On the chilly day of Saturday 3rd October fans came to see Philip Reeve and Joe Abercrombie talk about their new novels, Rail Head and Half a War. As sponsors, we were lucky enough to have ten minutes beforehand to interview them about their writing. Joe said the most important part of writing, (besides getting dressed in the morning!) is to be honest with yourself. Don’t strain to write a metaphor just because you think it sounds nice on the page. When working on characters, speak their dialogue, treat them like real people. Each character will behave in a different way when you’re writing them.
Philip Reeve’s books are often set in weird and wonderful worlds; ‘I build the world around the story’ he said. In contrast, Joe also told us that research is important, but in the end, the great liberty you have as an author is that you can blend history together. ‘You can throw a character out a 19th century London window in the same world which has 16th century Italian fashion. Warping the world is your responsibility as a fantasy author.’
On the question of sending a message to the readers both Joe and Philip were hilariously disparaging. ‘No!’ Philip says ‘I don’t set out to push a message. I’m not preaching. The bourgeois novel centred around a message: I hate those. It’s just a recipe for a bad book. People will find messages in the book, some of them I didn’t even realise were there until it was published!’
Philip and Joe agreed that you have to start the book and see if ‘the writing magic’ is there. ‘A boring plot will be a good story if the characters are good. If the characters are boring however, then the novel will always be dull.’ We enjoyed hearing about how they developed their characters – in that they often developed themselves.
When talking to the audience both Joe and Philip were funny, drawing laughs from everyone and reducing the chair to giggles. We thank Philip and Joe for their wonderful interview.