The Relic Guild’s Edward Cox on overcoming his fear of failure

Author Edward Cox talks about becoming an author and having the confidence to aim high

Ed Cox

HERE BE MONSTERS by Edward Cox

As a debut novelist, I often feel that it must be easy for people to think that I popped out of a hole in the ground with a completed novel in hand. I assume, judge, conclude that people won’t be interested in anything I did before The Relic Guild because it was with small, lesser known markets. It’s a hang-up of mine, I suppose, to believe that having a book deal with a major publisher somehow proves I’m a real writer. A lack of confidence tells me I’ve only been pretending for all these years. While sweeping my history under the carpet, I convince myself that a book deal is the only thing about me worth taking seriously. And this is wrong.

It seems strange to admit now, but there was a time when I genuinely believed that major publishers held no interest for me. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate my book deal nearly every morning when I wake up, though I don’t take it for granted. Nothing in life is certain. But as much as I celebrate where I am right now, I need to remember where I came from, and stop ignoring how hard I worked to get here.

Between the years 2000 and 2012, I was selling short stories and reviews, articles and poems, to independent magazines and webzines in America. I got to work with editors and writers and artists who made little profit, and who did what they did mostly for the love of doing it. My writing might have been performing on the smallest stage out there, but it was getting published, it was getting read, and I felt safe, content and appreciated.

I worked hard to improve as a writer, making a small but good name for myself along the way. I was asked to work on a few projects as an editor, and had a couple of nice reviewing gigs. I was selling my stories almost as soon as I’d written them, and people were interested in what I might be doing next. It felt like finding the place where I was supposed to be, and the best part was I could do it all while never having to leave the hidden sanctuary of my office.

The truth is, somewhere along the line, I had deluded myself into believing that all the warmth, appreciation, and welcoming attitudes were only to be found in the independent presses; and that the landscape of the major presses was dotted with signs saying keep out and here be monsters. Once again, I was wrong, but I now understand how it was I came to this belief.

9781473200296My attitude changed when I finished writing The Relic Guild, and was faced by a question I hadn’t asked myself before: was I ambitious? Let’s call my answer an epiphany. I realised that I wasn’t keeping clear of major publishers by choice. I was avoiding them because I was scared of failure. It terrified me that, yes, I did have ambition; I needed to know if my work could perform on a bigger stage.

I now accept that a fear of failure never truly leaves an author – it might even be an important trait. In some ways, my time in the independent presses can be considered an apprenticeship. I’m proud of what I achieved there. I have nothing but love and respect for the people I met and hope to work with again someday. But when The Relic Guild was signed by Gollancz, I’ve never been happier to discover that I was wrong. Wrong, misinformed and afraid.

Gollancz welcomed me into a family of fellow geeks, who have as much love and passion for what they do as anyone I’ve ever met. They made me feel appreciated and safe from the very start, and they continue to do so. If I could say my experience in the smaller presses gave me two things, it would be grounding and appreciation of my own. Grounding to remember the reason why I write, for the love of telling stories; and appreciation for the amount of hard work publishers put in, however big or small they are. Gollancz is a happy place to be, and so very far from a land of monsters and keep out signs.

The Relic Guild by Edward Cox is published on the 18th of September by Gollancz in Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio Book.