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Joe Abercrombie répond aux questions d’Elbakin.net !

Par Gillossen, le mardi 5 février 2008 à 15:36:11

Notre interview avec Joe Abercrombie - english version

Is The Blade Itself born from weariness about Epic Fantasy? Why did you specifically choose fantasy?
Weariness, in a way, perhaps. It’s true that I read a lot of fantasy as a kid and saw the same old themes, and approaches, and plotlines coming round and round, and I thought perhaps I could come up with a slightly different take on the form. I guess I wanted to write a fantasy trilogy that kept what I liked about fantasy – the mystery, the magic, the adventure, but at the same time was as close to reality as I could make it – something that had the grit, the humour, the cruelty and the surprises of real life. That had characters as selfish, as flawed, as complicated and unpredictable as real people.
Was that first book the most difficult to write of the three?
It certainly took the longest time. I needed to establish the world, get a sense of my own characters, plot the first book in detail and the whole trilogy in outline. And just work out how to go about the whole process, of course. But it was also the easiest to write in the sense that I didn’t have an editor drumming her fingers, waiting for the manuscript, or for that matter a readership to disappoint. So there was the most work, but also the least pressure.
The Blade Itself is a very character driven book. Do you have a favourite character?
Readers (or those people who still speak to me once they’ve read the book) all tend to have their own favourite, but I don’t think I could pick one. In a way, they’re all parts of me. What’s your favourite part of you? On second thought, don’t answer that.
Which character has the most changed since the beginning of this adventure?
Jezal is probably the one who changes most. He begins as a complete shit and ends as ... well, slightly less of a shit. That’s the kind of progress I hope for in my own life.
You seem to love the use of black humor. Is it easier to convey grit and cruelty through humor?
One thing that always bothered me about fantasy is that it tends to be either very serious, pompous even, or full-on slapstick satire. Some people feel that a book with humour has to be lightweight, but I think a certain amount of carefully aimed comedy only makes the black sections the more black. Real life, after all, can be funny and horrible, and often at the same time. You can’t have shadow without light...
Why no map in any of your books? Do you precisely want to shake up the habits of fantasy readers?
Chiefly it was a decision of the publisher. If they’d insisted on a map they could have had a dozen, as far as I’m concerned, but in general I was happy that they decided not to have one. I think it is a bit of a cliché of epic fantasy, and that a book should stand on the merits of the writing. I wanted readers to feel that they were right there in the action with the characters, close-up and immediate, not flipping back and forth to check the flyleaf every few pages and getting a massive, birds-eye overview.
Did you past in television help you for writing? What was the biggest change between television and literature for you?
Definitely the time I’ve spent (and still do spend) as a TV editor has influenced the way I write – intercutting different lines of action, knowing where to enter and leave a scene, seeing what is essential and what can be removed without reducing the effect. The big change is definitely moving from being part of a big team, in particular being answerable to a director (having a boss, as it were) to being pretty much responsible for the whole thing yourself (though obviously with important input from your publisher, your editor, and so on). When you edit a TV program, you do your bit of the work, you get paid, you move on and rarely look back. When you write a book, you own it and stay deeply involved with it throughout its life on the shelves. It’s a much more personal project, I guess.
And what is your favourite aspect of writing?
The money, the power, the beautiful women. Yeah, right.
Since you appreciate that kind of characters, who is the greatest antihero in books or movies for you?
I’d have to pick out Cugel the Clever from Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth. A brilliant, horrible, hilarious creation, whose selfishness leaves a trail of utter destruction behind him.
You are a diligent blogger. Is the web an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, generate a buzz, etc?
I doubt it makes a recognisable difference to my sales, but I certainly enjoy the contact with the readers, and hopefully they feel the same way. Perhaps it helps to generate a buzz on the internet, but I think there are still relatively few fantasy readers that use the web in a big way. ,I think most still find their books by good old-fashioned word of mouth.
How do you react to book reviews? Are they important to you? I have seen that you have recently blogged about "Publishers Weekly".
I’m always fascinated to hear what people have to say, of course. When you write a book you put everything you have into it, and it’s hard not to have a powerful gut reaction to any opinion, whether it’s a newspaper review or a reader on a chat-room. But over time you hear just about every extreme of opinion and you realise that you can’t take any of it too seriously. Some people will hate the very characters, or approaches, or styles that other people love. In the end, the only opinions you can really let influence you are your editor’s (don’t tell her I said that) and your own. So I’m gradually easing from utter rage and despair when someone says something negative, towards a resigned shrug and world-weary chuckle.
"J’ai lu" seems to count a lot on you with this new collection. Do you feel any pressure about that French publication?
The books have been out a couple of years in the UK, a year and a half or so in Germany, and six months in the US, and I guess with each release it becomes a bit easier, but it’s always scary and exciting to see your book come out in a new market – perhaps like sending a child off to school for the first time. Different audiences do seem to have radically different tastes, so you never know how you’ll go down. But it’s been successful elsewhere, so there’s no reason to feel too worried, especially since, as you say, "J’ai Lu" are doing everything possible to give it the best chance. Fingers crossed.
By the way, have you been consulted about the French translation of your work? Would you have liked it?
A little bit. I met the translator on a trip to Paris and we talked about what the proper usages of "tu" and "vous" might be for certain situations in the books, among other things. There’s simply no equivalent in English, so it was a tough one to get my head round. But she’s a hugely experienced and well-respected translator, so I’m sure if she’d had any doubts she would have asked me. Ultimately, since my French is, shall we say, not of the highest standard, I can’t be that much use.
Do you have any book recommendations for our readers, fantasy or otherwise?
I hear that Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy is magnificent. Go out at once and buy five copies.
What would you wish for 2008?
Not much. Just colossal, earth-shattering success.
Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with French fans?
Only my enduring gratitude that there are any.
  1. Notre interview avec Joe Abercrombie - version française
  2. Notre interview avec Joe Abercrombie - english version

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