Postcard For Reader + TIME

Interview: Emma Berne (STILL WATERS)

Swinging by today is Emma Berne, author of Still Waters - which, yes, is a debut novel. (Just because Debut December is over doesn't mean I can't give the debuts I didn't feature some lovin'!)

Hannah can't wait to sneak off for a romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Colin. He’s leaving for college soon, and Hannah wants their trip to the lake house to be one they’ll never forget.

But once Hannah and Colin get there, things start to seem a bit...off. They can't find the town on any map. The house they are staying in looks as if someone's been living there, even though it's been deserted for years. And Colin doesn’t seem quite himself. As he grows more unstable, Hannah worries about Colin’s dark side, and her own safety.

Nothing is as perfect as it seems, and what lies beneath may haunt her forever.

I'm sure you'll enjoy this interview. Particularly the part about the creepy attic!

Nicole: Welcome to WORD, Emma! Your new novel Still Waters has a bit of a horror movie element to the description. How would you describe it?
Emma Berne: Absolutely, it’s mysterious and scary– not particularly gory or violent, but full of suspense. That’s why it’s categorized as a psychological thriller as opposed to a horror story. Most of the action has to do with what’s going in the characters’ heads: think "Black Swan" versus "Saw".

N: Am I right? Is there no - le gasp! - love triangle!? What do you think about that trend?
EB: That’s right, I can safely report there is no love triangle. But I have to laugh because my next book, Never Let You Go, which is out next fall, does have a love triangle. So I have to say, I’m a fan of that particular literary convention. After all, it has a long and venerable history, from Shakespeare on forward.

N: I suppose I shall have to forgive you. That cover is gorgeous. What do you think? Does it tie into the story?
EB: I love the cover—to me, it has allusions to Ophelia. It’s just visually beautiful, first of all, and also captures the haunting, mysterious aspects of the book.

N: Ophelia's my favorite Hamlet character, so that was the first thing I thought of, too! I'm always curious about how people name their characters. Why Hannah? Colin? Did they just fit or...?
EB: I’m a fan of old-fashioned names, and being a little of an Anglophile, I like the British cast of those particular ones. Really though, since I’m going to write those names over and over for about six months, I wanted ones that wouldn’t start to annoy me.

N: I like weird old British names. Based on British mythology. Like Emrys. My poor future children... your bio says you "grew up in Ohio with a creepy little closet in the attic." Did it lead to anyplace magical?
EB: What a fun question! Only in my mind. It seriously is the world’s creepiest little closet—set under the eaves in our big, echo-y, empty Victorian attic, with a sloping door and when you opened it up—I’m serious—nothing inside but an old crutch. And to top it off, it was in a room that was honestly painted black. We called it The Black Room and my dad, to freak us out, would take my brother and me up there at night and read us H.P Lovecraft stories by flashlight.

N: What magical place would you go to if you could?
Oh, probably some place with fairies. The real kind, not the pretty kind. I’d be interested in seeing how they ate and where they slept since there’s a lot of theories on that (birds’ nests, under mushrooms, inside closed up flowers).

N: I thought those were the pretty kind! This is your debut YA book! How exciting! How hard was the process of getting this published?
It was both hard and not hard: hard in the sense that I worked—and still work—as a ghostwriter and writer of educational books for five years before Still Waters came into being. That’s a lot of boring drudge work for often mediocre pay. But at the same time, I also learned how to work on deadline, how to write succinct prose, how to keep track of a word count, how to craft a novel from the inside out. So when the time came to write something of my own, I was prepared. My agent was able to sell the book based on only a partial manuscript, so I didn’t have to write the whole thing before shopping it around, and after that, it was truly thrilling to write the rest with a contract sitting right on my desk beside me.

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Interview: Emma Berne (STILL WATERS) + TIME