Today I’d like to welcome Joe Abercrombie to Fantasy Literature. Joe is the author of The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, and The Last Argument of Kings) and the stand alone work Best Served Cold. His next book is titled The Heroes and is set to release the first quarter of 2011. All of his work has been popular and highly regarded, especially here at FanLit. I was excited to get the opportunity to talk with Joe about himself and his work. Pyr Books has also agreed to give away a full set of The First Law Trilogy to two lucky Fanlit commenters! So be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win.
Justin: Thanks for stopping by, Joe. It’s an honor to have you with us. Let’s get started… We’re interested in your “getting published” story. Will you tell us about your experiences in getting The Blade Itself published?
Joe: Once I’d finished a draft of The Blade Itself that I was happy with I set about trying to get it published in the usual fashion – sending a letter and 50 sample pages to agents specializing in sf&f. Spent about a year collecting photocopied rejections. Then a friend of mine who knew I was doing it and worked for an educational publisher found himself on a desk editing course with Gillian Redfearn, who had just then started as an editor at Gollancz. He persuaded her to have a look at it, she liked it, asked to see the rest, and I got an offer a week later. I was pretty thrilled, as you can imagine, but things move slowly in publishing (after the initial interest), and the first book didn’t actually come out until over a year later, by which point I think I was already starting on the third book.
Justin: So the “read my friend’s manuscript actually worked?… nice! What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since becoming a full-time writer, besides the additional garage for your new Ferrari collection, and the boarding house for your mistresses?
Joe: The toilet seat carved from a single enormous diamond is cold when you first sit down on it. But it soon warms up. In all honesty it’s been a slow and steady shift from a not very serious hobby, to a serious hobby, to getting a contract and obviously taking it more seriously, to it being a part-time job, to it being a full-time job, over the course of about six or seven years. So in a sense I’ve been adjusting steadily the whole time, and I still am.
Justin: Do you have a certain ritual before getting into the writing frame-of-mind? Like Yoga, blood sacrifice, or just some quiet alone time?
Joe: Not really. I have two little girls these days, so there’s no time for rituals outside of the endless round of feeding, playing, putting to bed. Oh, I do have a desk that’s on motorised legs, though, so that I can sit or stand at it. I usually sit to do revision and e-mail, then stand for the actual nitty-gritty of the writing. So maybe motoring it into the standing position would count…
Joe: I’ve just finished the first draft of the fourth part of five, and it feels like it’s coming together pretty well. There’ll be a fair bit of editing and revision to do, as there always is, but the current release date of February 2011 looks good still.
Justin: Very nice, it’s always a wonderful to see a talented and prolific writer. Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I know you try to do something a little different from book to book. What’s The Heroes going to bring to the table that will set it apart from the rest your work?
Joe: Well, in some ways it will be pretty similar. It features quite a few characters from The First Law, and I’d like to think it has a similar mixture of awful yet lovable characters, bladder-loosening humour and bowel-loosening action. But this time around it’s very focused in terms of time and place – the book covers the events of a single battle, so the vast majority of it happens in one valley over the course of three days. It follows six characters on both sides and at different levels of command, and their paths converge and cross in various surprising, hilarious, and horrible ways. So it’s an attempt to do a classic war story in a fantasy setting, really – A Bridge Too Far meets Lord of the Rings – and get across a sense of the epic scale of a great battle while still telling some human stories within it.
Justin: Speaking of Lord of the Rings, has anyone approached you about translating one of your books to other media, like film, or television, or even a graphic novel type of thing?
Joe: A couple of people have approached about one thing or another, but inquiries are many and results are few. I’m not holding my breath.
Justin: John Malkovich as Bayaz… what do you think?
Joe: I can see that. Perhaps he’s a little too overtly clever and sinister though? Might you want someone who comes across a bit more like your bluff but pleasant uncle? Who looks like the friendly local butcher you wouldn’t want to cross. Then the dark side might be a bit more surprising. Bob Hoskins, maybe? Wouldn’t have been my first choice either, but I once saw a photo of him, bald, with the beard, and he looked perfect.
Justin: Super Mario as Bayaz? I’ll have to do some serious google image searching now. I can only imagine the results I’m going to get from looking up “Bob Hoskins’ beard.” Speaking of strange, what’s the strangest thing you’ve gotten from a fan? I love asking this question! Seriously, I send you guys fans send you guys all kinds of strange things.
Joe: Can’t say I’ve received anything particularly strange. Now I’m disappointed. A couple have sent me pictures inspired by the books, of varying quality. But to be honest I’m always shocked and delighted when anyone reads the books and likes them. I need nothing more. Apart from the money, of course.
Justin: US fans feel sorely neglected by the lack of your presence. Any plans to change that for The Heroes?
Joe: I’m hoping to make it over to the US this year, probably the east coast in the fall, but it’s a long way from confirmed, and I wouldn’t want to jinx it. Can you imagine the public outcry if I offered dates and couldn’t arrive?
Justin: This is a little off topic, but I feel the need to ask, since I know you’re a gamer: so is it Xbox 360 or PS3? Personally I haven’t been able to stop playing Trials HD for the 360… I just can’t quit. Annoying friends keep beating my scores… it’s driving me crazy. What games have your attention at the moment?
Joe: I’ve got a PS3, not out of the spiritual conviction that some gamers seem to have, but just because a friend of mine has an Xbox so exclusive titles I tend to play with him. Plus I never really enjoyed the sense that there was a helicopter taking off in the corner of the room while playing. Recently very much enjoyed the old school roleplaying style of Dragon Age, and the newer school action one of Assassin’s Creed 2. At the moment I’m playing Bioshock 2, looking forward to the latest Final Fantasy and Red Dead Redemption later in the year. There have been a lot of excellent games about lately – feels as if the latest generation of consoles have finally come into their own. Probably just in time to be replaced by a new generation. You know, like with fantasy authors.
Justin: You have to watch those upstart fantasy authors, you know the type. They think they can make fantasy all dark and violent… the nerve of those guys! What If I’m currently not reading the latest from Joe Abercrombie, what else should I be reading? Any particular book that you think readers should pick up?
Joe: Older books by Joe Abercrombie? This may be disappointing, but I must confess to not reading a lot these days, and most of what I do read is non-fiction of one kind or another, particularly a lot of history. But I’m currently reading and very much enjoying George Pelecanos’ The Way Home. As far as sf&f goes I liked Finch a lot, Jeff Vandermeer’s latest.
Justin: I remember something you wrote once jokingly that someday you will have to explain to your children about the content of your books. Seriously, what are you going to tell them?
Joe: Within these covers you will find all you need to know about life.
Joe: Have you seen the size of Sam Sykes? I would try and talk Rothfuss and Weeks into bringing the giant down together, then aim to mop up the survivors…
Justin: Any words of encouragement for aspiring fantasy writers?
Joe: And contribute to my own extinction? Never.
Justin: Thank you, Joe, for giving us some of your time. I enjoyed the interview a great deal. Best of luck on the future release, and I’m sure we’ll see you again soon!
FanLit readers, learn more about the author at Joe Abercrombie’s website. Be sure to leave a comment below for a chance to win one of two sets of the First Law Trilogy! Check back in a week’s time to see who won.