Be advised, Internets: Emma Newman is going to rule the world someday. She’s going to rule it from a comfy chair in a lovely library inside her sinister volcano lair. She’s the real deal, and you should be paying a lot of attention. Her new book, Between Two Thorns, is out with Angry Robot Books, and now it’s time to be fixed to the earth with her stare as she tells you about it.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I’m a writer, a role-player, a gamer, a dyed-in-the-wool geek and I love making clothes and costumes. I am also scared of everything. Everything. Apart from tea. I can handle that.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:
Urban fantasy – and a dash of noir – with feuding dynastic families, supernatural patrons, mad sorcerers, evil faeries and nice cups of tea.
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
It grew from a flash fiction I wrote three years ago about the shopkeeper of “The Emporium of Things in Between and Besides” having to deal with an innocent woman accidentally receiving delivery of a faerie in a bell jar. That turned into a weekly flash fiction serial which I wrote for several months before I realised I was actually building the world for a series of novels.
The Shopkeeper and the Emporium survived from the original stories and both feature in “Between Two Thorns.”
Like every single thing I’ve ever written – and I would imagine all other authors – it’s the latest batch of mushrooms that have grown out of the compost. That’s made up of all the experiences I’ve had and the stories I’ve read, dreamed, watched, hoped for and loved. Actually, I hate mushrooms, but hopefully you get the idea.
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
Well, it certainly couldn’t have been written by someone who loves cute fairies and Tinkerbell and that kind of thing. The Fae in the Split Worlds stories are forces of nature and scary as hell.
I think this is a story I could only have written at this time in my life too. I’ve got angry about a lot of things over the past few years and some of that rage went into this world and the stories bound within it.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING BETWEEN TWO THORNS?
Lots of things were challenging, but balancing power between the different factions was one of the hardest. I put a great deal of time and thought into working out how the sorcerers do their thing and how Fae magic – and the Charms derived from their magic – works. The Split Worlds have several powerful groups of people controlling differing aspects and therefore have a direct impact upon the main characters in the novel. Making people who are incredibly powerful able to be plausibly threatened by each other and have their power checked and balanced by their opposition was a critical thing to figure out for the whole series.
There are hierarchies of power within these factions too, of course. I needed to make sure my primary characters could be plausibly threatened but not implausibly hopeless in a world where they have access to magic and sorcerous artefacts.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING THE BOOK?
I learned a lot about writing a lead female character and how difficult it is to strike a balance between having her fall foul of powerful forces yet maintain agency throughout the novel. There are people actively manipulating her life, restricting her freedom and causing her a great deal of stress and misery. I wanted her to be strong in the face of adversity but I didn’t want to shy away from having her be vulnerable. I also didn’t want to just give her a weapon and have her be tough in a traditionally masculine way – not that it would have worked in the setting anyway! I guess what I’m saying here is that writing Cathy made me think a lot about plausible strong characters, whether they are female or not.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE BOOK?
I was going to say the Fae, because they are just so deliciously horrible. But I think it’s the characters. I’ve spent a huge amount of time with them in my head and I still want to know what’s going to happen to them. I worry about them. I feel bad for them. I’m also a bit insane, evidently.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
I wouldn’t commit to writing a short story every week for a year and a day whilst writing, editing and now promoting the series!
Saying that, I’m so glad I have. Now it’s coming to the end of that year and a day, with over fifty stories set in the Split Worlds I feel like I’ve created a lot of world for people to enjoy. That’s what it’s all about for me, as a writer and as a GM.
As for anything I’d do differently with the book itself… you know what? I’m happy that I’ve written the best book I could. No doubt I could edit it *again* if I looked at it in a month or two but I think that’s our curse as writers.
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
As the paragraph is dialogue, I’m going to put in the line before to give it a little bit of context. Lord Poppy is the Fae patron of Cathy’s family and has just found her years after she ran away from a life of privilege and immortality to live in Mundanus – the normal world we live in.
“I’m so glad you understand, Lord Poppy,” she managed a smile.
“As am I! I arrived with a heavy heart, convinced that I was going to have to turn your tongue into a tethered wasp and then enslave you for eternity for having been so disloyal to your family.” He paused as the colour sank away from her lips. “But now I don’t have to, because I understand that it was love that drove you, and how can I deny love? And it really is such a relief, as it would have been so inconvenient, everything has been arranged for so long I was struggling to imagine how I would recover.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
I’m currently beating the rough lump that is the third book of the series into something more like steel than pig iron. After that I have a stand-alone novel that is completely different to the Split Worlds banging on the inside of my skull. That needs to be written, and there’s another project I have to be annoying and mysterious about. Sorry about that. Once those are out of the way I have ideas for two more series’ of books, so I think I’m going to be busy for a while yet.
Emma Newman: Website