Conversations With: Andrzej Sapkowski and Joe Abercrombie Part Two – SciFiNow

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What happens when you take a sneak peek at the email exchange between two titans of genre? Well read on to find out…

To celebrate this year’s releases of two extraordinary novels: Joe Abercrombie’s (pictured above, right) The Trouble With Peace and Andrzej Sapkowski’s (pictured above, left) The Tower of Fools we gave the two authors the chance to flip the tables and ask each other questions about their novels.

Yesterday Joe Abercrombie puts Andrzej Sapkowski under the spotlight in part one (which you can read here), now it’s Andrzej’s turn…

Google told me that your debut book, The Blade Itself, was published when you were 32. What’s the story there? What made you become a fantasy author? A Flying Muse, or something else?

JA: I really wish it had been a flying muse, then maybe she’d visit again and bring me some good ideas… I wish I could say it was all part of some grand plan but really I found myself with time on my hands. I was working as a freelance TV editor in my 20s, so even in busy years I’d have a fair bit of time off between jobs, and started to feel I needed something more worthwhile to do with it than just playing video games. I’d played a lot of roleplaying games and read a lot of fantasy as a kid, so I’d always had these ideas slow-cooking at the back of my mind for a fantasy world and characters of my own.

Around about the year 2000 I finally started trying to write them down, and quite quickly became fascinated by the process for its own sake. I became obsessed with working out the craft, experimenting, revising and rewriting. So it took three or four years to write The Blade Itself, then another year or so to find a publisher, then another year or two for the book to appear. Which took me to 32, I guess, though it was a good few years later that I became anything like a full-time author. I still feel a little weird describing myself that way…

AS: When asked about his writing plans, a well-known fantasy author used to reply that his next book would be about steamships. It was, of course, cunning disinformation aimed at misleading the competition, who are always ready to steal ideas. So I won’t be offended if your answers to the follow questions are similar.

Knowing your love of trilogies (The First Law, Shattered Sea) The Age of Madness will also run to three volumes. The internet says that the third and last volume will be called The Wisdom of Crowds and is coming out in 2021. Is that true? What can readers expect?

JA: You joke about steamships but the basic idea with this latest trilogy is to take a fantasy world into the industrial age. The early industrial age, I guess, so maybe I should say rather than steamships it’s about water wheels. That and money, and invention, and social upheaval, and rebellion, revolution, love, war, greed, rivalry, and everything that makes us human. 

The third volume will indeed be out in 2021 and it will indeed be called The Wisdom of Crowds, which gives some hint of what to expect. This one goes from an industrial revolution to a political revolution, inspired in part by the French and Russian examples, but also I guess by the strange time we’ve been having in world politics of late. Though I think I’m a writer who focusses mostly on character rather than setting, so like most of my books it’s really about a range of vivid and fascinating people struggling with their best and worst impulses to find out whether they will end up the heroes or villains of their own stories. Or something. Either way, the body count is sure to be high. I try to end the series not necessarily with a bang or a whimper but with several of both…

AS: Among the numerous female warriors who appear in fantasy, Monzcarro ‘Monza’ Murcatto is definitely close to being the most compelling and best written. I’d love to read more with her in a starring role. I know she’s now a Grand Duchess, but so what? Literary precedents exist – King Arthur’s biggest problems began after his coronation. So? Are you planning anything? Or will I hear something about steamboats?

JA: You know my – probably stupid and entirely self-defeating – philosophy has generally been to try and move on from old characters to new ones. Readers often feel they want more of that thing they enjoyed last time, but I think when they get it they can quickly get bored – and as a writer you need to be challenging yourself to try to break at least slightly new ground. Otherwise there’s a danger of getting comfortable and becoming a bad pastiche of yourself. Readers might not express their fury but they may well quietly wander off to other, more exciting writers.

I enjoy continuing to write in a world as it changes and develops, partly in response to the people and actions we’ve read about before, and certainly that means that old characters can show up or continue to loom large in the background, but I prefer for the focus to be on new faces. I like a world that, like ours, is in constant flux and upheaval. Having said all that, I can definitely see a novel in which Monza is deposed and has to flee disguised as a humble steamboat stoker, from which position, her calculating frown lit by the flickering furnaces, she can plot her revenge…

The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie is out now from Gollancz in the UK here and Orbit in the US here.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski is out now from Gollancz in the UK here and Orbit in the US here.

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