A former lecturer in creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire, Ed Cox now lives in Essex with his family where he writes books and fights off the local arachnids. The Relic Guild was his first novel and you can read our review here. We were lucky enough to catch up with him at Nine Worlds Geekfest for a natter about his next book in the series, The Cathedral of Known Things. [GS note: here be spoilers for The Relic Guild!]
GS: What can you tell us about The Cathedral of Known Things?
Ed: Basically, it all goes a bit mad! The universe is expanded, so you’ll see a lot more of the Aelfir, and the various Houses. There are some new characters, but also some returning ones some of whom only appeared briefly in The Relic Guild but who will now play a much more significant role. The timelines are still split, so we’re following the different threads between the past and present, and you’ll see some of the war. It’s all monsters and mayhem in the second book!
GS: One of the things we loved about The Relic Guild were the moments of almost Cronenberg-style body horror. Can we talk a bit about your influences?
Ed: I watched the Alien films when I was very young. Too young, I was terrified! I think that influence really shows – particularly with the character of Hagi Tabet, and her very kind of dangerous, alien sexuality. Another thing which always struck me about Alien was when Ripley is fighting off the xenomorph in her underwear at the end, it’s not at all gratuitous but rather serves to highlight how vulnerable she is. There is some nudity in my books, but it’s generally used to explore that idea of nakedness equalling vulnerability. It’s difficult to fight in your pants!
GS: Did you find the process of writing and marketing your second book very different?
Ed: I have to do a lot of compartmentalisation when promoting the series and be really careful in what I say, especially now I’m in the middle of writing book three!
There is also a lot of new worldbuilding in the new book, as at the end of The Relic Guild, all the characters split up and head off to different places. All those worlds get broken down. Then I needed eyes back in the Labyrinth itself, to deal with the fallout of Hagi Tabet taking over as Resident and demanding the capture of the Relic Guild.
Information is being given away very gradually over the course of the books, so often a scene is much more important that it may seem. I was asked to cut down one of Samuel’s scenes from the past timeline, but the information in it becomes so relevant that it was necessary to keep it. That was my JK Rowling moment!
GS: No spoilers, but a questions we had for you from Twitter was how do you think people will respond to the ending of The Cathedral of Known Things?
Ed: It is kind of a cliffhanger. But when I came up with the idea for The Relic Guild, I always had it in my mind that it would be a series, so I think of the ending of The Cathedral of Known Things as more like the end of an episode. And like Samuel says, “nothing is ever as it seems”. Which could actually be the tagline for the next book, except we already have a tagline!
GS: We really loved the idea of the Labyrinth having its own version of CCTV with its “eyes in the street”. Have you explored that or any other modern technology in The Cathedral of Known Things?
Ed: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the idea of panopticism? [GS looks blank] It’s the idea that people will follow rules if they know that they could be under observation, so paranoia that they could be watched, or even listened to means that the denizens of the Labyrinth will obey their Resident. I didn’t set out to write Nineteen Eighty-Four or anything like that, but I wanted to explore that idea a bit.
GS: Clara has this phenomenal character arc in The Relic Guild. Can you tell us a bit about where that will take her?
Ed: Clara’s already tough, even at the beginning when she looks like a damsel in distress, and she already knows she’s dangerous – she was a whore who has spent her life protecting those around her by locking down her inner monster – which ties back in to what Samuel says about nothing in the Labyrinth being as it seems. I’ve used the word “whore” quite deliberately – it’s used several times by Samuel in his narrative at the beginning of The Relic Guild, because he’s been sent to kill her and he knows it’ll be easier if he can dehumanize her. It’s also used by Clara herself as a shield to hide her real secret behind. In the next book, I really put her through the hero wringer! There’s a really nice moment when another character helps Clara reconcile where she’s come from with seeing herself for what she is now. Gender-flipped, Clara is basically me as a teen. She’s normal, unbeautiful and she carries all this angst. Now she’s become a Relic Guild agent, it’s her time to shine. Originally, the opening chapter of the second book was going to be the last chapter in the first book, and it sets up this platform for me to just set Clara loose on the world!
GS: We can’t wait! Now, a couple of random questions, because we can. Who’s your favourite Doctor?
Ed: Tom Baker! I wanted to be his companion. I would defeat the daleks with hugs! [GS note: we can confirm that Ed is indeed a Hugger] I have massive arguments with my wife about it, because her Doctor is John Pertwee. Davros is the best villain. I almost wet myself when he turned up in the new series!
GS: Lastly, your editor would like us to ask you just how wonderful he is.
Ed: The truth is, Marcus has a quiet, efficient confidence about him. He welcomed me into the Gollancz family with open arms, and has made sure he’s been there for me ever since. He’s quite a laid back chap, and he’ll always have my gratitude for taking a chance on me. The Relic Guild and The Cathedral of Known Things undoubtedly became better books for having met his editorial pen.
Thanks for talking to us, Ed!
The Cathedral of Known Things will be available for Kindle on 15 October 2015 for £8.99, and in trade paperback for my fellow old-school bookworms on the same day for £16.99. To tide you over, here’s a link to the free short story Hemlock, set in the same world (also available as a free to download from Audible and Soundcloud) and keep your eyes peeled for another tie-in, Champion of Dead Time.
Interviewer: Michaela Gray
Sources: Feature image copyright of Joe Ambercrombie