Today I’m pleased to welcome Emma Newman back to Bart’s Bookshelf, I last had chance to talk to her back in 2010 when her YA novel Twenty Years Later was about to be released. Since then she’s had success with her urban fantasy Split World trilogy, but next week sees Emma release her first Science Fiction novel, Planetfall, and she’s here to talk a little about it.
Welcome back to Bart’s Bookshelf Emma, it’s been a while! To start with, could you tell us a little about your new book, Planet Fall?
It’s a stand-alone science fiction novel set in a colony that’s been established on a distant planet. The main character is Ren, the colony’s 3-D printer engineer and best friend of the extraordinary woman who led everyone to the planet. When a stranger walks out of the wilderness one day, he disturbs the fragile balance of the colony and various secrets threaten to destroy all they’ve built.
If you could take the place one of your characters (main or minor) for 24 hours whose would you take and why?
Wow… it says something about my book when my first response is none of them! They live on a colony on a distant planet and I am definitely not cut out for that lifestyle.
If I was pushed, I’d have to say Pasha. He’s a minor character who is friends with the protagonist. He is genuinely happy, warm and loving. He gives people the best, biggest hugs and is caring and just lovely, really. Or maybe Kay, who is one of the colony doctors. She’s lovely too and I’d love to have the medical knowledge she does, along with the advanced healthcare tech at her disposal.
It may be related to your answer to the previous question, but what is your favourite place you’ve written about in Planetfall?
Mac’s house, in the colony. His is a perfect example of the combination of synthetic biology and 3-D printing technology that creates the homes the colonists live in. The windows of his house double as aquariums – I would love to have those! It has living moss carpets too, which I would love to test out.
Your previous books have been in either dystopian or urban fantasy, and I know on your blog you’ve mentioned your love of sci-fi, so what was your favourite bit of dipping your toes in to this genre?
I love the tension between writing SF that is scientifically plausible enough to be alluring and exciting, but still having the freedom to take current technology and solutions in whichever direction I like. It’s like the best bits of being a futurologist without having to be held accountable for anything I ‘predict’!
What aspect of writing do you enjoy the most? What part could you happily do without?
I love the bit just before I start writing a new book, when the idea is perfect in my head and so shiny and exciting. I love the first draft too, that feeling of being totally immersed in another world with measurable achievements every day in terms of word count progress!
I’m not so keen on the editing. By that point I have satisfied my selfish need to tell the story and found out what happens in the bits I didn’t plan. Editing holds no excitement but is absolutely critical.
When it comes to the writing life, I could very happily do without all the waiting. Writers are constantly waiting for emails that often have a massive impact on our work schedules and sometimes our entire life! I am not a patient person and I hate uncertainty, so it’s by far the worst part of the job.
You’ve published a few books now, with that experience do you like to keep a tight grip on your characters or do you let them lead you through their stories?
Neither. Or rather, it’s a middle point between the two. I always have an idea of the kind of story I want to tell, about the plot arcs and general beats of a novel. There are often points in the narrative where I may not be sure about how it will go until I get there and that’s because I have to wait and see where the characters are emotionally. I used to think the characters sort of took over at these points, but I’ve come to realise that it’s more the fact that until I have written all the stuff that happens to them beforehand, I cannot empathise with them deeply enough yet to be able to predict what would be natural for them to do, or a natural way for them to react.
It’s a constant interaction between plot, world and characters, all shaping one another. My plots are invariably character driven, but I never feel out of control.
Talking of characters, could you tell us a fact about one of them that doesn’t appear in the books?
One of the characters in Planetfall, a woman called Carmen who doesn’t get along with Ren, left her baby behind on Earth to be one of the colonists. It isn’t mentioned in Planetfall, but it does have an impact elsewhere in the universe….
If Renata was able to read a book from your own bookshelves, which one would she enjoy the most?
What an excellent question! Leaving aside the obvious and silly meta option of Planetfall, I think she would find most joy in looking at my “Stars and Planets” children’s book which was pretty old when I got it in the 80’s! I think all of the outdated ‘facts’ would make her laugh.
Lastly, can you tell us about what’s next, are you working on a new book at the moment?
I am always working on a book! I think it is my default state. I have just sent my second book for Roc to my wonderful editor, Rebecca Brewer, which is another standalone sci-fi set in the same universe as Planetfall.
As for what I’m working on now, I am sworn to secrecy I’m afraid. I don’t like talking about what I’m writing before it’s finished; it saps the creative energy I want to put in the book because in talking about it, I’m accidentally satisfying the story-telling bit of my brain and thereby reducing the drive to explore the idea in writing. In this case, the secrecy is also because I’m writing something that hasn’t been announced yet! Sorry!
Emma’s latest novel, Planetfall, is released on November 3rd, 2015, published by Roc. For more information, visit: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/318550/planetfall-by-emma-newman/
Emma Newman writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. ‘Between Two Thorns’, the first book in Emma’s Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards. Emma’s next book, Planetfall, will be a standalone science fiction novel published by Roc in November.
Emma is a professional 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 on Twitter as @emapocalyptic.
You can check out my previous interview with Emma here.