Progress Report

January 5th, 2008

I’ve noticed that readers can sometimes get a little … irritated … when authors don’t keep them informed as to what’s going on, particularly with regard to publication dates etc. So in the interests of full transparency, I thought I’d begin the year with a little progress report:

The Blade Itself is coming out in France with J’ailu in February in hardcover under the title “L’eloquence de l’epee” (The Eloquence of the Blade). That’ll be the third foreign language edition to appear (as well as Spanish and German). Looks like Russian and Dutch will be out at some point later on this year as well. Czech, Polish, and Finnish rights have been sold but I’ve no news on when those editions might be published. You’ll know when I know…

Before They are Hanged will be out in UK Mass Market Paperback in February, then in Trade Paperback with Pyr across the US in March.

Last Argument of Kings will be out in UK Hardback and Trade Paperback on March 20th, then hopefully in the US a brief few months later (maybe September). And my trilogy will stand complete before the world! Woooooooh!

Best Served Cold. Hmmmm. I’ve done the first draft of two and a half parts out of seven, and the rest is basically planned out to a point which I’m mostly happy with. So around 70,000 words, somewhat over a third of the way through. Trying a slightly different approach of forging ahead then revising large blocks, rather than constantly reading over and tweaking as I go. It should prove more efficient, but is tough on the confidence since the product day-to-day is lower quality. Still, slightly behind my ideal schedule to make the delivery date of mid-May ’08. A variety of factors are responsible – one year old kicking me in the face all night, heavier than anticipated workload of the day job, an increase in interviews and distractions and other little bits of writing as more books get out there in more countries.

Chiefly, though, it’s just the difficulty of writing new characters more or less from scratch. I’m finding they take a while to mature and settle in the mind. A couple of them have worked well from the off, but others, particularly the central character, are proving more elusive. With The First Law a lot of the ideas had been hanging around in my mind for years, and I spent two or three years writing The Blade Itself and another six months or so editing, so there was plenty of time with no pressure of deadlines for the characters to take concrete shape to the point where writing them was, well, not effortless, but certainly instinctive. Then Last Argument of Kings was particularly easy to write, since the characters and situations were all well established – I pretty much knew where I was going, the towers were built and it was just a question of knocking them down as effectively as possible. This is proving a lot more difficult.

Ironically, the positive responses that the other books are producing only make work on new material harder (not that I’d rather have bad reviews, oh no). The weight of expectation does begin to tell on one, especially given that the new work is something of a departure – hopefully keeping what’s good about the trilogy and delivering it in a more compact form, but with less of the familiar epic fantasy trappings. Will people like it less? Will they get all teary-eyed for the sunny valleys of long ago when I wrote stuff they liked? Will I pick up some new readers, but lose a load of old ones? Will it be too much of a departure for them, or not enough? Worse still, will I like it less?

It’s strange that, as a writer, you’re always at least one book ahead of your readers, so while people are still reading and discussing The Blade Itself for the first time in the US, I’m writing stuff that probably won’t even be published there for a couple of years (if it ever is, of course). “Yeah,” you think, “you liked that, but how about some appreciation for what I’m doing NOW?” Even your editor is unlikely to read things and have an opinion until you’re some way into them. In a way the approval for those old projects, that were completed so long ago that they almost feel like someone else’s work now, only tends to undermine confidence in the new one. In the words of the narrator from Conan the Barbarian (who has taught me some of my most important life lessons), “truly, success can test one’s metal as surely as the strongest adversary.”

So it’s been going slower than I’d hoped. But doesn’t everything always? And publication is set for April ’09, so there should still be ample time. Although it wouldn’t be ideal (since it would eat into development time for the next book), I think I could still deliver as late as August if I really had to and still comfortably hit the pub date. Which is just as well since I have a feeling this will need a good deal more editing than The First Law books did. Still, day job commitments should drop off half way through January and I hope that work rate will improve drastically at that point, and the whole thing will become way easier.

As for specifics of content, I’ll probably leave off talking about that until Last Argument of Kings has been out a while, as there are some characters in common, and I do hate spoilers. Let me only say this:

“A very dangerous woman is betrayed by her employer, her brother killed and she left maimed. So she sets out to seek vengeance on him and the six men who helped, and recruits a set of mismatched and untrustworthy allies – a master poisoner and his unlikely apprentice, a psychopathic convict obsessed with numbers, a Northman trying to escape a life of violence and failing (not who you’re thinking), a torturer (not who you’re thinking), and an over-the-hill mercenary who’d do anything for one last drink. Soon the most deadly killer in the world is dispatched to put an end to their schemes for good, while in the background, and then the foreground, a bitter war rages for control of Styria. The results, as one would expect, are fast and furious, occasionally humorous, always unpredictable, and very, very bloody.”

The bottom line, then? It’s going fine, and you’ll get it when it’s done. The same shit that all the other authors say, basically.

Not that anyone was asking…

Posted in news, process by Joe Abercrombie on January 5th, 2008.

11 comments so far

  • Ady Hall says:

    Hey Joe –

    So you’re still doing the day job? Video editing, right? Crikey – and I thought you’d be rolling in dough from the success of two (and the upcoming third) books.

    And fears about the follow-up! I would love to cheer you up with empty well-wishing and praise – of course we are all going to love it – but then Peter Jackson followed the wonderful Lord of the Rings with a spectacular looking, but not-so-wonderful King Kong.

    Saying that, the snippet you gave us sounds mouth-frothingly good. So, soooo good. I’m afraid to admit that I no longer measure my years by Christmas’s – the new light in my annual calendar is your pub. dates! ha ha. . .

  • Ah, the infamous ‘Donaldson Syndrom’. I think the story went that Donaldson wrote Thomas Covenant and got lots and lots of fans. He thought they were Stephen Donaldson fans but they were actually Thomas Covenant fans, and his other works weren’t as successful even when they were much better (such as The Gap series). Very odd.

  • moonwitch says:

    Ooooh, Now I like the sound of this one. Hell Hath No Fury… Heh!

    Us women can be sooooo evil if wronged ( a couple of my X’s wouldn’t dare to disagree with me on that point, believe me!). With a bit of imagination and enough provocation I can come up with revenge even Glokta would wince at!

    Ooh Yessss, I like the sound of your next projet Joe. If you need any ideas……………

  • Anonymous says:

    I’d like to see a sensual and quit graphical but not obscene sex scene written by a guy. That’d be a challenge!

    your new fan 😛

  • Wolkandra says:

    Hello Joe!

    I am from Austria and have just downloaded the 63 pages of your first book. I was not able to stand up – even not to go to toilet.

    I just wanted to say that you are an author with really good spirit and an amazing writing style. You are interested in what your fans think and not how much money you can make. Good work!

    I will shurely be a good an true hearted fan. Keep on working. When I have finished your first three books I want to have some more! *lol*

    Best wishes – keep on going.

  • Ady,
    You’d be surprised how a couple of (even fairly successful) fantasy books fail to propel you onto the rich list.

    That won’t happen, because everyone loves ME PERSONALLY.

    My next project will indeed by brilliant. Honest.

    I already did a sensual and not at all obscene sex scene in Before They are Hanged. Perhaps it was a bit too romanticised and not quite graphic enough for you? I’ll see what I can do next time round.

    You are right that I have a good spirit and amazing writing style, and that I care about what my fans think. You are deluding yourself if you think I don’t care about the money, though. I care DEEPLY.

    Show me the MONEY!!!

  • your fan :-P says:

    it’s me again… it’s just you know, like you get only appetiser all the time and then you are really hungry. so don’t send us craving for proper meal to Laurell K. Hamilton, Patricia Briggs and so on just because you guys think only about blood.

    still your fan 😛

  • inajeep says:

    Just another faceless fan who is looking forward to your next book as it appears in the US. I’ll keep reading your blog and be waiting.

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  • Kylie says:

    For 'Mercenary who'd do anything for one last drink', I'm thinking Cosca. Is it Cosca? Because that's what I'm thinking.

    I'm hoping that Best Served Cold will provide at least some sort of closure to Before They Are Hanged, even if it's just in vague reference ('olol i herd da kin dyed').

    For now, though, I'll languish in the lands of not-quite first-rate fantasy novels but hopefully far from second-rate. (maybe 1.5?) Hopefully Best Served Cold will hitch me a ride to a better place that has nothing to do with religious beliefs. Or else somebody's gunna get the boot. D:< (No, just kidding. Or am I? Dun dun duuun.) And you should move to Australia. We have dropbears. 😀

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