Interview: Ed Cox talks The Relic Guild

The Relic Guild, by Ed Cox is out later today. It’s colossal fun, exactly the sort of exuberant, foot-to-the-floor fantasy that I’m finding I really enjoy. This has officially been the year I finally get over myself regarding fantasy and Ed, along with Jen Williams, Liz De Jager, Antony Johnston and others have been a very big part of that. As a result, I jumped at the chance to chat to Ed about the book. Here he is.


What made you decide to be a writer?

I’m always wary of this question because the answer sounds pretentious. I honestly believe that I was a writer before I realised it. At school, I’d win poetry competitions, or have to read out short stories I’d written at school assembly. But, being the clueless sort that I was (and still am), I never really considered what I was doing beyond it being simply what I did at school that day. It wasn’t until I was around 15 and my English teacher said that he thought I had a knack for writing that I first acknowledged what I’d been doing.


What authors influenced you?

There are a lot works around today that have inflamed my imagination, but I always return to authors I read in my younger days, the ones who inspired an eager mind. Tad Williams and David Gemmell, Angela Carter, Orwell, Ursula Le Quin – As you well know, my dear fellow, the list could stretch on into forever!


What inspired The Relic Guild?

The truth is, it’s the result of ideas and inspirations hoarded over many years. It’s the superhero comics and fantasy books I read, the movies and TV shows I watched, the RPGs I’ve played, the monsters under my bed. The Relic Guild is me wrapping my arms around all things that have inspired me, and then letting my imagination out of its cage.


Did you have to cut anything from the book?

It’s funny. This might be the most interesting question I’ve been asked so far, but I can’t really answer it! Well, I can, but not with any detail. The original final scene of the book was chopped and moved to the sequel. It was my editor’s idea, and it was the right call. The scene works much better as chapter one of book two. But I can’t tell you why because then I’d have to shoot you, and I don’t want to do that, Aladair. You’re a very nice man, and it would upset me.


What’s the sequence or character you’re proudest of?

This can change at any given moment. At present it’s a character called Hamir, who I’m very much looking forward to readers meeting. The first scene which is written from Hamir’s POV is my favourite. I knew him much better that I realised, and finding his voice was surprisingly easy. There’s a dark humour to Hamir’s perspective, and he’s not an entirely stable chap. Does that say more about me than him?


Let’s talk Guilds for a moment. Why do you think they’re such a useful piece of fantasy literature? 

Secrecy. Mystery. Some words are self-explanatory. When you hear “vampire” or “gun” you know what they are, and what they do. I think “Guild” works in a similar way. It suggests something hidden, things you don’t know, and it’s intriguing as a reader to be a part of that.


How did you approach them in the book?

Certainly with the air of mystery that I just mentioned. I wanted an unknown quality to the Relic Guild. The general populace don’t know who the members are, only that they are out on the streets, always watching. The agents of the Guild are both the good guys and the bad guys. They work for the protection of the Labyrinth and its people, but the methods they endorse are often extreme and fatal. There’s a touch of tragedy about them too; magic is forbidden to humans, but if you are born touched by magic then you have no choice but to spend the rest of your life serving the Relic Guild.


You deal with magic in a very interesting, non traditional way. What led to that?

I wanted to let go of rules on magic. When I began writing The Relic Guild I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I found that it pinpointed exactly what I was feeling about the rules. What is magic? For me, it’s a wild, untameable force, which is only limited by the individual using it. And limitation is what I wanted instead of hard and fast rules. For example, the agents of the Relic Guild are born to lower magic and have prescribed abilities, similar to superpowers. They can’t use their magic to exceed or alter their abilities. Thaumaturgists, on the other hand, deal with higher magic. They’re almost god-like creatures who are only limited by their imaginations. This can lead to very bad situations, but higher magic is often used to preserve life and give light to the dark places. The higher you get, the more you can achieve, and it’s the people at the very top who usually cause all the problems.


What’s next for you? A sequel?

Two sequels! I’m waiting for edits to come back on book two of The Relic Guild, and I’ve just started writing book three. And that’s probably all I’ll be doing for the next year or so.


What one fantasy novel, not written by you:), would you recommend?

Only one? Is that all I’m allowed?! Okay, let’s go for the one I’ve already mentioned. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a tome of a book and well worth the journey!


Immense thanks to Ed for chatting with me, and to Sophie Calder for helping set this up. The book is huge fun and Ed’s joyous response to it being launched is one of the most completely lovely things it’s been my good fortune to witness. There’s a review of it coming, but in the meantime, the book’s out today and do go see these fantastic people who also chatted about it.

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