I recently interviewed Em Newman, the author of 20 Years Later and From Dark Places.
All links to Em’s work is at the end of the interview – please be sure to have a look. She is a very fine writer!
Hi Emma, and welcome to fringescientist.com!
EN: Hello and thanks for inviting me.
Firstly, let’s talk about your book From Dark Places. What is it and what is it about?
EN: It’s an anthology of 25 short stories, and as the title suggests, they are united by an underlying theme of the darker side of humanity. Humanity and … other things too.
There are 25 stories in From Dark Places. As visitors to your site will know, you are a prolific short story writer, many of which you offer to your readers for free. Do you find it an easy process, determining the plot and premises of your short stories?
EN: It varies widely. Sometimes I read a prompt sent in by a club member and there is an immediate, visceral excitement. I just know that there is a story there waiting to be written. Some stories are harder to excavate than others, some flow fast, some take longer than others to get right after the first draft. Sometimes a story will pop into my head and the first draft is out in twenty minutes.
Prompts that make me ask a question are the ones I choose to work with, and I like that approach for longer short stories – around 2,000 to 3,000 words. The ideas that pop into my head – or “fly into my funnel” as my four year old boy likes to put it, are usually better for flash pieces of 1000 words or less.
I’d like to take this opportunity to mention the fact that you’ve also been featured in quite a few short story anthologies, some of which are Best Of Friday Flash, 100 Stories For Queensland, 50 Stories For Pakistan, Nothing But Flowers, and The Yin and Yang Books. How did you become involved with those projects?
EN: Twitter. That about sums it up. Friday Flash is a Twitter based community that I’ve been part of for a long time, and I took a shot at getting into the first ‘best of’ anthology and one of my stories was picked. All of the others I was either commissioned for a story, or saw an opportunity to submit a story for consideration, through being plugged into writing communities on Twitter.
I asked Russell Brooks the same question when I interviewed him: do you think that ebooks truly are the future of the publishing industry? Are traditional paperbacks headed for extinction?
EN: You know, to be completely honest I find this whole debate / argument / near panic about e-books killing off print books a bit boring. And silly. As a writer, I don’t care whether people read my books in print, on a Kindle or a Sony Touch or written in ink across their lover’s body. All I want is for them to be taken away from their lives, and how my worlds are delivered to them makes no difference to me.
As a reader, I love print books, I love my Sony Touch for use as an audio book narrator and I would love to own a Kindle now that they are soon going to accept ePub format and not lock people into Amazon alone. I find it crazy that people are running around saying the sky is falling when there are millions of people who have never held an e-reader. Everyone, calm down and have a cup of tea. I’m sure it’ll all work itself out in the end, it always does, regardless of how many people are out there writing sensationalist headlines that people love to retweet about the death of publishing.
Is that too harsh?
Not at all. You self-published From Dark Places previously – how did you find the process of putting your work into book form and selling it yourself? And how did your publisher come to pick it up?
EN: I found the production of the 1st edition fairly straight forward as it was only an e-book and I have a very talented best friend who designed the cover for me (which the publisher only tweaked slightly for the 2nd edition). But I didn’t have it professionally edited, and I regret that. There were 11 stories in the first self-published edition, and the thing I found the hardest was promoting it. I still find that hard.
It got picked up by my publisher kind of by accident. I was waiting for my novel to be published, and realised I could have done From Dark Places better, so I approached Jodi Cleghorn from eMergent Publishing to ask if she would consider editing it on a freelance basis. I asked her because she was my editor in the Red Book and Yin and Yang books, both published by eMergent who had commissioned me for two stories (after seeing me out and about on Twitter). I trusted her as an editor you see.
So anyway, we were talking about why I wanted her to edit and she told me she’d bought it the year before and had really enjoyed the stories, but could see they’d be better when edited. Then she asked if instead, eMergent could offer me a contract and publish the new edition in print and e-book formats. I nearly fell off my chair. Then I said yes!
I’m sure that’s not how these things are supposed to happen. By then I’d written lots more stories, so I picked the best of the new ones, wrote one just for the 2nd edition, sent them to her and the editing began. Four months later I was holding a printed second edition in my hand. She did a fantastic job, and found nook and crannies in the stories that I hadn’t seen.
Your other book is 20 Years Later, published by Dystopia Press – tell me about it. What’s it about?
EN: It’s set in post-apocalyptic London twenty years after ‘It’ killed almost everyone and focuses on an intense friendship that forms between three teenagers as they search for a kidnapped sister. It’s about friendship in adversity, loyalty, the loss of innocence and how people survive. My publisher wrote an ace blurb actually:
LONDON, 2012: It arrives and with that the world is changed into an unending graveyard littered with the bones, wreckage, and memories of a dead past, gone forever.
LONDON, 2032: Twenty years later, out of the ashes, a new world begins to rise, a place ruled by both loyalty and fear, and where the quest to be the first to regain lost knowledge is an ongoing battle for power. A place where laws are made and enforced by roving gangs—the Bloomsbury Boys, the Gardners, the Red Lady’s Gang—who rule the streets and will do anything to protect their own.
THE FOUR: Zane, Titus, Erin, Eve. Living in this new world, they discover that they have abilities never before seen. And little do they know that as they search post-apocalyptic London for Titus’ kidnapped sister that they’ll uncover the secret of It, and bring about a reckoning with the forces that almost destroyed all of humanity.
20 Years Later is published in May of this year, isn’t it?
EN: Yes, the e-book version is out now, and the hardback is due for release on July 5th. I cannot wait to hold a hardback version in my hands! I’ve only seen a paperback proof, so I am really excited about it.
And I believe that you’re in the process of writing the sequels too, aren’t you? How is that going?
EN: Book two (20 Years Later: Legacy) is all written and currently with beta readers. Book three (20 Years Later: Revelation) is about 30,000 words away from being finished, but so much of my time is going into promoting From Dark Places and the impending hardback release of 20 Years Later that progress is pretty slow. I’m hoping for some serious writing time again once this latest round of launches for From Dark Places is over.
To beginner novelists out there, what’s the best advice you can give them starting out?
EN: Don’t listen to advice.
Seriously! When it comes to learning how to write, it’s all about learning how you write. Everyone does it differently, and if you start fretting about whether you are a “proper writer” because you’re not cranking out 1000 words before 6am every day, you’ll get miserable very quickly.
But if people want to read what I remind myself every time I write a first draft, this might help:
Emma, tell me about your voice work. I believe you do this freelance. How did you get into this line of work?
EN: Whilst I was still struggling to find a home for 20 Years Later I started podcasting it a chapter at a time, just on my website. I started to get the most amazing (and surprising!) feedback about my voice, and thought I’d get a better microphone and give it a go.
How do you split your time between doing the voice work, writing, and taking care of your family?
EN: Poorly. Seriously, there aren’t enough hours in the day. I often work 12 hours plus, usually 6 days a week and spend time with my family when I can. I’m the main breadwinner, so earning steady money, plus building a writing career and doing audio work demands a lot of time.
Whilst we’re on this train of thought, I am a follower of yours on twitter and I wanted to ask what your favourite brand of tea is. I’m partial to regular PG, Twinings Earl Grey and Pukka Tea with Aniseed myself…
EN: I’m a PG Tips fan, that’s my every day tea. I also like English Breakfast tea too. I really can’t stand herbal and fruit teas. They always smell so promising and then taste like dishwater.
Emma I’m going to ask you five questions!
1. Favourite Book/Series of Books
EN: Oh blimey. It’s one of my many fears that one day someone will ask me this question with a gun to my head and I still wouldn’t be able to answer truthfully. I love so many, does it have to be just one?
Off the top of my head, my favourites include Shogun, Dune, Day of the Triffids, Fahrenheit 451, actually, anything written by Ray Bradbury and Bester’s ‘The Demolished Man. Oh, and Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. And the Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami. Oh I can’t narrow it down!
2. Who would play you in Emma Newman: The Motion Picture?
EN: Look, I like to think I am imaginative, but even my imagination won’t stretch to that. Errr…. Harold Lloyd? No… Jodi Foster. If she can do a British accent and be made much less pretty. I’m much taller and uglier than she is!
3. If you could stipulate an inappropriate song choice for your own funeral, which would it be?
EN: Maybe “The Galaxy Song” by Monty Python.
Actually, I think “Dear Friends” by Elbow would be better.
I’m no good at these “just pick one” questions am I?
4. Which website would you say you visit the most on a regular basis?
EN: Goodreads.com I think. It would be Twitter, but I don’t use the site, I use Tweetdeck.
5. This is the last question, I swear! Where do you see yourself in five years time?
EN: I know where I want to be in five years time, that may not necessarily be the same thing! I want to be writing fiction full time and earning a living from that and audio book narrating. I love both with a passion, and all of the other work I do at the moment to pay the bills is hugely frustrating! The 20 Years Later trilogy will be out there, I’ll have written my next trilogy (which is already battering the inside of my skull) and hopefully will still be writing short stories.
Before we go, Em, is there anything you’d like to say to your readers? Or any people in particular?
EN: To my readers? All I would say is get in touch! Being a writer is a strange and lonely life, and I always worry about whether people are actually reading and enjoying what I write. Come and tell me what you thought about From Dark Places or 20 Years Later, I’d love to hear from you. It’s easy to get in touch with me through my website.
And I’d also like to humbly ask that if people like what they read, tell other people! Both of my books are published by small presses and we rely on word of mouth to survive. Be vociferous!
And also; never underestimate the power of a good cup of tea.
And we’re at the end! Emma, thank you for agreeing to this interview. It’s been a delight! Hopefully we’ll chat again soon!
About Emma Newman
Emma drinks too much tea, has too many ideas and writes too many stories. You can find out more about her debut novel ’20 Years Later’ HERE and the e-book is available for sale now from all major e-book vendors. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at http://www.enewman.co.uk.
‘From Dark Places’ is available in print and e-book book formats. You can buy a signed copy from her website http://www.enewman.co.uk/my-books/buy-a-signed-edition-of-from-dark-places and and VAT free copies of the e-book in PDF, kindle and ePub formats here: http://www.enewman.co.uk/my-books/buy-from-dark-places-as-an-e-book
If you like dark short stories, join Em’s Short Story Club to get an original short story for free in your inbox every month.
Emma has recorded audio books for publishers and has narrated short stories for fiction podcasts.
To find out more about her voice work go to http://www.enewman.co.uk/voice where you can also listen to a couple of quirky flash stories written by emerging writers and find links to lots of stories. Emma loves recording speculative fiction, horror, science fiction and steampunk.
You can find Emma on Twitter: @emapocalyptic