Interview with Emma Newman, author of 20 Years Later

Sometime last year I received an ARC copy of 20 Years Later from the goodreads First Reads program, and I really enjoyed it. From there, I learned of Emma Newman, author of other great things like From Dark Places, and a short story in Nothing But Flowers, which I purchased and intend to read this year. She also does audio recordings of just about everything she writes, and she has quite a pleasant voice, give it a listen.
Author bio
Emma lives in Somerset, England and drinks far too much tea. She writes dark short stories, post-apocalyptic novels and records audiobooks in all genres. Her debut short-story collection From Dark Places was published in 2011 and she’s celebrating the recent publication of 20 Years Later, her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults. Emma recently secured funding to write a new five book urban fantasy series called the Split Worlds and is releasing a short story every week set there. Her hobbies include making Steampunk costumes and playing RPGs. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms.
20 Years Later
I had a few questions about 20 Years Later that Emma obligingly answered…
1. Where did you come up for the idea of 20 Years Later?
In some ways that’s easy to answer, in some ways complicated. The easy answer is that it grew organically, driven by the characters and the geography of post-apocalyptic London. There wasn’t a particular part of the plot that popped into my head right at the start.The complicated answer is that I was watching my boyfriend of the time (now my husband!) starting to play a new game on the PS2 with a very cheesy opening sequence about a post-apocalyptic world. I remembered how much I loved various post-apocalyptic books I’d read years before and had a sudden urge to tell a story set in post-apocalyptic London. Only problem was that I was deep in a ten year long writer’s block. It was so deep I even forgot I used to write. So I had to tell the story a different way: running a roleplaying game for my partner and two friends.The Red Lady was the first character who popped into my head, Jay was the second. I walked around London, looking at potential territories and the three players described the kinds of characters they wanted to be. I built the world around the Red Lady’s Hunters, the Bloomsbury Boys and the requirements of the players and the story grew over about two years I think. Then I stopped running the game for logistical reasons and a few months after that I had finally got to the point when I could start writing the book. But that’s a whole different story!

2. Zane, Titus, Erin, Eve. Do these names hold any significance? How do you choose character/gang names?

The three players chose their own names: Zane, Titus and Erin and I liked them – and couldn’t imagine them as anything different to be honest! As for Eve, there’s a rather dark and unpleasant reason behind her name which would be a spoiler to people who haven’t read the book yet, so I’ll tuck that at the bottom*, if that’s okay?

As for the gangs, well, the Bloomsbury Boys are named after the area of London their territory is in, and the Red Lady’s Hunters is a name reflecting their lifestyle and leader. As for why she’s called the Red Lady, that’s revealed later in the trilogy.

The Weavers of Soho are mentioned, and they take their name from two things: one is that Soho is known (amongst other things) for its fabric shops, the second reason is that they have complex relationships with the gangs forged through trade; metaphorical weavers.

3. We don’t really learn much about Eve in this book, can you give us any hint to what her power is?

I do, in the book! It’s just a hint, and as that’s a major plotline in books two and three, my instinct is to say no more. Sorry.

4. If you had to pick a favorite of the four, who would it be and why?

Titus. Without a doubt. Why? Because he is ruthless without being hateful. He has a determination, to the point of obsession, that really appeals to me, probably because I have those tendencies myself. I love the way he sees the world, the way he’s always on the outside looking in. And he’s got a photographic memory, something I have always wanted.

5. You’ve said that this is the first book in a trilogy. Do you have names or plots planned out for more books set in this world?

I’ve already written them. The second book is called 20 Years Later – Legacy and the third is called 20 Years Later – Revelation. It feels weird to talk about the first book as the final draft went to the publisher two years ago and the first draft was written five years ago. The third book was finished last summer, so when I think about the characters, they’re at the end of the trilogy instead of the beginning!

6. Do you have a date set for the release of the other books? Do you have a blurb or a teaser or anything to keep your readers satisfied until then?

Um, no. Sorry! Dates are completely up to the publisher and I don’t have a blurb that’s good enough to be released into the wild. I will say that book two reveals more of Erin’s story, and the reason why the kids are different is revealed over the remaining two books, that’s the biggest plot line, forming the spine of the series. The consequences of a variety of actions on the part of the Four have a huge impact… but I can’t say more than that.

7. Will we learn more about the Hex project or its creators in sequels?

They’re mentioned, but not a focus. However, the consequences of what happened in the Unders reach into the second and third books.

8. I noticed you’ve written other stories in a dystopian setting. What draws you into that genre?

Yes, I’ve written a few, now you mention it. Some flashes, one a short story commissioned for an anthology called Nothing But Flowers which was a lot of fun. I like both post-apocalyptic and dystopian sub-genres for the following reasons (not in order of preference):

  • They scare me in just the right way – not so that I can’t sleep at night, but enough to make me mindful of the way I live and how society is developing
  • They can show the very best and very worst of human behaviour
  • The best dystopian fiction (i.e. 1984) can make terrifying predictions
  • I’ve always been fascinated by how fragile modern life is, and PA fiction allows me to explore what would happen if all of these little comforts we have are stripped away

9. What projects are you currently working on?

I finished the 20 Years Later trilogy last summer and knew what I wanted to write next. I also knew that if I carried on in my day job, I’d go crazy, so I developed a business plan and got private investment to fund my next project (apparently this has never been done before, according to various publishers I’ve been chatting to recently) called The Split Worlds.

It’s a quirky urban fantasy setting with detective noir, evil fairies, sorcerers, and people just trying to drink their tea in peace. There will be a five book series, and for a year and a day leading up to the release of book 1, I’m releasing a short story every week set in the Split Worlds.

It’s a gruelling writing schedule, but I have never been so happy and contented with my professional life before. The first book is currently with my first round of beta readers, I’m about two thirds into the first draft of the second book and at the time of writing, the sixteenth weekly story will be released, so I’m pleased with where it’s all at.

10. Do you have any fun/weird writing habits?

Hrm, I imagine one writer’s normal is another’s freakish behaviour, so it’s hard to judge. The only habit I have (apart from high tea consumption) is to say out loud before each writing session: “I give myself complete permission to write absolute crap.” I find it helps keep the dreaded internal Censor at bay – remembering that I don’t have to write a perfect first draft usually results in much better writing and a lot less fear.

11. What is your favorite fruit?

Strawberries, but not the ones bought at supermarkets, they just taste like water.

12. If you could pick one question that I didn’t ask that you wanted me to, what would it be, and how would you answer?

Oh blimey! I can’t think of one actually, I already like the ones you’ve asked!

13. Any last thoughts?

Just thank you for the interview, and I hope people enjoy my work. I’m easy to find online, so if anyone reading this is on Twitter, look me up, I’m @emapocalyptic and I love to chat.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!

*Eve’s name is a result of her life as a test subject in the Unders, all the girls are called Eve, plus an individual number, I think hers is Eve 17.

———————–

If you enjoy post apocalyptic literature, I highly recommend checking out 20 Years Later. I just wanted to say thanks again to Emma for answering my questions!

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