Emma Newman lives in Somerset, England. Her debut novel 20 Years Later is scheduled for publication in July 2011 by Dystopia Press.

Short Story Collections

From Dark Places
(eMergent Publishing, 2011)

reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Interview with Emma Newman

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Emma Newman: There's a good question! I'm terrible at remembering time spans when it comes to writing, but if memory serves I wrote the first one in July 2009, so taking into consideration the time it took for the collection to be edited and published, the stories were written over an 18 month period. During that time however, I got a publisher for my debut novel, had editing to do on that, then wrote the first drafts of its sequel and most of the final book in the trilogy, and accidentally started a series of 53 flash stories (less than 1000 words) every week, so there was lots of other fiction writing clamouring for attention apart from the short stories in From Dark Places.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

EN: Never! I started writing short stories again after a break of over fifteen years because I was triple-dared into entering a short story competition online. To my complete surprise I won, and got my current website design as a prize. After that, I developed the idea of my Short Story Club which encourages me to produce a story a month, and I also started writing flash fiction as part of the excellent Friday Flash community. When it came to the point I realised I'd written enough to start forming an anthology, I realised they already had a common theme; they all touch upon dark places in the human psyche, and the anthology idea was born. The title comes from the first story I wrote for the Short Story Club, which is also the first story in the anthology.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

EN: I originally self-published an e-book version with only 11 stories, and the only thought I gave to ordering was alternating the longer stories with the flash fiction pieces. In the lovingly edited (and more than twice the size!) edition published by eMergent, Jodi and I discussed the ordering in depth and whilst we kept the same idea of alternating story lengths, we made sure that the order brought out the best in each story and kept the reader fresh. Whilst we both agreed immediately that From Dark Places should be the first story, we had a long discussion on which should be the last. We agreed on Getting Fixed as it is one of stories my club readers said made them laugh out loud, and even though it's black comedy, we wanted to leave the reader in a lighter place at the end. In both the self-published first edition and this new edition, I chose the stories that I felt were the strongest, and which had elicited the best feedback and reactions from club members and members of the Friday Flash community.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

EN: A journey from a place of curiosity to a place of satisfaction. I'm not saying that all stories end with giving the reader all the answers, but there has to be some kind of progression.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

EN: I don't. Now I'm worrying that I should! I'm led by gut instinct and once I have the core concept and the characters in place, the story forms itself, with nary a care for who might end up reading it.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

EN: You mean aside from caving in to my pathetic writer ego and begging them to tell me if they liked it? I would like to ask if they found the stories scary. I don't set out to write scary stories, but many readers have talked about learning not to read them last thing at night and having to leave the light on, and to be honest I've been quite shocked. I suppose when you know what's coming, a lot of the fear is gone.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DH: Exciting, wonderful, fulfilling and terrifying.
   Seriously, I've worked for many years to get published and finally being here is wonderful, but bringing your work out into the world has been forcing me to face up to some big fears about stepping forwards and being seen after years of deliberately hiding in the background.

TSR: What are you working on now?

EN: I'm steadily building a second volume of From Dark Places, and finishing the last book in my 20 Years Later trilogy (the first is being published in July). After that, and once all the book launching madness has calmed down, I'm working on my next project which will combine flash fiction with a trilogy of novels. And I have a secret plan for my Short Story Club too!

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

EN: The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury, my writing hero, Looking for Jake by China Miéville (another hero of mine) and German Popular Stories by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. That last one is a gorgeous old hardback, a reprint of the original 1823 text. And it has that old book smell…
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>