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Author, Philip Reeve
If you are a fan of fantasy or historical fiction, and you have not heard of Philip Reeve, you're missing out. You need to run to the nearest bookstore and pick one of is novels up right now. From "Mortal Engines" and "Larklight", to "Here Lies Arthur", Philip Reeve is one of the most unique authors you will ever read and a literary genius in his own right.
I recently e-mailed Mr. Reeve, asking if he would mind being interviewed for the celebrity interviews section of Teen Ink and he agreed (although he says he's never been an actual celebrity before):
1. "Mortal Engines" was originally going to be the only "Hungry Cities" novel. How did you feel when you found out it generated enough popularity to continue the adventures?
Well, when you're writing your first book the only thing you think about is getting it published. Nobody seemed interested in Mortal Engines for a long time, so it would have been silly to start thinking about sequels. But once it came out, and the publisher started asking me about a second one, I realized that I'd actually created quite a big and expandable world, where I could set many different stories. Which was a relief! (That 'Hungry Cities' series title was the idea of my first US publisher, by the way - nothing to do with me!)
2. "Here Lies Arthur" is a historical fiction novel that challenges how we perceive the Arthurian legends. How did you come up with the idea for having King Arthur, instead of being a hero, be a fraud?
Obviously there are an awful lot of retellings of the Arthur story so there was no point starting another one unless I had something different to say. That's when I started to think, If there had been a real King Arthur, might he not have been just a small-time warlord who somehow ended up getting all these wonderful tales spun about him? And then I thought, Well, who's spinning these stories? And that was where Gwyna came from, and she was my way into the book...
3. Do you, yourself, enjoy the Arthurian legends?
I was completely obsessed with them between the ages of 15 and about 21. I saw John Boorman's film Excalibur when I was 15, and it pretty much re-booted my whole imagination; from the rather clean fantasy worlds of things like The Lord of the Rings I moved on to the bloody, grown-up, morally complicated world of Arthur. After a while that fascination faded, but it was nice to be able to draw on it again for Here Lies Arthur.
4. At the end of "Mothstorm", the third in the "Larklight" trilogy, you left readers with the idea that there might possibly be another book based on Art's adventures at school. Is there a novel in the works to continue the series?
A lot of my books end with the characters setting off in search of fresh adventures, but that doesn't automatically mean there will be a sequel. Unless you kill everybody off that seems to be the best sort of ending, to me; opening up new possibilities. There definitely won't be any more Larklight books. There's so much of that pseudo-Victorian sci-fi around at the moment (they call it 'Steampunk' apparently) that I think the imagery is just played out now. It's time for me to move on in search of new adventures myself!
5. Is there still speak of a "Larklight" film?
It's been years since I heard anything about the Larklight movie, so I'm assuming it's not going to happen. But who knows? Hollywood is a very strange place.
6. The majority of your novels are fantasy. Can we assume this is your favorite genre?
I don't read much fantasy or sci fi these days, but those were definitely my favourites as a child, and when I start thinking of a story it almost always has some sort of fantasy element.
7. Do you have a favorite novel you have written?
Well, oddly enough it's the one non-fantasy: Here Lies Arthur. I like the latest Mortal Engines book, too: A Web of Air. It's very different from the rest of the series, quite self-contained, and I hope that's the way further books in that series will go.
8. There is a short story floating around, "Urbivore", that is attached to the world of "Mortal Engines". Is this a story you wrote?
That's a story I wrote many, many years ago for a fanzine. I'd been writing Mortal Engines for a couple of years but it wasn't really working, so I crammed some of the ideas into a short story just to get them out there. It's not very good, and the world it describes differs in many ways from the world of the published Mortal Engines. Of course, thanks to the internet, it will now haunt me for ever!
9. Many critics compare you to Philip Pullman. Have you read any of his novels? If so, which is your favorite?
That's a flattering comparison, but I don't think there's really much similarity beyond the fact that we both wrote books with airships in; he's a much more serious writer than me. I've read the Dark Materials trilogy, and thought the first two books were particularly good.
10. What/who are your favorite books/authors?
Some favourite authors: Geraldine McCaughrean, J.G.Ballard, Patrick O'Brian, Rosemary Sutcliff... My favourite books are still the ones I loved as a child - I think you like things more intensely at that age, and they stay with you. I'm reading them all to my son now: The Lord of the Rings, Swallows and Amazons, The Nargun and the Stars, Warrior Scarlet...
11. Is there a specific author/book that has influenced your writing or that inspired you to become an author?
I suppose Tolkien, when I was a child, was a huge influence; also an American fantasy author called Lloyd Alexander; his books aren't quite as long or as grand as Tolkien's, so I had more of a sense that maybe this was something I could do. Reading Geraldine Mccaughrean in my twenties made me start wanting to write stories again, after a gap of ten years or so, so in a way it's all her fault...
12. When did you want to become an author?
I've written stories for as long as I can remember. I suppose when I was nine or ten I started to wish I was a published author. But I never wrote anything that I felt was good enough to send to a publisher until Mortal Engines, when I was thirty-something.
13. What are some of your hobbies?
My hobbies were writing and drawing, and both of those turned into jobs! I used to do a bit of acting, but since I moved to the middle of Dartmoor there's not been much scope for that. I walk a lot - does that count? Oh, and my son's got me painting little 'Warhammer' figures, which was basically my hobby when I was his sort of age - I'm enjoying it far more than I should! It's like all the nice bits of painting a picture without the frustration of not being able draw well enough... it's also quite good thinking time.
14. What advice do you have for the aspiring authors at Teen Ink?
Read a lot, and write a lot. You probably do this anyway if you seriously want to be an author, but it really is important. I know there are lots of pressures that keep you from writing, what with homework and exams and jobs and things, but set aside ten minutes a day and make sure you use them for writing (you'll end up doing much more than that, but even on a really busy you should be able to spare ten minutes). It's like sport, or drawing, or playing a musical instrument; practice, practice, practice; it's the only way to be any good.
Also, remember that you're probably never going to make any money out of writing novels. The publishing industry is going to be blown apart over the next ten years, with e-books, and bookselling moving online. Who knows what things will be like when the dust finally settles? But it's safe to assume there will be far fewer publishers and far fewer booksellers, and while I'm sure there will always be the JK Rowlings and Stephanie Meyers I suspect that writers like me, who make a reasonable living out of books that sell reasonably well, will be pretty much an extinct species; we'll probably be self-publishing, and lucky if our writing pays for itself.
In the long term I believe that novels will probably start to die out as a form of mass entertainment. They've had a good innings, but they'll end up like opera - a niche art form for enthusiasts only. What will replace them? Character-driven computer games? Some kind of interactive meta-narrative? If you can work that out, the future's very bright indeed...
I also asked Mr. Reeve if he would like announced to Teen Ink the Solitary Bee, and this was his reply:
That would be lovely: http://the-solitary-bee.blogspot.com/ is a sort of internet magazine I've started running, and we're always on the lookout for non-fiction contributions (although if I get loads it may be a while before they get published). There's also my own blog, www.philipreeve.blogspot.com, where I burble on about this'n'that.