Read the interview below to find out about Emma's inspiration for her work, her ability to balance writing and college (she's only 22) and her thoughts on the controversy surrounding new adult literature.
Ashlyn is a young woman who learns she has an unusual supernatural connection to the Darkworld, a demonic spiritual realm. What inspired this concept?
I thought of the idea of the demons years ago. I wanted to write a magic-and-monsters story but do something totally different with it, and I thought of the idea of a creature that can terrify people without even touching them. As for Ash’s particular connection…there will be more on that in the next book. ;)
Ashlyn begins university as a timid, insecure freshman but as she learns about her connection to demons and sorcerers, she becomes empowered. Do you see Ashlyn's character arc as a metaphor for most college freshmen?
Interesting question! I suppose I wanted to tie Ash’s journey into the idea of university as a time of self-discovery and a first chance at independence - at least it certainly was for me!
You really developed a dynamic cast of characters from fun Claudia to lascivious Pete to enigmatic David. Who was your favorite to write and why?
Tough question! With Darkness Watching, I enjoyed writing the scenes with Ash and her fellow magic-users the most – I like Leo, Cyrus and Claudia and the strange dynamic the group has. We’ll be getting to see a lot more of them in the sequels!
I really enjoyed the mythology surrounding the Venantium (the sorcerers' governing body). Did you plan out this world before starting the series or did the mythology develop as you wrote the novel?
The background was actually part of a different story originally, the first novel I wrote. Two years ago, I had an idea for rewriting the original story and turning it into something completely different. But the background and mythology is more or less the same as it was in the first book I wrote (and which is permanently trunked!).
Darkness Watching is also considered a new adult novel. Are you excited about the trajectory of new adult in publishing and also slightly surprised by the controversy surrounding it?
I love the idea of New Adult as a category, though I may be slightly biased as I’m in the target audience and it’s sometimes nice to read about characters a little older than YA protagonists. With that being said, I’m disappointed with the way many people – including some media outlets – have misinterpreted it as being ‘sexed-up YA’ or just ‘college romance’. Although the NA books that have gained media attention have been contemporary romances, I’m hoping that speculative NA will get more of a following.
Readers may not be aware that Darkness Watching is your second novel. You published your debut novel, The Puppet Spell, in 2012. While most college kids could barely get through exams, you were writing novels. How were you able to balance writing with your course work?
I actually wrote my first published novel as part of my creative writing course, which I guess gave me an excuse to work on my own projects! :P When I came to my third year, I’d written two novels (completed over the 3-month summer break) and had a contract for The Puppet Spell. I was lucky in that I had only 4 hours of contact time a week, which gave me a lot of leeway to organise my spare time so that I could balance both course work and writing. But I still skipped out on a lot of sleep…
How many books are planned for the Darkworld series? And can you give any hints on what's to come?
There will be five books in total – I’ve actually completed all the novels in draft form, as the series was pre-planned. The second book, Walking Shadow, will be coming out next year. It involves a murder mystery, psychic vampires and a doppelganger. ;)
Darkness Watching is published by Curiosity Quills, a small press. Can you describe your experiences working with a small press and what advice would you give authors seeking to submit to small presses?
Curiosity Quills has been wonderful to work with and I’d highly recommend them. The best advice I can give is to do your research before deciding which path to pursue. I submitted Darkness Watching directly to publishers rather than seeking an agent. At the time, agents weren’t really accepting New Adult but it was making quite a splash in the epublishing world. Small presses are often the best bet for niche genres and for books in hard-to-sell categories – for instance, YA paranormal and dystopian are hard to pitch to agents at the moment because of the over-flooded market, but small presses are often more willing to take chances.
When submitting to agents, make sure you’ve got a finished, polished book and tailor your cover letter to each individual publisher. If you get a small press offer, I’d talk to other authors published with them and try to find out as much as possible before signing the contract. I did consider self-publishing the Darkworld series before I got the offer, but I knew signing with CQ was the right decision. In addition to editing, proofreading and formatting, you’ll get more say in things like cover design when working with a small press than with a bigger publisher. It’s like being part of a family, and I highly recommend looking into CQ if you write speculative fiction of any kind!