Ask me Anything

Posted on January 6th, 2012 in interviews

Ever dreamed of asking me a question but couldn’t be arsed to post on this blog?  Then all your dreams they come true, for between the hours of 11pm-1am GMT (That’s 5-7PM Central) on Tuesday Jan 10th I will be responding in real time to  questions posed by the generally public over at Reddit’s fantasy forum, where other writerly persons such as Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, and Patrick of Rothfuss have appeared before me, further details to be found here.  The basic idea is, you pose a totally fair and reasonable question, I either totally refuse to respond, or reply in a totally snarky and dismissive way.  Apart from the typing, it’s just like meeting me in real life!

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  1. 3. This is a tricky one: In the Heroes, both Jalenhorm and Mitterick are said to command seven regiments (two horsed and five afoot each). Later Jalenhorm’s division is reinforced with two regiments from Mitterick. So Jalenhorm gets to command up to nine regiments.

    During the battle, we see Jalenhorm commanding: the 1st Regiment (Vallimir’s, where Tunny serves), the 6th Regiment (Wetterland’s, annihilated on the first day), the 8th, the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the Rostod Regiment, the Stariksa Regiment and the Aduan Volunteers. (This totals 9)

    And we see Mitterick commanding: The 2nd Regiment, the 3rd, the 5th, the 7th, the 10th, and the Keln Regiment (totalling 6)

    So my question is: between Jalnhorm and Mitterick there should be no more than 14 regiments. However, they command 15.

    What happened here?

  2. Kate,
    What magnificent questions. This is proper specialist subject on Mastermind type stuff. You have exerted the proper level of attention to detail and deserve proper responses, to whit:

    1. Ah, well, I’d rather not exhaustively catalogue outside of the text. I might need those three later, after all…

    2. I don’t have the notes on this in front of me, but as I recall they split into four groups of three: Law Lords, War Lords, Money Men, the King’s Household. Law – High Justice, High Consul (foreign policy), Keeper of the Rolls (responsible for records, inheritances, land and title), War – 2 Lord Marshals, one senior who remains at home, one junior who goes on campaign, plus a Lord Admiral, Money – Lord Chancellor, a minister for taxation, a minister for expenditure, Household – Chamberlain (responsible for the king’s household and person), Commander of Knights Herald (responsible for information and carriage of orders), Arch Lector of the Inquisition. So the Keeper of the Rolls and the ministers for taxation and expenditure don’t (I think) appear explicitly in the text. I’d have to check it out in some detail to be exhaustively sure, though.

    3. I actually have an order of battle right in front of me now, which certainly should correspond to the text. Whether it does is a different matter. Certainly there are probably details which never appear in the text. According to my notes Jalenhorm’s and Mitterick’s divisions both start with seven regiments, two king’s own cavalry, three king’s own foot, and two levy regiments. Meed’s division has six, one king’s own cavalry (4th), one foot (15th), one levy (the Holsthorm Regiment, as it happens) and 3 Angland divisions, with the Dogman’s Loyalists attached. So there are a total of 12 King’s Own Regiments, 5 cavalry and 7 foot, plus 5 levy regiments and 3 Angland Regiments, 20 in all (though varying considerably in size, the cavalry regiments are much smaller in terms of manpower) plus the Dogman’s loyalists. During the battle there’s some shuffling around, though – the 6th gets badly mauled, most of the cavalry is concentrated with Mitterick on the left, and some of his foot moves to Jalenhorm for the big assault on the Heroes. The 5th is one of Meed’s Cavalry divisions, so I suspect that’s your extra one. Make sense?

  3. Looking forward to meeting you in person at ConFusion toward the end of this month.

    So I’ll pester you with a favorite question I ask other writers: What was the book, story, or movie that made you know you were going to write in this genre? Or was it something else? What brought you over to the dark side?

  4. Joe, I admit I sometimes have a little trouble with the phonetic pronunciation of some of your characters’ names. For example, is Bayaz pronounced or ‘Bay-az’ or ‘By-az’?

  5. Hey Robin,
    Thanks for stopping by. And yeah, looking forward to it greatly.

    I read a lot of fantasy as a kid and played a whole lot of roleplaying games so I had a lot of ideas for an epic fantasy (alright, stolen from others) but never really thought seriously about writing until my mid-twenties. When I did it wasn’t really a case of deciding to write something and casting about for the subject, it was that I’d always had this story, these characters, these ideas in mind and decided to give writing them down a try…

    How about you?

    As it reads, Bay as in bay of biscay, az as in jazz.

  6. Old fairy tale books that belonged to my Dad set me off. And a tale called The Joyous Story of Astrid. So I was corrupted at an early age, and when The Lord of the Rings hit me as a teenager, I was done for.

    Thanks for the insight.


  7. The Prophet Khalul’s order of Eaters are known as the Hundred Words. I’m curious as to where that one came from. I mean, yeah, there’s a hundred of them, but ‘Words’? It sounds ruddy cool, but in what respect are they sequences of letters? Is there some in-universe etymology behind it? Danke!

  8. Thanks for the answers Joe! Needless to say I love your worldbuilding and I’m eager for any new expansion of the setting.

    Your data on Meed’s army is really useful! We couldn’t see much of his side during the battle. You are right the Meed’s cavalry was the source of all my trouble, but I’m confused with the number of regiment: I guess you meant that he has the 5th cavalry regiment, not the fourth, isn’t it? Summarizing/Conjencturing:

    Jalenhorm: 1*, 6, 8, 13, 14, Rostod, Stariksa
    Mitterick: 2*, 3*, 7, 10, 12, Keln, Adua?
    Meed: 5*, 15, Holsthorm, Angland 1, Angland 2, Angland 3.

    With the 4th, the 9th and the 11th not existing for some obscure reason. Joe, you’ve made my day!! (and put an end to nearly a year of fruitless speculation).

    Btw, I’d suggest that for the next deluxe edition of the Heroes, it’s be great to include the names of each division on the drawings at the begining of each day.

  9. What a great opportunity!To ask Joe whatever we want!1000 questions spring to mind but I tried to select the most interesting.
    So here goes…

    In your future stories do you plan (or even aspire) to focus mainly on characters and how these are interwoven or focus towards events that will shape up their lives?

    To put it in a nutshell epic battles,cataclysmic events or Curden Crow to be revealed as Logen’s long lost uncle?

    I am asking this,because I noticed a specific “turn” in Martin’s tales,whereas in the first books you had big and bloody battles/duels,the later books seem to focus more on politics..

  10. Hi Joe,

    Since you’ve been researching various Western books and movies for your next book, have you sampled any Spaghetti Westerns?

    If so, what are your favorites?


  11. Conor,
    Undoubtedly there is a deep meaning to it. But sounds ruddy cool is the primary objective.

    Well I guess a good epic fantasy should combine elements of both, really. Some small scale events, and some huge ones that we see the intimate effects of on some individuals…

    I have long been familiar with spaghetti westerns. Once upon a time in the west would be my favourite. Can’t knock Henry Fonda as the villain. But The Good The Bad and The Ugly ain’t bad or ugly either…

    Your numbers are exactly right (well done) apart from Meed’s division which consists of Kings Own 4th and 15th, Angland 5th (light cavalry), 6th, and 7th, and Holsthorm Regiment. Some numbers are missing because the Kings Own 11th, 5th and 16th are on assignment elsewhere (not in the North). There is no 9th because the Colonel of the 9th and many of his men once betrayed the Union and the number was expunged from the rolls and never used thereafter. Numbering is further confused because the Angland regiments are the 5th, 6th and 7th Angland (Meed refuses to use the first four numbers in memory of the regiments destroyed by the Northmen at Black Well). Would you believe I toyed with making the numbering system much more complex but decided to keep it simple…

  12. As you’re clearly a fan of video games what are the chances of a game set in your universe? Have you had any discussions with potential developers? and thanks for taking the time to answer peoples questions.

  13. Did I read it wrong? I thought the questions were meant for the reddit forum, not that I mind you answering questions.
    Here’s my bit:
    1. Why is Black Dow the Protector of the North and not it’s next King after he’s done with Logen?
    2. Do impersonate someone,take their appearance and all, is it necessary to be an Eater? Or is the High Art sufficient?
    3. How large is the ‘North’?

    And can I expect your typical wit if the questions are spoilerfic?

  14. Joe, any chance of getting the day-by-day maps for THE HEROES posted on your site?

    I bought the book on the Kindle and while that screen is great for text, detailed drawings such as the strategic maps in the book look bloody awful. So I had a very hard time following the progression of the battle.

  15. I have a question Joe. Why did Bethod imprison Logan and crew before Bayaz asked him to let them go. And where did Logan come from when he came over with Dogman.

  16. And will we here more about Shenkt and the fued between him and Bayaz. Hoping so. Can’t wait for A RED COUNTRY. keep it going and thanks for this blog.

  17. That Reddit site looks like tough work Joe, I might spare you my million questions – they all start with “Who would win in a fight….”

    Ok, just give me one – Friendly or Black Dow in his pomp?

  18. And the first POV character from (A) Red Country vs a soberish Cosca?

  19. OOOOh, i just became aware that you could ask questions and i’m two hours late! Goin’ Mental! Hope you still answer this one:

    How about the Missing Magi from the line up? ANYTHING you care to share? Named or Unnamed ones… Just a little fluff is all we ask… :)

  20. OOOOps, made an ass of myself, you already answered that question. Haha; however just wanted to say something you probably don’t hear often:


    I loved the Ending! It was great. I truly believe Ninefinger is dead, nobody’s that lucky…two times.
    It’s a nice gift from you to us i think to not give his death explicitly so theer is still hope. A good hero never dies anyway. Had a real Soprano’s Ending to it. (People went berserk over Tony Blacking Out at the ending too)
    I think you did the perfect thing. Unlike others i put the books away and it felt complete; i wanted more but other stuff.

    However, i am very PRO to the idea about shortstories about the younger Logen. Enough about Ninefingers, now about Abercrombie; which is much shorter :

    You rock for answering questions :)

  21. Great job on the reddit ama Joe! I also see that “A Red Country” is number 1 on the top 10 most anticipated 2012 releases list at Fantasy Faction. You seem to be on quite a roll and I fear you may quickly become too big and important for us mopes hanging around your blog…lol!

    I’m very happy for you and your much deserved success!

  22. Murray,
    Chances limited, I would have thought, though my ears are always open.

    1. Because Dow isn’t big on kings.

    2. Taking forms is usually the preserve of some eaters.

    3. Bigger then Preston. Smaller than Asia.

    Copyright might be tricky. I shall see…

    They became a problem.

    Tough question. I’d call that a close match.

    None of the POVs in Red Country are particularly spectacular fighters.

    Yes. No. Maybe.


  23. Do you like Red Dwarf? The End.

  24. Whiskeyjack,
    Occasionally patchy, but had some brilliant moments.

    “This man is guilty of nothing more than being Arnold J. Rimmer. That is his crime, it is also his punishment.”

  25. Joe, are you a fan of Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series? Debate still rages whether the series jumped the shark in the final three books but overall I think the series has some of his best stuff.

    In fact, I think the second book, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, is one of the very best books King has ever written.

  26. Thanks for being so patient with all the questions Joe, I have never felt compelled to enter a dialogue with an author before but your books reignited by love of fantasy after 10 years of the authors I loved in my teens stagnating or dying – the bastards.

    Halfway through the Last Argument of Kings I read the back cover of the Heroes and found out who ended up as being in charge of the North – I was mightily annoyed as it gave away a major twist in the story.

    And yet I still really want to know as much as possible about (A) Red Country!!

    So far you have revealled

    It is set six years after the Heroes, 13 years after Last Argument of Kings
    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 is in it
    The major POV characters are new
    None of the major POV characters are great fighters

    Could some of the unfriendly locals be Shanka? Are they totally evil or merely misunderstood?
    Have you decided on the (A) yet?

    And totally unrelated did you do any research into OCD/Post traumatic stress/Institutionalisation before writing Friendly or is his batshit Craziness purely based on entertainment value?

  27. “None of the major POV characters are great fighters.”
    Probably no Sulfur then. I’d love to see him get some POV attention but I suppose the far north of the Old Empire is a bit out of the way for him to really be engaged fully in it. He’d probably be better suited to the Cold War espionage book idea that was talked about. No chance of a fourth stand-alone before the trilogy…? 😉

    Also, greatly enjoyed the Reddit thread. Tied up a lot of curiosities I had. Nice work!

  28. Good day. Listening to The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged felt like receiving a surprise punch in my guts – but in a good way. Mr. Abercrombie, have you read ficition of any kind, not only Fantasy, that you suspect may have the same effect on me? What would that book or those books be? I would be most gratefull for some ideas of such possibly worthwile venues.

  29. Hello Joe,

    I just wanted to let you know that your books are just terrific. I loved the series so much I could not stop talking about them. You have managed to reach such a wide range of people in my little community from me a 47 year old to my son 16 and my other sons friends who are 14. We all loved talking about the characters. I like Logen, Alex like Ferro and Tyler love Glokta. We hope to hear from them again.

  30. Hi Joe,

    one hour ago i finished “The First Law – series” and the only problem is, that it doesn´t have more sites. I loved the ending, abselutly perfect, the books were so cool – in all ways.
    It would be so great, if you write a 4th par some day.

    big big thx,

    best greetings from Berlin (germany)

    and sry for my bad english.

  31. Joe ,

    Would you consider HBO for making a “Game of Thrones”- like First Law series ?
    I think if will be a great succes.(both for you and HBO)
    What actors would you see playng your characters?

    Played Skyrim ?

  32. Hello, Mr. Abercrombie. I’m the aspiring author of a high epic fantasy series. I’m a big fan of fantasy, and the notches in my belt include Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, three out of four of the Inheritance Cycle (currently on the last one I need to read), and I have the first installment of the Wheel of Time and ASOIAF on my shelf.

    I was wondering if you could help me out with something. I have some curiosities about name making. In this world I have, I don’t use a lot of ‘fictional’ names, save for if I’m naming a dragon, a fairy like creature, or a talking bird. In fact, the main character’s name is Nolan Larkham, and I’m about to name a member of an Arab like kingdom with an actual name.

    Is this method bad? I spend a lot of time on the internet looking into Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian and other ethnical names and usually use actual names. Should I make up names or is this method alright?

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