We are thrilled to welcome the wonderful Edward Cox back to the Gollancz Blog as we celebration the publication of the final book in the Relic Guild Trilogy, The Watcher of Dead Time. Edward Cox discusses writing a fantasy trilogy, cliffhangers, being a debut novelst and ending a trilogy.
Over the last couple of years, The Relic Guild Trilogy had been described in varying ways – mostly positive, I’m pleased to say. Gaslight fantasy, was one description. Fantasy with elements of steampunk was another. Not quite grimdark; tradition fantasy with a difference; original but recognisable fantasy; fantasy with shades of horror and sci-fi. It’s quite a long and happy list.
My favourite quote comes from the ever brilliant Joanne Harris. She said that most importantly The Relic Guild was a lot of fun. And this is my favourite because that’s exactly what I intended – for the story to be fun, entertaining. Personally, I refer to the trilogy as simply fantasy, but, oddly, I’ve never really considered it a trilogy.
What began in The Relic Guild and continued in The Cathedral of Known Things now concludes in The Watcher of Dead Time. This is a single story chopped up into three books, which means books one and two end on something of a cliffhanger. Most readers have gone with what I’ve done and enjoyed the suspense. Some have stuck with me, even though they aren’t fans of cliffhangers, which is fair enough, and I’m grateful to all my readers. A few have been angered by the cliffhangers, feeling somehow cheated by them, and I’ve even been accused of lazy storytelling to endorse a cheap marketing ploy to sell the next book.
Although I am very good at being lazy in life, I work very hard at writing. If the story of The Relic Guild was a single book, it would be a tome, half a million words and fourteen hundred pages long. There aren’t many publishers who would release a novel that big, and even fewer authors who could generate the sales for something so expensive. I am still essentially a debut novelist. Thus The Relic Guild is a single story thrice chopped.
In an ideal world, I would have written the whole thing before approaching and agent and a publisher. But that would mean my search for publication would only have just begun. The Relic Guild came to life as a university project, and from that time to completing The Watcher of Dead Time almost ten years have passed. It made sense to release the story while I was still writing it. Though this did result in one or two headaches.
The Cathedral of Known Things developed everything that I’d set up in The Relic Guild. By the time it was released, I was confident that the story was on track and heading in the right direction. But when I came to write The Watcher of Dead Time, my confidence waned, and I had to gulp. Because I was certain that the loose threads from the first two books wouldn’t tie up in the third, and that I had missed something vital in my decade of planning which would grind the whole story to an incomprehensible halt. I focused on this and worried about it so much that the first six months of writing book three produced nothing but a mess of a story.
You have to stop writing at those moments. You have to switch off the computer and let your brain catch up with itself. You have to stop thinking about looming deadlines, worrying about things that haven’t happened, and deal with what’s real and right in front of you. I went through my notes on the entire trilogy (twenty notebooks’ worth, if anyone’s interested), and I studied the frayed ends of each thread that needed tying up and every question that demanded an answer.
I couldn’t see the story through the words, but a clear perspective is everything. I think, at this point, even my marvellous and unflappable editor Marcus Gipps was a little concerned for book three. However, having reacquainted myself with that feeling of confidence I experienced upon the release of book two, I began to see and understand what I’d set up with fresh eyes, and I was back on track.
I started The Watcher of Dead Time again, from scratch, always delighted, occasionally surprised, when every ball I’d placed on the penalty spot was kicked in the goal. I had this. I’d got it right, and the only person doubting me was me. In the end, it was the quickest novel I’ve ever written. What was I worrying about!?
I feel a little sad that this story has reached its conclusion. Two years have gone by way too fast. It seems as though I haven’t finished celebrating the release of the first book yet, and here we are celebrating the third. The Watcher of Dead Time is the last part of a single story chopped up into three books. The agents of the Relic Guild, and the readers, will have their answers. No cliffhangers here – pinky promise. All things end.
You can listen to Edward Cox and his editor, Marcus Gipps discussing The Relic Guild Trilogy below.