New Joe Abercrombie interview

Interviewing Joe Abercrombie always makes for a funny and entertaining gig! My partners in crime for this Q&A were Rob ( and and Graeme ( Special thanks to Joe for taking some time off is busy schedule to answer our questions.

If you are one of those poor, drifting souls who has yet to sample Abercrombie's writing, methinks you should buy/borrow/or even steal a copy of The Blade Itself as soon as humanly possible!:P


- How well-received has BEST SERVED COLD been thus far? Has the reception been the same in North America and the UK?

It was very well received critically, I’d say, probably even better than Last Argument of Kings was. As the coverage on blogs and in magazines has started to die down though, I’d say a fair few readers have appeared who haven’t loved it. Who certainly preferred the last book. But that was pretty much what I expected. Whenever you end a series and start something (somewhat) different there will always, understandably, be people who would rather have had the fourth in the trilogy. Plus I was pushing a lot of things with Best Served Cold – particularly the darkness of the characters and the level of the violence, which I always knew wasn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. And the more established you get, the higher people’s expectations are, and the more likely they are to be disappointed, and to say so if they are. But for everyone who preferred the trilogy I think there have been people who preferred Best Served Cold, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that different people should prefer different books. Hopefully it shows that you’re doing something a little different with each one.

- Given how difficult it can be for British SFF authors to make it in the USA and vice versa, how rewarding is it to witness The First Law doing this well on our side of the pond, and then see BEST SERVED COLD picked up by Orbit for your first hardcover release in North America?

I think it’s actually relatively easy for British and American authors, certainly compared to those who don’t write in English, who face a pretty much impossible task getting their stuff looked at. Having said that, of course I’m delighted to see anyone buying and reading my books, let alone millions of Americans. Well, maybe not millions, but certainly several. How rewarding exactly? Somewhere between winning an egg and spoon race at a school sports day and receiving the Congressional Medal of Honour. I haven’t had a mass market release in the US yet, so it will be interesting (and hopefully rewarding) to see how Best Served Cold goes down in that format in June.

- BEST SERVED COLD showed that you have matured a lot as a writer. With four yarns under your belt, do you feel that you can challenge yourself more nowadays, or trust yourself to do things that you may have lacked the confidence to attempt in the past?

You certainly get a bit more confident, but each new book is a new challenge and invariably you end up asking yourself whether you’re writing a load of shite this time round. In a way previous successes only add to the pressure on the next effort, and writing is odd in that by the time something reaches readers you’ve usually put it behind you and are well into the next project. I try to do something a bit different with each book, challenge myself in one way or another, whether it’s with a different narrative shape, or a different setting, or a different style of central characters, as I think it can be easy to slip into a comfortable rut and if you don’t experiment to some degree you won’t get any better. But I don’t know that the overall approach has changed that much, which has always been to try and tell entertaining stories with interesting characters in as honest and truthful a manner as possible.

- Neil Gaiman says of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If BEST SERVED COLD was a drink which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

Oh, I think it would have to be a bloody mary, to be consumed in seven hot, red, intoxicating gulps.

- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read BEST SERVED COLD (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?

A burning need to buy more of my books. But seriously, if they took nothing away from it apart from enjoying the read I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s always been my intention to entertain first and foremost and I think a book that fails to entertain is a failure regardless of whatever else it does.

- What’s the progress report on HEROES? Any tentative release date?

THE Heroes, Pat, THE Heroes. Everyone says The Last Argument of Kings when there is no the. Now they say Heroes when there very much is a the. THE HEROES. But yeah, there’s been a relatively firm date of February 2011 for a while now, in both UK and US, I believe. As firm as these things get a year in advance. I wouldn’t bet the life of your first born on it. The life of your hamster, maybe. We were thinking of October 2010 at one point, but it didn’t look like I was going to hit that comfortably, and with Christmas being a dead zone for all but the biggest thrillers and celebrity biogs, February looks like the time.

- Considering HEROES is set in the same world as your previous work, do think you’ll jump out of that world or will most of your stories remain in the world of Logen, Glokta and Monza?

I certainly don’t feel any particular need to leave that world. The sets are already built so it seems a shame to chop them up just for the sake of it. Plus I enjoy focusing on new characters and new places, but having familiar faces and ongoing themes crop up along the way, and I think readers do too. I may well gradually move it forward in time and technology in order to give a different flavour, but for the sort of book I’m writing there are more than enough opportunities within the world I’ve got to keep me going until doomsday. I might try my hand at something set in the real world one of these days. Or at least an alternative version of the real world. I’ve got an idea that keeps niggling at me...

- You’ve got a short story in the upcoming SWORDS AND DARK MAGIC anthology by Anders and Strahan (doesn’t that sound like swarthy law firm?), how was writing short fiction different than the big tomes you normally write?

Not hugely different, honestly. I’ve always tended to see my novels as a collection of scenes, and tried to give each chapter its own beginning and end, tried to make each work on its own to some degree. So "The Fool Jobs" is basically one extended scene. It also features a set of characters from The Heroes, so in that sense it’s part of a larger whole. Very excited to be part of this anthology, though. Lou and Jonathan set out to produce something definitive, and I think they’ve succeeded. It’s an amazing list of authors, old and new, and I’m particularly pleased to have a story next to Michael Moorcock, whose stuff I read an enjoyed growing up, and was most definitely an influence on me.

- Once HEROES is done, what project will you be tackling next?

Well, it looks like another semi-standalone, set in the same world and featuring some new characters and a couple of familiar faces. If Best Served Cold was a fantasy thriller, and The Heroes is a fantasy war story, this will be a fantasy western, so prepare for windswept wildernesses, narrow-eyed standoffs, and hard men spitting at stuff.

- What has changed about the genre and writing in it since THE BLADE ITSELF hit shelves a few years ago? How about you as a writer?

Well, I wouldn’t want to speak for the whole genre as I’m a lot less widely read in it than many. In my own area of epic-ish fantasy it feels as if there has been something of a wave of new blood over the last few years, with quite a few new writers bringing out a darker, dirtier, less predictable style of fantasy that maybe has as much in common with sword and sorcery as it does with more traditional epic, and maybe takes its lead as much from Martin as Tolkien. It’s a disparate crowd, I don’t think it’s anything you could call a movement, but I certainly see a trend in there. Commercially I think it’s still a ripple in a big pond but in due course it may pick up speed.

As for writing in it, it’s certainly changed a lot for me because the gradually building success of the books has meant I’ve been able to put more and more time into my writing, going from little more than a serious hobby when the first book came out five years ago to becoming more or less a full time writer over the last year or two. As for other authors, I guess you’d have to ask them...

- Your bio lists Iron Maiden as one of the bands for whom you’ve done work and a lot of their musical output is connected to Science Fiction and Fantasy, like To Tame a Land and Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Could you envision asking Steve Harris, Bruce and the gang about writing a novel based upon some of their songs, or maybe a revelation about Mr. Edward T. Head?

I’ve cut some documentaries for their DVDs and also a couple of live shows, but I couldn’t claim to be a close personal friend of the band. Well, I could, but it would be a lie. I wouldn’t hold your breath for a written collaboration. I like to plough my own furrow.

- Will you and the folks at Gollancz ever put a map in one of your books, if only to silence people like me, or will this become a running gag for years to come?

The hardcover of Best Served Cold not only had a map around it, but had a map at the front of every part, which makes eight in all. The UK edition of The Heroes will have another round it plus at least five inside to make six in all. In the entirety of Lord of the Rings as originally published, Tolkien, to my knowledge, had only three, and two of those were the same. IN YOUR FACE, TOLKIEN.

- Anything you wish to share with your fans?

My undying love, Pat. And their money.

10 commentaires:

Steve MC said...

Last month, while browsing sffworld, I found their author interviews and promptly printed up their first interviews with a dozen authors I was curious about.

When I sat down with lunch and dug in, Abercrombie came first, and as soon as I finished it, I got up and went right back to ssfworld to get their second interview with him (by some guy named Patrick), even though I had thirty pages of other authors to read.

He's just that entertaining, and I appreciate the latest.

Unknown said...

Joe is a bad ass. I can tell I would like this dude a lot. Seems the kinda cat that would be nice to kick back a beer with someday. And, he can write like a motherfucker. Score for him...and us.

Jebus said...

He's quickly becoming one of my favourites (even if he is a girl). I consider him one of the leaders in the "New-Grit" field that GRRM started.

Casey said...

Thank you for asking the Iron Maiden question! Now the question is whether it was Early Years 1 & 2 or the Death on the Road/Rock in Rio docs.

Elfy said...

Thanks for doing this, Pat. You can always count on Joe to be both informative and entertaining in an interview.

Unknown said...

Joe is a funny guy.

RobB said...

The Maiden question was me. I couldn't resist asking, because who DOESN'T want to learn more about Edward T. Head?

Anonymous said...

Hey Casey, don't forget Visions of the Beast.

His name is probably in the credits at the end of the dvds, so there's a good reason to watch them for the umpteenth time.


Joe Abercrombie said...

The documentaries were on Early Years, Live after Death, and Death on the Road, I think. The show was from Donnington in either 2007 or 2008 but I'm not sure that one's been released yet.

Anonymous said...

Chuck me up for someone who liked Best Served Cold better than the trilogy. The characters are much better expressed, the pace is great, and the twist and the culmination comes fast. Digging the female characters even more than in the FLT. Monza, wee, even though I miss my demon-girl! :) Looking forward to THE Heroes.