Friday, March 20, 2015

Grim Interview: Peter Newman

I was excited to see that Marc Alpin and the awesome folks over at Fantasy Faction had scheduled another Grim Gathering event, April 10th in Bristol, UK (for anyone living across the pond you can get all the details here). Then I scrolled across the names of those who'd be in attendance. Mark Lawrence, check. Peter V. Brett, check. Joe Abercrombie, check. Peter Newman. Peter Newman? The name didn't ring a bell. But my curiosity was instantly spiked, and I set off to some serious Google-fu just to find out how this stranger could just somehow show up from nowhere and rub elbows with my literary superheroes. So today I simply aim to find out, just who the hell is Peter Newman? What I've discovered is that Peter is a professional, a gentleman, and his forthcoming title from Harper Voyager, titled The Vagrant, available April 23rd, has some pretty epic praise already, and is one of the most anticipated debut releases scheduled for 2015.

Where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets? Secret identities?

I grew up just outside Watford (which is just NW of London for those of you outside the UK). I now live in Somerset with my wife, Emma and our son, sometimes referred to as the Bean. I sometimes pretend to be a butler.

When did you first start writing? 

I always loved that kind of thing at school but it seems (sadly) that most of the creative writing in primary school and early secondary school gets replaced with literary criticism as you get older. I first had a ‘proper’ go at writing in my early twenties. It ended badly and I didn't write anything else till 2011.

What authors and / or books have had an influence on your craft as a writer?

That’s quite hard to answer. I know a lot of books where I thought ‘I wish I could write like that!’ and I know a lot of books that I love even though they may not be the finest examples of literature, but it’s hard to say what exactly influenced my craft. Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light and the Amber chronicles blew my mind when I was growing up. The books were incredibly imaginative, fast paced and the world building is excellent. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was another major winner for me. He seems able to write so deeply so easily. Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance chronicles imprinted on me early so I’ll always have a soft spot for them. And Watchman by Alan Moore. I’m still processing that and I read it nearly twenty years ago.

Tell us about your forthcoming debut novel The Vagrant?

It’s an epic fantasy set in a far future world that has recently suffered a demonic apocalypse. It features a silent protagonist, singing swords, demon knights, a baby and a badass goat.

Many of our readers are aspiring writers. Can you give us just a few details on how you landed your publishing deal?

It was pretty straightforward really. I wrote a book. It sucked (but I’m still fond of it). I wrote a sequel. It sucked less. I wrote a third book in a new world. It only sucked a little. I re-wrote it and it was good but not good enough. Then I wrote The Vagrant. It didn’t suck at all. It still went through multiple drafts, test readers and all that kind of thing.

Then I looked at all of the agents that were taking on submissions for SFF and all of the publishers taking unsolicited manuscripts and read their guidelines very carefully. I also went to some UK conventions and attended the panels on getting an agent and how to write submission letters.

After that it was just a case of picking who I liked (which was quite liberating). Then, in August 2013 I sent it out to publishers and agents. I was signed on by Juliet Mushens in December 2013 and she got me a deal with Harper Voyager in January 2014.

What does a writing day look like for you?

On a happy day when I’m not doing my other work, I’ll take my son to school, make a nice strong coffee and indulge my social media fetish for about fifteen minutes. Then I switch everything extraneous off and get started. I like to have music to help transition into the writing. After a while I associate a particular album with a particular project and the opening bars of the first track spark that world in my head. For The Vagrant it was the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack.

I write fairly slowly, excavating as I go. When I’ve written a scene I read it aloud to Emma for feedback and reassurance. I find I notice problems reading to another person that I don’t notice when reading it in my head. When I’m in a project I try to write something every day, even if it’s just a few hundred words, five or six days a week.

You also happen to be a writer for the Hugo nominated podcast Tea & Jeopardy, tell us about the show.

It’s a geeky interview show crossed with a dash of audio drama and a lot of silliness. Each episode is set in a special Tea Lair. Past examples have included an undersea base, a volcano, a giant robot and the labyrinth. A guest comes to the lair and has tea and cake with Emma while she interviews them. Afterwards they have to survive a peril of some sort, often instigated by the butler, Latimer (I voice the butler). Past guests include: Aliette de Bodard, Joe Abercrombie, Myke Cole, Seanan McGuire, John Hornor Jacobs and N.K. Jemisin.

If you’re interested, you can find all the episodes here.

Tell us how you came to join the panel at the upcoming Grim Gathering 2 event? What are you looking forward to at the event?

It went something like this:

Harper Voyager: Would you like to be part of the Grim Gathering?


The end.

As to what I’m looking forward to: ALL OF IT! Honestly, it feels incredible to be alongside such a great collection of writers. It’s a touch intimidating too. I think I’ll be more than ready for a drink afterwards!

What are your thoughts on the Grimdark sub-genre? Where do you see the future of Grimdark?

Tricky one! I suppose when somebody says Grimdark to me, I think of fantasy with a more realistic edge (even if there is world-shaking magic). Where a happy ending is unlikely and where there isn’t necessarily any kind of narrative justice.

I think Grimdark makes a nice counterpoint to more heroic fantasy. I also think at the moment there’s a really healthy range of fantasy out there and there’s plenty of room in it for more gritty and epic stories (as well as lighter romps).

Wizard, rogue, warrior, or cleric?

If we’re talking 5e then Wizard all the way. I’m all for standing at the back and blowing stuff up. I’m also quite a fan of teleportation, reading lots and magical servants to clean the house.

Speaking of D&D 5e, what role has gaming (video games, table top gaming, etc) played in your writing?

Quite a big role, I think. I've roleplayed constantly since the age of eleven. I ran a Warhammer campaign for six years and used to know the rulebook so well I didn’t need it. I've also run Amber, Gurps, Exalted and D&D 3rd edition (I’m proud to say I took a party from 1st to 20th level). Gaming taught me about world building and making interesting characters; however running a game isn’t the same as writing and while a game might help generate ideas and flesh out areas of a secondary world, it won’t deliver you the perfect novel on a plate. Trust me on that one.  I've played a lot of video games too and I have no doubt that Final Fantasy 7 has left deep marks in my delicate brain, as has most of Bioware’s back catalogue. Yes, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect (MASS EFFECT!), Dragon Age, I’m looking at you. Oh, oh, and Torment. What a game that was.

What is the single most profound piece of writing advice you've ever received?

I don’t know about profound but I’d say keep writing is the most important thing, especially while out on submission.

Following the release of The Vagrant, what other projects are on the horizon?

Next up is the sequel, due out early next year. All other projects are highly secret but have a high probability of containing demons.

Where do you see Peter Newman in the next 10 years?

Ha! I’m finding it hard to see past April at the moment. But okay, it’d be lovely if, in ten years, I’m chatting to you about my tenth book coming out in a new series and we’re looking fondly back on this interview. That or I’m a bitter drunk, ranting about the good old days, when I used to hang out with Abercrombie, Brett and Lawrence. Let’s go with option one, shall we?

Also, is there anywhere on the web where we can read some of what you've written? And where can our readers find out more about you?

Well, you can certainly hear something I’ve written. I did a short story for the Pseudopod podcast last Halloween that you can listen to here.  Mine is the last story in the episode called The Biggest Candle of Them All.

I blog at and I’m @runpetewrite on twitter. Feel free to come and say hi.


Thanks so much Peter, best of luck with The Vagrant release, and we'll be seeing you soon at the Grim Gathering.