Gayle Lynds: How does a multi award-winning Hollywood screenwriter become a multi-award winning novelist? Read on for the inside story of how Jule Selbo moved to Portland, Maine, and reinvigorated her creative heart.
By Jule Selbo
8 DAYS, the third book in my Dee Rommel Mystery Series, has been launched and it has deepened my appreciation of my new home state (Maine). I’d been working as a screenwriter in California for twenty years, working on assignment for studios and production companies (film, tv and animation) and accepting the paychecks that sweetened the months I spent writing what other people wanted.
The good thing about ‘being on assignment’ is it can be ‘fun’ (if it’s the right people and I did get lucky, a lot). The mortgage gets paid, the kid gets to go to a great school, and you have a nice car to sit in while navigating the USA’s worst traffic. The bad thing about being on assignment in Hollywood is you’re exploring other people’s visions.
Of course, it was a great job. I loved it. But, after many years, I realized I’d only written six “spec” scripts (on speculation, meaning I wasn’t getting paid, I owned them, they were mine – my characters, my themes, and points of view). One – Big Sky Romance was my calling card and this rom-com earned me lots of paying assignments. Another – a western – was optioned by a big star, and then studio heads changed, and it was shelved. Another – an action adventure – was bought but never made. Disney took on my fantasy spec script and it got to storyboard phase. Clearly, I could float well in various genres and assignments kept coming. But where was “my soul” as a writer? I knew I had to write the novel I’d always promised myself to write.
Moving to Maine gave me the opportunity. I closed the Hollywood door for a bit to concentrate on the story genre I’d loved as a kid – my go-to reading choice.
I knew I wanted to dig into a young woman’s life – one who was intent on helping people get justice. I wanted to explore her goals and test her physically, professionally, and emotionally.
Dee Rommel grew while I was writing at my favorite Portland coffee shop (I’m there every morning at 5 AM). Dee doesn’t exist as an amalgam of different studio executives’ or producers’ whims. She’s mine. She is a policewoman who sustained a significant and permanent injury while on the job and now needs to rebuild her life and career.
10 DAYS, the first book, came out two years after I moved to Maine – and I am grateful for the awards it received. 9 DAYS was a 2022 baby and got its share of hoopla. Now 8 DAYS ‘drops’ in December 2023. I’ve created a ten-book arc for Dee’s character, (I will get to 1 DAY), but each is a stand-alone mystery.
I know my Los Angeles experience prepared me to create and write Dee’s stories – in regards to pacing, conflict and ‘cinematically’ bringing Maine to life – but it was the actual distance from one former life to the “new” – without that, Dee would never have existed.
Jule Selbo spent decades working as an award-winning screenwriter in Los Angeles and then moved to Portland Maine to focus on writing novels. Six have been published so far – three historical fiction and three books in the Dee Rommel Mystery Series. The first is 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery (listed on the 2021 top-five list of Kirkus’ best crime/mysteries, nominated for a Clue Award, Maine Literary Award, received a Foreword Review Honorable Mention and a Silver Falchion Award), followed by 9 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery followed, also receiving a starred Kirkus Review and award nominations. 8 DAYS is the third book in the series.