Friday, 7 August 2009

Joe Abercrombie - Author Interview

Best Served Cold

The Blade Itself

Before They Are Hanged

Last Argument of Kings


> Pitch your latest novel.

Best Served Cold is a fantasy standalone, the fast-paced and action-packed story of a very dangerous woman who, betrayed by her employer, sets out to wreak bloody vengeance on him and his henchmen, assisted by a motley crew of poisoners, murderers, mercenaries and thieves against a backdrop of an escalating war between feuding city states. What’s not to like?

> In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why or what character is most like you?

Since all the thoughts and dialogue come out of my own head, I guess every character is me to some degree. Which is a rather worrying thought. As a result it’s hard to pick a favourite. I guess like, with picking a favourite child, it’s probably something you really shouldn’t do but, in all honesty, it’s the one who’s causing you the least grief at the time...

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Most of my characters are deeply unpleasant people who experience a great deal of pain. So no. Although perhaps we’re already in not dissimilar places...

> If you could live in your fantasy world, would you? Would you live in somebody else’s?

Absolutely not. I’m far too attached to toilet paper, warm water and games consoles. Plus my sword skills are weak.

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

The Blade Itself was my first attempt at serious writing. It took me about two and a half years, pretty part time, to come up with a first draft, and then maybe six months of occasional work editing it once it was picked up by a publisher.

> If you still have one, what’s your day job? If you don’t, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?

I was a freelance film editor, mostly of live music and documentaries, which gave me a lot of time off in between jobs. Looking for a project to fill that time off was one of the main reasons why I started writing in the first place. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to quit my day job, I can do as much or as little as I like (provided people offer me the work, of course). Over the three or four years since I was first published I’ve done less and less editing, more and more writing to the point where I’m more or less a full time writer, now. I still do the odd editing job, though, just for the variety.

> Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

I guess it’s easiest to write whatever you’re most enthusiastic about. In fact I’d say it’s very hard to write anything worthwhile unless you’re very enthusiastic about it. So for me, fantasy. For those who love science fiction...

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?

How little the vast majority of writers sell, or earn. You tend to think of the success stories like JK Rowling or Stephen King, but of course they’re at the tip of a very, very big pyramid. It’s pretty frightening, actually, when you first begin. Very few writers (maybe 5%, maybe less) can actually afford to write full time, let alone make superstar money. I really shouldn’t have put in the down-payment on the mansion before I read the contract.

> Any tips against writers block?

The only meaningful solution I’ve found is just to smash your head against it. Chair time. When you’re feeling unconfident, or worried, or that what you’re writing is no good, write anyway. Write anything, even if it’s rubbish. Better than writing nothing. Later on once you start cutting it all down, you never know, you may find you wrote some decent stuff.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?

About eight or nine, I think. I tried most of the UK agencies that specialised in sf & f at that time. The thing I was unprepared for was the total anonymity and lack of feedback. A printed card, a standard message, thanks but no thanks. Seeing those self-addressed envelopes come back through the letter box every month or two was pretty soul-destroying. So if you’re thinking of writing yourself, prepare for some hurt...

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