Blog Author Interview with Andy Seed & Sam Caldwell!
Your new book, History’s Biggest Show-Offs is just out! Who is your favourite show-off in the book?
Andy: For me it’s the Montgolfier Brothers, the first inventors to really conquer flight. A giant, magnificently decorated balloon floating up (with various animals on board and later, people) must have been a truly awe-inspiring sight for the citizens of Paris. Their launch, in front of the King and Queen of France was just so huge and grand, too.
Sam: Hurray! It’s so exciting to finally be able to share this book with everyone! There are too many good ones to choose from but I think my current favourite show-off in there is Antoni Gaudi. I visited Barcelona recently and had a great time looking round some of the buildings he designed. It was super cool to have learnt a bit about him through making this book and then to get to visit some of his wonderful creations in person.
If you could be anyone in history, who would you be & why?
Andy: I think Christina of Sweden had a fascinating life. She was mega-clever and interested in everything, but also had the riches to commission great artists, collect the best books, and do all kinds of experiments. Plus, being a queen, she must have had lush food every day. Nice!
Sam: I think I would be Saul Steinberg. He’s probably my favourite artist of all time and I reckon he was having a tonne of fun whilst making his work. Bonus points because I’d then get to live in New York City in the 1930s which I’m sure would be pretty cool.
How does a book collaboration like this work... word first, then illustrations?
Andy: Yes, we wanted to have a really wide range of people featured so I spent a long time researching all kinds of historical figures who were a bit flamboyant or highly original. Sam then worked his illustrator magic based on the text.
Sam: Yes, exactly that. The wonderful designer Sarah and the rest of the team at Happy Yak would break down Andy’s manuscript into full page spreads for me with a bit of a brief and some reference images. I would then sketch up some ideas and eventually colour them up into the final artwork. All of the illustrations were made very much in response to Andy’s writing.
What’s it like to work together?
Andy: Ah, well, sadly it’s a widespread myth that authors and illustrators work side-by-side on a book like this, discussing ideas, working out solutions and making the pages zing! Everything is very much channelled through the publishers – the editor, designer, and creative director working together and communicating closely with Sam and me and sending back and forth lots of roughs to comment on. Alas, we haven’t actually met, but hopefully we will one day!
Sam: It has been really fun! I’m very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work on such a funny and interesting project. Andy’s sense of humour really shines through in the text which allows me to really ramp up the fun with the illustrations.
Do you have any top tips for budding writers and artists?
Andy: Yes! Young writers need to read, read, read. A varied diet of all kinds of books by all kinds of authors (available for FREE in your local library) will help them to see how writers work and how many different ways there are to approach the job. Another good tip is to read what you write aloud, and listen carefully to what it sounds like. It should flow nicely.
Sam: I’d say just draw, draw, draw! Don’t wait for inspiration to strike, get out and about, observe people and the world around you, document it all and keep that practice up. Also, it’s really important to make lots of bad drawings so that you know what the good ones look like.
Do you have a special place you write / illustrate?
Andy: I have a study at home, stuffed with books, which is basically a spare bedroom with a big desk. I like peace and quiet – so I am definitely not one of those writers who could work in a café…
Sam: I live in a very old Glasgow tenement flat and I’ve got a tiny little studio space off of my living room. It has just enough space for a desk, a chair and a bookcase which, fortunately, is everything I need. I also love to draw in sketchbooks when I travel. Holidays are a great time for scribbling.
What were your favourite books as a child?
Sam: I really loved Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen books like ‘Percy the Park Keeper’ and ‘Kipper’. There was a spread in one of the Percy the Park Keeper books which showed a cross section of a giant oak tree with all of these little animal homes which made a huge impression on me. ‘The Jolly Postman’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg was also one of my favs. Those pull out letters and envelopes were so much fun!
Where can fans of your work find out more about you and your work?
Andy: My website is www.andyseed.com. I love visiting schools and getting children excited about books, plus I do various festivals and library events too.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you can share with us?
Andy: I am currently writing a very exciting history series for The British Museum (details on my website).
Sam: I’m busy working away at various exciting book projects at the moment. I’m very excited about the next book in the ‘Do Bears Poop in the Woods?’ series with the wonderful Huw Lewis-Jones which will be coming out next year. This one will be all about Penguins.
How would you describe History’s Biggest Show-Offs in one sentence?
Andy: Amazing people with amazing ideas doing amazing things!
Sam: A super fun and fact packed adventure through time.Published: Fri 18th Nov 2022