Joe was born in Lancaster and educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Manchester University, where he studied psychology.
He moved into TV production before taking up a career as a freelance film editor. During a break between jobs he began writing The Blade Itself in 2002, completing it in 2004. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and was followed by two other books in The First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. In early 2008, Joe was one of the contributors to the BBC Worlds of Fantasy series, alongside other contributors such as Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and China Miéville. In 2009, he released the novel Best Served Cold. It is set in the same world as The First Law Trilogy but is a stand-alone novel. He followed with The Heroes (2011), again set in the world of the First Law Trilogy, which made no. 3 on the Sunday Times Hardcover Bestseller List. A third standalone, Red Country, was published in October 2012.
Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, his daughters Grace and Eve, and his son Teddy. He still occasionally edits concerts and music festivals for TV, but spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels…
Which book most influenced you when growing up?
Lord of the Rings. Hey, I never claimed to be original.
Describe your writing space – what’s in it and why?
It’s a new room we built at the end of the house. It contains shelves full of trashy books I’ve read and impressive ones I haven’t, a motorised desk that goes up and down so I can sit or stand at it for the prevention of back trouble, and a Fabricius and Kastholm Grasshopper chair, in which I sit and contemplate the secrets of the universe. And play video games.
Who or what had the biggest impact on your writing life?
My mother. She’s the one who got me reading in the first place, and cautioned me to always be truthful in dialogue, description, and metaphor. Best writing advice I’ve had, although, “every morning . . . get dressed,” comes in a close second.
Do you consider yourself a literary rebel?
That sounds much too much like hard work and danger, two things I strive manfully to avoid.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
Kind of. Not that I kind of have a phrase I overuse, but that kind of is the phrase I overuse. Kind of.
I know you have strong views on made-up swear words in fantasy, and prefer the good old Anglo Saxon traditional four-letter words. Do you find some countries more sensitive to that than others?
By the holy hammer of Swarfega I do not! People often think the US to be more puritan and less humorous in taste than the UK, but I haven’t particularly noticed that as an overall trend. People occasionally object to the use of ‘modern’ swearing in my books, but most swearwords are ancient, with long and noble traditions in the English language. Returning to that point about truth, my feeling has always been that in an adult work of fiction, if you mean fuck, you should say fuck.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? Or one you expected to hate and fell for?
Undoubtedly, but since being exposed to a vast range of criticism myself, I have found it best to mostly keep my opinions to myself…
How far does you penchant for video games influence your writing?
It certainly means I have less time to do it than I might otherwise. But I think everything you read, watch, play, or experience and enjoy or don’t enjoy becomes an influence, and video games certainly feature among those lists for me.
Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?
Any and all mentions of myself or my work anywhere on the entire internet.
Trilogies, standalone novels, short stories … where are you most at home?
Not with short stories, certainly. I’ve written a few and will certainly write more but novel length at the least feels most natural for me.
Which book has impressed you most this year?
Can I say my own? No? Damn. In that case of recent releases I will have to grudgingly cite Garth Nix’s Confusion of Princes, and Adam Nevill’s The Ritual.
What are you working on at the moment?
For the last few weeks it’s mostly been promotion for my new book, Red Country, with tours of Scandinavia, the UK, and Australia. But I’ve been planning a little side project in the down-time. I can say no more.
You can take an unlimited supply of only one whisky to a desert island – which would it be?
Oh that’s a really testing question. Limiting yourself to one is a tough thing to do. But on a desert island you’d probably want something reasonably light, clean and eminently drinkable, so I’ll opt for Ballantine’s 17, which I have been hugely enjoying of late. A blend, but a darned good one…