Questions, questions...

Cristy Zinn
South African writer and blogger Cristy Zinn got in touch a few weeks back via  I've enjoyed my correspondence with her, and I've ended up doing an interview for her newly re-vamped website
I also went up to Exeter yesterday and spent a very jolly morning talking to Tina, Gill and Abi on The Mighty Book, a monthly books programme on Exeter's community radion station, Phonic FM.  Hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on a recording and make it available here.  Likewise the Skype interview I did last week with Bruno Accioly of the Steampunk Council of Brazil, to mark the publication of the Brazilian edition of Mortal Engines.

I enjoy doing interviews, but the trouble is that I keep finding myself saying the same things.  I haven't lead a very eventful life, and people who have read more than a few interviews with me will probably be sick of hearing about how I don't plan my stories out in advance and how I've been influenced by Geraldine McCaughrean and Asterix and Tolkein and Excalibur and Noggin the Nog...  The only solutions I can see are either to actually do something new which I can talk about in future interviews (Bungee jumping?  Ballet?  Learning to drive?) or just lying, which, as a writer, I'm quite good at.  So perhaps in future interviews I'll reveal how I wrote Mortal Engines while sleeping rough on a beach in the Gilbert Islands, and how I spent the Eighties climbing all the most difficult bits of the Andes.  

I might try out this new technique on Sunday next, when I shall be appearing with Candy Gourlay and Lauren St John at the Oxford Literary Festival.

Scrivener's Moon 'Better Than Pancakes' - Official.

Ooh, look: Sarah McIntyre and friend have been tucking into an advance copy of Scrivener's Moon...

...actually I'm not at all sure that dog looks convinced, but since when were Shiba Inus part of my target demographic?  

You can read the full review on Sarah's blog here.


Fever Crumb has just been released in paperback in the United States.  Here's the new cover design, which I think is rather fantastic.  A Web of Air will follow as a hardback in October.

Hello America

I did a question and answer session last week with pupils at  Leesburg, Virginia - my first school event in the USA.  And I didn't even have to leave my own office.  

It was all thanks to the internet and the wonder of Skype, which I'd vaguely heard of but didn't realise was something I could actually do until Renee Kelahan, the librarian at Loudon County Day School, got in touch to ask if I 'skyped'.  Well, I didn't, but it turned out that with a bit of help from her and Sarah McIntyre it was quite easy.  

Lucky Loudon County students listen to my words of wisdom and wonder if there's anything better on another channel...  
The students had been reading Fever Crumb and also doing some tie-in work on genetics in their science lessons - which means they probably know far about both subjects than I do (now that I'm two books further on, it's quite hard to think back to all the things that happened in Fever Crumb.)  It was a bit strange at first to be talking to a picture on a screen, and I kept looking at them instead of into the little camera above my monitor, but I think it went well - at least, the students asked some good questions; whether I gave them good answers or not, you'd have to ask them.  A couple of people wanted to know why I'd killed off certain characters, and I got the impression that they wished I hadn't, which is interesting (though I'm unrepentant).  

Anyway, don't all rush at once, but I guess I am now available for Skype sessions: all enquiries to

Authors for Japan

There are some people (e.g. me) who sit and watch the footage of horrible catastrophes on telly and the internet and go, "Ooh, isn't it terrible, if only I could do something..." and there are others who actually go forth and do it.  In the latter camp we find the writer Keris Stainton, who has organised (with extraordinary speed) an online auction, Authors for Japan, all proceeds from which will go to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

The auction begins at 8a.m. GMT on Tuesday 15th March, and closes at 8p.m. on Sunday, 20th March.  Last time I checked it featured 150 different lots.  One of them is a signed copy of my new book Scrivener's Moon, which I'll also be happy to personalise and do a drawing in if the buyer would like me to.  There are also all manner of other good things - not just books but also proofs, artwork dedications and offers of mentoring and advice, donated by both adult and children's authors, so it's well worth browsing through the whole list.  Please take a look.  Questions about how to bid and who to pay are answered here.

I didn't want to illustrate this post with another swiped news photo of sea-wrack in the streets of Sendai, so here's something nice from Japan: the cover of the Japanese edition of Mortal Engines, published by Tokyo Sogensha Co. Ltd.  It features a fantastic looking London, and some snazzy outfits (one of the original inspirations for Mortal Engines were the drawings of the French artist Moebius, which are full of hats like these, so I think they're quite appropriate).  The illustrator has also taken an interesting symbolic approach to Hester's scar (much better than just drawing her straight - she's horrible!)

Guest Post: A Completely Unbiased Review of 'Scrivener's Moon' by Sarah Reeve

In book three in the series featuring Fever Crumb, we are once again plunged into a world that is strange and yet all too familiar. A world full of superstition, nomads, genetic anomalies, old tech, ‘bloggers’ and best of all...mammoths! How I would love to ride one of these splendid creatures... mind you I wouldn’t fancy being squashed by New London. As always, by about page five, I have forgotten that I am reading the result of hours of keyboard pounding coming from Philip’s room, and am swept away into the story. Beautifully created characters, an exciting plot with twists and turns, never predictable, always vivid and surprising... and utterly believable.


More World Book Day Fun

I don't know about World Book Day; it's been World Book Week here.  On Monday I polished off an article for Telegraph Online about the whole shebang.  On Tuesday I dropped into Sam's school to give a talk to his year and the year above - about twenty children in all.  Not many of them will have read my books, so I thought I'd focus on drawing and illustration for a change; I did a few drawings for them, and then asked them to design their own covers for their favourite book or a book they'd made up.  There were some really good results, and I think they all enjoyed it.

The only disappointment was that I'd loaded a whole bunch of my drawings and pictures by my favourite illustrators onto a specially created blog here on Blogger, thinking it would be quicker to just call that up on the class white-board than go to all the trouble of creating a powerpoint thingy.  And it was: it was very easy to do, and looked great.  Unfortunately, when we tried to access it from the school we found that it was barred by the filtering system.  The Local Education Authority, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that no blog on Blogger is suitable for school pupils, and so it's impossible to open them on school computers in the south west.  I presume they bar other popular blogging sites like LiveJournal and Wordpress too: they certainly don't permit access to anything on YouTube.  It's infuriating to think of all us chuldren's authors merrily blogging away while the children who should be our readers are unable to even see our sites.  Obviously I would expect to find some sort of filtering system on school computers - the internet can be a strange and dangerous place - but I was astonished that the teachers aren't allowed to bypass it when they want to show a particular site or blog to their class.  It seems that only faceless busybodies in county hall can be trusted to decide what's suitable.  At a time of so much cutting and belt-tightening it seems bizarre that valuable free educational resources can be deliberately banned from our schools in this way.  If you are a children's author with a blog or website it might be worth checking to see whether your LEA operates a similar policy of blanket censorship.

On Wednesday I went up to London, and was all busy all day on Thursday with World Book Day events. In the morning there was a big one in Kingston which I had been supposed to do jointly with Chris Priestley.  Unfortunately Chris is still recuperating after his recent stroke, but happily Philip Womack was able to step in at the last minute, and we talked about my books, Chris's and his own in front of a large audience drawn from several local schools.  Philip's books, like Chris Priestley's, tend towards the supernatural end of the fantasy spectrum, so I think they made a good contrast with my more nuts-and-bolts, sci-fi influenced outings.  Although I've been aware of him as an author and journalist for some years I've never had much of a chance to talk to Philip, so it was good to chat with him on the lo-o-o-n-g taxi journey to Kingston.  If you like classic children's fantasy and haven't already read his novel The Liberators you should track down a copy at once.

Before the event all the children had been asked to propose a title for a scary book, and Philip and I had to pick the two we thought best.  The ones we chose were They Are Coming, suggested by Rhiannon Davies, and The Corner of My Eye by Jenna McMorrow, both of which are quietly sinister and wouldn't look out of place on a bookshelf: I hope they write the stories to go with them one day.  We also found some other suggestions which we really liked: Midnight Predators in the City of Beast (by Emiliya Gyuleva), The Fear of the Faceless Gnome by William Potter, The Saliva Spitting Caws from Cawkland by Nabeel, and Frankie Atkinson's The Reeking Death of Interior Doom.  Those might look a bit out of place on a bookshelf, but most of them would make perfectly passable titles for a Hawkwind album.

Back to central London for lunch, and then ho! for St Peter's Eaton Square Primary School, where I basically just did a Q&A session with a schoolful of lovely children who had some very good questions.  They also had some very good outfits: many schools go in for dressing-up-as-your-favourite-character on WBD, which in our house tends to mean a fake beard, an old hat and a tenuous claim that Sam is Mr Gum.  The children at St Peter's had taken it to a whole new level; among others I met I met a Heidi, a mummified Pharoah, Pippi Longstocking, Skullduggery Pleasant, and Miss Flyte out of Bleak House.  There was even one tasteful fellow who had come as Jack Aubrey.

Borough Market
And after that I was free, and did what Reeves do when left to their own devices in the great metrop., namely, went to find Sarah McIntyre.  McIntyre Goodness is available in double portions at the moment, since Sarah's sister Mary is in town, and I met them in a pub in Clennam Street, which is the shortest street in London, apparently.  (It's so short that it isn't really a street at all, it's just that one pub and a building opposite).  Later, the lovely Alyx from Scholastic joined us, and the sisters M led us on a bracing walk in search of dinner: we passed Borough Market, a very Mortal Engines-ish location where everything seems to be made of hefty-yet-elegant 19th Century ironwork.  Trains rattled on viaducts above the cobbled streets, and the lights of aircraft glowed overhead, the planes themselves hidden by low cloud, which made them look huge and mysterious.

Photo: Jonathan Game
Nearby stands the Shard, a vast new skyscraper, half completed and covered in cranes and worklamps, bizarrely like the half-built London I've been imagining for the past year while I wrote Scrivener's Moon (only narrower).   Once it's finished it will be wrapped in glass and will probably house the London offices of the Tyrell Corporation.  More Human Than Human was their motto, I seem to recall, and that's a pretty good description of Sarah and Mary too: Alyx and I had to scamper to keep up with their tireless American legs as they strode along the South Bank.  Eventually we reached Le Pain Quotidien, where Pain was consumed (and possibly some Quotidiens as well - French was never my strong point) and laughter was laughed and this photo was taken, showing me bookended by McIntyres.  Mary is great, and also a very fine painter, as you can see for yourselves here.

And finally, here's a World Book Day video of me reading the first two chapters of Traction City in a Spooky Treehouse.

Traction City from WorldBookDay's StoryTimeOnline on Vimeo.

Traction City Reactions

My World Book Day book Traction City is available in UK bookshops now, price £1 (for which you also get some excellent Chris Priestley stories, since the book is split 50/50 between the two of us.)  As I've said before, this is very much a stand alone story which had to introduce the Mortal Engines world afresh for young readers who may not have encountered it: I couldn't include any startling new revelations for existing fans because I'm still not sure how widely available this book will be outside the UK.  However, I was pleased to find some favourable comments from friends of the WoME over on Facebook.

Steve Ryland says: " was great to read a new story set in the time of the original books. It is a good introduction to the WoME but as someone very familiar with that world it was still interesting, for me, and good to see a side to London I hadn't really seen before. It also acted as a slight tease for Scrivener's Moon and beyond possibly I thought. A pleasure to read all round!"

..and Hester Shaw (who she?) says: "I enjoyed it a lot too. It would be very interesting to read more stories in this time period and more about Anna Fang as well."

So that's good!   The only carping comes from a Mr J. Levett,  who has unkind things to say about the distinctive pus-and-ketchup cover design.

I'd quite like to read more stories about Anna Fang too: it was nice to run into her again, and I was sorry it was for such a brief appearance.  So maybe one day...  But first I must finish off the Fever Crumb saga.  My main project at the moment is my fantasy novel Clovenstone, but I have scribbled a few pages of something called Fever 4, which begins with a young castaway being washed ashore on a South American beach...