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Joe Abercrombie Reddit AMA


Joe Abercrombie's work has been the opposite of 'Happily Ever After' and fans can't get enough of it.  His dark fantasy world is filled with hard as nails characters and gritty visuals, but what of the author himself?  Reddit set up an AMA with the author, giving fans a chance to ask him questions about his work.  We've pulled a few highlights together for you here. 
Q: Will there be a direct sequel to Last Argument of Kings?
Joe: If you mean a book that uses the same point of view characters, then no, but after this third standalone I'm planning a trilogy that moves the action back to the Union and involves a lot of the characters from the First Law perhaps more intimately than the standalones have done.
Q: Would you be open to a TV or film adaptation of your books, and to what extent would you want to be involved in the process?
Joe: I'd certainly be open to it. How much I'd be involved would probably be up to whoever put the money in, because it would need a lot of money. Probably, honestly, not much. It's a very different medium and I'm not sure I'd be the best person to adapt my own baby, as it were...
Q: The world you’ve created is a far cry from the likes of Middle Earth or Narnia, yet its one that a very wide readership has bought into. Do you think that fantasy has finally shed itself of the connotations of being a more childish genre or one that serves as a form of escapism, and its now being recognised as a platform for more diverse and meaningful discussions of wider themes and explorations of character?
Joe: I'm always cautious about generalizations, because I think fantasy is and has always been hugely diverse with many fuzzy areas around the edges. And it all depends on who you ask - there are serious academic critics who love Tolkien, for example, and fantasy fans who find him stodgy and uninteresting. I guess writing stories that some readers enjoy, that a few of those might find profound in some way, should be enough. Who cares what some notional set of critics might think about some notional group of books?
Q: I've loved your books, but I have to ask: what is the root of your hostility to maps in fantasy novels?
Joe: I'm a big lover of maps in fantasy novels, and indeed have spent many pleasurable hours poring over them (and in roleplaying games supplements) and drawing my own with a whole range of coloured pencils. But if I'm going to have one in a book I want it there because it needs to be there and is beautiful and effective in its own right, not just because fantasy books should have them. Best Served Cold and The Heroes are bound in maps in the UK, after all.
Q: What's the simplest piece of writing advice you'd give someone?
Joe: Best piece of writing advice I had was from my Mum, which was always be truthful. When you use a metaphor, or a mode of expression, or write a piece of dialogue or description, ask yourself, is this true? Is that what this thing really looks like? Is that what someone would really say? Are his eyes really in any meaningful way like daggers, or is that an easy cliche that doesn't really mean much when you think about it? Stay truthful, you'll never go far wrong.
Q: On average, how long does it take to produce a complete work (a single volume if it's a series)? From the first bit of planning or phrase you get down to seeing a finalized copy arrive by courier, or airship?
Joe: Probably somewhere between 18 months and two years. Last Argument of Kings was probably fastest at about 14 months, but then finishing off a trilogy you've had planned a long time and with characters you're familiar with is relatively easily. Relatively. The Blade Itself took maybe three years to write but then I was moving very, very slowly to begin with, just feeling my way into it and working out the basics of how to write a scene, and what I wanted to do.
Q: You have revealed that Red Country will take place in the Old Empire. Will we see somehow the fight between the madman Cabrian and the two brothers Scario and Goltus helped by the magi Zacharus?
Joe: It takes place in an area of wilderness north of the Old Empire, so a rough analog of the old west, with colonists expanding into lawless territory and encountering unfriendly locals. Zacharus does appear, though.
Q: The First Law trilogy was centered in Adua. Best Served Cold is in the east, the Heroes in the North, and the Red Country in the West. My question is: will we ever see a novel set in Kanta? Can we get to see the war from Khalul's perspective?
Joe: Don't rule it out. Not sure it will happen soon, though.
Q: Were the fates and prominence of your characters predetermined? I imagine the big ones (Glokta) you had planned out, but what about a character like West, who seemed to grow in stature as the books went on? And did the ending for any characters hit you hard when you wrote them?
Joe: Tough to say now exactly in how much detail things were planned out. I have a pretty comprehensive plan, but there's always some wiggle room in there if you should come up with a better idea. Ideas are rare, for me. Good ones, anyway. Did endings hit me hard? That's not necessarily how I'd put it - the process of writing it is very much slower than reading it, of course, and you've been thinking about it for a long time, probably, so there isn't an impact to it in that way. There can be impact to a good idea, but making a scene work is quite a long drawn out process - you write it bit by bit, you look over it, refine it, come back to it, look at it with an editor, refine it again. It gains its impact over a long period, if you like, but delivers it instantly to the reader (you hope).
Q: Do you ever plan on resolving the big problem in the First Law trilogy's world i.e. the Bayaz v. Khalul conflict. Or is the plan to keep everything more or less static and working within the frame for all your future novels set in that world?
Joe: In a way I don't see that as the central concern. It's the backdrop but I'm more interested in the stories that arise as a result. But we'll see...
Q: What western books and/or films did you read/watch in preparation for Red Country? What are your personal favorite western novels and films? Were you tempted at all to add revolvers into the world with Red Country?
Joe: Elmore Leonard is high praise, his western short stories are one thing I read and enjoyed recently. He's got an amazing trick for setting up memorable characters in a line or two. Other stuff I've read and liked of late - Blood Meridian (liked is perhaps the wrong word), AB Guthrie's The Big Sky, Richard Matheson's Journal of the Gun Years, Pete Dexter's Deadwood. On screen, Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, Once Upon a Time in the West, My Darling Clementine, the Searchers, the HBO Deadwood I think is brilliant, I could go on.
Q: Your descriptions are quite immersive. Did you do any specific research into armed combat or battle tactics? Were any specific time periods or cultures studied? Same question for torture techniques and resulting injuries?
Joe: Well I've read a lot of military history of various eras. I never wanted the books to have a self-consciously medieval feel. I wanted them to feel relevant to the modern era. That was particularly true of The Heroes where, although the technology is late medieval the organisation and scale is more reminiscent of something like the American Civil War. I wanted it to have a kind of "everyway" feeling, if you will.
With the torture it was less about research and more about thinking - what would someone with no scruple do to achieve results in as short a time as possible. The emphasis is therefore less on pain (as it often is depictions of torture in fantasy) and more on inflicting permanent and horrific damage. Permanent damage is a bit of a theme in the First Law.
Q: What's your opinion on "new media" and the effect on established authors? Since breaking into the conventional publishing industry, would you ever consider going solo into e-books once your contract expires?
Joe: I guess my opinion on it is that it's already a vital slice of the market and will only become a bigger one, it's basically the future of the industry whether we like it or not, and publishers and authors need to sort out the pricing and rights issues that dog the whole area as quickly as possible, so that we provide a consistent, sensible and appealing means of supply to our customers, and one which hopefully, in the long run, can provide extras readers can't get from physical books.
I very much doubt I'd ever consider going solo into e-books. I think there's a badly misinformed notion out there that all that publishers do is count the money and cackle evilly in their marble offices and most offers can't wait to be freed from their chafing shackles. It's hard for me to get across all the vital functions the publisher serves, the vast range of jobs they do that I'm not qualified to do and don't particularly want to do. Editing, marketing, publicity, logistics, production, design, artwork, managing relationships with foreign publishers, managing relationships with retailers, co-ordinating all the above. I think it says a lot that many self-publishing successes choose to take a regular publishing contract when they're offered one. It's just a very good idea to have a proper publisher in your corner.
Q: What's the last fantasy and non-fantasy book you've read? Did you enjoy them?
Joe: Oooh, the last fantasy book I read was actually some time ago. I reread part of David Gemmell's Legend recently because I was asked to do a quote for it, and I did enjoy it. I just finished reading Larry McMurtry's Oh What a Slaughter, a brief history of massacres in the American West. Enjoy is possibly the wrong word...
Q: What are your top 5 genre books? and What are your top 5 books in general?
Joe: I've never been that comfortable with the whole idea of favourites, I love to dip in and out of things, but five genre classics that moulded me as a kid, and it's pretty obvious stuff mostly - Lord of the Rings, Moorcock's Elric and Corum, LeGuin's Earthsea, Martin's Game of Thrones, Edding's Belgariad.
I've read pretty widely and in an entirely scattergun way, so let's just pick some other fiction that I've enjoyed and found influential for one reason and another. Dickens' Christmas Carol (my Mum used to read it to me every year), Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, James Elroy's LA Sequence, Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, etc...
Q: Favorite video games?
Joe: Elite, Dungeon Master, Street Fighter II, Total War, Baldur's Gate, Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, I could go on for a very long time...
Q: What's your favorite kind of sandwich and why?
Joe: I like any sandwich I can get someone else to make for me. But I certainly do appreciate a pastrami with gherkin and mustard. What's not to like?

SOURCE: AMA on Reddit


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