In addition to reviewing the MG/YA book Engn by Simon Kewin, he also agreed to write a guest post about how he created the world and city of Engn. Without further ado please welcome Simon Kewin to The Lit Bitch!
The world of Engn grew out of a simple, central idea: a city-sized, steam-powered machine that generations of people have lived and worked within.
I was drawn to the idea on lots of levels. I liked the thought of all the odd contraptions and mysteries and weirdness I could build into such a vast and ancient machine. In the book, Engn has grown so huge that most people within have stopped “seeing” it; have stopped wondering what it is actually for. That seemed like a fun idea to play with. I love fiction that has big, cool ideas in it. I also figured the setting would give me lots of scope for adventures and scrapes for my protagonist, Finn, to face.
Building the world of Engn came down, essentially, to a contrast between Finn’s early years back home in his valley, and his experiences within the machine. Researching the early years was easy: I basically drew on my own childhood and mixed things around a little to suit the story. And then I made some things up that needed making up. So, for example, while I’ve never been in an avalanche (so far), there are many things in those sections that did happen to me. Often little things, little details, that came back to me as I was writing.
Then, when it came to the Engn sections, I obviously had to do quite a bit more work. I put a lot of effort into making the technology of Engn at leastappear believable. I love mysterious devices and contraptions, so a lot of that went in. It was a strange combination in many ways – on the one hand I wanted to have things like beam-engines that could be real, but on the other hand I wanted to create this vast and impossible machine the size of a city. That’s the way it is with fiction: readers will accept big, crazy ideas, but if you get little details wrong they’ll notice. My father, as it happens, was an engineer all his working life, and knows a great deal about steam engines and the like. I’m glad to say he spotted only one technical mistake – which was to do with a description of a soldering iron!
By the way, a few readers have been left wondering what the purpose of Engn (the machine as opposed to the book) actually is. Let’s just say that things become a little clearer in the sequel, which is currently in production…