Name Emma Stein
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I grew up in Denver, Colorado and spent several years first state-hopping and then continent-hopping before settling in Kiel. In Kiel, which is in Northern Germany, I work full-time as a translator in addition to my writing activities.
I received B.A.’s with honours in Art and Russian from Grinnell College, an M.A. in Art History from Queen’s University, and received a DAAD scholarship to study historical clothing construction at the Technische Universität Dortmund (Dortmund Polytechnic University).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My novel Into the Void is now available on pre-order and will be officially released August 12th, so I have been pretty busy keeping on top of everything. I recently started learning Web design to try to shake things up in my bread-and-butter daily life, and it is a great way to put my art major to work.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was twelve, and we were driving back home to Denver from Santa Fe. I have never been a fan of long car rides and needed something to distract myself, so I pulled out one of the spiral notebooks I had brought along and started writing a historical fiction/fantasy book about archaeologists who travelled back in time to meet Incas and Mayas, thinking this would be just another project I would never finish. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the process and kept going. It was about this time that I started writing series of long letters—now key to my writing process—to family and friends living far away. They more or less enjoyed being what I referred to as “victims of my meandering pen” and were forced to decipher page upon page of my crabbed script scrawled on Nepalese Lotus paper.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer all through high school, but the identity underwent a hiatus during my studies; I felt I was making a patchwork quilt of other scholars’ ideas, and that did not make me feel very original, let alone legitimate as a writer. My identity as an author, and artist by the way, came back in full force after I decided academic writing was not in my future and has remained despite my acquisition of what Germans refer to as “a typical academic job”—technical translating.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was bored on a car trip and needed something to wheedle away the eight hours until we reached our front door. After that “crisis” was resolved, the book provided a nice escape from the daily grind at the middle school I despised.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Right now, my characters tend to narrate what is going on, either through a series of letters (Into the Void) or by regaling events that happened in the past (Unspeakables, work in progress). My main characters have almost always been outsiders in one way or another; I doubt I could create a convincing protagonist or antagonist who felt at home in her or his environment, but it would be an interesting challenge.
Fiona: Why did you go with Tirgearr Publishing?
I wanted to use an independent publisher, and Tirgearr seemed like one of the more serious ones out there. Many of the independent publishers I considered had interesting missions or philosophies, but I kept asking myself whether I would ever sell more than a handful of copies and be able to start my career as a published author if they were to publish Into the Void. The members of the staff at Tiregearr have proven my first impression well founded by helping with the editing process, sending information about promotion opportunities, and providing me with an impressive cover design.
Fiona: Would you recommend other authors to go with Tirgearr Publishing?
If Tirgearr accepts the text, do it. Even before I signed my contract, Kemberlee Shortland asked me some questions and gave me some tips that made me rethink my marketing strategy as an author. The team has been professional every step of the way, and I always have the feeling its members have my best interests in mind.
Fiona: What help does Tirgearr Publishing give an author?
As I said above, Tirgearr helps with the editing, promotion, and cover design processes. What is important for me is that I have never felt cut out of the publishing process. The editors did not merely make changes or suggestions and expect me to accept them blindly, and I was able to weigh in on the cover design process. Into the Void is now a little different than in was when I sent it off to Tirgearr in February, but it is still a book that I recognize and like, and I understand that is not necessarily the case for authors who work with other publishers.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The original title was Letters from Abroad, but while apt, it sounded a bit flaccid. While studying at Queen’s, I came across a collection of essays called Ins Leere Gesprochen, which means “spoken into the void”, and I thought that was a passing concept for this book. My main character, Horace, writes his letters and sends them across enormous distances, never knowing for sure whether they will arrive. He is thus literally writing into a void. What is more, though, his travels take him into unknown regions; Horace is investigating places people in his country know very little about, so he is also traveling into a void.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I have always thought it is important not to judge what is different from what I have learned but to try to understand it and learn from it. That train of thought runs throughout the book, as do my convictions that wealth needs to be more evenly distributed and that we all need to rethink our consumption practices.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Utopic might be a better word than realistic, although I tried to make the different destinations as believable as possible. Horace is searching for an ideal society or components of an ideal society, and each place he visits occupies a distinct position on his own personal utopia/anti-utopia scale.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A good part of Into the Void is based on my battles with bureaucracy when trying to remain in Europe—an ongoing struggle. The social systems discussed in the book are often reflections of systems I encountered in the United States and Western Europe and that confused, irked, or frustrated me.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
My mother told me about Gregor Samsa when I was three, which probably explains why Kafka and his books have had a seminal influence on my writing and outlook on the world.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I literally just finished Elantris and am trying to decide whether to read something by David Sedaris or Dave Eggers. Maybe I will surprise myself and dig out one of my old Russian books.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I have been catching up on German classics lately, so while Thomas Mann is not new to the literary world, he is new and fascinating to me. A friend recently recommended Brandon Sanderson’s work to me, including Elantris, and I enjoyed that book enough I might read more of his work.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
More information about my projects is going to be available on the official Emma Stein website, which will be up and running by the release date for Into the Void (August 12th, 2015). The projects include:
Unspeakables—a novel about an introvert named Gregor, who is a gifted linguist but can hardly speak.
Totally Glad I Studied History—a graphic novel satirizing the terrible jobs I worked in the wake of my humanities majors.
Totally Glad I Moved to Germany—a graphic novel illustrating the facts and foibles of Germany.
Viking Office Chronicles—I am going to start a blog that pokes fun at the tedium of typical 9-to-5 office jobs.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Ann Robertson—had I not written so many letters to her from Germany, I might not have come upon the idea of having Horace write his letters.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, and I hope to make it more of a full-time one in the next few years.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Of course. Each time I go through it, I think of more witty replies and retorts Horace could have returned, and I am sure I could add even more detail to the places he visits.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
A large part of me needed to escape from life as a teenager with hippie inclinations in a very competitive school.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The tradesmen who have been kind enough to take me on as a bit of useless cargo on their voyage to Boasille are docking at their first port of call tomorrow. From what I have heard, there are some rather willing prostitutes in the city of LaHague who will do anything for a bottle of our good Anglinian gin. That would explain the contents of our cargo hold to some extent, I suppose. “Give’m a swig and they’ll return the favour fives times over…or under or sideways!” is how my cultivated shipmates put it.
If they offered postal services as well, I would have no qualms pocketing a little bottle of gin from the hold and slipping it into a painted woman’s bag, but I believe the poor dears are much better at transmitting syphilis than messages. But if LaHague is as large as my illustrious companions have suggested, I assume there will be a postal service somewhere along the docks.
I am a bit reluctant to stray too far on my own, you see. I imagine the great unwashed on this ship have enjoyed pulling my leg this whole time, telling me horror stories about little “flippity-floppity fops” like myself who vanished as soon as they set foot outside the dock and shipyard area. “First their fineries evaporated into the air, then the powder in their hair. They looked like men then in the face, then disappeared without a trace.”
Aside from chanting that primitive rhyme outside my cabin door at night and otherwise taunting me, the sailors have as little to do with me as possible. At the very sight of me, they spring effeminately to the side and lift imaginary skirts like grand ladies trying to avoid a muddy puddle, and they eye my rather modest cravatte as though it could spray a gale of deadly vapours at them any minute.
Even the captain is incapable of shaking my hand in a morning greeting without checking that his gloves are snugly insulating his fingers against the contagious disease of affectation I appear to be carrying.
In me, they all see a reflection of what they most fear becoming, or perhaps a reflection of what they already are, but refuse to acknowledge. When one of the unwashed fellows let loose a remark even you would find foul and loose, I retorted that he also must at least enjoy the company of men if he chose a profession where he hardly sees a woman the whole year round. You need not see my swollen left eye to gather that remark did not go over especially well.
I know I have only been away from Anglina for ten or eleven days now, and have really nothing to say with regards to my mission from the Council. Nonetheless, I am still sending you a report, so to speak, lest I become a sloth early on in my journey and fail to shake the persona. After all, I’ve seen no shortage of well-meaning persons appointed to positions or missions, only to fall asleep at the wheel in the lap of luxury.
No, I am by no means implying the Council’s manner of governing the country has anything at all to do with my present research on alternative social models. Every member of the Council is as responsible as the next, with the exception of Horace and Addie.
Speaking of which, I am aware that you and several of the other members waged bets on whether I would abandon this task within the first week—I assume you waged against me and acted out a scene of me forcing the captain to turn the ship around with your typical drunken gusto.
I hope your bet was smaller than your disappointment.
Due to the social isolation the circumstances have forced upon me, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect upon my undertaking in the name of Anglina. The distances I am going to cover seem daunting now that I have crossed the first leagues, and they have reminded me that developments in the transportation of goods and people has lagged considerably behind developments in the production of both.
And this is the easy part of my journey . . .
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Making some of the dry cultural theories I included in the book entertaining for a wide audience was challenging at times, but it was also fun and rewarding.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
The loneliness I sense in Kafka’s work is saddening yet comforting. I like his work because his characters are faced with overwhelming, incomprehensible social structures that force them into the position of Others or turn them into outsiders, sometimes even in their own families and familiar social milieus.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet, but you can find me at the Frankfurt Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair) in October this year.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Getting rid of my “Thomas Mann” and “Mr. Collins” sentences while revising my book on my own last year was a challenge. At some point, I realized the period is not threatened by extinction, and I was therefore free to use it more often.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Sometimes I caught myself wondering if I might be a bit too critical of the world around me, whether I get so caught up evaluating everything and poking fun at it I forget to notice what is simply beautiful in its own right.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t listen to the scare tactics many sites use to try to convince you to invest in how-to books or submissions coaches—I never made use of any of those and don’t think I am any worse for it.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
At the risk of sounding like one of those Greenpeace volunteers we all (including me) avoid in public squares, each one of us needs to remember we are not the only humans on this planet, and humans are not the only species on this planet. We need to treat both each other and our environment with more respect if we are going to have any sort of worthwhile existence in the coming centuries, perhaps even decades.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I remember my parents spending lots of time reading with me as a child. They did that before I knew reading involved deciphering the meaning of squiggles on a piece of paper—for me, it was just part of life. To this day, I do not know how they managed to stomach so many books about dinosaurs.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
South Park, Larry David, Lewis Black, David Sedaris, and my father make me laugh. Most of the things they make fun of are so frustrating or inane that they would make me sad or even cry if they were not so good at satirizing them.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Horace Walpole—I would love for him to take me on a tour of his “gothick castle” Strawberry Hill and tell me what is actually going on in his Castle of Otranto.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t think I want one. I would rather be cremated and have my ashes given to an experimental artist so I can live on as part of what I actually want to do but have not dared practice professionally for financial reasons.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Fashion design and garment construction, drawing, and cycling.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy South Park, to my parents’ dismay, and the films of Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, and Andrej Vzyagintsev.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Greens apply to both food and color, but I probably like blue best of all. Music is a bit more difficult to pinpoint, but I enjoy a moody composition by Beethoven, Satie, or Rachmaninoff. I will admit I cannot get enough of a couple songs by Katy Perry, Cher, and Lady GaGa.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have gone with my gut feeling in 2010 and tried to get into Cirque du Soleil as a costume designer.
Fiona: What is your Tirgearr Publishing page and do you have a website/blog?
(I am going to have a website for Emma Stein up and running by the official release date. I believe the site is going to be Emmasteinbooks.com, but I have to check which domain I reserved. Right now, everything is at: https://www.facebook.com/emmasteinbooks)
Also what is your Amazon authors page
(I still need to create a page, but here is the link to the book.