I'm happy to see that most people appear to share my opinion of Abercrombie's newest, Before They Are Hanged, namely that it's excellent!;-) For more info on this book: Canada, USA, Europe.
Buy it! You'll be happy you did!
Anyway, to help put Joe's name out there and to help him promote the second volume of The First Law, I thought it would be cool to ask him a couple of questions and see what sort of answers he'd come up with. If you're hanging out on www.sffworld.com and www.asoiaf.westeros.org, then you know how entertaining this guy can be! He doesn't take himself too seriously, which makes interviewing him a pleasure.:-)
- First of all, what could you tell your eager fans about BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED?
Those who loved the first one will love this even more. Those who liked the first one will like this even more. Those who didn’t like the first one? I’m not entirely convinced that such fantastical creatures exist, but if they do? I suggest they buy every copy of my books they can find and burn them.
That’ll teach me.
- Were you surprised by the commercial success of THE BLADE ITSELF? It must sure warm your heart to see your debut doing so well.
Surprised? No, it’s a brilliant book. Warmed? Yes, positively in flames.
- Are you eager to discover how you'll be received by the North American market?
I’m delighted to be received by any market that will have me, but the American market for fantasy is, of course, the biggest in the world. It’s also one that’s quite difficult for British authors to get a foothold in, so I feel pretty lucky to be getting a chance there at all, especially this soon. All courtesy of the wonderful Lou Anders at Pyr Books – a man whose boundless enthusiasm is only exceeded by the excellence of his taste in edgy yet humorous epic fantasy.
- For a guy who doesn't have a blog or a website because he's afraid that no one will show up, how satisfying is it to have the opportunity to interact with fans on sites like sffworld.com and asoiaf.westeros.org on an almost daily basis?
Oh, it’s an absolute delight, Pat. But then the response, at least on the two sites you mention, has been overwhelmingly positive. If they all hated me it would probably be considerably less fun. There’s something about being told you’re shit that never quite loses its sting.
As for my personal fears of rejection, I am finally biting the bullet, and will hopefully have a web-site up and running at http://www.joeabercrombie.com/ later this year, in good time for the American release of The Blade Itself. I may even do a bit of blogging myself. If there’s one problem with the internet, you see, it’s that there aren’t enough opinions out there . . .
- Authors often claim that the second volume of a trilogy is the most difficult one to write. Was that the case with BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED?
Not really. The story for the whole trilogy had been pretty much mapped out from the beginning, so I knew where I was trying to get to. The characters and the settings had been introduced in the first book, so I was looking forward to working with the pieces that were already in play, if you like. Not that it didn’t have its challenges, but in a way it was the easiest of the three to write – the setting up had been done, but the responsibility for resolving everything was so far in the future that it seemed as if it would never happen.
- It's obvious that you've tried and succeeded in mapping out a much more ambitious story arc in this second volume. Was that your intention all along, or did you realize that some plotlines had more potential than you initially believed?
I’ve pretty much followed the plans I had from the start, with some deviations as things suggested themselves. Certainly the intention was always that the scale should build, the action should intensify, the mysteries should begin to be exposed, the characters should meet and begin to interact. There’s a proper speed of development to a series, I think, and you need to pace yourself. You don’t start a meal with desert, now, do you?
- What's the lowdown on the advance praise garnered by BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED?
My Mum thought it was fucking brilliant.
Then there have been some tip-top reviews on the internet:
It all begins to look like an unstoppable wave of positivity. Reviews in the traditional print media will no doubt start to appear over the coming month, so fingers crossed.
But hey. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be so excited you might even wet your pants a little. What’s not to like?
- THE BLADE ITSELF will become available in the USA next fall. Have the foreign rights to the series been sold to many countries thus far?
The German edition was out in January, and French, Spanish, Russian and Czech will follow this year. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what covers they put on it . . .
- What's the current progress report pertaining to LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS? Any tentative publication date?
They’ve got it chalked up for the same time next year – March ’08. I’m just finishing it up now, and I think I can say with complete confidence that it’s the best book ever written.
- In BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED, you move the story forward with much more aplomb than in THE BLADE ITSELF, showing that you have matured as an author. Is it because you now have a firmer grasp on what you're trying to accomplish than you did when you set out to write your first novel?
You get better with practice, of course, especially if you’ve got a good editor to save you from your worst excesses. I’m extremely lucky to have the marvellous Gillian Redfearn in my corner at Gollancz, who always has something useful to contribute (free booze, in particular). But I don’t think the approach has changed hugely. It’s a trilogy, one story in three parts, and as I said above, I think it’s natural that the pace, and the scale, and the characters should develop as you go.
In the long run, ending big is a lot more important than starting big. After all, if you start the concert with all your biggest hits, you may find the room’s empty when you come out for the encore . . .
- When fantasy fans finally get their hands on BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED, you will be in the middle of writing the final volume of The First Law sequence. Which begs the question: What's next for Joe Abercrombie? Another novel/series set in the same universe, or something totally different?
At the moment it’s looking like some stand-alone books, set in the same world but with different characters and some shorter, more focused stories. I’m working on a treatment for the first one now, off and on. Let me only say this . . .
It’s about poison.
- Will you be touring to promote BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED?
I might do a signing or two, but nothing you could call a tour. It can be difficult getting people to turn out for authors an awful lot better known than me, and I’m not sure of the value of events that are only attended by you, your publicist, and a mildly embarrassed book shop manager.
- Do you believe that the author's picture will help market the hardback edition of BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED more aggressively!?! Were you uncomfortable with Gollancz's idea to utilize your sex-appeal to sell more books!?!
My wife took those pictures, and I can assure you that it’s all done with mirrors. In real life I am astonishingly ugly.
- Anything else you wish to share with your readers?
Only my ongoing joy that there are any.
Many thanks again for doing this! I wish you continued success with your writing career and best of luck with the imminent release of BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED.