MG Leonard & Sam Sedgman

Missing diamonds, dastardly thieves and a royal train all feature in this incredible new adventure story from Beetle Boy author MG LEONARD and SAM SEDGMAN. Here, they tell us more about their new series!

Q: What sparked the idea for a series of adventures aboard trains? And why did you decide to write the book(s) together?

A: Maya has two sons, who both really loved trains when they were little, reading Thomas the Tank Engine and watching Chuggingtons. But when she took them to the library to pick out chapter books about trains, she couldn't find any. She thought a book for young readers about trains would be really popular, but she didn't know enough about trains herself to write it.

Sam has always loved trains, and when Maya told him about her idea, he got very excited. He also loves mystery stories, and together we came up with the idea for a series of mystery adventures set on railway journeys all over the world.

Q: So Sam is the train buff? Did you still need to research this area before writing The Highland Falcon Thief?

A: Sam is a lifelong chuffer nutter who will happily talk for hours about why trains are cool.

One of the first things Sam did when we started writing together was to take Maya to the National Railway Museum in York to start doing research for the book - and that's where Maya fell in love with trains too.

Even if you love something, research is really important for a book. It's something we love doing together.

Q: How does the writing side work, as you're writing Adventures on Trains together?

A: We get together and plot the whole book out chapter by chapter on post-it notes before we start writing, so we both know exactly what's going to happen. This is the most fun part!

Then one of us takes the post-it note plan and turns it into a very bad first draft. Then the other person takes that draft and rewrites it to make it better. Then we keep doing that, passing it back and forth, until it's finished.

Q: How much of the train and journey the Highland Falcon takes is based on fact?

A: The Highland Falcon is a fictional train based on lots of real trains. Its locomotive is an A4 Pacific, the fastest steam engine in the world. It's also true the royal family have their own private train to carry them around the country, and most things you'll find on board the Highland Falcon are real.

The route is mostly possible, apart from a branch line to Balmoral castle that used to be there but is now closed. Today it's a footpath - so you can still walk along it.

Q: Why did you want the books to be about solving a mystery crime?

A: A train journey is the perfect place to set a mystery! All your suspects are trapped in the same place, and the mystery has to be solved before the train reaches its destination, so there's always a ticking clock.

Q: Who is your favourite crime writer?

A: We're both avid Agatha Christie fans with a complete set of all her novels. Nobody's better at setting out a really good puzzle with excellent clues - she's called the Queen of Crime for a reason.

Q: How did your two main characters, Hal and Lenny, develop?

A: Hal appeared first in our heads. We liked the idea of him being a detective who draws, because we didn't think that had been done before. Being good at drawing means that Hal's very observant, and spots things other people don't. It also allowed us to put secret clues in our illustrations!

For a while Lenny wasn't in the book, but we realised that Hal needed someone his age to talk to, someone much braver and bolder than him, and as soon as she appeared in the story, everything clicked.

Q: Hal's Uncle Nat is great, too, but why did you decide to introduce him to the adventure?

A: We have a running joke that Sam is Uncle Nat and Maya is Hal. Sam dresses like Uncle Nat and can talk for hours about trains, while Maya is always full of childlike enthusiasm and wears a bright yellow anorak.

Hal isn't interested in trains at the start of The Highland Falcon Thief, and we wanted Uncle Nat's joy and enthusiasm for them to rub off on him over the course of the adventure. We also wanted Uncle Nat to be a grown-up that takes Hal seriously.

Q: There are a number of colourful supporting characters - any favourites?

A: Lady Lansbury's five beautiful Samoyed dogs are one of our favourite parts of the book. Writing about dogs is so much fun! We had a great time naming them too.

Q: Will we be seeing more of Hal and Lenny?

A: Hal will return in Kidnap on the California Comet, which is published in the UK in September. Uncle Nat takes Hal on a train journey across America from Chicago to San Francisco, and while they're on board one of Hal's new friends goes missing. It's a really exciting adventure and we can't wait to share it with you.

Q: What is the most exciting train journey you've taken?

A: In January we both took the train together from London all the way to the Harz Mountains in Germany as research for another book. It was an incredible journey, and we got to see Paris and Berlin along the way.

We're both desperate to go to India, where there are some incredibly beautiful railway journeys, and one day we hope we'll take the Trans-Mongolian Express, which is a seven day journey all the way across Russia from Moscow to Beijing. That would be a dream come true.

Q: What do you enjoy doing the most when you're not writing?

A: Sam is a huge fan of board games, and Maya loves nothing more than taking over her kitchen with a 5000 piece jigsaw.

Q: And finally, what have you enjoyed the most so far during the launch of the Adventures on Trains series?

A: Seeing the wonderful messages from readers who have enjoyed our book is just magic.
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