This week it’s the national Irish convention, Octocon, and many of those of us who aren’t actually running it will be there! Also attending, in a rather grander capacity, is Emma Newman, who will be Guest of Honour alongside Maura McHugh (who we featured in Irish Fiction Friday earlier this year). We caught up with Emma earlier this year at Bristolcon, where she was busy running workshops and sewing blankets, and persuaded her to take part in The Chat!
Social media has revolutionized publishing for everyone involved by collapsing the space between creator and consumer. Has the rise in social media affected you in any way (good or bad)?
I don’t think I would have a writing career without social media. Twitter directly led me to my first book deal and my first short story commission. Of course, I had to do the work too – opportunities are worthless if you don’t have something you’ve written and want to get published – but I wouldn’t have had those opportunities to get my first work out there without social media.
Now that I have a few books out there, social media is the main way I stay connected to several communities and also communicate with readers. It allows me to participate in global conversations with geographically disparate groups of people who care passionately about all kinds of things. It can be a time and energy drain, yes, but I think the benefits far outweigh the costs for me.
It is said that learning to write well is like experiencing a series of never-ending writing related epiphanies. If you had to pick one, what is the most important lesson you have learned, so far?
That no-one can tell anyone else how to write. I’m not talking about the craft itself – I’m talking about cranking those words out and filling pages. I’ve seen people say you should write every day, you should write anything between 1000-2000 words per day, you should write in silence, you should write to music, you should plan everything first, you should never outline – URGH! The list of ‘shoulds’ goes on and on. I am a firm believer that the worst people in the world to give writing advice are writers. All we really know is what works for us. Not anyone else. I think the best thing I realised was that it was okay to experiment and discover my own process. Searching for some elusive secret to getting books written is just an exercise in misery and procrastination. You have to find it for yourself.
What are you working on now? Any new projects, novels, or stories that will be out soon?
I’m editing my second novel for Ace/Roc at the moment, having just finished writing a novelette for Abaddon Books for the ‘Monstrous Little Voices’ anthology which was a lot of fun. That comes out in March 2016, I think. The next novel to be published is ‘Planetfall’ which comes out on November 3rd 2015 and is my first science-fiction novel (my previous series was urban fantasy). I am very excited about it. Ace/Roc have been so supportive and have given the book an amazing cover which I absolutely love!
Do you have any advice for first time convention attendees?
If you’re anything like me, and massively intimidated by large social groups and crowds, that aspect can be tough. And if you find meeting new people hard (like me!) that can also seem intimidating. Happily, I can report from lots of experience that it’s so much easier to make new friends at cons than at the other social events we experience. People are there because they love something, and a shared love of something is a great way to break the ice.
I guess my advice would be to find people who are going to the con on Twitter beforehand and then chat on there first. It makes meeting them in real life a million times easier! And if you’re not on Twitter, see if the con has any newbie welcoming events (I’ve run them for Nine Worlds and will be for Bristolcon this year too) and if they don’t, contact the organisers and suggest it. They can really help make the event less intimidating. Lastly, I would say that if you can, remember that about 99% of the people there are feeling pretty much the same as you!
(The Lesser Snuffle-Nosed Emma hides behind some of our flyers at Bristolcon to protect us from perfidious germs)
Why do you support the Dublin 2019 Worldcon Bid?
Aside from Dublin being a beautiful city and the people being warm, friendly and hospitable? Well, I’m GoH for Octocon in Dublin this year and I’ve been utterly bowled over by the enthusiasm and warmth shown by the organisers and the convention attendees before I have even arrived! Honestly, there are a lot of passionate, friendly and downright lovely people in Irish fandom and I really do think that the Dublin 2019 team would put on a fantastic Worldcon for everyone to enjoy.
Emma is an author, audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy‘. ‘Between Two Thorns’ was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards. Her next book, Planetfall, is a standalone science fiction novel. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs.