. I love this poem so much I bought a copy of the book for myself.

For young middle-schoolers: Stuntboy by Jason Reynolds. Full disclosure: I haven’t read this book, but I was greatly impressed by the book Stamped Jason Reynolds co-wrote with Ibram X. Kendi, and by hearing Jason talk at a book-signing. Also, his description of the book was so charming, I knew I wanted to get it for my nephew. Here’s Jason’s description of Stuntboy aka Portico Reeves: “he’s awesome. He’s got a hightop fade, a cape, a cat, a grandmother, a best friend (which has been hard for me to get used to because I thought I was his best friend) and lives in a castle. Most importantly, he has a super power.”

my advance copy

For young adults and older: For All Time by Shanna Miles. This is a great story of star-crossed lovers meeting and being parted across time, with vivid glimpses into times past and some excellent twists. I feel honored to have gotten an advance reader’s copy, and hope to post a more full review in the new year.

my own copy

Also for young adults and older: Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer. One of my favorite books of the year – I highly recommend it for anyone who has read all the previous Enola Holmes books. For fans of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian mysteries, and the Enola Holmes movie – I highly recommend starting with the first book, Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess.

Photo Provided by Laura Selinsky

For adults young and old: Whitstead Christmastide edited by Abigail and Sara Falanga. A collection of short stories set in a Dickensian village where the veil between worlds is thin, and wondrous things can happen. I read one of the stories as my friend Laura Selinsky was polishing it, and that inspired me to buy three copies, one for myself. I am reading it presently, and it is warming my heart.

For animal lovers: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. The wonderful stories from the life of a Yorkshire veterinarian; if you’ve seen the excellent adaptation on PBS, know that the stories are even richer.

For more ideas, I invite you to see my blogposts from 2019 and 2020.

May we all celebrate the light, and share it.

Holiday Gift Ideas

My favorite gifts to give are books. If you’re like me (and also haven’t finished your gift buying yet), I have some books to recommend. Many of these I have already given as gifts, or would happily give, and some are current favorites of mine.* Of course, you can always give them to yourself anytime of year!

Covers of several books
A Small and Varied Selection

As a gift to your community, buy books from your local bookstore if you can! If you can’t visit a store in person, you can order online from many independent bookstores as well as Barnes & Noble.

Some of these books are e-books – and yes, you can give e-books as gifts! Here’s how for Barnes and Noble Nook books and for Amazon Kindle books.

For picture book lovers and readers:
Imagine! by Raúl Colón. A story told in the luminous illustrations of Raúl Colón, about a boy who goes to a museum where people from the artwork leap out to interact with him.

Stretchy McHandsome by Judy Schachner. A delightful book for fans of Skippyjon Jones, and cat-lovers of all stripes.

For Middle-graders and above, especially fans of sci-fi:

My Best Friend Runs Venus by Katrina Forest. A fun interplanetary journey undertaken by kids in robot avatars trying to save the solar system.

 

A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine. The poignant story of a boy who discovers the mind-boggling fact that his family are time-travelers, while dealing with the loss of family members. It’s about family, friends, adventure, grief, and the love that changes everything; it truly touched me.

For fans of fantasy, young adult and older:


Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. A captivating take on Romeo and Juliet’s story, as seen from the characters in the shadows, with magical underpinnings.

Ink and Bone, The Great Library Book One by Rachel Caine. For those who prefer a steampunk flavor over Shakespeare, this is the story of a book smuggler in a world where owning books can get you attacked by automaton lions.

 

For adults:


Accessing the Future  ed. by Kathryn Allan & Djibril al-Ayad. An inclusive anthology of speculative fiction, featuring a favorite of mine, “A Sense All its Own.”

 

The All-You-Can-Read Buffet by Stephen L. Thompson. An eclectic collection of short stories for varied tastes, from horror to humor, the everyday to the fantastical.

 

The Easy Road by Alexandra Scott-Coulter. For fans of rock ‘n’ roll, especially anyone who’s dreamed of being a rock star, this is the story of a man who becomes just that.

 

Running Wild Novella Anthology Volume 3 edited by Lisa Diane Kastner. I’d buy this for the story “Broken Soul to Broken Soul” alone; a story about ‘Two souls, two traumas, one path to healing … love.’ [Full disclosure: I haven’t read all the other stories yet – it just came out this month!]

 

cover art for Season of Hope novella

Season of Hope by Laura Nelson Selinsky. Can two new adults with big responsibilities find holiday happiness at the end of their struggles? Find out in this heartwarming Romance novella.

 

Strife and Harmony  ed. by Dixianne Hallaj and D.J. Stevenson. Strife, doubt, & suspicion — heroic (and not-so-heroic) characters search for harmony in this international anthology. Especially read the exploits of Sippy and Algernon Moynihan, two characters I’ve met and am quite fond of.

Legendary by Amelia Kibbie. I fell in love with the short story that predates this novel – about two boys in England, struggling with bullies and the perils of WWII England; Kirkus Review calls the novel (set years after the short story) “A rousing story of love and sacrifice.”

 

And in honor of the very soul and heart of Christmas,
A Vine-Ripened Life by Stanly D. Gale, a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation on and exploration of the great fruits of grace.

 

However you observe this season, may you celebrate the light, and share it.

 

 

* where the picture quality is questionable, it’s because it’s of my own treasured copies.

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