Hester, you’ve created one of the angriest, ugliest
heroines in literature. Why did you make her so very ugly and
I made Hester ugly just in order to distinguish
her from beautiful heroines you usually find in
fantasy novels. Her angriness
followed naturally. I think she’s a very romantic, attractive
person who’s stuck with a hideous face, so it seemed right
that she’d be a bit tetchy. Even I was surprised by just
how nasty she turned out as the series progressed, but I hope
she never entirely loses the readers sympathy.
mentioned urban sprawl and the loss of countryside as the
inspiration for Municipal Darwinism and the reign
of the Traction Cities, but it also makes a hideous kind
of sense as the natural conclusion to our unsustainable consumer
culture. It’s a terrifying, brutal world that you’ve
imagined, but I can’t help wondering if you share a
little of Tom’s delight and fascination with these
gigantic, awe-inspiring moving cities…?
I’ve tried not to make the world of Mortal Engines
too black and white, as I didn’t want to end up writing
another good-versus-evil fantasy. So, yes, there are lots of
good things about the cities, and lots of decent city-dwellers.
And yes, there is something heroic about these giant machines.
give us an interesting (and rather impish) take on the whole
concept of ‘history’, especially the interpretation
of artefacts. Preposterous conclusions are drawn from the
most mundane objects, while the really important lessons
from the past are forgotten; that people tend to make the
same mistakes and so history inevitably repeats itself. Is
this really your view, or purely for the purposes of the
I’ve always been interested in history, and loved museums,
which is why they feature so much in the books. The misinterpreted
artefacts are mostly there as jokes. But I don’t think
people ever learn from history; we do keep on making the same
doesn’t appear in A Darkling Plain, but I’m
(almost) fully convinced that she is just fine back in Anchorage!
In Predator’s Gold and Infernal Devices, unlike Hester,
she seemed to gain experience and self-knowledge without
sacrificing her innocence. Did you develop Freya’s
character to counterpoint Hester’s? Freya is living
happily ever after in Anchorage.
I don’t think I consciously thought her up as an anti-Hester,
but she deserved a happy ending, which is why I didn’t
let her get caught up in all the disasters and excitements
of A Darkling Plain.
writing the four books, did you imagine lots of additional
prehistory for the world of Mortal Engines, or back-story
for some of the more enigmatic characters?
Inevitably I have come up with quite a few ideas which didn’t
make it into the books, both about how the world of Traction
Cities came about and about the lives of people like Pennyroyal,
Valentine and Orla Twombley. Some of these might eventually
be published in some form, possibly on my website www.philipreeve.co.uk which is slowly but surely being constructed. I also have vague
plans for some prequels, set in the early days of Municipal
said that you avoid reading contemporary children’s
fiction, but you’re clearly very appreciative of creative
work in other genres; there’s much fun to be had unpacking
your references to film, literature, popular culture, etc.
Which other creators have fuelled your imagination?
I love reading, and also spend a lot of time watching films
and TV, all of which have coloured the world of the quartet.
There are too many points of reference to list but Mortal Engines
owes some fairly obvious debts to James Bond and Star Wars,
while Uncle and the Lost Boys in Predator’s Gold are
probably related to Fagin and his gang in Oliver Twist. Throughout
the quartet a lot of airships and flying machines take their
names from songs, poems, other people’s characters, my
favourite actresses etc. But I don’t think it makes any
difference to your enjoyment of the story if you don’t
know that (for instance) Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polkadot
Machiney is (almost) the title of a 1960’s pop song.
I just used it because it sounded right!
ending of A Darkling Plain is astonishing and very moving;
it changed my perception of everything that had gone before.
How did you arrive at such a remarkable conclusion?
As soon as I realised that I was going to have to write sequels
to Mortal Engines I knew that I wanted to tell the whole story
of Tom and Hester, and of the final years of Municipal Darwinism,
so the final chapter of A Darkling Plain has been in my mind
for some years. The difficult bit was working out the 1,100-odd
pages that lead up to it.
you working on your next book? If so, can you give anything
I’ve just started working on my next novel for Scholastic.
I wanted to do something without machines in it for a change,
so this one is a historical novel set in the Dark Ages, down
among the muddy, bloody roots of the Arthurian legends. It’s
all horses, heather and homicide, and great fun to write. I
also have a Victorian space-adventure called Larklight coming
out in October, published by Bloomsbury.
© 2006 Mai Lin Li