THE WOOD BEE QUEEN by Edward Cox (COVER REVEAL and INTERVIEW)
The Fantasy Hive are so excited to bring you all the cover reveal for Edward Cox’s upcoming novel The Wood Bee Queen, which will be released on 10th June by Gollancz. It’s currently available to pre-order from all the usual places!
Without any further ado, here’s the cover:
We absolutely love how striking the simplistic colour palette is, and how gorgeously intricate the bee is!
Ed also stopped by to have a quick chat with us so to find out more about The Wood Bee Queen please check out our interview below:
Welcome back to the Hive, Ed. It’s so good to have you here!
Hello, you fabulous folk! It’s nice to be back.
We’re all really excited for your upcoming book The Wood Bee Queen which is due for release on 10th June. What can readers expect? Will this one be another standalone or will it be the beginning of a series?
The Wood Bee Queen is another standalone, though the world of the Realm is expansive and leaves plenty of room for another story in the future. Maybe. Anyway, I’m really excited for readers to get their hands on this one. Here’s the synopsis for it:
They say that in the Realm, the sea is in the sky…
Somewhere in England, in a small town called Strange Ground by the Skea, Ebbie Wren is the last librarian and he’s about to lose his job. Estranged from his parents, unable to make connections with anyone except the old homeless lady who lives near the library, Ebbie isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do next. His only escape from reality is his deep interest in local folklore, but reality is far stranger than Ebbie can dream.
On the other side of the sky and the sea, the Queen of House Wood Bee has been murdered. Her sister has made the first move in a long game, one which will lead her to greatness, yet risk destruction for the entire Realm. She needs the two magical stones Foresight and Hindsight for her power to be complete, but no one knows where they are. Although the sword recently stolen by Bek Rana, small time thief and not very good at it, might hold a clue to their location . . . and to stopping the chaos. But all Bek wants is to sell the sword and buy herself a better life. She’s not interested in being a hero, and neither is Ebbie.
But someone is forcing their hand and playing for the heart of the Realm. Ebbie and Bek are destined to unite. They must find a way to stop the destruction of House Wood Bee, save the Realm, and just maybe save themselves in the process. All victories come at a price. The Oldungods are rising. And they are watching…
Your cover of The Wood Bee Queen is so lovely, can you tell us what you thought when you saw the final image?
When my editor Marcus told me his ideas for The Wood Bee Queen’s cover, I was really excited to see it. When the cover came in, I was blown away. The artist Sue Gent did an amazing job. The cover is visually pleasing and depicts a secret in the story which I think readers will love when they discover it. I couldn’t have wished for a better artist or results. Sue Gent – check out her website. Such a great artist!
You’ve mentioned that The Wood Bee Queen is different from your previous books such as The Relic Guild trilogy and The Song of the Sycamore, as it is a much lighter story and not as bleak: was this a conscious choice or did the story naturally turn out lighter in tone as you began writing?
It was a conscious choice. I’m very proud of The Song of the Sycamore, but it is the bleakest thing I’ve ever written and in many ways the hardest to write. When coming to The Wood Bee Queen, I needed to write with a smile on my face again. The book still gets quite dark and tense – there’s a lot of peril and monsters for the heroes to face – but it is lighter in tone to Sycamore and more an adventure with a brighter cast than a close study into one character’s existential disintegration. I think The Wood Bee Queen will entertain readers and give them one or two smiles of their own along the way.
In both The Song of the Sycamore and The Bone Shaker, the world you create is brutal and holds an array of deadly monsters. What inspires your world-building and magic systems? Do you have any favourite monsters you’ve written about? (My favourite were the Skarabs in The Song of the Sycamore!)
I love monsters. I love monsters WAY too much. Favourites of mine . . . this answer could change from one day to the next, but . . . the tree-demons in The Bone Shaker – I like them. I had a lot of fun with the Skarabs in The Song of the Sycamore. Oh, there’s also a demon in The Relic Guild called the Orphan who was creepy and dangerous and great to write. I currently like my version of witches in The Wood Bee Queen. They’re difficult to see, often just blurs of shadowy motion. But if you do see one, it usually means bad news.
World-building continuingly develops while I’m writing a book, an ongoing process. I don’t really have a structure, or know where it begins and ends, I just get stuck in and I recognise that feeling when the world is right for the story. Maybe I just have a chaotic process.
I’m not a writer who sets out a magic system. For me, magic is a wild and untameable force of nature, almost an extra element, and its abilities are limited by the creativity of the character using it. Something I was developing in The Relic Guild trilogy and The Song of the Sycamore was the social impact of magic, and how it is used as energy, fuel, in the evolution of technology, and how magic and people might evolve side by side. In those stories, magic is like splitting the atom, which is why they – especially Sycamore – lean towards Science Fantasy. I’ve laid off that development somewhat in The Wood Bee Queen, which separates magic and technology rather than blending them, but it is an area I’d like to continue exploring in the future to see where it leads me next.
You’ve written standalones, a series, and novellas, which of these have you found the easiest and/or most enjoyable medium to write? What would you say are the pros and/or cons of each?
Trilogies take me a loooooooong time to write. The Relic Guild trilogy was over eight years from inception to handing in the third book. And given that it is one story chopped up into three books, I never once felt a sense of completion until I’d sent my editor The Watcher of Dead Time. So I guess that’s a con? A pro would be the huge feeling of achievement and pride at finishing what was a long and complicated project. And fans of the trilogy appreciated that; they really made me feel that I’d succeeded in what I had set out to do.
Standalones bring with them that all important feeling of completion much quicker, and it is important that writers feel that – certainly is for me. But then, The Bone Shaker is only 40,000 words long and that took me longer than The Relic Guild to complete – the idea was kicking around and existing in one draft or another for over 15 years, I think. And then, I always question myself while writing standalones: Could I make this a trilogy? Should I make this a trilogy? There’s room for more stories, so should I pitch more than one book?
So, what’s my preferred medium? Definitely standalones. Or maybe trilogies. And what’s easiest? Definitely novels. Or maybe novellas. P’raps short stories. Ooh, watching Netflix!
We’ve previously spoken a little about how you struggled writing The Song of the Sycamore, could you tell us a little of the difficulties you faced and how you overcame them?
Yeah, it wasn’t a good time for me. It took me around two years to finish the first draft of Sycamore, which was early 2017. Around that time I discovered I had been born with a rare condition called Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome – it only took me till I was 46 to find out why I didn’t feel normal, so yay me! All kinds of symptoms and health complications come with SCDS, which were affecting me more and more at that time, and they got in the way of rewrites (and continue to get in the way). Plus, my marriage was breaking down, which is never easy (my wife and I are currently separated, but we are reconciling and all is groovy between me and her and our daughter) so it was a troubled time.
Anyway, that’s the sob story. The upshot was that a 3-month redraft for The Song of the Sycamore took me more than year to complete, which is why the book didn’t come out until late 2019. It was difficult writing under the conditions and I just couldn’t get the story to sit right. Having gained some distance from the book, and looking back at it now, I can definitely see how my state of mind went into the final draft – my health issues, my marriage troubles, they’re both in there.
Interestingly, a theme of The Wood Bee Queen is broken relationships and how they can be mended, so I guess I just can’t stop myself!
Were there any pieces of advice which helped you through? Is there any advice you would like to give to struggling authors?
I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, most of it good, some of it meant unkindly. Ultimately, it’s about accepting that there are no keys to the mint here. You have to work hard and find your own way, as I certainly did, as every author had to. It’s more important to consider what any piece of advice means to you personally, even if you decide it’s of no help whatsoever, rather than following it without consideration.
Me, I would tell new writers to get stuck in. Plot and plan to your own personal preference. If you need every detail storyboarded before you write, then cool! But for me, plotting and planning is an ongoing process that continues until the day I finish copyedits, and it might be the same for you. Bottom line: your story won’t get written until you write it, so try not to overthink the minutiae of your first draft, get stuck in and have fun with your imagination!
Which have been your favourite characters to write? And least favourite? I particularly liked Wendal (TSotS), and Feliwyrd (The Bone Shaker), she was such a devious half human, half feline, character!
Oh, I like Abildan the Feliwyrd too! Characters who walk the misty line between good and bad are the most interesting to write. Hamir from The Relic Guild trilogy was always a favourite of mine – there’s something sinister going on with him, but you’re never quite sure what he’s up to.
Least favourite? Perhaps Nel from The Song of the Sycamore, though “least favourite” isn’t the right term. She was hardest for me to write because I really liked her but always knew where her story arc was leading and I genuinely wanted better things for her – and that’s as much as I can say without spoilers.
The truth is, I tend to love my latest characters the most, because they’re fresher in my mind and feel like the people I’m hanging out with right now, while past characters are more like old friends I haven’t seen for years. So, I’m going to go with Ebbie Wren and Bek Rana from The Wood Bee Queen as my favourites. They have a lot in common, but they don’t know that, and they come together seemingly by accident. It was hard work but good fun finding out who they were, how they would get along, and what they would come to mean to each other as the story puts them through hell. Ebbie and Bek – I can’t wait for you all to meet them.
Speaking of The Bone Shaker, how was it to collaborate on the Blood and Blade collection with Gaie Sebold, Kari Sperring, and Gavin G. Smith?
The Blood and Blade novella boxset is a great collection of fantasy stories. Ian Whates from NewCon Press planned out a series of boxset for that year (2019?) and of course I said yes when he asked me to be included, especially when I heard I’d be accompanying Gaie, Kari and Gavin – fine humans and writers, well worth checking out. I’m very lucky that Ian asked me to be included, and I’m very proud to have been a part.
Which authors past and present would you say inspire or have influenced you the most?
AAAAAAARGH! This could be a long list…
Tad Williams, Angela Carter, David Gemmell, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke. I love what Joanne Harris is doing with her Gollancz books at the moment. Oh, there’s too many! Old or new, I find inspiration from stories all the time. There’s nothing on earth like a good tall tale.
Are there any upcoming releases you’re looking forward to this year? Apart from your own of course!! Are there any debut authors we should keep an eye out for? Go on Ed, make our TBR even bigger!
Oh, this could be another long one. I’ll narrow it down. Honeycomb by Joanne Harris – I’m looking forward to that. The debut I’d recommend is This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise, which sounds awesome. I’ve just read an advance copy of The Coward by Stephen Aryan, and that was brilliant. I’m currently reading Spec Ops Z by Gavin G. Smith and so far I can honestly say it’s one of the greatest zombie stories I’ve ever read.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
King Kong. Do I really need an explanation?
Yes, Ed! Yes, you do!
Ok, fine. First off, I’m riding a giant gorilla into battle, so . . . I win! No arguments.
Next, I get so nervous answering this question because no one ever believes that King and I are old pals. Sure, we have our arguments. There are days when he won’t get off his arse to help me tidy up, and just sits there watching Netflix.
Ed, are you sure you’re not just talking about you here?!
I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, madam. Anyway, If we’ve run out of bananas, King won’t go to the shop himself but be all like, “Bananas, bananas, bananas!” until I go out because I can’t stand his moaning anymore.
But we also have a lot in common. We both suffer from the exact same body image issues, we both like jungle music, and there’s nothing we love better than getting drunk at weekends and fighting a T-Rex. We look out for each other, always, and that’s the mark of a true friendship. If he has a hankering for a sacrificial human that he can keep as a pet, I’m able to talk him down. If it’s raining, he keeps me dry and sheltered. We work well together.
Anyway, in battle, me and King win.
Err… that’s probably the most detailed answer we’ve had to this question!!
Hey, the truth is often complicated.
Okay, finally, what do you hope readers will take away from your book?
That it’s never too late to mend broken things.
Thank you so much, Ed!
Edward Cox is the ‘Gemmell Award’ nominated author of The Relic Guild trilogy (THE RELIC GUILD, THE CATHEDRAL OF KNOWN THINGS and THE WATCHER OF DEAD TIME).
Edward began writing stories at school as a way to pass time in boring lessons. It was a hobby he dabbled with until the late 80’s when he discovered the works of David Gemmell, which not only cemented his love of fantasy but also encouraged a hobby to become something much more serious.
Edward currently lives in the English countryside, where his wife and daughter defend him from the daily attacks of giant spiders. When he is not sleeping or eating, he likes to pretend to be a ghost, but has, as yet, failed to convince anyone. His favourite pastimes include reading, punching clocks, and dining out on winning the 1987 national roly-poly championship.