Joe Abercrombie, author of Red Country, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joe Abercrombie

author of Red CountryThe Heroes , The First Law Trilogy and many more

Ten Terrifying Questions


1.    To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Lancaster, England, and educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School until I was 17, then Manchester University until I was 20.  I then moved to London and worked as a freelance TV editor for 13 years or so, during the latter few of which I was also writing edgy yet humorous fantasy fiction…

2.    What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to work in roleplaying games, when I was eighteen I didn’t know what I wanted, and by the time I was thirty I was working at becoming an author.  I’d written my first book and was looking for a publisher.

3.    What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I knew it all.

4.    What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because it started my life-long love affair with fantasy.  George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones because it took fantasy and did something dangerous, adult and unpredictable with it.  Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven, because it took a well-worn genre and produced something that was at the same time a brilliant example of the form, a grittier, more realistic revision of the form, and a comment on the form.  That’s in a way the approach I aspire to take to epic fantasy.

5.    Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Well it is a whole lot cheaper than making a film.  I already worked as part of a big team as a TV editor, and I wanted to try my hand at something that was wholly my project, that I could do easily and cheaply on my own.  And I’d always been a keen reader and felt that I would like to try my hand at it.

6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is called Red Country, and it’s a combination of fantasy and western.  No six-shooters, no stetsons, no chaps, but a lot of tough characters with hundreds of miles of dangerous untamed frontier to cross, narrow-eyed standoffs in windswept streets between men trying to escape bloody pasts, and conflicted people trying to fumble their way to doing the right thing in a lawless world.

(Editors note: From the Publisher)

They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing.  She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company.  But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own.  And out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts.  Even worse it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…

Click here to buy Red Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7.    What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A burning desire to read the next one.

8.    Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Within my own bit of it I’ve got a lot of respect for George R.R. Martin.  He’s been working hard for a very long time, hasn’t taken the easy way, has got a great deal of well-deserved success relatively late in life but kept his feet very much on the ground.  I’ve been at a couple of events with him and seen how much he still enjoys spending time with fans and other writers.

9.    Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Only to rule the universe.

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

From a business standpoint, don’t expect riches to shower upon you, not soon and probably not ever.  From a creative standpoint, the best piece of advice I’ve had was from my mother, who said always try to be honest, always try to be truthful.  With every piece of dialogue, with every description, with every metaphor, ask yourself is this true?  Would this person really say these words, does this thing really look like this, do someone’s eyes really glitter like stars scattered across the sable cloth of the heavens?  Avoid the easy cliché, and hopefully you won’t go too far wrong…

Joe, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Red Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

The 20 Best Fantasy Titles To Help You Escape The Christmas Mayhem – Part Two (A Personal Selection By Guest Blogger Mark Timmony)

Follow on from part one…

Still Life with Shape-Shifter

by Sharon Shinn

With her beautifully wrought prose, Shinn has crafted worlds of grace and beauty in both genres of science fiction and fantasy. Now she turns her talents to our world and presents a treasure of urban fantasy chronicling the relationship between two sisters and the need to keep a life changing secret that is not your own when revealing it may save the life of the person it belongs to.

Click here for more details or to buy

Emperor’s Soul

by Brandon Sanderson

Mega-seller Brandson Sanderson has managed to find some time whilst finishing off Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time to bring us this novella set in the same world as his very first published work Elantris. Crafted with his characteristic flare for inventive magic systems and strong characterisation this standalone novella is the perfect place for anyone new to his work to wade in – or even for those of us desperate for the next book in the Stormlight Archives to find a quick fix while we (im)patiently wait.

Click here for more details or to buy

Crown of Vengeance

by Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory

One of the fantasy genre’s most beloved authors, Mercedes Lackey teamed up with James Mallory in 2003 to create the bestselling fantasy trilogies Obsidian and Enduring Flame. Now they return to that world to tell the tale of one of its greatest heroes. Moving Lackey into a world that is markedly more ‘high fantasy’ than her Valdemar novels, these trilogies have cultivated a legion of fans and offer the best traditions of epic fantasy while remaining inventive and filled with passion and lush prose. Perfect for those readers who are fans of David Eddings and Terry Brooks, the team of Lackey and Mallory dig deep to bring adventure and life to a setting that leaps off the pages and stays with you long after you’ve finished the books.

Click here for more details or to buy

Knife Sworn

by Mazarkis Williams

Abandoning the ‘medieval European’ setting for his series Williams takes the reader to the more exotic climes of deserts and silks, where battles of fire and water and political alliances shift like the dunes that surround glittering cities. With economic yet vivid prose, Williams moves forward with a confidence that astounds for a newcomer and amply demonstrates to many more established authors how to write a fantasy like a master. Beautifully atmospheric in feel Williams shy’s away from full-throttle action relying instead on political intrigue and the slow reveal to pull the reader in and keep the pages turning. Knife Sworn picks up where The Emperor’s Knife left off and we are thrust once more into the deadly world of Prince Sarmin, his wife and ally Mesema, and his struggle to hold the throne that is rightfully his.

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The Dead of Winter

by Lee Collins

Gunslingers and demons, this is not one of the Western’s you’ve heard tell of, nor indeed read or even watch (on DVD if not the Silver screen).  The Dead of Winter twists the grit and tough-as-saddle-leather frontier and brings it to a bloody and dark fantasy in a page-turning ride of thrills and heart-stopping action that will scorch new meaning into the ‘wild’ west forever. Lee Collins has written a vivid, gripping tale of human survival and the battle against the monsters at the door that can only be won when those of the past have been defeated.

Click here for more details or to buy

Days of Blood and Starlight

by Laini Taylor

A wonderful fairy-tale-like story that sweeps you off your feet with lyrical prose and graceful imagery, this is Taylor’s follow up to the brilliant Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Following star-crossed lovers, the blue haired Karou and her soul mate Akiva, this is a tale of love, hope and honor and betrayal, passion and grief, and is so far beyond the norm for urban fantasy as to deserve a category all its own. If you are tired of sparkly vampires and things that go bump in the night then step in to Taylors world and get caught up in a vibrant novel that reads like the love child of Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro.  Days of Blood and Starlight, along with its predecessor, is simply stunning.

Click here for more details or to buy


by Kevin Hearne

Urban fantasy mixed with ancient mythology and a liberal does of modern attitude, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series has been flying off the shelves since day one, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.  A strong storyteller with a snappy wit, Hearne’s work has been compared to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Butcher’s Dresden Files – but he tends to reach a little further than both and has found an audience with readers who have never picked up either. Page-turning and humorous, Hearne – a self-professed comic-book nerd – has turned his love of ‘larger-than-life’ heroes facing evil villains into an awesome, fresh and adventure filled urban fantasy series.

Click here for more details or to buy

Steel’s Edge

by Ilona Andrews

A gem that takes a step outside the box and blends our world of electricity and modern conveniences with a fantasy world of pure magic and sets a series of tales in the space that borders both, the Edge. Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team who specialize in brilliant world building and compelling characterisation thrust right into heart thumping action with a strong underpinning of believable romance. The Edge novels are stand-alone stories with interconnected characters and a really good place to give one of the big names in Paranormal Romance a try.

Click here for more details or to buy

Red Country

by Joe Abercrombie

Arguably one of the most popular writers of ‘noir’ fantasy Abercrombie has cut a bloody swathe through the ranks of genre mainstays to be the herald of a new and different style of fantasy fiction. Red Country is the eagerly awaited new stand-alone in his First Law universe. Bursting with Abercrombie’s savoir-faire this new novel is a no-holds barred frontier epic meshing the feel of a western with sword and sorcery (although admittedly he is every light on the sorcery part).  Pushing his characters to the limits Abercrombie doesn’t shy away from the more base of the human characteristics yet brilliantly builds his world and fleshes out his characters to keep you riveted to the page and coming back for more. If you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s work in the past and are looking for something a bit different to your normal fantasy fair, Red Country is a great place to start.

Click here for more details or to buy

Angel’s Ink

by Jocelynn Drake

Never judge a book by its cover. Please. Judging this cover you would imagine that Angels Ink does indeed belong in Paranormal Romance rather than the Urban Fantasy field, but such things are sent to try and test us.  Having read some of her work that is indeed Para-rom in nature I to thought this would be the same. It is far from it. Picking up the e-novella prequel to this book (more a ‘taste-test’ than a ‘need-to-read’) I was blown away by the direction Drake has taken. More Jim Butcher than Sherrilyn Kenyon, Drake has created a whole new world to lay over our own and offer an alternate reality rather than an urban fantasy. Brothers Grimm eat your heart out, your stories ain’t got nothing on the Asylum Tales.

Click here for more details or to buy

The 20 Best Fantasy Titles To Help You Escape The Christmas Mayhem – Part One

Check Mark out on twitter on @MarkTimmony


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