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.

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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!

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

This series is about Stephanie Plum. After losing her job as a lingerie buyer for E. E. Martin, which by no means was her fault, she decides to go to her cousin Vinnie’s bond company and try to make some quick cash catching fugitives, or FTAs (Failed to Appear). She gets her FTAs from Connie, the office manager for Vinnie, who has big hair, big boobs, and a big, Italian mouth.

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)

This book is about Stephanie’s first FTA, Joe Morelli, a cop who has been accused of murder. His bond was out for $100,000, which puts Stephanie at a cool $10,000 if she can bring him into the police station. Joe Morelli does not have a great reputation when it comes to women, which Stephanie knows firsthand, having lost her virginity to him when she was 16. They have an interesting past, and it keeps being brought out on their occasional meetings. These meetings are pretty funny, because Stephanie is new to this whole bounty hunter thing, and she does not have the best luck capturing Morelli. Luckily, her mentor in bounty hunting, Ranger, is there to help her along the way.

 I got the recommendation to read this book from my mom, and pretty much all the other women in my extended family. Since we don’t generally see eye-to-eye on reading material, I was weary before starting. I was pleasantly surprised at how well written it turned out to be. Although it gets my mom to laugh out loud on many occasions, I was still surprised that I found myself chuckling now and then, usually when Stephanie is at home, conversing with her hamster, Rex.

I really enjoyed this book. Evanovich has a way with phrasing, and I found myself mentally making notes of phrases that I really enjoyed — I physically wrote down some from the later books that I may share. Also, Stephanie Plum is a pretty strong female character who is fun to read about. Perhaps this just came at the perfect time in my life, or perhaps it really is as good as it’s cut out to be. Either way, One for the Money is a quick read and is definitely worth your time.

Also, every book in the rest of this series kind of spoils the ending of this one, so if you care to find out on your own what happens, read this one before you read the rest of my reviews. If you don’t mind spoiling a little bit of the fun, you can still get enjoyment out of this book knowing what happens in the end. I did, anyway. After reading a few of the other books in the series, this is still easily my favorite.

Stay Tuned Holiday Tour, Interview with Lauren Clark

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Stay Tuned eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you could enter to win many awesome prizes, including lots of Amazon gift cards (up to $100 in amount) and 5 autographed copies of the book. This promotional deal ended on Friday, December 2nd.

Purchase your copy of Stay Tuned for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Over 100 bloggers participated in this gigantic event, and there were plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who received the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well.

The Featured Events included:

Monday, Radio Interview with Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We interviewed Lauren on our radio show Sunday night and have embedded the full podcast and blogged about its highlights. Give it a listen and then leave a comment on the blog post. This is a great chance to get to know more about this fun and bubbly author. One commenter will win an autographed copy of Stay Tuned. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. The winners will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet: Take a break from the holiday frenzy, and read Stay Tuned. It’s fast, fun, and reduced to just 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA1e #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. Two chances to win with just one click! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Stay Tuned either in paperback or on an eReading device, tag Lauren Clark’s Facebook page, and you can enter to win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the most creative photo, $50 to the best BFF photo, and $50 to the photo with the most people in it. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. If you need help learning how to tag a photo, you can visit Lauren’s Facebook page for detailed instructions.

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Stay Tuned: What happens when a #1 news team becomes the top story instead of reporting it? For TV producer Melissa Moore, crisis management comes with the job. From employee disputes to her high-maintenance boss, there’s not much she hasn’t seen or can’t handle. But no one—including Melissa—expects a fistfight during the ten o’clock news. When sexy-but-crazy Alyssa Andrews lands a punch on her co-anchor’s face, Melissa jumps on set to help. She’s determined that WSGA’s reputation won’t be destroyed on her watch. Both anchors are fired and Melissa agrees to fill in—but not before polishing her look from haircut to heels. While the new Melissa wows WSGA viewers, her personal life starts fraying at the edges. Melissa’s husband is away more than he’s home, leaving cryptic Post-it notes in his wake. Her mother’s antics spiral out of control at the nursing home and a stalker decides Melissa is her next target. What happens next? Stay Tuned to find out… Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: Lauren Clark has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Let’s get to know Lauren better through a rousing Q&A…

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. For as long as I can remember. Of course, my parents always remind that I also wanted to be an Indian princess named Tiger Lily, but that dream was more short-lived. On a serious note, I do have fond memories of spending my summer days toting stacks of books back and forth from my house to our town’s library. It always seemed like a magical place, with endless stories to get lost in.

You worked as both an anchor and producer after graduate school. How did that influence the writing of Stay Tuned?

So much! It was an accident, really, getting into broadcast journalism. I always thought of myself as a behind the scenes kind of girl, but after my first day on the job, I loved it and stuck with it for the next 6 years. Working in television is never boring. There’s always a story, always the next show. The camaraderie in the newsroom is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s like living in a big, loud, mostly happy, very dysfunctional family every day.

What gave you the idea for Stay Tuned?

True story: A few months before I took my first television job as a part-time health reporter, the two main anchors at one of the local television stations (who were romantically involved) got into a fistfight. They were outside the building, in the station parking lot. Shortly thereafter, they were both fired. In the months that followed, the two of them bantered back and forth in newspaper editorials, threatened lawsuits, and fueled all sorts of crazy retaliation stories. I never forgot about that incident and always thought about what might happen if such a fistfight happened on air, during a newscast. What would happen? How would it be handled? Who would fix this kind of mess?

What did you learn from being on air?

It’s very humbling, really. As a producer, especially, you are in charge of what’s being put out there—the news stories people watch and talk about each day. It’s a big responsibility to get it right. Not just sometimes, but all of the time. There were many sobering days—car accidents, house fires, school shootings—and those stories should be told with sensitivity and care. It’s someone’s son or daughter or parent. Everyone matters.

What was your most memorable experience as an anchor or reporter?

I was on set during 9-11. I remember sitting there with our weatherman and waiting to be cued to go back on air after the commercial. CBS cut in and showed footage from a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was surreal and awful. We were all in shock. It didn’t seem possible. All I wanted to do was go home and hug my son.

Was it a difficult decision to leave television?

Yes and no. I loved so many parts of broadcasting. I was able to meet fascinating people – Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro, then-New York Attorney General Eliott Spitzer among many others. I adored the people I worked with, especially the folks behind the scenes. I was also fortunate enough to win several AP awards for anchoring and reporting.

On the flip side, I worked crazy hours (2 am – 10 am) and, as is typical in the industry, I received very little vacation time. I anchored every holiday (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, you name it) and wasn’t able to spend much time with my young son. After more than six years, I “retired” from TV news. It was then that I really started to get serious about writing fiction.

How long did it take to write Stay Tuned?

About five years, all said and done. I wrote several other novels before that—and those manuscripts will never see the light of day! When I began Stay Tuned, I had just given birth to my second son, so my writing time was very limited. After putting it away for several years, I picked it back up about 12 months ago, brushed it off, and had an editor-friend look it over. We made some changes, tweaked the story, and fine-tuned the plot. A few months back, I was offered a contract with a small publishing company. Another friend introduced me to the talented and fabulous Emlyn Chand at Novel Publicity, who helped guide me through the entire publishing process. It’s been a wonderful journey!

What’s next? A sequel or a stand-alone novel?

Dancing Naked in Dixie is next (stand alone title) and I’m so excited to share that it’s been selected as a finalist for the 2011 Chick Lit Writers “Get Your Stiletto in the Door” Contest (Winner will be announced December 20, 2011).

Dancing Naked follows the story of a talented but scattered travel magazine writer who returns from overseas only to find out she’s on the verge of getting fired. To save her job, she reluctantly accepts an assignment in the Deep South. She’ll be writing an article about Eufaula, Alabama’s annual Pilgrimage event, which is a long-standing spring tour of antebellum mansions (the location is featured in the Reese Witherspoon’s movie, Sweet Home Alabama). Upon arriving in Eufaula, Julia falls in love with the area, its cast of charming characters, and her handsome tour guide. When she discovers that a developer has big plans to buy up many of the historic homes and turn the area into a tourist site, it’s up to Julia to save the day.

What is your writing schedule like?

With two growing, active boys and a busy husband, finding time to write is like looking for a missing Lego piece in a houseful of toys (Moms should appreciate that!) I often get up very early and write while everyone else is asleep or go to the lovely campus of our local university and shut myself in a study room. I love it there because I have to shut off my phone and I don’t have the password for an internet connection! No distractions! Of course, I do frequent two or three local coffee shops and draw inspiration from my daily dose of caffeine and good friends!

Who are your favorite writers? Favorite books?

Gosh, there are so many! My all-time favorites include Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Jennifer Weiner, Chris Bohjalian, John Grisham, Amanda Eyre Ward, and Lisa See. I also love Lisa Scottoline, Janet Evanovich, and James Patterson. Favorite books include: Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, and Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (this is a children’s book that I’ve read over and over to my two boys).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read. A lot. Write. A lot. Revise. A lot. I’m not joking.

Anyone can write. Writing well is different. It takes focus and tenacity and determination. I’ve heard Stephen King quoted as saying, “The first million words are practice. Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, says, “It takes 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to become expert at anything.” Just to be clear, at 4 hours a day (28 hours a week), that’s 7 years. I’m not quoting the experts to scare anyone or be a harbinger of doom. It’s the truth.

Pick up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s brilliant and so true and funny in so many sections. If you’re serious about becoming an author, learn as much as you can. Read blogs and books about the craft, network with other writers, or go to a writer’s conference. Above all, write!

Interview with Austin Briggs, author of Five Dances with Death

Austin Briggs, whose book I recently reviewed (Five Dances with Death: Dance One), has granted me an interview with a look into the research and future of his work. I received his book through Adopt and Indie and have really enjoyed communicating with him. I hope to get involved in this program again in February. To learn more:
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1. What gave you the idea for such a unique and complex setting?
I’ve been attracted to the Native American cultures as long as I can remember myself. In my childhood, I was mostly obsessed with the Incas and Mohicans, Hurons and Cherokees. The Aztecs caught my interest relatively late.

Mexico is an incredibly compact location with all sorts of climates and conditions crammed into a narrow, relatively small space. This has enabled many diverse and rich cultures to develop, making the place endlessly interesting.

I’m also intrigued by the idea of a society that is about to lose itself entirely, because I’ve lived through such collapse.

2. What kind of travel or research did you do for Dance One?

Before I dared publish the first book, I spent 10 years researching.

I have, of course, read every single tome I could find about the Aztecs, starting from the first letters sent home by the Conquistadors, to the latest research papers. I studied both the European and Native documents. I learned some Spanish and Nahuatl to understand them better.

Most importantly, I travelled across Mexico and visited the places where my characters lived, fought their battles, and struggled with their choices.

Mexico taught me some hard lessons. For example, I had two books worth of text by the time I first visited the country, written based on what I imagined the Aztec culture would be after reading many historical sources. After two weeks of travelling around Mexico, I understood that I had written complete rubbish. So I deleted my books and wrote everything again, this time, hopefully, bringing real life into my texts.

Some readers ask me why did I add elements of magic into the story. I did that after visiting Mexico. If you slow down, step out of the cities and listen, you may see magic in many places. I’m not talking pretty flowers. I’m talking sorcery, old beliefs, persistent ideas that may seem either beautiful or superstitious, depending on your mindset.

3. Will your next book (in this series) be in a similar setting?

Yes, absolutely. The setting will naturally expand to include more details of the Spanish conquest, but the action will continue along the route of Cortés from the Caribbean coast to what now is Mexico City.

4. Tell me about your current work — are you working on any side projects or just focusing on Five Dances with Death? Do you have the other four books planned out, and if so, when can we look forward to reading them?

No side projects for me. Between a full time job in corporate business, a family with three kids, and much travel, I have time to focus on one writing project at a time.

The rest of the series is fully planned and developed. In a week I’m returning to Mexico to start writing the second book.

It takes a few months to finish writing and prepare the book for launch, so will be adding books reasonably soon.

5. Do you have any fun/weird habits that you do while you write?

Yes, I do.

Here’s one. I try to feel my protagonist’s mood. If he’s scared, I try to find the scariest place in my house to write – for example, at night with my back to the dark forest outside. If he’s drunk, I get drunk. If he’s angry, you can bet that so am I at the time.

Another habit of mine is to put either a piece of black obsidian from Mexico, or a silver statuette of a dancing Aztec warrior on my desk as I write. These things get me in the mood. The obsidian mystifies me, and the warrior doesn’t let me relax.

6. What are you currently reading: book or series, what do you like about it? Would you recommend it?

Right now, I’m enjoying the Lyonesse series by Jack Vance. I literally can’t put that book down. Just before that, I read Vanessa Wu’s stories. I passionately recommend both. Although dramatically different, they share true love for good language and a good story.

7. Tell me a little about your involvement with Adopt an Indie. Are there any myths or stigmas surrounding small publishing that you would like to abolish?

I heard about Adopt an Indie by chance, and decided to apply. Happy that you’ve found me, I’ve enjoyed our interaction.

As for the myths and stigmas… I remember feeling puzzled when one reviewer mentioned twice or thrice that my book was self-published. My first reaction was “Who cares?”

Then I realized that some folks indeed care. I don’t.

A book is a book. When I read, I judge the book, not the publisher. I never notice who publishes what. I love books, not the brand of the paper they’re printed on.

I self-publish by choice; I don’t feel stigmatized for choosing freedom.

8. Do you have any advice for authors who are looking to either self-publish or publish with a small company?

I’d suggest taking your time. Don’t rush to publish. Edit, then edit again, and edit yet again. Respect your readers, and spare them your rushed scenes and typos. You’re an entrepreneur, not an amateur; behave like one!

Here’s an example: I gave my book four professional edits and seven proofreads. Both commercially successful authors and Ph.D.’s in literature worked on perfecting my text. Still, at least one typo made it through. A friendly reader pointed it out to me, and I’ll fix it soon.

And another thing… don’t spend too much time with the fellow authors. Quit checking your sales numbers every hour. Get off the Kindle Boards or whatever forum you frequent.

Instead, connect with your readers, listen to them, and write quality stuff.

9. 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?

Is your book coming out in any other languages?

Yes! The Spanish translation will soon be ready. After that, I may translate my books into German, French and Russian.

10. Any last thoughts?

Thanks for your nice questions