An interview with Peter Newman
We first interviewed Peter Newman in 2015, following the release of his debut novel The Vagrant, a novel we enjoyed a great deal. Now, two years on, the third and final volume of the Vagrant trilogy, The Seven, is soon to be released (April 20, 2017) and so we caught up with Peter again to discuss the new novel, the completed trilogy and his journey over the last 3-4 years.
Thank you for taking some time out to answer our questions Peter.
Congratulations on completing the Vagrant trilogy! Are you now able to draw a satisfied – and perhaps relieved – breath, and feel content with the work you’ve done?
Thank you. At the risk of sounding smug, I did feel satisfied with the ending. It felt right to me. Hopefully it will to everyone out there too.
I am currently reading The Seven and am wondering how much of the events in this final novel have been mapped out from the very beginning. As you were writing the first novel were plans for The Malice and The Seven falling into place?
I’d love to say that I knew every detail from the start but the truth is I knew certain key things immediately, and then began slowly excavating the spaces between them. However, I had a feel for what fitted very early on, and when I’d finished The Vagrant, I knew I had other stories to tell in that world.
I was originally signed on for a two book deal, but to me it was always a trilogy, and I (cheekily) wrote The Malice that way with the background worry that I’d be told to change the ending. Luckily, Harper picked up book three and here we are!
To many authors being signed up by a major publishing house is an unfulfilled dream. I’d like to know a little about what comes afterwards and if there is pressure, targets and predefined goals that the novels need to reach? What is it that a publishing house is looking for in return for their investment?
It was (and is) a dream come true for me. I think there’s a tendency to think of things as end goals when they’re actually next steps. When I signed on, The Vagrant was a complete manuscript that had already gone through multiple iterations (including a round of editing notes from my agent, Juliet Mushens), however there was still a long way to the finish! There were several rounds of structural edits with my editor, Natasha Bardon, then there was a round of copy edits with Joy Chamberlain, and then there were proofs as well.
For me there were lots of exciting/nerve wracking moments between signing and publication:
Would the edits do things I didn’t like to my work?
Would I actually be able to handle the edits?
Would I like the cover?
Would anyone review my book?
If they did, would the reviews be any good?
Would anyone come to my launch?
Would anyone actually buy a copy?
The reality was that the edits were great. It’s a real privilege to have someone help to make your work better, and the edits came in the form of highlighting issues and suggesting solutions rather than orders from on high. I’m extremely lucky to have got Jaime Jones as a cover artist too, and so as the trilogy has gone on, worries about covers and edits have diminished significantly. I don’t think fear of bad reviews and sales ever goes away though!
I did ask my publisher what they expected of me, because I was very keen to get it right. Generally, it’s as you’d expect in any professional working relationship: to meet deadlines, to produce your best work, to communicate any problems early, to be reliable.
There are other demands in terms of promotional activity but I think they’re more nebulous, and can change depending on the strengths of the author, and the genre they write in.
In terms of return on investment, I suspect the bottom line is the publisher wants to make their money back, which is odd for me, as it’s one of the things I have very little power to influence. It’s a little like making an offer to the gods of ancient Greece. You hope they will like your goat sacrifice and hold back the storms, but there are no guarantees.
This is a difficult question to phrase but here goes... My reading experience of the series has been very positive and while I have understood the majority of events perfectly well the sections that include the Infernals - beings such as The Uncivil, the Usurper and the Knights of Jade and Ash - have never been entirely clear to me. This doesn’t worry me overly as some of my favourite works are by the authors Stephen Donaldson, Gene Wolfe and Steven Erikson, and I have had similar experiences with their work and it is never been to the detriment of the story. Have you received any other feedback of this nature and I wonder if this is because you have written these alien creatures in a way that is it supposed to be difficult for the human mind to comprehend?
Ha! Well, I suppose that depends on the nature of your confusion. I did write the infernals to be alien and strange, especially in The Vagrant (I think they become slightly more relatable as the books go on). And I don’t give an origin story for them or an ‘infernals 101 section’, so if it’s just that you find them mysterious, that’s great! However, if it’s unclear what the hell is going on in their scenes, and you’re left confused rather than intrigued, that’s probably my bad.
Your partner, Emma Newman (author of the recently released Brother’s Ruin), is also an author. Does your both being authors help you to understand each other’s writing needs and allow for the working environment an author needs and thrives upon?
Living with another author is the best! Emma and I work quite closely together, discussing early plot ideas, reading rough drafts to each other, and reading each other’s work. I can’t stress enough how wonderful that is. Of course, we also write the Tea and Jeopardy Podcast together too, where the scripting process is 25% hot drinks, 40% giggling, and about 30% debating whether we can get away with a joke or not (the other 5% is us actually writing it).
Have you listened to the audiobook editions of The Vagrant and The Malice (The Seven will be available soon), read by Jot Davies? Our reviewer Ryan Lawler says, “This is a story that should not work as an audiobook. It has a steep learning curve and so many unfamiliar words and terms, but Jot Davies is magnificent in his narration and brings this world to life in ways that defy standard convention.” Is hearing someone perform your work something you enjoy?
No, not really. I feel bad saying that. I have listened to Jot Davies (and I agree that he’s magnificent), but I’ve never listened to him reading my books. I have a very strong sense of the lines and characters in my head already, which makes it difficult to listen to someone else reading them. I think in a few years time, when the work has receded in my memory, I’d be tempted to have a go.
This question might be very easy. Or it might be very difficult... Could you please recommend a fantasy novel that you think wonderful, a novel that holds a special place in your heart, to visitors to our site?
I’d have to go with something by Robin Hobb. Her books are a gift. Can I only have the one? Arrgh, that is tough! I suppose I’d pick Ship of Magic, the first in The Liveship Traders Trilogy. Trouble is if you start there you’d miss out on Fitz so it’s probably better to start with Assassin’s Apprentice and just read them all.
Best of British luck with The Seven’s release Peter and I like forward to reading your future works (and the 2 novellas available in the world of The Vagrant). You can visit Peter Newman’s website here and he can be found here and you can follow him on Twitter @runpetewrite.
Our review of The Seven is coming soon... Until then, here is the blurb to whet your appetite:
Years have passed since the Vagrant journeyed to the Shining City, Vesper in arm and Gamma’s sword in hand.
Since then the world has changed. Vesper, following the footsteps of her father, journeyed to the breach and closed the tear between worlds, protecting the last of humanity, but also trapping the infernal horde and all those that fell to its corruptions: willing or otherwise.
In this new age it is Vesper who leads the charge towards unity and peace, with seemingly nothing standing between the world and a bright new future.
That is until eyes open.
And The Seven awaken.
Peter Newman books reviewed
The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war...