Ask The Author

Railhead

Philip Reeve

What inspired you to choose your unorthodox writing method where the quarters of 'Ghosts of Heaven' can be read in any order?
Harvey, 13

I had decided to write a book in four quarters (which add together to tell a bigger story, I hope) a long time ago. As I was working on them I realized that there is no reason why they have to be read in the chronological order of the printed book and that the final outcome or 'meaning' of the whole book would change depending on the order in which they were read, so I suggested that people try it that way.

Why do spirals intrigue you? What is your favourite shape?
Jessica R, 13

Spirals are among the first shapes drawn by people, even on the walls of caves dating back tens of thousands of years. They often seem to have mysterious and/or spiritual significance, and I find them very beautiful too. So I suppose that's why they appeal to me.

If you had to add another story to the book, what era would it be in and who would the main characters be?
Sophie, 12

Well, funnily enough... There was a fifth potential candidate for the book, a fifth story that I left out, but which became a small book in its own right. It's called Killing the Dead and you can find out more about it here.

Why did you choose 'Und die nie der Sonne lachten, Unterm Mond auf Dornen wachten' as the epigraph for your book? And what do you take it to mean? (As there are different translations of it)
Hannah, 18

A good question, Hannah! Hardly anyone has asked me about this. It's quite hard to direct this piece of German directly into English, but I always liked "and those who never smiled at the sun, and lay on thorns, watching the moon". I chose it because I wanted to dedicate this book to people who, like I often have, wonder what we're all doing here, what life means, why there are bad things in the world, and whether we are ever going to stop doing harm to each other. The quote holds all those senses in it, for me - to be scared by and fascinated with the world at one at the same time, and yet still, despite all, find beauty in it.

What was your favourite book from childhood?
Willow, 13

Too many to mention! So I will just mention the one I think had the biggest impact on why I became a writer - The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper. It's still in print if you'd Ike to try it.