Category Archive for ‘interviews’

Rogues Published, Half a King Soon

Posted on June 17th, 2014 in announcements, artwork, interviews, news

GRRM and Gardner Dozois’ latest cross-genre mega-anthology ROGUES has published in the US today, featuring stories from GRRM himself, Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Pat Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Paul Cornell, Cherie Priest and little old me, among many others.  My contribution is a hefty 12,000 word novelette, as it goes, following an eventful night in the life of a whole series of disreputable inhabitants of Sipani, a few old friends among them…

In other news, Half a King is out in just two and a half weeks in the UK on the 3rd of July (bites nails) and a week and a half later in the US on the 15th of July (bites them again).  I’ve got a piece up on the Waterstones blog about the genesis of the book AND there’s an interview with me at Den of Geek about writing for the (slightly) younger audience.

Hardcover copies of both are now in my possession.  They definitely do exist…


UK in white, US in black, both looking rather beautiful, I would say, with silky, foil, and spot gloss finishes and all and they’re a pair of handsome hardcovers without the dust jackets too…

Interview with Portal of Dreams

Posted on June 12th, 2014 in interviews

Just did an interview with Sergio Vivaldi at Italian website Portal of Dreams.  You can find the italian translation over here, but Sergio came up with some really interesting and insightful questions so I thought I’d post the English version over here too.  There’s been a slightly odd publication order in Italy, starting with the Heroes, then the First Law, and most recently Best Served Cold, with Red Country due soon and Half a King coming out later in the year, so the interview focuses on Best Served Cold

SV: You built a complex society in Styria, especially when compared with the relative simplicity ofThe First Law or The Heroes. The inspiration for the social and political situation you created is renaissance Italy, and I can’t think of a better world for a bloody and gruesome revenge tale. Are there any other source of inspiration for it? And what did you change to make it fit into the same world ofThe First Law?

JA: I tended to base the cultures in The First Law loosely around some real-world historical analogue, partly to make things a little easier for me, and partly because I think it gives readers a shorthand to imagine the places and people we’re talking about. So Styria is a land of feuding city-states much like renaissance Italy, and Styrians had featured quite centrally in The First Law in various roles, though the action never went there. Nicomo Cosca was a mercenary general very much like the Condottieri Francesco Sforza or Sir John Hawkwood who held much of Italy to ransom at one time. I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the diversity of Italy during the renaissance, and the combination of simultaneous bloody upheaval and fantastic creativity in the arts, in science, in finance, in governance. Given the rich tradition of Italianate revenge stories it seemed the ideal setting for Best Served Cold. The different cities each give a slightly different feel to each part of the book, and the central quest for revenge gradually expands and is drawn into the background of Machiavellian warfare and political squabbling.

The main change? No pope. And an immortal sorcerer who gains his power by eating the flesh of men, of course…

SV: Monza Murcatto is the main character, she is a mercenary leader that you described as “ruthless, intelligent, dedicated and single-minded”. She is very complex and has a very peculiar voice, unique among all characters in your other books, at least those already published in Italy. Which side of her personality was the harder to write?

JA: Monza was a difficult character to write for many reasons, maybe the hardest time I’ve ever had with a character. Even while finishing The First Law I was conscious that it was a very male set of books set in a very male-dominated world so I was keen to try my hand at a woman in the central role. But I think, for a male writer, writing a woman does add a certain level of difficulty, as there are elements of the female experience you’re slightly guessing at, you probably have a lot of experience with how groups of men behave together but not groups of women, and that can somewhat undermine your confidence. So it’s something I’ve had to work at and continue to work at.

The First Law was also an ensemble piece, with three central characters sharing the spotlight, whereas Monza is very much the central character of Best Served Cold, and the driving force of the plot, with a lot of the story being told from her point of view, so there was a lot riding on getting her right. Plus she’s a character who comes across as very cold and hard initially, and is perhaps humanized and made more relatable as you learn more about her. That’s a more difficult trajectory to work with, I think, than an initially sympathetic character you later start to question (like Logen had been in The First Law).

So there were a whole set of factors making Monza a difficult character to write. Some of the minor, much more simple characters, like Friendly or Morveer, pretty much sprang on to the page as fully formed as they needed to be. Monza was far more complex and multi-layered, and it wasn’t until I finished a first draft that I really got a sense of how she needed to be, then it was a question of doing a lot of revision and cutting down to really get her working.

SV: Shivers is the other main character of the book, and he seems to have a lot in common with Monza at the beginning. He claims that he wants to do the right thing, become a better man, a purpose similar to Monza’s when she was planning her life once she left Orso’s service. We know what becomes of him in The Heroes since it was your first book published in Italy, but would you say that Shivers is a younger version of Monza, despite the background of the characters? Did you write Shivers with that idea in mind when you started to work on Best Served Cold?

JA: I suppose you could say that Shivers is following a similar path to the one Monza has followed – starting off optimistic and becoming gradually more cynical in a world at war. But within the book they are in some ways opposites, and follow opposite trajectories. Shivers is a man who professes to want to do good, but finds himself all too often making the easy, wrong choices and, without too many spoilers, ends up on a dark road indeed. Monza, on the other hand, is someone who has learned to present an extremely hard face to the outside world, has a truly evil reputation, but we learn over time that though she certainly can be ruthless and single minded, there is also a softer, more hidden side to her, that many of the dark acts of the past for which she is blamed were not entirely her fault, and that she is perhaps not beyond redemption.

SV: The protagonists of your novels are all anti-heroes, they are often broken in their bodies, I’m thinking of Monza and Glokta, or engaged in a race for power like Bayaz, or any other flaw you intentionally built within your characters. It is a way of reversing the most common fantasy clichés, but I wonder if the idea of crafting a more classic hero and then dropping him or her in a race for power ever crossed your mind. You started doing something like that with Jezal, but it was clear the plan was to make a parody of it from the very beginning. I have to admit a hero in one of your books would be the ultimate surprise.

JA: The fantasy I read as a kid was often full of very heroic heroes, flawless in mind and body, who have heroic motives, perform heroic actions, and achieve heroic outcomes. Who fight the good fight with absolute commitment (and often immense violence) andtheheroesemerge mentally and physically unscathed. That didn’t seem to me either a particularly realistic or interesting portrayal. So I’ve always been much more interested in the flawed, the damaged, the ambiguous. My feeling is that no one is heroic in every way and in every situation, but that everyone is capable of being noble, selfless, admirable, at the right time and under the right circumstances. Heroism is all a matter of where you stand.

The Heroes was really a long meditation on exactly that notion, and presented all kinds of variations on the theme – Gorst was a peerless warrior who could turn a battle with his own prowess, but he was also a self-hating coward who could hardly bring himself to speak on behalf of his friends. Calder was a physical coward and a double-dealing rat, but he also loved his wife and his family and was able to bring about peace. Who is the hero, then? In Best Served Cold, Monza is seen as a villain by most, a figure of hatred and fear, nicknamed the Snake of Talins and the Butcher of Caprile, but in learning more about her we see many admirable qualities: loyalty, commitment, bravery, intelligence. These are the kind of heroes that interest me.

SV: Your characters change a lot in the course of your novels, usually turning into their opposite by the end, but I think you also have a lot of fun trying to show the readers just how many opposites it is possible to come up with, or at least it seems that way. It also seems acts of violence, committed or suffered, are the key to start the change. Would it be correct to say that violence is the engine of your books, the element that brings them forward? Is violence the instrument you use to shape your characters?

JA: That’s a really interesting observation. Certainly violence has always been one of my central concerns. Epic fantasy tends to be about war, or at least have war as a background, and many of its central characters are warriors, swordsmen, men of violence of one kind or another, men who do a lot of fighting. But often there is some kind of dehumanized enemy for them to face (they’re not murdering people with all the attendant difficulties, but orcs or demons who can be dispatched without conscience) and they come through not only without lasting physical injuries, but without any real emotional damage – they can carve through hordes of enemies and still be good friends, sensitive lovers, and noble kings.

I suppose my feeling was that men who are very good at killing other men with edged weapons are unlikely to make good neighbors in peacetime. That violent men are often damaged before the violence, and end up damaged a great deal more. I was keen to look at the costs and the consequences of violence. So in some fantasy stories the violence is almost incidental. It changes nothing. My characters are definitely transformed by it, transformed physically by the damage to them, transformed emotionally by the damage they’ve done. Best Served Cold is really all about the price of violence, the cost of revenge.

SV: When you published your first books some people said you were setting a new standard for fantasy literature, but you always rejected that idea. Yet, some people consider your novels as a turning point for the genre in recent years and I myself heard someone make your name during a conversation while blaming “all these new fantasy writers who just hate Tolkien”. Do you hear this kind of comments very often? And how do you deal with them?

JA: I’ve always considered myself as trying to do something similar with fantasy to what Sergio Leone did with the classic John Ford western. Or perhaps what Clint Eastwood did with the Sergio Leone western. To take a genre that has become perhaps a little formulaic, a little predictable, and try to shake it up with a new and grittier approach. A close-up, visceral approach that focuses tightly on the characters rather than the scenery. But to me it’s a little ridiculous to say that Sergio Leone doesn’t admire John Ford – of course he does. The desire to experiment, subvert, reinterpret, hopefully breathe a new and different kind of life into a genre is born out of a huge admiration and respect for a genre and its great practitioners. In the same way I don’t see myself as terribly revolutionary – I’m interested in presenting my own take on a classic form, working with the expectations and the archetypes that have developed in that form, hoefully making people think a little bit about what they expect and why.

But no doubt Leone was often harangued by fans of the classic western for perverting and debasing their noble genre. And no doubt he shrugged his shoulders and got on with it. I try to do the same…

SV: Your next book in Italy, due next fall, is Red Country. I could not read it yet, but I know there is an old friend coming back, Logen Ninefinger, and I’m so excited about it that I’m tempted to just buy it without waiting for the Italian edition. Anything else you would like to share about Red Country?

JA: Funny that we’ve just been discussing westerns, because if Best Served Cold is an Italianate gangster revenge story, and The red-country-us-ltdHeroes a war story, then Red Country is my take on the western. It’s set in the same world asThe First Law, of course, so no six shooters or stetsons, but it takes place in a lawless border area, a wilderness into which civilization is just starting to expand at the expense of the indigenous people, and it features my takes on a lot of classic western archetypes: standoffs in windswept streets, wagon trains, gold rushes, tough settlers facing the unforgiving wilderness, and, yes, used up men of violence drawn back into their bloody ways…

SV: Your next books are moving forward and leaving the world and characters you started with: this summer Half a King will be released and I heard there is another novel following it that takes place in the same world. Looking at the reviews coming from ARCs, it looks like Half a King will be another amazing book. Any plan on what’s next?

JA: Half a King is the first of a trilogy of shorter, tighter books taking place in a different, Viking-inspired world and aimed in part at younger readers, though I hope they’ll still give my established readers everything they expect from a book of mine (a little less swearing, maybe). It comes out in July in the UK and US and I’m very excited to see how it goes down. Those three will all be published within a year, then there’ll be a collection of my short fiction in the world of The First Law released hopefully in early 2016. After that, a bit of a break, I think, then it will probably be another adult trilogy set in The First Law world.

SV: Thanks for your time and good luck with your next books, I am looking forward to reading and reviewing them on my blog.

JA: Thanks a lot for your insightful questions. It’s been a pleasure…

On the Coode Street Podcast

Posted on May 12th, 2014 in interviews

I’m on this week’s Coode Street Podcast along with editor Jonathan Strahan (who’s curated my stories in Swords and Dark Magic and a couple of best of year anthologies) and critic Gary Wolfe, discussing Half a King, what changes and what stays the same in writing for a young adult audience, humour, grimdark, awards, and much more…

Wonderbooks! Cheltenham! Interviews!

Posted on September 3rd, 2013 in announcements, appearances, interviews, news

Another smorgasbord of news items for your delectation.  Firstly, I see that Jeff Vandermeer has announced his latest publication, Wonderbook, a unique project that I suppose you could call an illustrated guide to writing speculative fiction, with contributions from a whole range of big figures in the genre, including Gaiman, Le Guin, Martin, Beukes, and many more.  Oh, and me, talking about the maps in The Heroes and the way in which maps and narrative developed together and informed each other.  Jeff gives some examples of the one-of-a-kind artwork over here.

Next, a quick heads up that I’ll be appearing at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, no less, on Saturday 5th October discussing the enduring appeal of Lord of the Rings, alongside Tolkien’s editor (not to mention GRRM’s, Robin Hobb’s, and one of mine) Jane Johnson, Tolkien scholar, author, satirist, and hilarious conversationalist Adam Roberts, and Brian Sibley, co-adapter of the classic Radio 4 serialisation. See?  I am a serious literary figure! Not to mention a fan of Tolkien. In your FACE.

And finally, the David Gemmell Legend Award are running some interviews with their shortlisted authors, and they’ve got a quick one with me up now, covering Red Country, my mission, and the importance of awards (or not).

For now, that is all.

Major West Needs YOU!

Posted on May 8th, 2013 in artwork, Graphic Novel, interviews

As of today, the whole 24 page first issue of The First Law Graphic Novel is up at  You can go check it out, entirely free of charge.  It is our GIFT to you ungrateful lot, and new pages will carry on being posted every monday, wednesday, and friday.

For those who’d rather not wait, though, all 22 pages of Issue 2 are also available as of now on ComiXology, and it’s a humdinger, with the appearance of the Union’s most self-obsessed young officer, Jezal dan Luthar, not to mention his reluctant fencing partner Collem West and the latter’s unconventional sister Ardee.  Meanwhile Logen wanders into the sort of trouble you can only get out of with a blade, and Inquisitor Glokta shows the results that can be achieved with a cleaver, a set of fingers, and the will.  The art and colours I feel just keep getting better.  Both I and Collem West urge you to contribute to this righteous cause.


Go on, he could do with cheering up, he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.  As well as cinematic-style guided view, ComiXology will also provide you with a bonus package of inks and pencils. Incidentally, it looks as if a physical collection of the first four issues should be available around end of August, but more on that as I have it.  I’ll also be looking at the development of some of the pages from script, to pencils, to inks, to colours, over here as we go.

In the meantime, a few interviews about how this project came to be, how it’s got where it is, and where we hope it’s going:

With veteran comics writer Chuck Dixon, who’s adapting the books, plus a comment or two from me, over at Comic Book Resources.  You’ll also see a few panels from the second issue in that one.

With me at Graphic Novel Reporter.

With me and Rich Young, the editor and co-ordinator of the project, over at Pipedream Comics.

Then there’s a piece with the artist, Andie Tong, over here.

A quickie at Sword and Laser.

More in-depth at NerdSpan.


Sword and Laser

Posted on December 21st, 2012 in interviews

Sword and Laser’s latest author profile is on that Joe Abercrombie fella, along with an interview via skype.  Ended up with a slightly ropey connection, so apologies for that.  Should you not be utterly sick of the sound of my voice by the end of it, you could listen to a longer and solely audio interview with me on Speculate!

That is all.

Ask me Anything

Posted on December 6th, 2012 in interviews, reviews

I’m participating once again in an Ask Me Anything over on Reddit’s fantasy sub-forum. I’ll be answering questions live there from 11pm GMT tonight for a couple of hours (I think that’s 5pm central), and will try to pop back a couple of times during the following day to pick up on any further questions or follow-ups.  The thread is live as of now, so you can leave questions and I’ll hopefully get to them tonight.  Unless I decide I don’t like a given question and refuse to answer it.  Or just ignore it from pure rattle-snake meanness.  But by all means stop by and, er, ask me anything…

In other news, writers Greg Wilson and Brad Beaulieu are doing a triptych of shows about my stuff over on their Speculate! podcast.  They’re starting with an in-depth review of Red Country, then next week they’re airing an interview we did a few weeks back, and finally getting into the nitty-gritty of the writing…

Back, Just Desserts, Vile at Times

Posted on November 20th, 2012 in interviews, news, reviews

Holy cow, I am back, and this time there’ll be no more travelling for a while, I am actually rather pleased to say.  I’ve racked up a fair few air miles, not to mention signatures, these past couple of months.  I had a great time at SupaNovas in Brisbane and Adelaide, and need to thank Ineke Prochazka and the rest of the staff, as well as the many volunteers for looking after the authors while we were there, not to mention all the folks who came out to get a signature or listen to me talk nonsense.  I couldn’t sell a book to everyone, but it didn’t stop me trying…

I hung out with some great authors – Trudi Canavan and husband Paul, Rachel Caine and assistant Heidi, Sean Williams, Juliet Marillier, AD Cornish, Fiona MacIntosh, Alison Goodman, John Birmingham, and others.  Here’s a photo of several of the aforementioned having desserts with Felicia Day, just cos, you know, my life is that cool…

Just desserts.  Heh.  Equally cool was hanging out with some highly entertaining and talented comics guys – Tristan Jones, Dave Yardin, Tom Taylor, Dave de Vries, not to mention the suave yet deadly Howard Chaykin.  I very much hope to spend more time with them in future.  I need to thank Sandra and the rest of the Dymocks staff as well for doing their best to shift my units, especially Aris.  From now on I think I will have to insist on all booksellers being able to do this as a minimum standard…

In other news, reviews of Red Country continue to surface.  Here’s a particularly nice assessment from Niall Alexander at

Red Country is vile at times, and plain ugly most all others, but mark my words: from source to termination, you won’t be able to look away… because by the dead, this book is brilliant, and certain to satisfy longstanding fans as well as welcome—warmly, I warrant—new readers from near and from far … the work of Joe Abercrombie is as blackly fantastic as it’s ever been, and markedly more approachable than before.

And if you’re a little less tired of the sound of my voice than I am, there’s an audio interview with Sean Wright at the Adventures of a Bookonaut blog.

Right.  I’m going to lie down for a day or two…

Still Down Under

Posted on November 11th, 2012 in interviews, news, reviews

Monday finds me in Brisbane, following a brilliant event with Ellison Hawker bookshop in Hobart.  A big thanks to Richard and the rest of the folks that made that happen, as well as the good people of Tasmania who turned out to see me.  I’d have liked to stay longer but sadly had to be up at 3 for a flight to Brisbane.  I’ve been at SupaNova over the weekend, which I guess you could say is Australia’s answer to Comic Con, signing books, talking out of my ass, and watching the Cosplayers swarm by, some in fantastic costumes, and some in fantastically ill-advised ones…

Meanwhile the press chugs on.  Nice to see a review in The Independent, since I don’t think I’ve ever been reviewed there before, and doubly nice since it’s rather a nice review too:

“This is not the epic fantasy of your fathers. Abercrombie has attempted something quite audacious – he’s essentially written a Western in the style of one from Clint Eastwood’s classic period, but set it in an epic fantasy world. And, darn, if he doesn’t pull it off … Red Country reads like neither a Western nor a fantasy novel, but something new, fresh and exciting – exactly what a genre still worshipping at the altar of J R R Tolkien needs.”

And another nice review from Nick Sharps at SF Signal:

“The exploration of themes is Red Country’s highest accomplishment. The characters are believable in their cowardice and their courage, and those recurring characters are bound to incite no small amount of excitement. The action is intense and grisly. The writing is finely constructed.”

Many interviews about also.  One with Michael Flett at Geek Chocolate.  A concise little video interview with Megan at Shearer’s Bookstore in Leichart.  And a much longer interview via skype with Dark Matter webzine.

Right, now to Canberra, and then more SupaNova in Adelaide.  I’ll look forward to seeing some of you there.  And, incidentally, I believe Red Country is out in the US as of tomorrow…

Down Under

Posted on November 2nd, 2012 in interviews, reviews

So after saying I wouldn’t be around for a few weeks, here I am again, jetlagged, in Australia.  That’s some gruelling journey right there, 27 hours by cab, train, train again, plane, plane again, and cab again, but, man, the weather is good.

Anyway, a few things to draw your attention to, in passing.  There’s an interview with me over on Fantasy Book Critic in which I say stuff about stuff and talk a little bit about what might come next…

Then reviews of Red Country continue to appear.  A hum-dinger from Eric Brown in the Guardian:

Abercrombie rings the changes with his sixth novel, tipping his hat to the Western genre but continuing his mission to drag fantasy, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century with his characteristic mix of gritty realism, complex characterisation, set-piece scenes of stomach-churning violence and villains who are as fully rounded as his flawed heroes … Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else: Red Country is a marvellous follow-up to his highly praised The Heroes.”

I like that.  Then there’s an interesting take from Justin Landon, of Staffer’s Book Review, who combines some stiff criticism with some fulsome praise:

Joe Abercrombie is the best living fantasist. Notice, I didn’t qualify that by saying he’s the best living British fantasist, or the best living fantasist who doesn’t write A Song of Ice and Fire, or the best living fantasist who isn’t quite as good looking as China Mièville. I say this, not to trade in unnecessary superlative, but because I genuinely believe it. He’s subversive, creative, authentic, and all together, undeniably, modern.

Aw, shucks.  I mean I wouldn’t say best, necessarily.  Top two, maybe.  Another good one from Mark Yon at SFFWorld, though not without caveats:

“Red Country is as dark, as cynical, as violent and as grimly-humorous as we have come to expect. The characters are as un-stereotypical as ever. The ‘heroes’ are not your clean-cut type, your ‘villains’ are at times worthy of your sympathy … It shows all of Joe’s strengths and is easily on par with previous books, which is all the recommendation some will need.

But forget about all that boring book crap, because perhaps most excitingly of all, there is now an edited video up on YouTube of the fabled star-studded authorial D&D session which took place at ConFusion in Detroit at the start of the year.  Players included me, Peter Brett, Brent Weeks, Scott Lynch, Pat Rothfuss, Jim Hines, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake with Saladin Ahmed and Myke Cole sharing the Dungeon Mastering responsibilities, and the filming done, incidentally, by the aforementioned Justin Landon.  We didn’t get far with the module (Keep on the Borderlands, an absolute classic), but it surely was quite the nostalgic laugh.  Perhaps we’ll pick it up again at some other convention in a couple of years.  I look forward to the moment when daring half-elven thief Darque Shadeaux leads his party once more toward danger.  Or at least follows his party around danger…