Interview: Emma Newman, Author of Between Two Thorns

A few weeks ago I reviewed Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns, the first in her Split Worlds series. I had previously been unfamiliar with the parallel universes Emma had created in a series of short stories online, but I quickly became a huge, obsessive fan. Luckily Emma was kind enough to take some time out of her day filled with writing, tea and facilitating crowd-sourced magic to answer a few questions for us here at Working for the Mandroid.


First of all, any advice for someone trying to find their way back to the real world after spending time in the Split Worlds? It's been three weeks and I still haven't found my way back to the real world!

You're asking me? I have no idea. I've been half here and half there for years now! 


How would you describe your Split Worlds series to someone who has no idea what a faerie is?

Blimey, I find it hard enough explaining it to people who do know what a faerie is! A review said it was JK Rowling meets Georgette Heyer and I thought that was pretty cool. I've described it as the aristocratic side of Downton Abbey but with mad sorcerers and evil faeries. Whoops… erm… how about: A man without a soul and a woman rebelling against her family and the supernatural beings who control it try to solve a mystery set in the real world and its magical reflection. 

(Note: The review Emma is referring to was a really great write up in The Guardian newspaper.)

 If you could choose, would you prefer to stay in Mundanus, join the Faerie touched Great Families in the Nether or prance around with Fae royalty in Exilium?

Well there's a question! I've never been very satisfied with Mundanus. It simply doesn't have enough magic in it. However, living in the Nether would be awful. No sunshine, no rain, just mists. Urgh. It's a sure recipe for depression when you consider how women are treated there too. Exilium is truly beautiful but absolutely terrifying to me. Can I stay in Mundanus but have a friend from the Nether who sneaks me into the parties? 


If the Shopkeeper of the Emporium of Things in Between and Besides allowed you one item, what would you ask him to take from the shelves?

This is officially the best question I've ever been asked in an interview! I'd be tempted to purchase a luck egg – because who doesn't need a huge dollop of luck once in a while? – but I think it would have to be a Persuasion Pearl with a delicate filigree setting, threaded onto a strand of silk. I would then seek opportunities to speak to male-dominated organisations to expound upon the valuable role women can play in business, government and scientific research. Whilst I don't think the arguments need magical aid – they can stand up on their own after all – I would be a lot more effective with a little bit of magic behind me. There are several other things I can imagine using it for, but they would be rather unethical!  


Which Fae overlord is your favourite?

Lord Poppy. He is deliciously insane and makes the most awful threats in the same tone as one would use to offer ice-cream to a child. I wouldn't want to meet him though; it would be so easy to get something wrong and end up with an appalling curse. 


What made Angry Robot the perfect publisher to bring the Split Worlds into book form?

There are several reasons. One is that they specialise in fiction that has a healthy disregard for strict genre boundaries. The Split Worlds series is broadly speaking urban fantasy but has noir elements and Austen-esque alt-historical society politicking alongside real world computer programmers getting tangled up in fairy curses. I guess I'm saying it's a bit weird and Angry Robot gets that.

 The other reason is that Angry Robot does a grand job of being responsive to readers and quick to adapt to changes in the market. For example, they've been selling DRM free e-books for ages and are pioneering a scheme to give paperback buyers in independent bookshops the e-version of the book for free. The way they keep in touch with reviewers and readers is great too.

Thirdly they are just fabulous to work with. My editor, Lee Harris, not only knows his stuff but also handles my anxiety brilliantly and is very understanding. For example, he knows that phone calls out of the blue freak me out, so he texts beforehand to let me know he's going to call and that there is nothing to worry about. He also makes me laugh and he really gets what I'm trying to do with the Split Worlds. He and my agent Jennifer Udden (DMLA) have both helped me make the series what it is now and improved my writing too.

Lastly, Angry Robot commissions some of the best covers out there.


Was it your idea or Angry Robot's to publish all three books in the series within nine months? Will the series continue after book 3, All Is Fair?

When I planned to self-publish the series I intended to release on that schedule and was delighted when Lee wanted to follow that plan too. As a reader I hate long gaps between books in a series and by the time the contract was on the table with Angry Robot I had a fairly polished first book and the first draft of the second novel, so we were hitting the ground running.

All I can say about whether the series will continue after All is Fair is that the Split Worlds contains a lot of stories and there are more I'd love to tell. I've written 55 short stories set there as well as the three novels and there's still stuff left to explore. (Note: You can find links to the short stories set in the Split Worlds on Emma’s website here.)


Where did the idea of Three Wishes come from and why start crowd sourcing magic now?

I think I had it when I was writing the first book and it was probably because Cathy has to deal with being granted three wishes by Lord Poppy. I love the idea of crowd-sourcing funding for creative endeavours and simply mashed the two up. I wanted to wait until enough people had read Between Two Thorns to have a decent shot at building a community large enough to be able to help each other's wishes come true. It's been running for a week at the time of writing this and two wishes have been granted and I've heard from others saying they're getting help to make theirs come true.


What would be one of your wishes?

You know, I've been struggling to come up with my three wishes since I launched it! The first one was easy, however: to meet Stephen Fry and have the opportunity to thank him for instilling me with an adoration of language, frivolity and surreal humour. He is one of my heroes and if that opportunity also involved a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake, I'd be in heaven.


You mention that the Split Worlds will be joining the real world starting in August. What should unsuspecting citizens of Mundanus expect? Should we be worried about Fae kidnappings?

I've got all sorts of ideas in development but I don't want to give anything away at the moment. I've been a role player for many years, so it feels like a natural progression to me. Some things have already been seeded in the Split Worlds stories. I can say that, all being well, the first real world stuff will be happening at the Nine Worlds convention in August and that there's no need to worry about kidnappings!


Thank you so much to Emma and the wonderful people at Angry Robot, who hooked me up with this interview. The Split Worlds series is utterly delightful and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Any Other Name, which comes out next week on May 28 in the US and June 6 in the UK. You can learn more about the crowd source magic of the Three Wishes project on Emma’s website here, and she recently started a podcast called Tea and Jeopardy, which you can download from her website here.

You can also find more of Emma around the internet at her personal website, at the official Split Worlds website, on Twitter, and Facebook.

To learn more about the awesome Angry Robot, visit their website and check out their catalog. It’s full of crazy, unusual and fascinating things.


About the Author

Emma Newman was born in a tiny coastal village in Cornwall during one of the hottest summers on record. Four years later she started to write stories and never stopped until she penned a short story that secured her a place at Oxford University to read Experimental Psychology.

In 2011 Emma embarked on an ambitious project to write and distribute one short story per week – all of them set in her Split Worlds milieu – completely free to her mailing list subscribers.

A debut short-story collection, From Dark Places, was published in 2011 and her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults, 20 Years Later, was published just one year later – presumably Emma didn’t want to wait another nineteen… Emma is also a professional audiobook narrator.

She now lives in Somerset with her husband, son and far too many books.