Hello there everyone, I’m proud to bring to you an interview with Emma Newman, I met Emma at the SciFi Weekender in March and she was completely rushed off her feet with fans and book signings.
Emma drinks far too much tea, writes dark short stories and fantastical novels and is also a professional audio book narrator. Her new Split Worlds series, described as “JK Rowling meets Georgette Heyer” by the Guardian, was recently published by Angry Robot Books. Her hobbies include dressmaking and gaming of all kinds. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms. You can sign up for a year and a day of free weekly Split Worlds stories at www.splitworlds.com/stories
But I finally managed to get my interview with Emma and here it is, I hope you all enjoy reading it.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t feel that it was a specific thing per se, rather a culmination of lots of ingredients that got thrown into the boiling pot. It was a YA post-apocalyptic novel and I think commuting in and out of London was enough to inspire the setting.
As for the first book of the Split Worlds series, that started with a flash story of less than 1000 words set in the Emporium of Things in Between and Besides. I have no idea where it came from, as it was there in my head when I woke one morning. That’s the only time a story has made itself in my sleep, as far as I recall anyway. That was several years before I wrote the novels.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I think I am the worst person in the world to answer that question! I’m referring to the nuts and bolts language and word-craft here. All I know is that people have said they recognise my style, what that is I couldn’t tell you. I write character-driven novels with plots that take people by surprise, judging by the feedback I’ve had.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I shy away from wanting my readers to take away a message because it seems preachy and dictatorial. I have no control whatsoever over the way a reader interacts with my work. Ten people can read a book and interpret it in ten different ways, none of which may resemble what the writer was trying to convey. Sometimes people have identified things in my books that I have never considered, which is a both an exciting and sometimes scary experience!
That being said, several themes emerged during the writing of the books. There’s a lot of feminism in there and the entire series is partly an exploration of how the patriarchy can damage the lives of men as well as women. There’s a lot about personal freedom and bravery too. But at no point did I sit down and decide to write a book about those things. I just wrote the story that I most needed to tell at the time.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
If you mean the experiences of the characters, I suppose there are tiny slivers of personal experience. No author creates characters and worlds in a vacuum. We are walking composters, taking in peelings and detritus from our everyday lives – and all the things we consume that other people have created – and then growing our own from the mulch. I would be delusional if I said that nothing of my own experiences crept into my novels. However, I can safely say I’ve never experienced having my soul dislocated and housed within a gargoyle, and neither has anyone I know. Sometimes we just make stuff up.
What books have most influenced your life most?
The Artist’s Way helped me out of a ten year long block, so that had a huge impact on my life at a particular point. I can’t think of any that have changed my life in any other way. As for which books have most influenced my writing… Shogun, I suppose, by James Clavell. That book is in my all-time top three, mostly because it taught me that complex political intrigue can be deftly woven into a damn good rip-roaring heroic tale of adventure.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
For me, a mentor is someone who is actively involved in your life and helps you to shape your career. By that measure, I don’t have a mentor who is a writer.
I have writers who are my heroes, who inspire me and give me someone to look at and think “I just need to work hard and hopefully I’ll be a fraction of how epically cool they are.” Neil Gaiman is one, and Melinda Snodgrass and Mary Robinette Kowal are others.
I have friends who are writers who have helped me understand this world of promotion and professionalism and writing whilst “out there” in the public eye. Paul Cornell is someone who has been extraordinarily kind to me over the past couple of years and who has made me feel very welcome at conventions, as has Adam Christopher.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Lou Morgan and Anne Lyle spring to mind, their books are relatively new and they are brilliant. There are doubtless a tonne of others that I’ll regret leaving out of this!
What are your current projects?
I’m writing a novel that is totally unrelated to the Split Worlds series. I’m also planning a new project relating to the Split Worlds that I’m really quite excited about. I think (and hope!) it’s something the fans of the series will really enjoy.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, but if you ask me the same question in a year or two that might change! I look back on my very first novel and wish I could just totally overhaul it. But I’m genuinely satisfied with all three books in the Split Worlds series. I wouldn’t want to change anything about them. They are what they are.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
No, it’s always been there as long as I remember. My grandmother’s favourite story about me is that she found me working hard at something at her kitchen table and when she asked what I was doing, I said; “writing a story Nana.” I was four. That’s probably why I don’t remember it. I guarantee that story I wrote was total rubbish.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m afraid not! I have a strict policy of not sharing my work-in-progress with anyone until it’s done. The only exceptions I make are my husband, my agent, my best friend and another trusted friend. I will say that it’s science-fiction and nothing like the Split Worlds whatsoever.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Managing the fear. I have to consciously battle it every day. I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, which doesn’t help. It’s manageable but, coupled with the usual doubts that all writers experience, it can be a tad overwhelming occasionally.
Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have so many! James Clavell for the reason given before. Alfred Bester, China Mieville, Ray Bradbury – the list goes on! I can’t say which is my favourite. I’m reading The Scar by China Mieville at the moment though, so focusing on him, it has to be the richness and depth of his worlds. So many ideas!
Who designed the covers?
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing my current book is that it seems to be being written from a totally different place within me, compared to the Split Worlds series. It feels like a deeper part of myself is passing stuff directly to the page and sometimes I feel I have no grip on it until I’ve read it to my husband and thereby processed it consciously. It’s a completely different experience to writing the Split Worlds novels. Oh dear, I sound a bit pretentious saying all that, but it’s true and a bit freaky.
The hardest part of writing the Split Worlds novels was getting Cathy right. She’s one of the main characters and she’s the most heavily involved in the feminist aspects. I really didn’t want to screw that up as I feel so strongly about it all.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Ignore all the advice given by other writers. Seriously. You have to find your own way to write. There’s a reason there’s so much conflicting advice out there: we’re all different and a technique that will suit one writer will tangle another in knots. Only you can find the best way to be productive and improve.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A great big juicy thank you is the first thing that occurs to me! Honestly, thanks for reading the books and being so wonderfully enthusiastic about the Split Worlds series. It means a huge amount to me.
Thank you Emma.
You can find out more about Emma and her books from her personal blog: Em’s Place. You can also follow her on Twitter @emapocalyptic and it’s where Emma hangs out the most. She loves to chat so come and say hello!
On Soundcloud (all the audio versions of the Split Worlds stories are over there) https://www.soundcloud.com/ejnewman
The Split Worlds website, including over 50 free short stories: http://www.splitworlds.com.