Whither the WOME?

Well, another decade nears its end, and for me, if for no one else, it's been the decade of Mortal Engines. Back in 1999 I hadn't published a single book; today, copies of the Mortal Engines quartet and Here Lies Arthur are being used to prop up wobbly tables all over the world. Now A Web of Air, my second book about Fever Crumb, is out of my hands, and off to have done to it all the things that need doing before it is published next spring. So this seems like a good time to ponder the future of the WOME*.

When I completed the original Mortal Engines quartet with A Darkling Plain a few years ago I assumed that that was it, and that any future books I wrote would have to be be set in new worlds or (gasp!) in the real one. And I do have several new projects under way, some historical, some fantasy. But in some strange way the WOME keeps drawing me back, reminding me that there are still stories waiting to be told about people, places and eras which were never mentioned in the first four books. Hence Fever Crumb, who lives at the very dawn of the civilisation whose final years were explored in the quartet.

I'm told that I've announced there are to be four books about Fever, but I think what I really said was that there will have to be at least four, so that they would balance the original quartet on an imaginary seesaw. As long as people keep reading them there's no reason why there shouldn't be fourteen. Or fourty. Or four hundr... well, I suppose I'll have to draw the line somewhere.

I never plan more than a few chapters ahead (because I can't be bothered to write a book if I know what the ending is) so I don't know what's going to happen to Fever. For all I know she might meet an untimely end when I sit down to write tomorrow, and new characters will have to carry on the saga. But it does occur to me that she's not quite human, and that her mother's people were unusually long-lived**. Not only that, she's choc full o' strange Stalker technology too. So it's possible that Fever might survive for a long time, and see the world she lives in slowly transformed by the rise of Traction, until it starts to resemble the one at the start of Mortal Engines.

There is also the possibility of expanding the WOME in other directions. I've been talking lately with David Wyatt about some ideas for a comic book based on the adventures of the young Anna Fang. This would be a huge task for him to illustrate, and an expensive venture for a publisher, so it may never come off, but it has made me consider the period immediately before Mortal Engines and whether there might not be a story or two to tell there. My only doubt about it is that it will have to involve airships, which I've always loved, but which have become so ubiquitous in children's and young adult fiction nowadays that I would hesitate to launch any more into the overcrowded skies. So until the current tide of steampunk starts to retreat, my visits to the WOME will have to concentrate on Fever's more primitive era.

Which is actually just fine by me, for there are many places for her to explore, and many people for her to meet. At the moment the travelling theatre she works on is carrying her toward the island-city of Mayda, home to mutant gulls, dotty sea-worshippers, good food, at least one murderer and the opening of A Web of Air...

She should arrive early next April.

*'World Of Mortal Engines', as any fule kno.
**It's something to do with their mitochondrial DNA , pseudo-science fans.