Author Interviews

“One of the best compliments I was ever paid was, ‘your book was so much better than I was expecting it to be'”: Dan Abnett speaks to World of Books about his writing and the ever-changing comic-book industry, and gives advice to aspiring comic-book artists.

Dan Abnett has been writing comics and novels since the mid-1980s. After graduating from Oxford, he worked as an editor of comics and children’s books before turning to writing full-time.

Since then, Dan has become an award-winning novelist and comic book writer, having penned forty-one novels, including the Gaunt’s Ghosts Series for the Black Library. He has had five New York Times bestsellers, and his latest Black Library novel, Know No Fear just hit the NYT list and the UK’s Nielsen mass market list. His Torchwood novel, Border Princes, and his Doctor Who novel, The Silent Stars Go By, were both bestsellers. His SF novel, Embedded, for Angry Robot just won the Bob Morane Award in France for best novel in translation. In Dan’s comics he has worked with the two main titles, Marvel Comics and DC Universe. As well as these larger publishers, Dan has also worked for various medium-sized to small publishers too, like Dark Horse Comics. the Wildstorm imprint, Boom! Studios and Malibu Comics, and the UK’s classic 2000AD. In the dozen or so years since he began to write, Dan has written for a diverse range of characters including: Scooby Doo, Thunderbirds, Conan the Barbarian, the X-Men, Johnny Bravo, Batman, Rupert the Bear (big whoo from us!), Dr Who, Mr Men, The Terminator and Postman Pat (the last one we here at World of Books are particularly impressed with!) Dan currently lives and works in Maidstone, Kent.

Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett

Hi Dan,

Many thanks for agreeing to an interview with us today Dan. We know our World of Books customers enjoy hearing what people have to say about loads of different genres, so being able to talk to you about comic books and science-fiction is a real pleasure.

Ibram Gaunt

Ibram Gaunt

Q: If you could be any of your characters, who would you be?

Probably Ibram Gaunt, the hero of Gaunt’s Ghosts, because I’ve written more stories about him than any one else, and I feel I know he well. But different characters appeal for different reasons, and a few of my supporting characters are thinly-disguised (or wish-fulfilment!) versions of me.

Q: Your latest novel, ‘Horus Heresy: Know No Fear’, was released on 1st March 2012. The basic synopsis of this work is: “When war comes to Calth and sets the planet aflame, the Ultramarines face annihilation against a foe who will use any means to settle their bitter grudge”. A lot of the reviews already have proclaimed this book “unputdownable”, what would you say to your fans about this book? And what would you say to any sceptics out there?

Writing for the Black Library, and for Doctor Who and Torchwood, is technically ‘tie in fiction’, which is often looked down upon by ‘proper authors’. I’m delighted that these books are reaching a massive international audience, and are being taken seriously. Know No Fear is particularly hi-octane Combat SF, as it depicts a significant battle in the Horus Heresy (which is basically the Warhammer universe’s creation myth). One of the best compliments I was ever paid was, “your book was so much better than I was expecting it to be”, meaning, I suppose, that it was better than it HAD to be. I feel I have a responsibility to the audience to make every book as good as it can be, not just ‘fit for purpose’. I think some authors write franchise and tie-in on ‘autopilot’, just for the pay-cheque. Which is why it has a bad rep. I think they’re ‘proper books’.

Q: Are your family as into comics as you?

– Perhaps not quite as much as me. My parents are artists, so I grew up drawing and writing stories. When I discovered comics, I realised I could do both of my favourite things at the same time, and spent many hours as a kid creating my own comics. Finally, I couldn’t draw fast enough to illustrate the stories I was writing, so the art took a back seat.

Q: In what ways would you say that the comic book world has changed and evolved in the years you have been involved with it?

Styles change in terms of characters and stories, but the biggest changes are happening now with the delivery system in the market: so many comics are now published directly in digital form alongside the print edition. As the comic industry was beginning to falter – comics being seen as ‘old fashioned’ – this may be a great shot in the arm for the art form.

Marvel vs DC

Marvel vs DC

Q: Now this cheeky one has got to be asked! Marvel or DC?

I grew up reading, and loving, Marvel characters, simply because where I lived you could get Marvel at the newsagents, but not DC. So Marvel has childhood nostalgia on its side. But I have a very happy relationship with both companies, and both have spectacular line-ups of classic characters.

Q: What would your words of advice be for any aspiring comic-book artists that may read this?

– Draw. A lot. Go to conventions. Get noticed. Maybe use the internet to publish your own comic and get seen.

Q: How do you feel about comics being made available on Kindles and similar tablets in the coming months? How do you envision the comic book future as a result of this?

– As I said, it will be a great boost to the industry. People can subscribe and gets issues sent to them the moment they’re published. devices like iPad’s make a great place to read comics, which can be designed to move frame to frame on the iPad. It’s going to change, in interesting ways, the way comic book storytelling works.

Q: So, much to our excitement, you’re currently writing Resurrection Man for the high profile New 52 from DC comics. This is a more horror-orientated series which is quite different from your previous Superhero or Sci Fi work. What genre do you prefer writing for?

Resurrection Man

Resurrection Man

Probably SF most of all, but I love them all. Resurrection Man is a character I created with Andy Lanning and Butch Guice for DC back in the 1990s, and it was great to be invited to ‘re-invent’ him for the New 52 launch. He’s a character that comes back from the dead with a new super power each time, so “bringing him back” for DC made perfect sense.

Q: What would you say the challenges are to bringing previously established characters who are relatively unknown (like Mr Majestic and Resurrection Man) to a wider audience?

There’s no formula, you just try and make a character interesting, and hope that they touch a nerve with the audience. Often less famous characters can be the most interesting: there’s a limit to what you can do with, say, Superman or Batman, but with a lesser known character to you can really push the story into radical or unexpected places, without being in danger of ruining an international icon.

Q: And lastly, World of Books is dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

Absolutely. I really support the growth in digital publishing, but at heart, I adore physical books and comics. Lets find them good homes, where they can be cherished, or at least get the surplus ones disposed of sensibly. Everyone can give a book or a comic a home, can’t they?

Thanks for a brilliant interview Dan! Make sure you take a look at Dan’s Site for updates on his exploits, and we strongly recommend you have a read of Horus Heresy: Know No Fear – a thrilling book for Sci-Fi fans to say the very least. And why not take a look at the World of Books Site to see what other Dan Abnett books we have available today?

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