Thursday, January 14, 2010
Books from Peter V. Brett - Plus an Interview
This is a Worldbuilders
Well folks, here's the last of the prizes, and the last of the author interviews.
Read on, and find out why Peter V. Brett is my new best friend.
*****Heya Brett. Before we start, could you give us some of the details about how awesome you are? Y'know, awards, how many foreign countries your books have sold in. Stuff like that. Dazzle us.
Awesome, right. Let's see... The Warded Man (AKA The Painted Man) was written on my cellphone during my subway commute to work. In many circles, I am more famous for that than the book itself.
(You can read articles about it: here
Despite having been written with my thumbs, it was named one of Amazon UK's 10 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2008, and has since sold in 18 countries and 17 languages so far (closed a deal in Turkey just a couple of days ago. Very excited about that for multiple reasons). It has been a bestseller in the US, UK, Poland, and Germany that I know of.
The series has been optioned for film by Hollywood director Paul WS Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, who have done such movies as Event Horizon, Death Race, Pandorum, and the Resident Evil franchise.
Er... I am also devastatingly handsome, and make babies with the kind of auburn hair I am told women pay vast amounts of money to their colorists for. I drew the little chapter avatars in the US version of The Warded Man myself.And he also makes julienne fries ladies and gentlemen. Order yours today! Let's start with an easy question. If you were a cake, what sort of cake would you be?
The kind that's been sitting on the counter a long time and is sort of stale so you don't really want to eat it right this second but keep it around in case you suddenly wake up desperate for cake in the middle of the night.What are you reading right now?
I just got over the flu, so I got a lot of reading done, including Brandon Sanderson's new Wheel of Time book, The Gathering Storm
, which I admit I really enjoyed even though Brandon is my nemesis. I think Jordan's spirit is pleased. I also read Shadow's Edge
by Brent Weeks and Legend
by David Gemmell. I'm trying to decide between starting Mistborn by Sanderson or Acacia
by David Anthony Durham next. In the meantime I am reading a bunch of comic books I've accumulated over the last few weeks.
All this reading feels good. For the last couple of years I've been too focused on my own writing to read much else, and I think that was unhealthy. I also had trouble turning off my internal editor, which sucks a lot of the fun out of reading.If you had to pick your favorite book of all time, what would it be?
Ugh. Hard. Favorites shift with my moods. Let's broaden a bit. My Personal Top 5:The Hobbit
by JRR TolkienThe Elfstones of Shannara
by Terry BrooksA Game of Thrones
by George RR MartinThe Shadow Rising
by Robert JordanShogun
by James ClavellYou're relatively new to the publishing world. How has getting your book published changed your life?
Man, you have no idea...
Oh, wait. Yes you do.
I sold in mid 2007, and since then, pretty much EVERYTHING in my life has changed. One minute I was begging someone, anyone, to please read my book, and the next I'm answering fan mail from Australia and Japan. In addition to selling and deciding to write full time, my wife lost her job, we had a baby, and bought a new apartment.
Even though it's mostly been great stuff that I always dreamed about, I really felt like the rug was pulled out from under me, as all the constants in my life up to that point vanished. I didn't know which way was up, and felt an incredible pressure to write a sequel that wouldn't let down the readers who loved the first book. It was doubly hard because I was doing much of it as a zombie on the baby's bi-hourly feeding schedule while we fretted over money, the cost of health insurance, etc.
Your blog helped me a lot as I adjusted to the change. Seeing someone else going through many of the same things (and coming out the other end of it) made it a little easier for me.That's nice to hear. Sometimes I would write some of those blogs and then think, "Why am I telling people this? Why am I burdening people with my emo bullshit?"
I know that feeling well, but the people who would feel burdened by hearing about your life probably don't read your blog. I've found that blogging about my life helps me order my thoughts and keep things in perspective.How often do you check your amazon sales rank?
Far too often. It is a sick, sick obsession. I also have google scour the internets and read every single review, no matter how nut-crunching.Oh man. Google Alerts? I've avoided that particular madness by the clever application of my own ignorance. I don't know how to set it up. I just trust that if something important enough happens, someone will e-mail me.
That is probably wise of you. Google alerts takes about 3 seconds and the internet know-how of a shoe to set up, but it's probably best you never open that door.How many copies of your own books do you currently own?
I have two shelves of my own books. One has two copies of each version/translation for my personal collection. So far that is 16 distinct volumes, so there are 32 books in my personal collection. These books are precious to me, and I guard them like my young.
The other shelf has books I am free to give away, and I try to run contests and things on my blog to keep those moving. That shelf has another 47 books at the moment, in various languages.Wow. Specific numbers. Nobody else has been that forthcoming yet.
What are they hiding, do you think? Secret bunkers of their books in case of apocalypse?Absolutely. I assume everyone buys their own first book obsessively, usually in conjunction with checking their Amazon sales rank.Okay. Before this interview goes any farther, I have a confession to make.
You were one of the first people to send your books into the fundraiser, and while I was sitting up with my baby one night, I didn't have anything to read. Your books were sitting right there.... So I read one. That's not something I normally do with donations, but it was just sitting there. Taunting me.
Admission of guilt is the first step towards absolution, my friend. I think if you put a note in the front of the book saying "I read this one; the cookie crumbs and coffee stains are mine. Love, Pat" whoever wins the book will forgive the fact that it is second-hand, since they will probably get a lot more for it on eBay.Boy, are you sure? I never write in books other than when I sign my own for people. I think it's a sin, isn't it?
This is a special case. Anyone who wins it in the Heifer fundraiser will probably be more a fan of yours than mine, anyway, and I give you leave to illuminate my book with your delicate cursive... or deface it with your chicken-scratch, if your handwriting is anything like mine. (Thank goodness we live in the computer age.)Okay. If you're sure...
- A copy of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. Signed by the author... and another author who read it.
Feel free to add "It didn't suck" to your note...Man, way better than that. I have to say, your book was really fucking good.
!! Do go on...Okay, to be completely honest with you, I was really ready to dislike it. I'm not proud of this... but, I'd heard you'd already got a movie deal going, so I was a little jealous. And you wrote it on the subway, so I was ready to be all snarky about that, too. I was kinda expecting you to be Paolini of the F-train. His book got popular because he was so young, and I assumed yours just got attention because of the subway gimmick.
I should know better than jump to conclusions like that, of course. But I can be just as ignorant and petty as the next guy... And I was totally wrong, your book is, like .5 of a Whedon on the coolness scale.
Firefly Whedon or Dollhouse Whedon?There is only one Whedon, and I am his prophet.
Did you see that time in Astonishing X-Men when he made xxx Xxxxxx Xxxx xxxxxxxx? That was AWESOME.That was awesome. He caught me off guard like he always does. That's one of his gifts, in my opinion. He's exceptionally good at coming at any sort of story from a fresh direction. Sorry I xxx-ed out your potential spoiler, by the way. I have issues.Back to the point though. I really dug your book even though I didn't want to like it at first...
I understand completely. So long as we're being honest, I felt the same way about you at first. When my book first came out last year, it seemed like every other review was referring to it as "The best new fantasy since The Name of the Wind". I know it was meant as a compliment, but after it happened a few times, it started to stick in my craw. My inner insecurity began translating that as "this is a good book, but TNotW is a better one." Grr.
I didn't know anything about you or TNotW at the time, so I picked up a copy to see what all the fuss was about. Admittedly, I went in with more than a little bias, ready to pounce on any flaws I could find just to make myself feel better.
Of course, I ended up utterly charmed, and when I started reading your blog and saw what a nice guy you were, I realized I was being a bit of a dick.Heh. The same thing happened with me when my book came out. Everyone was like, "Pat Rothfuss is the next Scott Lynch!" I remember thinking, "Can't I just be the first Pat Rothfuss? I've got a lot more experience being that."
Ha. I just feel sorry for the poor schmo who gets saddled with being the next Peter Brett. That's no prize.So.... Now that we're friends and all, is there any chance I could get an early look at Desert Spear? I'll do just about anything to get a copy. I'm not joking here. I'd choke a nun.
Hrm. Well, here's the thing. I only have 4 advance read copies, and two of them have been promised to fans as prizes in an ongoing contest on my blog. The other two are my personal copies, on the aforementioned "precious" shelf. They are so beautiful, the paired books on that shelf, like a little Noah's Ark of books. Even my mom doesn't have a Desert Spear ARC.
But that said, maybe if there were a way to make the copy eventually go to charity...I wouldn't want to steal one of your personal copies. Like I said, I understand the book-hoarding impulse....
Actually, I made a plea to Del Rey, and they shook loose another copy for me to send you. You know. For charity.Muahahahaha! Witness my power! No. Wait. I mean... that will be a great addition to the fundraiser. This is all about charity you know...
Just put it and The Warded Man in a plain brown box labeled "Pat's used books" and add it to the lottery.Done:What's the most shameful self-promotional thing you've ever done?
I brought chocolate cake with icing wards to a signing at ComicCon just to entice people over. In my defense, it was my birthday.You were at Comic-Con this year?
New York, not San Diego. I usually go to SDCC, but my daughter was born on that exact weekend in 2008, so I think I may miss it until she is old enough for me to convince her that an airplane hanger full of 200,000 cosplayers is a birthday treat.If you play your cards right, you should be able to convince her that it's a special birthday party just for her.
That's the plan.What is the best compliment you've ever received?
Milla Jovovich hugged me and told me she loved my book.Oh man. Now I'm filled with terrible rage and jealousy. I think I might hate you again....
Uh-oh.What's the most hurtful thing someone has ever said in a review of your book?
A lot of readers try to pinpoint my personal morality and politics from the book. Sometimes they are wrong and say terrible things about my beliefs that are really upsetting. A few times I have tried to engage those critics in a polite, calm, and non-confrontational manner, just to set the record straight. Sometimes that helps. Sometimes it is a clusterfuck.Two extra points for use of the word 'clusterfuck.' Do you have a particular piece of grammar that you screw up regularly?
I grew reading a lot of British fantasy (Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lewis Carroll, etc.) so there are a lot of Britishisms I use without realizing it. My copyeditors hate me.If you could punch one literary figure in the face, who would it be?
I challenged Brent Weeks to a knife fight at the World Fantasy Convention this year, Beat It style, but he'd left his switchblade in his room so we just drank scotch instead.Rumor has it that Voltaire wrote on the naked backs of his lovers. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?
I write very long books, so I would need many lovers.That's what I keep telling Sarah, but she isn't buying it. How long was the Warded Man, anyway? It didn't feel very long at all....
The Warded Man was 163,000 words, give or take. The first draft was closer to 180,000, but I cut a lot in the final editing pass. The Desert Spear, however, weighs in at a hefty 240,000 words, and that's AFTER the heavy cutting. It's no Wise Man's Fear, but the hardcover will still make an effective bludgeon.I hear you about the cutting. Over the years I'm guessing I cut over 100,000 words out of The Name of the Wind.Speaking of which, I had an idea when I was interviewing Weeks a while back. It turns out he cuts a lot of stuff too. I'm thinking it would be cool to collect some deleted scenes from some other fantasy authors, put them into an anthology along with some commentary by the authors.We could call it Worldbuilders, and some of the money it made could go to help match funds for the Worldbuilders fundraiser. I'll admit it's just a pipe dream so far, but what do you think?
It's a good dream.
I saw that interview, where you both were talking about having cut the first sections from your books. I don't know if this is just the case for all new writers, but the Prologue to The Warded Man was cut just prior to publication as well. I have a whole page of my website devoted to excised material
, along with essays as to why things were cut. If you ever want to do a Worldbuilders anthology, I will be happy to contribute.Rock. On. I'm so going to make this happen.
In the meantime, I still need to make a donation to Worldbuilders for this year. I don't feel right about entering the lottery, though. Would it be possible for me to made a modest addition to the pool helping to match donations?Oh merciful Buddha, are you serious? Some cash to help match donations would be the best thing ever.Last year the fundraiser really tapped me out financially, so I was trying to be more careful this year when I said I'd only match 50%. But we've ended up raising WAY more than I expected. We're already over 115,000 dollars. Even with Subterranean Press matching the first 10,000, that still leaves me stretched really thin.
I never planned on Worldbuilders being a one-man show. I'd always hoped some other folks would offer to help match donations, or maybe do fundraisers or auctions of their own to help Worldbuilders raise funds to match donations....
But you're the first to actually offer. Anyway, the short answer is "Yes." I'd love to have you onboard helping to match donations.
You are now officially my new best friend. *Ahem.* Anyway... back to the pre-tangent question. Do you have any weird writing habits?
Sometimes when I have writer's block I will sync whatever chapter I am working on to my phone and write on the subway. For some odd reason, that always clears the block. No idea why.That's another reason the Voltaire thing wouldn't work for you. It'd be hard to get properly intimate on the F-Train. People would complain about how many seats you were taking up.
You'd be surprised what you can get away with on the F...I recently made a joke about "transition putty" on my blog. That being, of course, what we writers buy at Home Depot to smooth out our rough transitions. If you could have some sort of handyman tool like that, something like Plot Spackle or a Character Level. What would it be?
I wish I could go buy a box of minor character names like I can a box of nails. Look at all the trouble it's causing you. You had to start a whole contest
to get some ideas.Heh. You detected my clever scheme, did you? Keep quiet about it and I'll cut you in for 10% of the names.
Mum's the word.Those are all the questions I have. Thanks much for the interview, and double thanks for being willing to help out Worldbuilders as our first official author Sponsor. I can't thank you enough for that.
Oh, and next time you see Milla, give her a hug for me....
Will do. Thanks so much for having me on the blog, and for all the great work you're doing with Heifer. I'm glad I could do my own little part to help.
Personally, I can't think of a better way to end the last post of the fundraiser: our first author sponsor. Hopefully the first of many.
- Four copies of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. Signed by the Author.
Not only is Brett's debut novel a smashing good read, but owning a copy will bring you good luck, protect you from the swine flu, and make you roughly 33% more attractive to the opposite sex.
Plus Brett has hugged Milla Jovovich. That means if you win one of these books that he's touched with his own hands, it's like you're getting to hug her too, albeit twice removed.
Well folks, this is the last of the prizes. You have until midnight on January 15th
to get in on the action. For every $10 you donate on my Team Heifer page
you get a chance to win books like these and many, many others.
If you want to know more about what you can win, or if you'd like more info about Worldbuilders itself, you can head over here
for all the details.
With thanks to our sponsor, Subterranean Press
(Ahhh... Last post of the fundraiser. Now can relax a bit....)
Labels: cool things, Me Interviewing Other Folks, Peter V. Brett, Worldbuilders 2009
posted by Pat at
Friday, January 8, 2010
Books from Brent Weeks - Plus an Interview
This is a Worldbuilders
Time for another interview folks, this one with Brent Weeks
author of the Night Angel Trilogy.Heya Brent. Let's say you're at a party and you meet someone you wanted to impress. What sort of things about your writing career would you casually drop into the conversation to prove that you're awesome?
Oh, I'd definitely drop the NY Times bestselling author bit, though with a self-deprecatory asterisk.Yeah. That carries a ridiculous amount of weight. A couple months after I hit the Times, an editor at Penguin asked me, "How do you like your new first name?" I gave her a dumb look. She said, "You're not Pat Rothfuss anymore. Now you're New-York-Times-bestselling-author-Pat Rothfuss." And it was totally true. That's how everyone introduced me at conventions for almost a year. What's your asterisk, by the way?
There are more NY Times lists than people think. There's a fiction hardcover list, a fiction mass-market paperback list, non-fiction lists, self-help lists, and children's lists. The list goes to 35, but due to... well, heck, I dunno, the cost of paper? the lists that get printed go only to 20.
I was on the list for 3 weeks, but I topped out at 29. One publisher who I gave a blurb to said, "Oh, we only count authors who hit the printed list as NY Times bestsellers." Oh. I feel snobbed on.
Thus: Hi, my name is New-York-Times-bestselling-author-but-only-on-the-internet Brent Weeks.Oh man... you're only on the extended list? Good lord, why I am I even bothering to talk to you? I kid, I kid... If you had to pick your favorite book of all time, what would it be? The Name of the Wind
?Ahh... That's why I'm talking to you. You've got me all blushy. Seriously though. What would your favorite be?
The monstrous compendium of Calvin & Hobbes.Good choice. You're relatively new to the publishing world. How often do you check your amazon sales rank?
Oh, hells, busted. I used to check it all the time. Then I found this service that would do the dirty work for me...free. Check out titlez.com. Then I would check that sucker every couple of days. But I can proudly say that I've been Amazon sober for several months--with only a teeny little bit of backsliding.What's the most shameful self-promotional thing you've ever done?
I joined Twitter? No, wait, I've done worse than that. I made some Stormtroopers pose with my books.
How about you?Oh man. I don't know if it's the *most* shameful, but I have a bad habit of sending copies of my book to anyone I think might be remotely interested in it. Bloggers. Webcomic artists. Other authors. Everyone. When The Name of the Wind was first published, I shotgunned books at least a hundred books out there, desperately hoping someone would read it, like it, and tell their friends. What's your revision process like? How many drafts do you go through? What's the biggest cut you've ever made to a manuscript?
I cut the first thirty thousand words of The Way of Shadows. Then, much later, my agent told me to cut ten thousand words from Shadow's Edge. I went through seven hundred pages with a red pen, hacking out everything that wasn't necessary, and cut twenty thousand words. (Possibly a hundred pages, depending on spacing.)
I actually like revising. When you finish the first draft, a novel's such a rough stone, flawed and ugly, with only little glimmers of what it could be. Revising makes it a polished stone, flawed and ugly, with medium-sized glimmers of what it could be.We sound pretty similar there. I actually cut the first chapter of Name of the Wind before we published it. It was cool worldbuilding, but it slowed the book down too much. How about this? We take both of our cut beginnings, polish them up, then find a few other authors and start an anthology. How does that sound to you?
Man, I dunno. I mean, you HAVE a reputation to crap on. Me? If I sink any lower, I'll be the William Shatner of epic fantasy.No... hold on a minute. I think this is a workable idea. If we got a few other authors who were willing to kick in their discarded chapters, it would be a cool collection that would give a peek into the creative process. It would show some of the behind-the-scenes worldbuilding we do that never makes it into the finished product. Hell, we could call the anthology Worldbuilders. Then maybe donate some of the money it makes to next year's fundraiser...C'mon. Say you'll do it. Remember: "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few..."
After computer switches and computer crashes... Man, I have no idea where that chunk is. Believe me, I'm all about cashing in for work I've already done, and giving proceeds to charity sounds good, too, but even if I found it... there's polishing a raw gem, and there's polishing poo. No matter how long you do the latter, it ain't gonna shine.
Maybe it isn't as bad as I remember. If I find it, I'll let you know.I'll hold you to that. I like this idea....What's the most hurtful thing someone has ever said in a review of your book?
It wasn't a review, but on a forum, someone posted a topic of "Brent Weeks raped Robert Jordan." That was pretty cool, especially because RJ was pretty much a hero of mine.
Will you tell me yours?I think it might have been the Amazon reviewer who said all my female characters were whores or June Cleaver clones. That stung a bit. If you could punch one literary figure in the face, who would it be?
Hold it, you never said you were going to ask about Twilight. Bollocks to Team Edward. Come here, you shiny pansy! Oh, um... I mean, not gonna go there.Author D. H. Lawrence confessed that he enjoyed climbing mulberry trees while naked. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?
He did that first? Ah, man... You're telling me I have to come up with a new zany writer quirk for people to share about me?I'm afraid so. You don't want people starting a forum thread titled: Brent Weeks raped DH Lawrence. Seriously though. No little quirks about your writing process? No little superstitions or foibles?
I have these three balls, labeled 1000, 1500, and 2000. I juggle them in increasingly difficult patterns until I drop one. Whichever one I drop is the number of words I have to write that day.
I also make up lies to tell on the internet.I recently made a joke about "transition putty" on my blog. That being, of course, what we writers buy at Home Depot to smooth out our rough transitions. If you could have some sort of handyman tool like that, something like Plot Spackle or a Character Level. What would it be?
So you're the guy who's buying up all the transition putty? They keep telling me it's back ordered!
I do love !Vivify! brand Character Resurrection Screws. I had this guy who kept falling off my plot by dying, and a few of those suckers put him right back in place. I also have six--nope, nope--seven Plot Hole Shovels. I might need more...Thanks again for agreeing to the interview. And for all the lovely swag you've donated to the fundraiser. You're a champ.
* * *
As you'll see below, Brent really went above and beyond in his donation, sending along a bunch of different signed versions of his Night Angel Trilogy. Ready for them all? Here we go....
- Two boxed sets of the Night Angel trilogy. Signed by the Author.
- Two sets of The Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge and Beyond the Shadows. Signed by the Author.
- Two hardcover collections of the Entire Night Angel trilogy. Signed by the Author.
- An ARC of The Way of Shadows. Signed by the Author.
- Two sets of the audio books The Way of Shadows and Shadow's Edge. Signed by the Author.
As you can see, Brent Weeks is one of those fancy lads who have already finished their trilogy. Three books, no waiting. Unlike some slackers out there...
A lot of folks have been raving about his books, but I'll just stick to Terry Brooks when he says: "I was mesmerized from start to finish. Unforgettable characters, a plot that kept me guessing, non-stop action and the kind of in-depth storytelling that makes me admire a writer's work."Remember folks, the fundraiser is over on January 15th. Until then, for every 10 dollars you donate to Heifer International, you get a chance to win these books and hundreds of others like them.
I'm matching 50% of all donations made. So the money you kick in goes farther if you donate before the 15th. So why not head over to my page at Team Heifer and chip in. Trust me. You'll feel great afterward.
Or, if you want to go back to the main page for Worldbuilders to read the details and see all the cool prizes, you can click HERE.
With thanks to our sponsor, Subterranean Press.
Labels: Brent Weeks, Me Interviewing Other Folks, Worldbuilders 2009
posted by Pat at
Monday, December 7, 2009
Abercrombie Books, and an Interview
Over the last couple years, I've done a lot of interviews. I'm guessing somewhere between two and three hundred.
While I always enjoy them to some degree or other, I have noticed that a lot of questions tend to be the same. And things tend to be rather formal. Rarely does anyone ask me stupid, fun questions like, "Who would you rather kiss, Samuel Delany or George Martin?"
So when I started collecting books for the fundraiser, I thought I'd try doing some interviews of my own. Just to see what it's like on the other side of the desk, so to speak.
Joe Abercrombie is the first of these. He's donated some books (see below) I thought he might be willing to have some fun because he wasn't upset when I encouraged a roomful of people in Manchester to "mess up his pretty face."
I've talked about his books before on the blog
. So I won't repeat myself here. Instead, let's get right to it...Okay. Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Joe. Can I call you Joe?
We're all friends here. You can call me Mr. Abercrombie.First let's get the introductions out of the way. Assume you met someone at a dinner party who had never heard of you. Assume you wanted to impress this person. Also, assume that you are really drunk. Let's say… five drinks. Drunk enough to brag but not drunk enough to slur. What would you say?
Don't you know who I am? You're joking. You do know. You do. You don't? I'm REALLY awesome. You'll just have to take my word for it, because I haven't won any awards. I've been passed over for being too edgy/safe/literary/commercial. I personally believe it's all politically motivated. I was nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, though, and the David Gemmel Legend Award. The Blade Itself is published or forthcoming in . . . let me see . . . 14 languages, I think? I do particularly well in Germany, like the Hoff. Come back. Come back here! Where are you going?Let's start with an easy question, Mr. Abercrombie. If you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be?
An immense, thrusting, unconquerable English oak, starving the pitiful lesser saplings of other fantasy authors that crowd about its mighty trunk of all light and water, spreading its suffocating canopy across the fantasy landscape and making of it a blasted desert.So which of these other pitiful other authors are you reading right now?
I am reading a book called Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan, a gory savage medieval Norse magical werewolf book. It's good. Out next year, I believe.
I am also reading a vast selection of bathroom, kitchen, radiator, insulation, wallpaper, furniture, and architectural catalogues.Are you researching for some sort of bizarre fantasy DIY crossover novel?
Renovating and extending a house, but now that you've made that suggestion I may start. I think DIY/fantasy is an underexploited sector of the market.If you had to pick your favorite book of all time, what would it be?
Wow, man, that's a tough question. I'm totally split between Best Served Cold and Last Argument of Kings. I tell you what, you can have the deciding vote. Which of those two is your favourite book of all time?Of those, I'd have to say that Best Served Cold is my favorite. I have four of them on my coffee table and they work really well as coasters. Not only is it all title-ironic, but the thickness of the book makes it a great insulator.
I knew you didn't really want those books for some kind of charity giveaway…Nah. I'm fixing up my house, too. I just throw all the books into a shredder and stuff the paper in the attic. Speaking as a conneseur of fantasy literature, your book has some serious R value.
You're relatively new to the publishing world. How has getting your book published changed your life?
To begin with, not very much. Publishing is, as you probably know yourself (and probably like most businesses when you get closely involved with them) a slow, unwieldy, mostly unglamorous, and largely unprofitable business. I'm still waiting to sweep down some marble steps in a white suit with a dirty martini in my hand while crowds of beautiful people applaud me.
For me it was a relatively slow burn – there was a year's wait between signing a contract and the first book being published, in which I continued pretty much as normal, just a bit more smug. There was a steady ramping up of excitement prior to the first book appearing, then a strange and eerie silence when it actually went out there.
All this time I was still doing my day job as a tv editor and writing in my spare time pretty much as I had been before I got a deal. But each book that came out in the trilogy did better, and dragged along the ones that came before, plus further rights were sold in foreign markets, which meant that I've gradually been able to commit more time to the writing without leaving my family to starve.
These days I've more or less given up on the editing and I'm lucky enough to be able to write full time, so I guess you could say that my life is totally changed since I was first published, but it's been a slow metamorphosis rather than an overnight transformation.I wanted to ask about the film editing. You've done work for people like Barry White and Coldplay. Was it a cool gig? or were you the film equivalent of a code monkey – all of the work, none of the glory?
As you're probably well aware, editors in the book world often do a lot of the work for a fraction of the glory, and tend to serve as scapegoats for the wrath of readers. If people like a book – well written. If they hate it – badly edited. And the odd thing is that it's virtually impossible to tell from the finished product how good the editing is, as you've no idea what state it started in.
Editing in the TV world is not entirely dissimilar, and usually the aim of editing is to be entirely invisible so the audience is caught up in what they're watching. So the general public will rarely notice good editing, only bad.
Plus in TV you're part of a big team – directors, producers, executives, cameramen, and many more, all with important roles to play, and where directors and cameramen are always going to spend time on location, editors will typically work after the event, locked away with flickering screens in a darkened room, for hours on their own, struggling to shape the metaphorical silk purse from the sow's ear. So the glory is minimal. Having said that, it's a cool gig in that the work is pretty varied and creative, the pay is pretty good, and the freelance lifestyle gives you plenty of time off. If it hadn't been for that free time between jobs I might never have started writing.How often do you check your amazon sales rank?
At one point it was getting a bit silly, so now I have to strictly limit myself to five times an hour. This has become a great deal easier since I discovered Sales Rank Express, a web application that allows you to check all your sales ranks simultaneously. Or those of everyone at your imprint, for that matter.How many copies of your own books do you currently own?
Hard to say, since most of my books are packed up in boxes, but since I get sent several dozen of any new UK release and half a dozen of each foreign language edition, plus extra books whenever anything's reprinted, a lot more than is decent or functional. I'm currently looking at about fifteen UK and US Best Served Colds, a box full of new Blade Itself Mass Market Paperbacks, A box of Swedish Blade Itselves (Itselfs?) where they split the book in two therefore doubling the number I got sent, a stack of Russian ones, a Czech Before They are Hanged, and my Mum's old copy of Beowulf. I didn't write that last one, of course.
It's a strong possibility that there are more of my books inside my house than outside it.What's the most shameful self-promotional thing you've ever done?
I am a venomously ambitious sociopath incapable of the feelings of shame or guilt.Assume for a moment that you're me. (I'm from the American Midwest, so I have an abundance of shame and guilt.) Can you remember anything you've done that would make me blush with shame?
I can't remember anything particularly egregious, but in general as a writer you've got to do anything and everything you can to persuade people to read your books, especially when you're starting out. There are no points given for lights under bushels, and if you don't seem to be excited about your own work, how can you expect anyone else to be excited about reading it? But I can tell there's some story you're itching to tell. Come on now. Don't be shy. That beard isn't real, is it? I knew it.It's real. But it's not really promotional. I use it to strike fear into the hearts of my enemies. And it makes it easier to dress up as Animal from the Muppets. Speaking of, how do you feel about Muppets?
I feel some feelings of fuzzy nostalgia, but it's not a subject particularly close to my heart. I was more into Thundercats.I'm curious because soon after reading your trilogy, I watched Labyrinth. In the special features, Jim Henson said, "When I go see a film, when I leave the theater, I like a few things: I like to be happier than I was when I went in, I like a film to leave me with a up feeling and I like picture to have a sense of substance." What is your personal philosophy about your books? How do you want people to feel when they leave the theatre, so to speak?
Nice question, and a tough one to answer. First off I'd like them to feel they've been entertained – thrilled, amused, tantalized, titillated, surprised, or some combination of the above.
Entertainment is the number one priority as far as I'm concerned. I'd like them to feel they've met some vivid, interesting, unusual characters, and that those people will stick with them for some time to come. And I suppose ideally I'd want them to be left with some questions about fantasy in general, about the role that simple stories of good and evil with happy endings play for us. But deeper points are optional – you have to accept that most people aren't going to take away everything you try to put into a book, and may even take away messages you never intended.
Above all, of course, I'd like people to shut my book with a burning need to pick up the next one…I ask because... well... Your books are *dark*. I mean, I pride myself on writing some fairly gritty fantasy. Uncaring universe. People abuse their power. Bad things happen to good people. All that. But your stuff... it's a whole different level. I don't know if there are good people in your world. Everyone's just a different flavor of bastard. Many of them are endearing bastards, but still… I guess that's what I'm curious about. Are you purposely trying to portray a world that is unremittingly grim? Are you attempting to do the opposite of leaving the reader with that "up feeling" Henson mentioned?
Yeah, interesting question. It wasn't ever my intention to present something darker-than-thou, if you like, to do something punishingly cynical and depressing. I guess what I was mostly trying to do was present something that ran counter to the classic epic fantasy I'd read as a kid, and since a lot of that was quite sanitized, morally simple and optimistic, I have ended up with something quite grim. But then epic fantasy often flirts with very dark issues – with war, corruption, treachery, torture, buckets of violence – and the protagonists somehow come through the metaphorical filth with their armour all shiny.
I wanted to present a greyer, more complicated world with greyer, more complicated characters. As well as looking at the damage both physical and emotional that combat with edged weapons might really cause. As with anything, responses vary. Some readers find it unpalatably, or perhaps unconvincingly, dark and cynical, others find it relatively mild. I've even been taken to task for my cowardly happy endings, so, you know, one man's meat and all that…What's the most hurtful thing someone has ever said in a review of your book?
Reactions of extreme distaste and hatred I actually quite enjoy, because they're at least strong reactions, and there's a good chance one person will love a book for the exact reason another despises it. Accusations of tedium or mediocrity I find most wounding.Do you have a particular piece of grammar that you screw up regularly?
My spelling sucks when typing at speed. When reading sections back I find I have typed 'of' instead of 'off', 'there' instead of 'their' (or the other way round), and 'to' instead of 'too' with alarming frequency. I am also involved in an ongoing battle with my editor over my use of the word 'behind'. She insists on frequently adding 'him', 'her' or, 'them' afterward. I refuse, arguing the qualification is implicit in the context. But in general I don't think grammar should be taken too seriously. It's like manners. They are guidelines, not laws, and can be easily circumvented if you do it with charm.If you could pick one person from all of history to punch, who would it be?
I once broke my hand punching a pile of paper in a rage. True story. I would therefore elect to punch a small person with a nice, soft face. Napoleon, maybe?Judging by that answer, can I assume that your delightfully gritty fight scenes are not based on any personal experience?
I held a sword for the first time not very long ago, and it was quite a scary experience. You could feel how easy it would be to kill someone with it. I was slightly worried I would accidentally kill someone by moving my arm around quite gently. Makes you feel like a big man, though.Alexandre Dumas wrote his nonfiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow. Do you have any little rituals that help you write?
Of late I have attempted to impose discipline onto my process, by working in two two hour blocks each day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, in which I only write, do not use the internet, and ignore all distractions. The rest of the day I am free to do whatever I like, replacing the old system of working at an incredibly low and inefficient level all the time, and feeling guilty whenever I wasn't writing while only actually really writing for about five minutes each day. The first day I tried it I wrote about four thousand words, responded to about a hundred emails, cleaned half the house and went to the gym, and I thought my life was changed. But it seems I am finding it harder and harder to commit to those magic two hour periods. Something always gets in the way.I recently made a joke about Transition Putty on my blog. That being, of course, what we writers buy at Home Depot to smooth out our rough transitions. If you could have some sort of handyman tool like that, something like Plot Spackle or a Character Level, what would it be?
Once you've applied the transition putty and given it good time to set, can I also suggest an orbital segue sander. I find one of those with a really fine paper can make your transitions so smooth you won't even realize there their. I mean they're there.
I would have a description jackhammer. Dialogue and action come relatively naturally to me but I am sick and tired of the back-breaking effort of digging up all my descriptive passages by hand. I could also use the descripto-hammer to noisily smash up the descriptions of other authors and mix the bits into a kind of low-grade descriptive aggregate. I could then wedge it between sections of dialogue I am otherwise too lazy to link together properly, and I doubt anyone would notice the poor construction quality of my books until they all collapsed in an earthquake, by which time I would have sunk the profits in a hedge fund and be living it up in Bora Bora. Also, enormous power-tools make you feel almost as big a man as swords do.
An ending measure would be useful too, since I could then get a categorical reading on whether the endings of my books are shit or good. Readers don't seem to be able to give me a consistent measurement on that…Thanks again, Mr. Abercrombie. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat. Not to mention chipping in some lovely books for the fundraiser. '
Least I could do. Pleasure talking to you and best of luck with the fundraising.
* * *
In order to help out with Worldbuilders, Mr. Abercrombie has been nice enough to donate the following lovely books.
- Three copies of the first edition UK printing of Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. Signed by the author.
- Three copies of the first edition USA printing of Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. Signed by the author.
Remember folks, for every 10 dollars you donate to Heifer International, you get a chance to win these books and many, many more. So head over to my page at Team Heifer and chip in.
If you want details about what books are being given away, and how the whole fundraiser works, you can go to the main page for the Worldbuilders fundraiser HERE.
Auctions coming soon. Stay tuned.
With special thanks to our sponsor, Subterranean Press.
(Oh Subterranean Press, how I love you...)
Labels: Me Interviewing Other Folks, the longest fucking blog ever, Worldbuilders 2009
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