Ask The Author

Philip Reeve


When is the sequel to Railhead coming out?
Grace, 13

Hi Grace! The sequel to Railhead is called Black Light Express. It's already out in hardback, and a paperback will be published on the 3rd August. It carries on straight from the end of Railhead, and the story switches between Threnody and Zen and Nova's adventures. There are aliens in it, which I had a lot of fun dreaming up. At the moment I'm working on the third book.

What made you think of using an intergalactic setting for your book?
Jasmine, 12

Thanks, Jasmine. A lot of my books are inspired by the sort of stories I enjoyed when I was your age, and some of the stories I enjoyed most back then were science fiction stories - when you're stuck in school it's quite nice to imagine zooming off to strange alien worlds and having adventures. So I started trying to write a space adventure, but I couldn't find anything much to write about spaceships, so I decided to use trains instead.

If you were a guardian, what would your interface look like?
Hillhead High School 3A2 Shadowing Group, Scotland

Good question! The Guardians can look like pretty much whatever they want, and there's nothing to stop them having loads of different interfaces at the same time, so I'd probably try out all sorts of different looks - I could be a flock of birds, or a nice dog, or a cloud. I might even look like Hillhead High School 3A2 Shadowing Group. But I think I'd mostly want to be human, and I think I'd want to be young - it's a bit depressing getting older and thinking, "Who on earth is that old coot?' every time I catch sight of myself in a mirror. The advantage of being an AI is that you don't have to age!

Our group has been trying to work out what is portrayed on the cover of Railhead?! Can you tell us. We think it is the Datasea at the bottom and top, the bulbous forms in the background are the Bio buildings. We'd like to see a train! Love the book.
Jack, 13

Hi Jack! The cover painting is by Ian McQue, who's a brilliant concept artist - it's worth googling his name and having a look at his drawings and paintings. I think the cover is based on the bit in the book where Nova is watching Zen's family's building. So yes, those are bio-buildings, and there's a little face at one of the windows which is supposed to be Zen. The lines at top and bottom do look a bit like the Datasea, but they could also be a map of the Great Network. I'd like to see a train, too - we'll have to see if we can get Ian to draw one for the cover of book 3.

What keeps you determined to keep writing?
Hillhead High School 3A2 Shadowing Group, Scotland

I mainly keep writing stories because people keep reading them, so thank you for reading this one, Hillhead High School 3A2 Shadowing Group! Sometimes I think I'm running out of ideas and wonder if it's time to give up, but so far something new has always come along. A few years ago I lost interest a bit, but then I started working with my friend Sarah McIntyre on some illustrated books for younger readers (like Cakes in Space and Pugs of the Frozen North) and that was such fun that it inspired me to start work on Railhead. So now when people tell me they can't think what to write I always say, write something with a friend - it's a great way to get new ideas flowing.