I met Naomi’s PI Ethan Banning last week in her short story UNGRATEFUL DEAD. It’s an excellent introduction to a great character and the moment I finished reading I emailed to ask if she’d guest blog here today to celebrate the release of her Ethan Banning novel DEMONIZED. She said yes, and here she is!
Beware the Sidekick
I have to confess that I’m not a fan of sidekicks in books. Sure, they have their place in comics – what would Batman be without Robin? – but put a wacky sidekick in a novel, and I’m instantly turned off. Particularly if your wacky sidekick is an animal. And yet despite that … I wrote one into DEMONIZED.
You see, Ethan adopts a dog. Rescues him, really, from a life begging for scraps on the street. Rescues him, cleans him up, gets him de-wormed, and buys him doggy toys. Mutt accompanies Ethan on his adventures and, at one point, saves his life. Mutt is, undoubtedly, a sidekick. And when I realised this, I had to lay down some ground rules for myself.
1. No talking. Talking animals is a pet peeve of mine, so there was no way Mutt was ever going to speak or psychically commune with Ethan. He’s a dog. He barks and wags his tail, and that’s all you get.
2. Mutt is not Lassie. Oh, I mean, sure there’s the part where he saves Ethan’s life, but he’s not Wonder Dog. No super intelligence, no leading Ethan to Clues, no solving the mystery. Mutt generally just sits in the car and dreams about pork chops.
3. No wackiness. No comedy mishaps involving the poor dog. Being a PI is serious business, and Ethan’s luck is bad enough without Mutt peeing on his trousers or whatever.
So if I’m not going to have Mutt be a comedy sidekick, why bother, you may ask. What’s the point of a sidekick if they don’t bring comic relief? Well, here’s the thing. At heart, Ethan Banning is lonely. It’s something that became painfully clear to me as I was writing DEMONIZED. Even if he wasn’t possessed by a demon that threatens to destroy him and anyone who gets close, he’d be lonely. He’s terrible with women, estranged from his family, and his TV is the closest he has to a friend. Except for Mutt.
Mutt means Ethan has someone to talk to, someone to care for. He has a reason to keep working – someone has to pay for the pork chops, right? He has a reason to leave the house – got to walk off those pork chops, right? And most of all, with Mutt, Ethan has a friend. He may be mangy and have fleas (Mutt, not Ethan. Although…), but we all know a dog is man’s best friend. And that’s why I was willing to waive my no-sidekick rule, just this once. Well, and for the sequel…
Naomi Clark lives in Cambridge and is a mild-mannered office worker by day, but a slightly crazed writer by night. She has a perfectly healthy obsession with giant sea creatures and a preference for vodka-based cocktails. When she’s not writing, Naomi is probably either reading or watching 80s cartoon shows, and sometimes she manages to do all three at once.
So come on! Show a broke, borderline alcoholic PI and his rescue dog some love, and pick up a copy of DEMONIZED today!