An interview with Peter Newman
Fantasy Book Review has the great pleasure of speaking with Peter Newman, author of The Vagrant. The Vagrant is Peter's debut novel and what a novel it is. Released 23rd April The Vagrant tells a story of a world ravaged by the Demon Horde. Struggling under the weight of promises long kept and a desire for justice, a coveted Sword in one hand and an infant in the other, the Vagrant travels a path lined with the blood of those who have fallen helping him and those who stand in his way. If you like your Demons fanciful, your heroes strong, silent yet fragile, your world a post apocalyptic wasteland, then this is the book for you.
This interview would probably have been a lot harder and a lot shorter if I were interviewing the Vagrant… Thankfully Peter was a wonderful interviewee.
Can you tell us a little about Peter Newman?
Sure. Peter Newman lives in Somerset with his wife and son. An ex-secondary school drama teacher, he now works as a trainer and Firewalking Instructor. He sometimes pretends to be a butler for the Hugo nominated Tea and Jeopardy podcast, which he co-writes with the wonderful Emma Newman.
When did you decide to become a writer?
The first time I decided to become a writer was in my twenties and I made two critical mistakes. 1) I shared my work with the wrong people, and 2) I shared it way too early. As a result I didn't write for over ten years.
The second time was in 2010 but it took Emma (my wife, also a writer) to point it out to me.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I nearly reeled off a long list but then noticed the key phrase 'like to do'. So, things I like to do: role-playing, playing computer games, eating, running, and reading.
How would you describe the genre you write in?
Fun, free and without limits. I like that it can be deep and crazy and profound and silly all at the same time.
What draws you to this genre?
Good question. I love the mythological and the archetypical and the journey that you go on with the characters. And I'd much rather explore the impact of societal change or new technology through the medium of fantasy or science fiction. These days it's much easier to deal with than what's going on in the real world. I also love dragons, spaceships, lasers (Pew! Pew!) and swords, especially when combined. Anyone for a series about a transforming dragon spaceship with a laser sword?
What was your inspiration behind The Vagrant story?
There's no single inspiration I can name, I didn't even sit down to write a particular story. The Vagrant just turned up one day, unannounced, and I had to unearth the story around him.
How long did it take you to write The Vagrant? What was the hardest part of writing it?
I started it in the second half of 2011 and put in the last edits towards the close of 2014. There were lots of hard parts! Writing a protagonist who doesn't speak was a real challenge. I also decided early on that I didn't want to share his inner thoughts, to allow the reader to make their own judgments based on his actions. Turns out most books are made up of a lot of dialogue and inner thoughts. It was also slow to write. Some books are like that. The Vagrant made me take my time.
Can you give us an insight into your The Vagrant? What does he do that is special and unique to you?
Tricky. I have a hatred of spoilers and don't want to give away too much here as he's one of the mysteries of the book. *puts on poker face*
How many books do you see in the series?
At least two! I've already drafted the sequel and am working through edits at the moment. When I originally wrote The Vagrant, I thought it would be a standalone until very near the end of the process when the ideas for the second book suddenly deigned to grace me with their presence. Now I've drafted the second, I've an idea for a third. I'll let you know when that stops.
You have a great cover, who did the art work? How close does it match to your own vision?
Oh wow, I really do! I can't tell you what a delight (and relief) it was to see the cover. The artist is the fabulous Jaime Jones. I'd recommend a visit to his blog (http://www.artpad.org/) if you have the time. I don't know exactly what I was expecting but when I saw it, I was struck by how right it seemed.
How Stories Connect questions
Which book do you own that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy just by holding it in your hand?
The Vagrant! Oh, you mean somebody else's book. Hmm. For similar reasons Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman makes me happy every time I pick it up. Does the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook count? I've got a soft spot for How to be a Superhero (Mark Leigh, Mike Lepine, Steve Dillon). I laughed so much at that as a kid that just the cover makes me grin these days. Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz makes me smile because it is so delightfully dark and completely of the wall. The Copper Promise by Jen Williams is also tons of adventurous fun.
Which book or series do you read that makes you feel nostalgic, remembering the period in your life you first read it?
This one's easier. The Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. My first prolonged foray into fantasy. I remember secretly staying up till two in the morning to finish the first one.
Which book or series do you read that makes your blood pump and your palms sweaty?
Hmm. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness gripped me all the way through and features one of the most evil ways of ending a book. It had me from pretty much the first page until I'd got to the end. I remember finishing The Knife of Never Letting Go and ordering The Ask and the Answer immediately, then sitting around waiting for what felt like forever (about three days).
Which book or series do you think you could implant one of your own characters into? And would you want them to thrive and integrate, or would you want them to burn it all down?
I'm normally quite rigid about a character belonging in their proper universe which is why I'd suck at fanfic. But I'd quite like to see either The Hammer that Walks or the Goat in a party with Dragonlance's Tasslehoff Burrfoot, mainly because I don't like Tasselehoff Burfoot…
Is there a particular author that leaves you thinking: “One day I would like to be able to write just like that?”
Robin Hobb. I'd do dark and terrible things to be able to write like her.
I am very grateful to Peter for taking the time to speak with Fantasy Book Review. Pick up a copy of the Vagrant today, its fantastic.
Interview By Fergus McCartan