An interview with Genevieve Cogman

Firstly, Genevieve, I would like to congratulate you on the release of your second novel in the Library series, I am sure you are currently grinning from ear to ear at the moment. Second, I would like to say thank you for taking the time over the holiday period and new year to speak with us at Fantasy Book Review, it’s always a busy period.

Thank you very much! I’m very flattered to have been asked, and I appreciate Fantasy Book Review’s work. (And yes, totally grinning.)

The Masked City was release on the 10th December 2015, and you can find a glowing review of it here.

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he's been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai's dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people - and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene's mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it's always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

The book’s blurb above paints an energetic picture of chase and rescue, but if you could describe The Masked City in one single sentence, for the lazy blurb readers out there, what would it be?

I could say, “Irene finds out that rescuing princes is even more difficult than stealing books,” but that might be a little too short. Perhaps, “Irene has to rescue her assistant, stop a war, and save her own life: much to her regret, there are very few books involved.”
The Masked City is the second in the Library series, how has the experience of its release been in comparison to the first book?
I was slightly more ready for seeing people talk about it and discuss it, though even then it’s always strange to see something that I produced myself be interesting – entertaining, even - to so many other people. Even now, a couple of years into all this, it still feels as if I’m going to wake up from an exceptionally long and wish-fulfilling dream.

How did you find your process of writing and editing for the second book, did it alter greatly?

I’m afraid I still need a lot of editing! I would like to think that some parts went a bit more smoothly, but I’m not sure I can really give an accurate judgement. After all, just because it felt smoother to me in the writing doesn’t necessarily mean that they were smoother to the reader. I was writing this much more to schedule and deadline than the first book, and I’m relieved that I managed to hit those deadlines.

As quoted by Stephen King, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”  Was there any editing that ended up on the metaphorical floor you had hoped could have made it into the book, but it didn’t for one reason or another?

Well, there were a couple of scenes which ended up being totally rewritten, where I intended them as one thing, but they got reworked into something else. When I was first writing the scene at the opera house, Irene was coming there to find Silver, and met Lord Guantes instead. That got completely rewritten into her coming there to do the rescue herself, and it’s much better for that. But I do slightly regret the moment when she shut herself into the opera box to find Lord Guantes sitting there waiting for her.

The book was released in early December (to great reviews), and once the usual promotion work is complete, are you planning to take a rest before diving into the third book, or has work already begun?

Work has already begun! And has a good way to go yet.

I have been impressed with the cover art and yet again it is wonderful, rich and vibrant. Did you have much input to its arrangement?

No, I owe that all to the team at Pan Macmillan, who have done an absolutely fantastic job.

There are many settings/places I enjoyed in this story, but the one that stands out in my mind was the Train. In my mind at least, the Train felt like a mix of myth, Murder on the Orient Express, Doctor Who and the Hogwarts Express, and leads me to this question: Should we start a movement to have a Cogman episode written? I really think that your writing style would be a great fit for the series.

That is incredibly flattering, but I honestly don’t know that I could do a good job. I have absolutely no experience writing for television. While I would love, love, love to write for Doctor Who, I would want to be a lot better first. So yes, it would be brilliant, but I’m not sure I’m capable of it, and I would hate to do a bad job. Maybe in a few years? :)

Venice plays a symbolic role in the story, does the city hold a special meaning for you? 

It is a beautiful city and a fantastic place, but it doesn’t have any specific personal memories for me. I have visited it, though, and I hope to go again some time.

Kia, plays a lesser role in this book, kidnapped and imprisoned for the most. Considering his mighty morphing Dragon powers, is it hard to play down his abilities for everyday use?

It helps that he doesn’t generally want to go round showing off mighty morphing Dragon powers. Going around openly as a dragon (or as a person who is known to be a dragon slumming it in human form) is something that his family reserve for worlds where that sort of thing is acceptable. (Frequently worlds where the dragons are in charge, unsurprisingly.) 

Just fishing at this point, but am I sensing an undertone of a love triangle between Kia, Irene and Vale? Currently, we have a will they won’t they scenario for Irene and Kia, with Vale’s position somewhat ambiguous. Is there going to be some broken hearts (for one of the trio) in the third book?

I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. Sorry!

The New Year Bells have tolled, I would love to know what is on your 2016 reading list?

Oh dear, I have a whole pile of stuff waiting. Currently there’s _Court of Fives_ by Kate Elliott, _Six Gun Snow White_ by Catherynne M Valente, and _Songs of a Dead Dreamer_ by Thomas Ligotti waiting on my kindle, and _Silver on the Road_ by Laura Anne Gilman, _An Ancient Peace_ by Tanya Huff, and _The Copper Promise_ by Jen Williams, all sitting on the pile by my bed. And lots more. I need more shelves...

Genevieve Cogman was interviewed by Fergus McCartan.

Our Genevieve Cogman reviews

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I have never before in my life wanted to write in someone else’s created world more than I do now that I have read Genevieve Cogman’s ‘The Invisible Library’.And, as a writer, that is essentially the highest praise I can think of giving a piece of fiction.When I first read the blurb for The Invisible Library, I was hooked. And while technically the author’s debut novel, her Goodreads profile confirms that she has been published before as a freelance roleplaying game writer - which shows, because The Invisible Library is not the work of an amateur [...]


Read our full review

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

For whatever reason, I was completely taken aback by the arrival of Genevieve Cogman’s The Burning Page on my doorstep last week, but there it lay, and I couldn’t have been happier. Genevieve Cogman quickly became one of my favourite authors when I read her first book, The Invisible Library: Write a story about a secret and mystical group of Librarians who save books from alternate dimensions, and you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker. Follow that up with a tale of those same Librarians told in a hyper-stylised Venice during Carnival, and you have a fan fo [...]


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The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

As a reader I am often subject to the whims of life, work, and my own current interests. As a fantasy book reviewer, this can become difficult, because books can pile up while work or other projects take all my time, or when my health or interests mean I’m watching more TV or playing video games. Subsequently, in 2020 I was forced to let two books by Benedict Jacka pile up, along with two books by Genevieve Cogman. Having finally finished reading and reviewing Fallen and [...]


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The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

I have not been exposed to a great deal of alternative-Earth fantasy, nor a lot of steampunk fantasy, but ever since I read Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library I’ve been hankering for more of the same.Which meant that when the sequel, The Masked City, rocked up on my doorstep earlier this month, it went straight to the top of my to-read pile for post-Christmas.It was read in a day.   Genevieve Cogman has managed to nail a reader’s passion for books – old and new, rare and otherwise – and weave it into a fantasy tale so i [...]


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The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

Though my preference is for lengthy books, no matter the genre, whenever a book by Genevieve Cogman arrives on my doorstep I am tremendously happy. Her Invisible Library series are all quick reads, which might suggest that the books are therefore perfunctory and brief, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.The fourth book in the series, The Lost Plot, was published earlier this month, and continues the story of intrepid Librarian Irene Winters, and her apprentice Kai. The story leaves very little room for set up, jumping straight into a book-swap gone wr [...]


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The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman

As Genevieve Cogman wrote in the introductory Acknowledgements for The Secret Chapter, “There had to be a heist at some point in the story, didn’t there?” After all the detective genre, spy, and theft books, it was inevitable that Cogman’s brilliant ‘The Invisible Library’ series would go on an ‘Ocean’s 11’ style heist.What makes any good heist movie transcend the ensemble, however, is the characters, and when your heist team is made up of two dragons, four Fae, and a Librarian … well, George Clooney or Michael Caine, eat y [...]


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