The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Dan Abnett

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The Interview: Bookbag talks to Dan Abnett


Summary: Dan Abnett's Primeval: Extinction Event is a perfect tie-in novel with lots of Cretaceous critters for fans, and a very good action fantasy for anyone else. We couldn't wait to interview him!
Date: 12 January 2011
Interviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd

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Dan Abnett's Primeval: Extinction Event is a perfect tie-in novel with lots of Cretaceous critters for fans, and a very good action fantasy for anyone else. We couldn't wait to interview him!

  • Bookbag: Close your eyes and imagine your readers. Who do you see?

Dan Abnett: Yikes! What are you all doing in my room?

Actually, a see a lot of people with a very broad age range. Signings have shown me that almost anyone can be a reader of mine, and I find that very rewarding.

  • BB: How do you feel about writing for someone else’s franchise?

DA: I enjoy it. I’ve always worked in franchises - in comics it goes with the territory and is something to be desired (everyone, for example, wants to get a crack at a big pre-existing character like Superman or the Hulk). I enjoy dismantling a franchise so I can write for it confidently and accurately.

  • BB: What plot and other guidelines were set up with the commission, and what here is Dan Abnett? How much freedom do you have to introduce your own creative ideas?

DA: The idea is all mine, in as much as when I met the producers, they said they wanted something big, something they couldn’t afford to do on TV. They wanted me to make use of the novel's budget. They also wanted me to understand I was in continuity, that the book would be canonical. We talked about Siberia and tanks and... I ran with it.

  • BB: Did you have the Ladybird dinosaur books as a child, as mentioned in Extinction Event? (I did, and still do!) Do you still have many of your childhood books?

DA: Yes, and yes ;) I accumulated quite a collection of dinosaur books as a child. They sit on my shelf over there *points*

  • BB: What makes up your working day? You've recently blogged you aim to write 1,000 words every single day of the year - somehow we get the impression genre writers would do most of that at night...

DA: I used to be a terrible night worker. Small hours of the morning, another chapter written...

Fourteen months ago I started suffering seizures. I was taken to hospital, and after lots of worry and MRI scans (which finally ruled out something nasty and terminal after about two months) I was told it was just epilepsy. I had late-onset epilepsy. It’s now under control, and I’m healthier than ever, but it was goodbye stress, tiredness, caffeine, alcohol...

So I now go to bed early, relax, sleep well, get up at about six in the morning bursting with energy, and aim to write 2-3K words per morning, then switch to comics at lunchtime for 5-7 pages of script. The 1000 word resolution was an experiment for this year. 1000 words EVERY day (ie not just the days I work).

  • BB: What are the differences between your working on a 300pp novel and an eight page comic strip?

DA: The time involved, basically. A script gets written faster, and therefore there is a faster closure and satisfaction. A novel hangs about for three or four months, and you have to live with it (even if you’re having fun, this can be tiring). Plus, a script requires you to write script format and directions, so part of what you’re writing is invisible in the end product. The text of a novel is the most direct contact I have with a reader.

  • BB: Is sci-fi harder to write when technology is constantly changing, and constantly being bought by your readers?

DA: I suppose. You refine and alter, and try to keep up with developments and possibilities. You also Make Stuff Up. ;)

  • BB: What was the reason, or impetus, for you becoming a writer in the first place?

DA: I think it was inevitable. I was always going to tell stories, even if I never got paid for it. I’d be writing anyway, whether it was job or not. It’s part of my hardwiring.

  • BB: You're rapidly approaching 25 years as being a professional author. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

DA: Not really, actually. The mistakes and the things that haven’t worked out have simply taught me things. Wow, that was very zen, wasn’t it? Seriously, I can think about the worst career move I ever made (I’m not saying what it was) and I can still see ultimate value in it. If you don’t learn how to get up after you’ve been knocked down, you’re not going to last the course.

And now I sound like John Wayne.

  • BB: In an alternative world, some Primeval character steps on a butterfly and changes the course of history so you could never be an author. What would Dan Abnett be doing instead?

DA: I had always had a mind to teach. Teach or act. I come from a worthy line of teachers, and I always enjoyed performance at school and college.

  • BB: What's next for Dan Abnett?

DA: More comics. My new Warhammer novel, Prospero Burns, just hit the New York Times Bestseller’s list. My next original novel, a combat SF thriller called Embedded, is published by Angry Robot in March.

  • BB: Congratulations and good luck with Embedded! Thanks so much for the interview, Dan.

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