The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Daniel Abraham

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Daniel Abraham

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Summary: Robert loved the Dagger and the Coin sequence by Daniel Abraham and after reading The Tyrant's Law he had a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.
Date: 14 May 2013
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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obert loved the Dagger and the Coin sequence by Daniel Abraham and after reading The Tyrant's Law he had a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Daniel Abraham: Honestly, the image is pretty fuzzy. I've been writing since I was fifteen or so, and the first couple decades involved not having any readers, so I'm still fairly amazed that they exist.

  • BB: What authors were your inspirations when you started writing?

DA: I was tremendously lucky when I started that I lived in the same city with a lot of science fiction and fantasy authors who were *very* kind to me. I spent about a year going over to Fred Saberhagen's house on Saturdays where he would critique my work and try to give me some perspective on the business. In college, I got to be the teaching assistant for Suzy McKee Charnas, who gave me some advice that pretty muck kickstarted my career.

As far as folks that I was reading, I was an omnivore. I was reading Joel Rosenberg and Simon Hawke and Margaret Atwood and Larry Niven and Arthur C. Clarke. Pretty much anything I could get my hands on.

  • BB: The Dagger and the Coin sequence has lots of fantastic characters - if pushed, could you pick a favourite?

DA: The thing about the Dagger and Coin books is that most of the main characters are modeled on someone -- a real person in history or a character from some other story that I love -- with one exception. Clara Kalliam doesn't have a direct precedent, and so while I love Beth Harmon and I'm fascinated by Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, Clara's the one that's most my own, and so I have to love her best.

  • BB: I love the setting of the Dagger and the Coin sequence - what are some of your own favourite fictional settings?

DA: I think the most realized and memorable landscapes in fantasy are Tolkien's Middle Earth and GRRM's Westeros. I've also got soft spots in my heart for Barry Hughart's mythical China-That-Never-Was and Gaiman's Sandman dreamscape.

  • BB: In addition to your own novels, you've scripted the adaptation of George R R Martin's Game of Thrones as a comic. How did you get involved with this?

DA: Well, there were a few things that fed into that. George was one of my teachers at the Clarion West workshop back in 1998, and he thought I was decent. We've worked together on some other projects, including the novel Hunter's Run which we wrote with Gardner Dozois (or as George put it a three-way with two old fat guys) and Wild Cards. I adapted a couple of his other things -- Fevre Dream and Skin Trade -- into comic scripts. Also I live about an hour south of him, and he knows he can always track me down. Put all together, it was enough that they trusted me to put my hands on Ice and Fire. Still an intimidating gig.

  • BB: Speaking of Game of Thrones, the TV series is one of the biggest success stories I can recall in fantasy. Could you ever see your own books being adapted for screen?

DA: Honestly, I would have said you couldn't put Ice and Fire on screen until they did it. I can see some of my books fitting on television or the new Netflix shoot-a-season-and-stream-it model better than I can picture them in a two-hour movie.

  • BB: As is made obvious by the title, economics is a key element in the Dagger and the Coin sequence, just as it was in your Hugo Award-nominated short story The Cambist and Lord Iron. Have you always been interested in economics?

DA: Oh no, I came late and with a convert's zeal. I read a few popular economics books I'm guessing about five years ago, and I think it's fascinating. Partly because it's such a powerful and counter-intuitive set of analytical tools, partly because it's so central to the process of modern live, and partly because so much of it takes as axiomatic things that are clearly totally wrong. And once you scrape off the grey paint, there's this amazing sense of romance about it. I remember when I was talking to my friends about the Dagger and the Coin books, if I said One of my main characters is a banker, they said meh. If I said One of my main characters is a professional confidence woman who does diplomacy and espionage without being loyal to any king or nation and depends completely on seeming to be one thing while she's actually something else, and if she's not careful, she can destroy whole nations their ears came up. In my world, I just said the same thing.

  • BB: If you could ask any author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

DA: I would ask Marge Piercy why the future/imaginary civilization's word for learning was "redding" in A Woman on the Edge of Time. That novel has a very vase/faces place in my reading history because my interpretation of it changes completely depending on the answer to that question.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

DA: Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations, Mary Roach's Gulp, and E. M. Gombrich's A Little History of the World. Two of those are the bedtime books I read to my wife and daughter.

  • BB: What's next for Daniel Abraham?

DA: Write more books. I have a few more books still under contract, both as Daniel Abraham and half of James SA Corey. I have one more book to write in the Dagger and Coin sequence after The Widows's House which I'm finishing up now. I'm not sure what the project after that looks like, but I've still got a year to think about it. So we'll see.  :)

  • BB: Thanks for chatting to us, Daniel and we're looking forward to The Widows' House.

You can read more about Daniel Abraham here.

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