Thursday, May 9, 2019

Emma Newman Interview - Atlas Alone

Photo Credit: Joby Sessions for SFX Magazine

Emma Newman writes short stories, novels and novellas in multiple speculative fiction genres. She won the British Fantasy Society Best Short Story Award 2015 for “A Woman’s Place” in the 221 Baker Streets anthology. ‘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. Her science-fiction novel, After Atlas, was shortlisted for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke award and the third novel in the Planetfall series, Before Mars, has been shortlisted for a BSFA Best Novel award.

Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-wrote and hosted the Hugo and Alfie winning podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy‘ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking, painting, and role playing games.


What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My love of tea is well known, so some readers might be surprised to learn that I have to start my day with coffee. Two cups of coffee, then tea for the rest of the day. 

Other than that, I’m not so sure. I’m not particularly mysterious and I am quite open about a lot of things. Having generalized anxiety disorder, for example.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I’m not sure there was a particular moment of realization. The intense need to create has been there as long as I can remember. As a child I was always writing, or making things (I have very vivid memories of making a moon buggy out of an old shoebox and tin foil) and always making up stories. Very recently I have started painting. It just seems to be woven into me at a very deep level.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was not just a hobby?
There was a particular point in time when I consciously committed to working towards making it more than just a hobby. I was standing in Victoria train station in London after a long and tiring day as a teacher and decided that I needed to really commit to my writing. Not long after that I wrote the first draft of my first novel in twenty-six days. It was terrible, of course, but something important had changed; I was prioritizing the writing over lots of other distractions.

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?
I would be the Sorceress Shaharazad Haas from the Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall. I was lucky enough to be sent the galley to read, as it comes out in June and I absolutely adored it. She is insanely powerful, totally badass and takes no nonsense from anyone. I wish I could be a tenth as awesome and confident as her! She isn’t the nicest person, in fact, she is quite awful, but I would dearly love to be as fearless as she is.

Can you tell us when you started this series, how that came about?
Well, when I started it, it wasn’t a series! Planetfall is a genuinely standalone novel and I had no intention of writing more books in that universe. But then when Ace/Roc bought it, they wanted a second and by that point I’d started to have ideas about the Earth – and one particular person – left behind by the interstellar colonists in Planetfall. 

I had wanted to write a story about someone with Ren’s particular mental illness for many years but the right character and setting and story just hadn’t come to mind yet. Then I read an article about how sensible it would be to ship 3D printers to the moon to print out a new moon base out of the dust and rock already there, instead of shipping pre-fabricated structures, and everything suddenly fell into place. Ren was… there, in my head, the 3D printing engineer responsible for building a new colony on a distant planet. Then I wrote Planetfall.

What part of Dee did you enjoy writing the most?
Her reaction to stress, as that is an exploration of the impact of trauma, which I find fascinating. I wanted her to be cold, calculating, and unable to trust others, as a plausible response to the awful things that have happened to her. But I also needed the reader to care about her too. That tension was an interesting and enjoyable challenge.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
I write deep psychological explorations of my protagonists, so I know them very well as I write. Sometimes I will excavate something along the way that I hadn’t necessarily conceived of, but those things are rarely surprising as they are a natural evolution that springs up from what I’m already familiar with.

What has surprised me however is how I can still cry at interactions between my protagonists and other characters. There’s a scene in Atlas Alone between Dee and her best friend, Carlos, that I wept throughout writing. That was a surprise for me, as I knew what that scene would contain just before writing it, and yet, when I was there with them, the tears just wouldn’t stop.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
I always try to tailor my recommendations to what people are looking for, but if pressed to throw random books I’ve loved recently out there, I’d say ‘Do You Dream of Terra-Two’ by Temi Oh, The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall and A Song For a New Day by Sarah Pinsker (the latter two aren’t out yet but I recommend people pre-order them as gifts to their future selves). 

Who has had the most influence in your life?
It’s probably a toss up between Captain Picard and my Dad. I am not being flippant; I was obsessed with Star Trek:TNG as a teenager and I really do think its morality – in particular the way Picard conducted himself – had a huge impact on my formative years.

The older I get, the more I realise how much like my Dad I am! I am happy with this; he is a really good person; kind, loyal, reliable, and generally awesome. He is an excellent role model in many ways.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
A couple of weeks ago, as I enclosed one with my grandmother’s birthday card. When I am less busy than I am now I write quite a few handwritten letters for the LARP (live action roleplaying) I play.

What’s your favorite piece of clothing you own/owned?
A bold, floor length red coat that I designed and made myself a few years ago. I make outfits before conventions, to help channel my anxiety and give myself sartorial armour to help deal with the stress of having to manage social anxiety and generally being around lots of humans, as lovely as they may be. It is a fantastic coat to wear as it is so dramatic; people look far more at the coat than at me, which is exactly what I aim for!

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
There are many that I do not feel comfortable sharing, as they are traumatic and behind my privacy line. I find it hard to pinpoint one in particular, as I feel the way that I think today is shaped more by multiple long term influences and key friendships and relationships, rather than a certain incident per se. 

What event in your life would make a good movie?
I did have one very strange evening in Oxford when I ended up in a Mini with four nuns in full religious garb. That was… surreal. There were all sorts of strange and unlikely things that happened that year, so I think I’d focus on that year, rather than one event in particular.

Where can readers find you?
I am active on Twitter and Instagram, where I am @emapocalyptic on both, and I have a WEBSITE at but the best way for readers to keep abreast of what I’m up to is to sign up to my newsletter. I send out one general ‘this is what’s going on’ update a month and then a short story set in the Planetfall universe every month too. Readers can sign up at on my NEWSLETTER.

Hugo Award winner Emma Newman returns to the captivating Planetfall universe with a novel about vengeance, and a woman deciding if she can become a murderer to save the future of humanity.

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.
A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth.
Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realizes that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to do something that risks losing her own.

Praise for PLANETFALL Series

“Newman builds on the best elements of her interconnected Planetfall series…[A] winning combination of intriguing mystery and inventive SF.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

“Emma Newman is one of the very best modern science fiction writers pushing the boundaries of the genre.” —Adrian Tchaikovsky, Clarke Award winning author of Children of Time

"Cathartic and transcendent." The New York Times

"Exceptionally engaging...a vivid, riveting read." The Washington Post

"Gripping and sorrowful, this imaginative story is a satisfying return to Newman's future of greed and hope." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A thrilling tale of murder, mystery, and madness...will keep you riveted until the very last page." Kameron Hurly, author of The Stars Are Legion

"Emma Newman creates addictive page-turners." Starburst

"The murder investigation will intrigue readers, while the overall feeling of something more sinister happening keeps the pages turning until the unexpected conclusion." Booklist

You can purchase Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you EMMA NEWMAN for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) by Emma Newman.

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