Interviewing Edward Cox
I’ve been a fan of Edward Cox’s work for many years since I started reading his Relic Guild trilogy. His year has seen Ed return to fantasy with a new novel which I loved The Song of the Sycamore and an awesome fantasy novella The Bone Shaker – I’ve now been lucky enough to be able to ask Ed some questions about his work, reading and housemates!
Hi Ed!! Thank you for writing such a great tale! If you were book tempting The Song of The Sycamore to people how would you describe it?
Thank you! Someone recently described it as Weird Fiction, which I really like. It's a fantasy that will also appeal to fans of science fiction and horror. But if I was to entice readers with the storyline…?
Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, but now he has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a place like Old Castle, no one is truly innocent. The dead call him Sycamore.
I was really struck by you saying recently on twitter that this book has been with you for a very long time? How long was Sycamore growing in your mind and how much has this novel changed in the process?
The world expanded and the plot developed, but (unusually for me) this one stayed pretty close to what I imagined at inception. The story has been with me since around 2006. It was one of two novel ideas I had for my MA degree. In the end I went with the other idea (which was The Relic Guild), but The Song of the Sycamore stayed with me and I finally started writing it in 2016. But, yeah, I'm happy to say this one turned out pretty much how I imagined it would.
Your novels have always featured an unusual mix of technology and magic. What appeals to you with this idea?
I think it’s how people and magic can evolve side by side that interests me. Rather than give magic a system or set of rules, I prefer to think of it as a wild source of energy limited only by the imagination of the user. For me, magic is a little like nuclear energy; it's powerful and effective, but also dangerous and, as we've seen, oh so very destructive.
In The Relic Guild Trilogy and in The Song of the Sycamore magic is the main source of energy. The people who govern it use it as fuel for any number of wondrous technologies, but they can’t fully understand what it is. Like the early pioneers of atomics, they don't really know what will happen if something goes wrong. Which it does in The Song of the Sycamore.
What were the differences you found in writing a standalone versus writing a trilogy?
The feeling of completion I got was epic! Though there were times when I really wanted the luxury of spreading the story over three books. This is actually a difficult question to answer. Maybe I don't have enough distance between me and the story yet. Ask me again next year.
In your stories you seem to love putting your characters through hell but rather than pure grimdark you also seem to admire the heroes taking a stand? Is that important to you?
Doing the right thing, even when you've been given every reason not to, is important to me. It can take genuine courage. The Song of the Sycamore is quite a bleak story, but it's also about hope and love.
I thought it'd be interesting to crush Wendal, the main character, right down to rock bottom at the very beginning of the book, and then see how he fights his way back up. Yes, I put him through hell, but his growth as a ‘hero’ comes from accepting that his dire situation is actually bigger than him and it won't be resolved unless he makes a stand for a greater good.
I really enjoyed your novella The Bone Shaker with a cast of nearly all women. How did that story come about?
There were times when I thought that story was the bane of my life. It started about twenty years ago as a homage to the fantasy adventures I read as a kid, sword and sorcery, D&D, that kind of thing. For the longest time it wouldn’t sit right and I'd abandon it, then go back to it a couple of years later, give up again, and so on and so forth.
It wasn't until the lovely Ian Whates at NewCon asked me for a novella that I swore an oath to all the gods to get that damn story done! In the end, I finished it for my daughter. I wanted to give her a story she could read (or not) where all the heroes and all the villains are women.
If there was one book, you’d love everyone to read that isn’t you own - what would it be and why?
Ooh, now then. I'm going to go with something new, out 2019. Bone China by Laura Purcell. Disquieting, mysterious, darkly enchanting - it’s one of my reads of the year.
I’ve recently heard you talking about living with the authors RJ Barker and Gavin G Smith. Are you living the dream with their support or are they hard work?
There are a lot of games, a lot of crisps, and a lot of laughter. The support of other authors is priceless to me. There's an innate understanding between us so profound we don't even need to speak. To communicate we just point at each other and groan like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.