Joe Abercrombie, Writer Extraordinaire

British Fantasy Author, Essayist on the Creative Process

The opening trilogy of The First Law series

Joe Abercrombie is the British author behind the excellent The First Law fantasy book series, the ninth of which is scheduled to arrive autumn 2021. Written and released over the course of 15 years, the composition of the series consists of an opening trilogy of books, followed by a middle three that are each a standalone story set in the same universe, and finished off with a second trilogy.

Setting aside the danger (and perhaps laziness) of invoking other well-known book series as a comparison to The First Law, there are noticeable A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of The Rings ingredients that can be found in Abercrombie’s series, which explains why they’re so easy to pick up in the first place. To Abercrombie’s distinct credit though, his books mix in more humor, more blood and guts, and a lot more subversion of fantasy tropes to keep the reader off-balance. Abercrombie also keeps things interesting by using new point-of-view characters after each completed trilogy or standalone book, though some characters do appear in non-POV roles in other books.

On the whole, the best stories are weaved when great characters move the plot along, and not the other way round. For that reason, it’s no shock that Abercrombie’s mortal creations are his specialty. Though the actions of his characters may at times be shocking, or despicable, or perhaps most surprising of all, even be good-hearted, no matter what occurs it always feels truthful to that person’s identity.

Fan art for the first standalone book, Best Served Cold

To go a step further though, the quality of Abercrombie’s numerous fictional personalities is solidified when listening to the audiobook, where British actor Steven Pacey’s nuanced interpretations of each one can be enjoyed. Pacey does such a magnificent job of creating unique tones and speech patterns for every single person who enters the story and delivers a line that it’s easy to forget that it’s only one voice reading the story. In fact, Pacey is so talented as a reader that I’m planning my next audiobook around what else he has narrated.

To go beyond the specific appreciation for Joe Abercrombie’s novels brings me to the main catalyst for writing this now, and that’s to applaud the author himself. By the time I found myself nearing the end of consuming his book series, I couldn’t help but want to learn more about who the demented bloke behind these meticulous tales was, and I turned my attention to YouTube to find interviews with Abercrombie.

In doing this, I made two swift discoveries: 1) It turns out he’s a pretty normal human being (who’d’ve guessed it?); and 2) There are fewer interviews with him than I’d hoped.

A delightful, wide-ranging interview with the man himself, Joe Abercrombie.

Refusing to accept this setback (as is my way), I searched the web looking for any content that might be out there, and in any form. Within minutes of beginning this endeavor, I hit the jackpot: his personal website. There, to my delight, I found a blog that he’d been updating for over a decade, and which spanned everything from his answering of fan questions, to talking about the writing process, to reviews of television shows and video games he’d consumed. After reading just a couple of posts, I concluded that this was better than any interview with him, because here he was able to communicate in his preferred medium, while also opining on the subjects that interested him the most, and for as long as he felt necessary.

In particular, his blog appealed to me because I am rabid when it comes to probing a person’s creative process, and I sifted through his posts thoroughly enough to uncover seemingly everything Abercrombie has ever had to say about his routine, including topics like writing the second draft, how he structures his writing days, and learning to recognize when a piece of work is done.

Really, the only disappointing part of his blog was that I consumed it too quickly and was left wanting more. Abercrombie doesn’t get paid to write about these subjects though, he just gives them away for free, so it falls on me to treasure that he’s willing to pass on anything at all.

To close, it’s in that same spirit that I now pass on what I know, free of charge: Joe Abercrombie is a talented and generous writer, and anything he’s written is worth the read.

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