World Book Day

Hip, Hip, Hoorah; next Thursday, 3rd March, is World Book Day.  (At least, it is in the UK and Ireland; perplexingly, everybody else has a different World Book Day some time in April.)

Anyway, pupils at participating schools will be given free £1 book tokens, and a number of £1 books are being published specially for the occasion.  All of them feature the work of two different authors.  Here's mine, Traction City...

...and if you turn it over it also contains Teacher's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley.  Value for money, see?

Chris and I were supposed to be doing an event together on WBD itself, but unfortunately he's been seriously ill recently.  While I was in hospital moaning on about my silly little kidney stones he was busy having a stroke.  Thankfully he seems to be recovering well, and has been writing about the experience on his blog, but apparently if there's one thing that recuperating stroke sufferers need to steer clear of it's mingling with Reeves at WBD events, so I shall be on my own, unless another top-notch author can be persuaded to join me.  More on this soon.

Anyway, Traction City is a bit of a departure for me, in that I hardly ever write short fiction, and this is the first time I've written anything to order.  The brief was fairly tight: I was asked to do a 10,000 word story set in the London of Mortal Engines, with boy and girl protagonists.  That sounds simple enough at first, but when I thought about I realised it was going to be quite tricky, since whatever happened in the story would have to be interesting enough to make people want to read 10,000 words about it, but not so interesting that the characters in Mortal Engines would have mentioned it.

In the end, I settled on a story which takes place twenty five or thirty years before Mortal Engines opens.  It's set on London's lower tiers, where Mortal Engines barely ventures, and tells of how the sleepy routine of Airdock Green police station is disrupted, first by the arrival of a young aviatrix who may or may not be an Anti-Tractionist saboteur, and then by the news of something nasty lurking in the abandoned district called The Wombs.

If you haven't read any of the Mortal Engines books this should serve as a sort of introduction to that world, and will hopefully make you want to read on.  If you have, you won't find any startling new revelations in Traction City, although I enjoyed retro-fitting London with a few names from the prequels (there is a Crumb Street, and a statue of Charlie Shallow), and fans of Anna Fang may be pleased to hear that she is the young aviatrix in question, aged about sixteen and choc full o' Anti-Tractionist rage, having only recently escaped from the slave-holds of Arkangel.

I've also had a go at a few illustrations: here are two of them.

There is also going to be an e-book version of the story, which will hopefully be released on World Book Day and should retail at around 60p. I'll add some details about that, and a link to where you can get it, as soon as it's ready.  It will be the first bit of the Mortal Engines saga to be available for download, and I think it will be Scholastic UK's first e-book: to be followed later in the year by the rest of the series.