Peter Newman on why he made one of his main characters a baby…
Happy publication to Peter Newman! The Vagrant is published today in paperback, ahead of his new book, The Malice, out in May. Here he talks about why he cast one of his main characters in The Vagrant as a tiny baby, and where that idea came from…
The Vagrant recently had a five star review from Mark Lawrence (yay!). In it one of the things he said was:
‘Newman clearly knows a lot about babies. I suspect him to have been a new father at the time of writing!’
And this is true! When I started writing The Vagrant, I still had pretty clear memories of my own child, as well as lots of time spent in playgroups and kids parties. It struck me that babies are pretty rare in fantasy despite the fact that they are awesome! Too often, if there is a baby or child they are remarkable in some way, a reborn god or a freakishly intelligent being in a tiny body. These sorts of characters can be a lot of fun but I wanted a baby that was just a baby, nothing else.
Why is this? Well, I felt there was so much mileage in having a baby in the book that I didn’t need to give it special powers. In the Vagrant, the baby serves several functions:
When you have a baby along for the ride everything gets harder. Keeping it warm, well fed and clean are just entry level issues. A baby has no concept of stealth, no understanding of when to speak up or stay quiet. It is entirely dependent on the mercy of the other characters.
If a fight breaks out, where do you put the baby? Do you keep it close and risk it getting caught in the crossfire or do you put it down somewhere and hope that nobody steals it?
This is particularly tough in the world of The Vagrant, where babies are rare and a highly sought commodity by both human and demon alike.
I won’t lie to you, The Vagrant is not the happiest of books. It’s set in a far future world that has suffered a demonic apocalypse. People get eaten regularly and the remains traded as parts for necromantic technology. Fun times! But the baby allowed me to bring a little levity to proceedings. Babies can be pretty funny when they want to be (and often when they don’t) with a great line of facial expressions, noises (verbal and otherwise!) and if nothing else, a baby’s laugh is a hard thing to resist.
When all seems lost, why carry on? Well, a baby has no idea that society is in terminal decay. It lives in the present and only thinks about what’s in its immediate surroundings. A baby can still find wonder in a colourful piece of junk, and can still find peace in the arms of its carer, no matter how bad things are in the wider world. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and sometimes, when the baby takes joy in something, it is able to share it with the other characters.
Of course that innocence is always under threat and one of the other things the baby let me explore was how the world and the people closest to us shape our lives, for better or for worse.
And the other nice thing about having a baby at the start of a trilogy is that you get to see them grow up…
Thank Peter! We can’t wait to see the baby getting older in The Malice! The Vagrant is out now in paperback.