Monday, September 19, 2011

This Week's Reader Interview with Emma Hunneyball

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First of all, I'm super excited to be here, I've been going on about it for weeks and driving my family nuts. I'm 29 years old, I love to read and review books and I write, with varied results. I have a delicious two year old son, and I've been married for three weeks. I'm a bank manager, gardener and daydreamer. In the evenings I write book reviews which I post to my blog and following a few requests I've launched an editorial service for Indie Authors. People sometimes ask me how I find the time to fit it all in, but I've found you can accomplish amazing things when you do without extraneous frippery. Such as sleep.

When and how did you discover that you love reading fiction?
I have no idea. Reading is just a fact about me, like the fact that I have a liver, but much less icky. My Mum made sure I could read and write long before I went to school and I never looked back. I remember as a child being given beautiful books for birthdays and Christmas. At the age of four I was often asked to read the afternoon story to the other children, and when I was seven a particularly idle teacher told the other pupils to check their spellings with me rather than disturb her drinking her coffee. Significant points in my life were marked with gifts of books: exam success, school prizes, and most recently a beautiful copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets my Dad gave to me on my wedding day. I still have my favourite books from my childhood: a "Chronicles of Narnia" boxed set which is so well read that the books are now fatter than they were, and I can't fit all seven in the box any more. As an adult I often struggled to find time to read. A friend of mine set up a book club at the start of the year, which I joined without hesitation. It forces me to make reading a priority, and because we all take turns choosing texts I get to enjoy books I would never ordinarily have chosen for myself.

What are some of your favorite books and who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Roald Dahl, Angela Carter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Phillip Pullman, William Shakespeare, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde. When I read I want to learn something new, or see a universal truth presented in a new way, and I want to be surprised. When I pick up a book I don't want it to be predictable, I don't want it to follow the formula of its genre and in my view a bit of Magic Realism goes a long way. Wit and irony are huge with me.

My favourite author is Angela Carter. She embodies everything I love about fiction. Rich, descriptive prose, a bit of fin de siecle decadence, Magic Realism, vivid characters and unexpected plot turns. I recommend "Wise Children" and "The Bloody Chamber".

What is your favorite thing about reading fiction?
There's always been an element of escapism for me, hiding away in a world created in partnership between author and reader. I love being able to pick up a book years after I first read it and find something new in a second reading. And I love taking hold of the characters, places and events and carrying on the stories long after I've closed the final page. It gives me an unfortunate habit of staring off into space, with the attendant issue of people asking if I'm "OK".

Do you have any “pet peeves” about authors, something they do that really annoys you?
Gosh yes. I'm Captain Picky, chief of the Pedantry Brigade. I get very cross about laziness of style, and repetition of words/phrases. A book I read recently described every building the characters entered as a Tardis. It really became very tedious after a while, especially when it became clear there weren't actually going to be any Daleks in the story. When I was a child I got very annoyed with Enid Blyton, who seemed incapable of writing a sentence without putting an exclamation mark at the end! Sometimes she used two!! The Famous Five is a veritable minefield of punctuation!!!!! Once I'd spotted it I couldn't concentrate, and I never read Blyton again. And since you've got me started, I'm going to mention J.K. Rowling. I cannot stand the laboured story-so-far rehashes in the opening chapters of Harry Potter books 2-4 She should either have written a precis and stuck it in before the book starts, a la J.R.R. Tolkien and Robin Jarvis, or integrated the "catch up" much better within the body of the stories.

I suppose what I'm getting at is that I can't stand books that are half-heartedly edited. There's a lot of commentary around this subject in the Indie sector, with books hitting the e-shelves jam packed with teeth-grindingly awful spelling and grammatical errors, but traditionally published fiction isn't immune to it either. I think the editor of the seventh Harry Potter book was too busy adding up his fee to actually get around to the business of editing the bloated thing. Editing matters. It really does.

Do you write fiction yourself?
Yes. Yes I do. My reading and writing gloop themselves together in a big creative blob, so that when I'm reading I concentrate on things like style, plot and character, enjoying the book more as a result and when I write I'm very conscious of what I like and dislike in books and it all feeds into my writing.

I'm currently working on a cycle of interconnected short stories set in and around a nineteenth century travelling show. It's packed with Magic Realism and my signature themes of loss and obsession. I plan to get it out into the world in time for my 30th birthday.

What do you think about ebooks vs. paper books?
I really don't get the whole ebook versus paperbook debate, and to be honest it bores me. A lot. I don't subscribe to black and white, either/or philosophies.  I adore my Kindle which has opened up access to books they just don't stock in my local bookshop, supermarket or newsagent. It's portable, so I can take it in the car or read it in my lunchbreak. But I also love my paperbooks, they formed an integral part of my wedding and I have some beautiful signed copies of Phillip Pullman's works. There is room for both in our lives. To be extremely bland about it, we all have a wok in the kitchen cupboard. But that doesn't mean we stop ordering takeaway.

What is your favorite Mike Wells book and why?
I loved "Secrets of the Elusive Lover". It's funny, the themes are intriguing and it defies its genre. It isn't a formulaic romantic comedy and I was genuinely surprised by the ending. This was the first book I read where I interacted with the author whilst reading. Chatting to Mike on Twitter and sharing my favourite ideas and lines, writing a review and asking his opinion, really added an extra dimension to the reading experience.

Thanks so much for taking the time give the interview, Emma!

Emma Hunneyball was uploaded onto the internet several years ago, and has been living there ever since. She dispenses her brand of opinionated jabber on Twitter (@emmahunneyball) and holds forth on literary subjects, at length, on her blog In Potentia.


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  2. A great interview, though disturbed by the dig at Enid Blyton :)

    I'm a little concerned about the e-book revolution,even though I am a kindle lover myself, because readers could potentially be reading a lot of rubbish. However, on the flip-side I'm hoping to stumble onto my next favourite author who may not have been available via the usual publishing means.

    I look forward to reading more interviews.

  3. Hi Maxine!

    Thanks for reading the interview, I think Mike has hit on a fantastic idea and I love reading them each week.

    I think you're spot on when you talk about ebooks and indie publishing opening the door to books you wouldn't otherwise be able to access. I agree there is a certain amount of bad efiction out there, but there are a heck of a lot of bad traditional books out there as well, try "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen if you don't believe me. I also think that the indie Market has some edgier ideas that a traditional publisher might not touch- Rod Glenn is a prime example.

    As I've already stated there are benefits to both formats, but I agree with you there are drawbacks as well!