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Author Questions / AMAs > I'm Emma Newman - AMA!

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message 1: by Veronica, Supreme Sword (new)

Veronica Belmont (veronicabelmont) | 1666 comments Mod
Welcome to our first Goodreads AMA! Starting at 9AM PT Thursday, March 3rd, Emma Newman will begin taking your questions and popping in throughout the day to answer them. To get a head start, feel free to begin posting your questions here now.

About Emma:
Emma Newman writes science fiction and urban fantasy novels and short stories. She won the British Fantasy Society Best Short Story Award 2015 and 'Between Two Thorns', the first book in Emma's Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer 2014 awards.

Emma is an audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast 'Tea and Jeopardy' which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs.

She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk and can be found as @emapocalyptic on Twitter.


message 2: by Veronica, Supreme Sword (new)

Veronica Belmont (veronicabelmont) | 1666 comments Mod
I'll start:

Emma, urban fantasy is pretty huge these days. Why do you think it's so popular, and what do you do with your writing to keep it fresh?


message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark (markmtz) | 2243 comments Ms. Newman:

Thanks for joining us at S&L.

Latimer is a pretty formidable fellow. Will he be arranging the uprising anytime soon and what should we expect when the butler apocalypse occurs?


message 4: by Emma (new)

Emma Newman (ejnewman) | 5 comments Veronica wrote: "I'll start:

Emma, urban fantasy is pretty huge these days. Why do you think it's so popular, and what do you do with your writing to keep it fresh?"


For me, urban spaces are the perfect setting for fantastical stories. They are so full of people, stories and chaotic energy barely that it simply makes sense for magic to creep in at the edges. I also think that as so many of us live in urban spaces, there is something endlessly appealing about the idea that, just at the edge of our vision, there could be magical creatures or adventures about to begin. I think it also taps into a natural fear of predators, and in particular the fear of being attacked in urban spaces.

As for what I do to keep my writing fresh… well, I have to be completely honest and say that when I wrote the first Split Worlds novel I had no idea it was urban fantasy and I had hardly read anything in that genre. It was only later that I was told it would be categorised as such, and even then, not comfortably! There are several different sub-genre elements all mashed together in this series, not by any conscious design, but that mashing together makes it all seem fresh. Also, readers have told me the fact that the first book of the series, Between Two Thorns, is set in Bath makes it fresh as so many urban fantasies are set in London and US cities.

There were certain things I consciously decided to subvert and play with, and I think that doing that with a few key elements can keep your work from being exactly the same as everything else. I wonder if reading lots outside of the genre before and during writing this series helped to keep it different - I wasn’t sub-consciously retelling any urban fantasy I’d read and loved and wasn’t subverting things found only within that genre. For example, one of the main characters, Max, was created out of a desire to play with the noir detective trope of the man who is left dead inside by constantly seeing the worst of human nature. Max effectively polices the activities of the Fae-touched - people who have the Fae as patrons and live in a secret mirror version of several cities. Instead of being left cold and emotional by life, Max is that way because his soul has literally been dislocated and is now trapped in an animated gargoyle. It gives me a way to explore that sort of noir character with familiar behaviour but for a different reason, which leads to other quirks that make it seem fresh. The gargoyle has turned out to be one of the most popular characters!


message 5: by Emma (new)

Emma Newman (ejnewman) | 5 comments Mark wrote: "Ms. Newman:

Thanks for joining us at S&L.

Latimer is a pretty formidable fellow. Will he be arranging the uprising anytime soon and what should we expect when the butler apocalypse occurs?"


Latimer is rather formidable, especially when it comes to table manners and the correct way to eat scones with jam and clotted cream. I don’t see him as the kind of chap that would lead an uprising, however, more the man who would be whispering in the ear of the puppet prince.

As for the butler apocalypse, well, judging from Latimer’s view of the world, I think it would be a dark day for plastic cutlery, dirty table linen and queue jumpers everywhere.


message 6: by Tom, Supreme Laser (new)

Tom Merritt (tommerritt) | 1147 comments Mod
Hi Emma, big thanks for doing this!

You play to multiple fields not just in writing, through short stories and novels, but in speaking too, with audiobook narration and podcasts! Impressive. Most impressive.

Quite often when we ask authors about pronunciation of character and place names they'll say it's up to the audience. Sometimes narrators will pronounce things differently than the author.

Do you have a stance on this? Should the author dictate how we say these sorts of things out loud or should it be open for variation?

Thanks!


message 7: by Emma (new)

Emma Newman (ejnewman) | 5 comments Tom wrote: "Hi Emma, big thanks for doing this!

You play to multiple fields not just in writing, through short stories and novels, but in speaking too, with audiobook narration and podcasts! Impressive. Most ..."


Thanks to you and Veronica for hosting this!

Whenever possible when I'm narrating a book, I check with the author if there's something that is open for interpretation in terms of pronunciation, for example, a completely made up word or a name that I am unfamiliar with. Other than that, I will pronounce a word in line with standard British RP for narrative, and in line with the character's accent (wherever I am able to do that) within dialogue.

The reason I like to check with the author comes from being an author myself and having very strong ideas about the way things are pronounced in the books I write! That's why I was delighted to be able to narrate most of my own novels. Also, odds are that the author has given thought to pronunciation, and I don't want them to be unhappy with my narration!

I think I am at the fussy end of the scale though, and this is only where audio books are involved. Of course, we all pronounce things in a particular way in our own heads when we read books - particularly character and place names - but when I'm being paid to narrate a book, I want to be sure that what I say is as close to what the author intends as possible. As a narrator, I become a third party in the relationship between the author and the listener, as the way I narrate can influence the experience of the novel. For me, checking pronunciation is a way for me to 'get out of the way' in that relationship. I hope that makes sense!


message 8: by Tom, Supreme Laser (new)

Tom Merritt (tommerritt) | 1147 comments Mod
Emma wrote: "Tom wrote: "Hi Emma, big thanks for doing this!

You play to multiple fields not just in writing, through short stories and novels, but in speaking too, with audiobook narration and podcasts! Impre..."


Makes perfect sense! Thanks for the answer.

If I ever narrate a book I intend to do the same.


message 9: by Philip (new)

Philip | 2 comments Emma: Thank you for joining this AMA! What is your writing process? Do you work out a structure first, or begin with a theme, or just freewheel brainstorm, etc?


message 10: by Louise (new)

Louise (lowies) | 47 comments Hi Emma,

You have written books/stories in many different genres (YA post apocalyptic, horror, urban fantasy, science fiction), do you have a favourite?

Do you set out to write a story in a specific genre or do you simply write a story that ends up being one genre or another?

Have we seen the last of the anti-cake league?


message 11: by Emma (new)

Emma Newman (ejnewman) | 5 comments Philip wrote: "Emma: Thank you for joining this AMA! What is your writing process? Do you work out a structure first, or begin with a theme, or just freewheel brainstorm, etc?"

Right in the very, very early stages a book can start with a question or a niggling thing at the back of my mind that I want to explore. I gradually home in on exactly what it is and then start to make decisions about setting, characters, broad themes (though I often find that I only discover what the true themes are after I've finished the book!) and whether it's single or multiple POV. When it gets to the actual writing part (this has all been in my head up to this point) I have a process that I discussed in a recent interview - I hope you don't mind me pasting it here!

"When it comes to writing the books, I have an idea of what the main plot arcs are for that novel and the major pieces of information that will have to be revealed at certain points for it to hang together. Then I look at each of my main characters and say, okay, at the beginning of the novel they’re in this place, and I think by the end of the novel they are going to be here, how are they going to reach that point, and what happens to them along the way. Then I take about five chapters or so and bullet point what will happen in each one, and then I write them. When I get to the end, I return to my bigger plan of what should come next and compare the two.

The way I see this is like agile coding in the technology world—you can have agile coding or waterfall. With the waterfall approach—I hope I’ve got my terminology right—is the normal approach, when someone goes to a web company and says, “We want you to build this massive, massive website with a backend database that runs our entire business,” the coding company can say, “Yes, what do you need it to do?” The client will tell them, they write it all down, and they design the thing, they build the thing, and they deliver it to the client. And the client invariably says, “Yeah, that’s cool, but all of this other stuff? That’s not how we use this. This doesn’t quite actually do what we know we asked for, but we didn’t know what we actually wanted—we didn’t know the language you use.” So 60% of what you’ve built doesn’t work in the way the client requires.

Whereas if you have an agile coding approach, you take the brief from the client, you break it down into phases and say, “Okay, we’re going to build this first phase.” Then you show the client and say, “This is only 20% of the functionality, but does this do what you think it should do? And is it how you imagined it would be?” And the client can say no when you still have 80% of the stuff yet to build, and so you can tweak things, redesign aspects, and then go into phase two. That is exactly how I write the Split Worlds novels."


message 12: by Emma (new)

Emma Newman (ejnewman) | 5 comments Louise wrote: "Hi Emma,

You have written books/stories in many different genres (YA post apocalyptic, horror, urban fantasy, science fiction), do you have a favourite?

Do you set out to write a story in a speci..."


Oooh, that's a tricky question! I don't know if I do have a favourite. When I am writing in a particular genre, it's because that's what the story I wanted to write suited. I wrote the first Split Worlds novel before I knew it was urban fantasy! Planetfall was different; I consciously chose to write a sci-fi novel because the character I had in mind meshed with a couple of things I wanted to explore that could only be in a sci-fi setting.

I don't let what I want to write be constrained by genre - the urge to explore a question or a character or a situation always comes first. Then the genre.

As for the anti-cake league, well, we have heard some worrying rumours... ;)


message 13: by Rob Secundus (new)

Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments I always wonder if genre writers ever have favorite books/authors that write outside of the conventionally nerdy genres, and if there are any that they think us SFF nerds should be paying more attention to (like Gaiman and Dickens or Grossman and Waugh). Um. I didn't phrase that in the form of the question, but I have to run. So uh-- "thoughts?"


message 14: by Philip (new)

Philip | 2 comments Thank you for that fascinating answer about your process, Emma. I love the idea of agile writing!


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