Daniel Abraham writes novels under two and a half names. Daniel Abraham, MLN Hanover and half of James S.A. Corey. A resident of Albuquerque, where he hangs with the likes of George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, Melinda Snodgrass, and more, he’s a Clarion West alum. His short stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Wild Cards and numerous anthologies. His novelette, “The Cambist & Lord Iron” was nominated for a Hugo in 2008. Another novelette, “Flat Diane” was nominated in 2005. His debut novel with Ty Franck as James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes, is a current Hugo Nominee. His epic fantasy series include the Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and The Coin, which is ongoing from Orbit Books, along with The Expanse space opera saga, which includes Leviathan Wakes and now Caliban’s War. He can be found on Twitter as @AbrahamHanover, via Facebook or his website at http://www.danielabraham.com/.
Daniel Abraham: I’ve been reading SFF since I was a kid. My dad used to read to me a lot. Hooked me on Clarke when I was 12.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors and books?
DA: There were a lot. I grew up with Alexi Panshin, David Eddings, Enrique Anderson Imbert. And Dorothy Sayers, who isn’t SFF, but she rocks.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you develop an interest in writing and how did you pursue that? Classes? Workshops? Learn on your own?
DA: I’ve been writing stories since about 5th grade. Most of them were awful. I did a lot of classes. Some were ok. Most weren’t. I got to work with Fred Saberhagen when I was in high school. That was a big thing.
SFFWRTCHT: Which explains your presence in the Golden Reflections anthology set in his world.
DA: Yeah. I’d pretty much do anything to support Fred Saberhagen. And it was fun working in his world.
SFFWRTCHT: How much (and perhaps how) is your SFF writing influenced by non-SFF works and/or non-fiction?
DA: Non-SFF work has been a lot of my reading. I think it gives some perspective that I wouldn’t have if I’d only stayed in SFF.
DA: Probably studying biology in college.
SFFWRTCHT: What drew you to fantasy? And what are the key elements of a good epic fantasy for you?
DA: My first real fantasy series were The Chronicles of Prydain and The Belgariad. I haven’t reread them in years. I love Eddings. Sparhawk books, Belgariad. I have a theory that the perfect book is one you read in 2 days and remember in 2 years. That works for fantasy too.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you usually start with characters or plot?
DA: It varies by the project. A lot of times I’ll have an idea or a scene and then it grows from there.
SFFWRTCHT: Outliner or pantser?
DA: I write a lot of outlines that are wrong and then abandoned. Then I make another one. And it’s wrong too, but it’s closer.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you prefer writing novels to novellas and shorter forms, or the converse?
DA: I like both, but they’re very different kinds of stories.
SFFWRTCHT: How long does it take you to finish the first draft?
DA: From the original plot break, maybe a year. From the first word, probably six to eight months.
DA: The Dagger & the Coin books were supposed to be something that read to me now like Eddings did at 15. Dagger & Coin was a plan to take all the things I think are coolest and putting them in a blender a la Babylon 5. The format was set from pretty early. When we get more of Kit, the prologue & epilogue are going to spread out a little.
SFFWRTCHT: The Dragon’s Path, book 1, introduces three men whose little spat escalates into something much larger. Soon the Free Cities are headed for war. What kind of magic system exists in this world and does it play a role in the story?
DA: Money is, I think, the most effective kind of group magic humanity have ever done. I’ve put a lot of economics into my fantasy stuff. But the magic system in Dagger & Coin is all about truth and certainty. It’s kind of Goebbels as Nazgul.
SFFWRTCHT: How is the writing of The Dagger & the Coin different for you as opposed to the Long Price Quartet?
DA: With the Long Price books, I was trying to something really new. With D&C, I’m trying to do something common really well.
SFFWRTCHT: In book 2, King’s Blood, an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest journey to destroy a Goddess before she eats the world. Does it pick up right where Dragon’s Path left off?
DA: King’s Blood starts a few months after Dragon’s Path ends. Just to skip the boring bits.
DA: D&C will run to 5 books. They’re already under contract, and the third one’s turned in.
SFFWRTCHT: Any chance you’ll be adapting D&C into graphic novels?
DA: Graphic novels haven’t come up. It could be cool, though. I would do D&C novellas if I came up with any good ideas for them.
SFFWRTCHT: Leviathan Wakes is about two men, a cop and a space Captain, who uncover a plot to release an alien protomolecule on humans. In the process, a war between the outer Belt/Mars and Earth begins. How did you come to write The Expanse with Ty Franck? I know there was a Leviathan Wakes short.
DA: The Expanse was originally the pitch for a MMO that Ty was working on, then a RPG he ran. He’d done all the worldbuilding.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you and Ty come up with the novel idea together or did one approach the other?
DA: I approached Ty with the idea of writing the books. We were aiming for pizza money and overshot. We were really trying to make LW hard to put down. So there’s the Medici bank, there’s Firefly, there’s a guy named Freidrich Rech-Mallecewen. All kinds of stuff. Rech-Mallecewen is one of my faves. German monarchist in the 1930s. Hated the Nazis because they were low class. Some of them were non-standard ones, so hopefully the books read as a little different.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s the writing process for you and Ty? Chapter by chapter? Character by character? Darts?
DA: Ty and I trade off chapters and characters. But we do the outlines together.
DA: Ty did the first draft of Holden, and I did Miller. But we edited each other so much, it’s hard to say who did which word.
SFFWRTCHT: Seamless and well-done. Looking forward to Caliban’s War. What was the hardest thing about writing that sequel?
DA: The hardest thing was finding a way to keep making it bigger and hold onto the same feel.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you ever get bored when writing a series with the same characters over and over?
DA: I don’t get bored with them, but I get annoyed sometimes when I get stuck. Mostly I miss them when I’m done.
SFFWRTCHT: Why use another pseudonym for The Expanse?
DA: I believe in ‘nyms as a way to set reader expectations about what the book’s going to be like.
SFFWRTCHT: Interesting. So you associate a style/voice and genre with each perhaps?
DA: You bet. Epic fantasy has a different voice than space opera has a different voice than urban fantasy. When you pick up Walter Mosley, folks expect a mystery, even though he writes lots of stuff. Daniel Abraham writes epic fantasy, MN Hanover writes urban fantasy, Jimmy writes space opera. Or, Richard Stark writes crime novels. Donald Westlake writes comic crime novels.
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us a bit about the future of our solar system as you reimagine it here please.
DA: The Expanse is a solar system where we’re just heading out. Colonies in the outer planets. And then bridges to a larger space.
DA: The Expanse is built at six novels right now, but it may get bigger if it goes well. We know the last book and the last line.
SFFWRTCHT: Well, so much for pantsing there. You know the ending. Always good to know. Do you set a word count? What is your best/ideal time/place to write? (i.e. favorite chair at 6AM, etc)?
DA: I’ve got a great couch, and the kids in school from 8:30 to 3. I try to get 1000 words a day, but it varies.
SFFWRTCHT: Caliban’s War has the protomolecule up to mischief on Venus and Jim Holden once again at the midst of attempts to stop it. Does it pick up right after the first book?
DA: There’s a little gap. About a year.
SFFWRTCHT: What are the core elements of good space opera to you? Especially the old fashioned kind like this.
DA: Sentimentality. I think SF has a temptation to lose characters, story, and emotion in favor of nifty tech.
SFFWRTCHT: Well said. I like the character driven focus of it as well vs. the science and tech. I like the interesting juxtaposition of flawed heroes in LW. Holden is more by the book while Miller pushes limits. Are new heroes introduced in book 2 along with Holden continuing?
DA: Yes. We have three new POV characters in addition to Holden. A Martian marine, a UN politician, and a botanist from Ganymede. And there’s some *great* work out there for the nifty idea crew.
SFFWRTCHT: You’ve collaborated with Gardner Dozois, George RR Martin, George, Ty, and others. Do you enjoy collaboration?
DA: I do like collaborating. I think it helps me learn how to get better. George and Gardner? Who wouldn’t work with them? Ty is pretty brilliant too.
SFFWRTCHT: What are keys to successful collaboration?
DA: The most important thing in collaboration is giving up the idea that it will be the same as you would have done solo.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use Scrivener or special software? Have any rituals? Write with music?
DA: I use about 10% of what Scrivener does. I can’t write with music. And while I have a kink about word count, no rituals per se.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
DA: The best advice was either not to get discouraged or this one critique from Sean Stewart. The worst was probably not to write science fiction because it doesn’t sell.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
DA: Right now, I’m finishing up the third Expanse novel, starting the fourth D&C, and making Game of Thrones into graphic novels. And about three short stories I’m contracted for.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.