Selena is shown here at the Grammy Awards in 1994.

Story highlights

On March 31, 17 years ago the singer Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar

In 1990 Chris Perez joined Selena's band as a guitarist

Perez has written a book about his time with Selena called, "To Selena, With Love"

He discusses the rough patch the pair endured

CNN  — 

She was called the Mexican Madonna and The Queen of Tejano Music.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since the singer Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar. Selena, who was only 23 when she died, seemed poised for crossover success. Ironically Jennifer Lopez played Selena in a major motion picture of the same name and became a star when the movie opened at number one.

In 1990 Chris Perez joined Selena’s band as a guitarist. The two soon began a clandestine relationship and were married in April, 1992.

Perez has written a book about his time with Selena called, “To Selena, With Love,” which shows a different side to the singer. It’s a deeply personal and honest book that is sure to delight Selena fans. Perez recently spoke with CNN about his marriage, the singer’s death, and her legacy.

CNN: Why did you decide to write this book?

Chris Perez: I thought enough time had passed. I was comfortable putting some of the stories and the memories that I had of Selena to paper. I had communicated with Selena’s fans on Facebook and the Internet and that had an impact on me and made me start thinking about it. Having done book signings and promoting the book the response has been incredible. Because I’ve been quiet for so long, the book shines a different light on Selena and the fans have been very grateful for that.

She was everywhere after she passed away, she was all over the TV and then there was the trial but the memories I had were my own. I was very protective of those. With this book I was able to show her in a different light, the woman off the stage.

She was full of energy. She was only 23 when it all happened and not only did she have two boutiques up and running but was designing clothes as well as doing the whole entertainment thing. She was looking to open up more boutiques and starting a perfume line. She had so much ambition and the message she would give to the kids about how important education was and to stay off drugs. I mean that was the real deal. That wasn’t somebody just talking the talk.

Read excerpts of the book on the In America blog

CNN: You write of how unhappy her father was when he discovered you two were a couple.

Perez: I think the main reason for that was it kind of hurt his pride and his ego to find out that he was the last to know and when things got tense and things were said by him, it hurt me that he was saying it but I didn’t let it get to me because I knew deep down he knew the kind of person I was.

CNN: What was the worst thing he said?

Perez: The worst thing he said to me was that I was like a cancer to his family. His family knew about us being together and was supportive; when he said that it was like, ‘C’mon!’

CNN: You guys had a rough patch in the marriage and even talked about divorce.

Perez: I think what it boiled down to is that we were young. We were married and together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We had to learn how to handle that and that was both of us. It’s not like she brought up the idea and I was fighting it because honestly I was right there with her. We communicated with each other and when that came out on the table it wasn’t like I hadn’t thought of it myself. The more we talked about it and the more time went on, it wasn’t a long time, maybe a month, we ended up patching things up and making a promise that we would never let that happen again.

It was Selena’s brother who actually opened her eyes. He said to her, ‘You know Chris is going to move on. How are you going to feel if you see him with another woman?’ And that’s when she was like, ‘Oh no, that ain’t going to happen!’ Shortly after that we patched things up. We started talking about a family.

CNN: I’m not judging you or Selena’s family but I never understood how you let her go and meet this woman who you already knew was trouble.

Perez: Because we didn’t think she was capable of doing what she did.

CNN: Of course but you knew she was creepy.

Perez: Yeah that’s why I was with her the night before. That was the night that other woman had planned on doing everything. I usually didn’t let her leave without knowing where she was going but that particular morning as fate would have it, I was asleep and she got up early to pick up some paperwork that Yolanda had said she had found. I heard Selena but I didn’t get up. I didn’t know she was leaving. I thought maybe she was going to hang out with my Dad who had stayed over. I didn’t even think to ask and then she was gone.

CNN: Did you feel guilty after?

Perez: No, because I know I did all that I could. I was there at least two times where it could have happened but it didn’t because I was there. Who knows even if I’d been there on March 31 what could have happened the next day or the day after?

CNN: Do you think she would have found mainstream success?

Perez: She definitely had the work ethic and I think that’s the most important thing and of course the natural talent. You need the work ethic, the ambition, the right frame of mind, she had all of that.

CNN: It’s amazing how popular she still is.

Perez: When she passed away the outpouring of love and support that we got from the fans shocked us. We weren’t prepared for that. So I thought I knew about it but then when this book came out the response that we’ve gotten from that I’m actually shocked again. I didn’t realize that I was putting something out there that all those fans had been waiting for. The response has been crazy.