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Guest Author - Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

‘Cakes in Space’ is the follow-up to ‘Oliver and the Seawigs’ – how do you come up with your fantastic ideas and titles?

PR: Because we work together on the books right from the start, we throw ideas about a lot, and spark off each other. So 'Seawigs' came from a committee which Sarah was involved with - CWIG, the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group. And Cakes in Space came about because I saw some doodles of aliens which Sarah had posted on her blog, and thought we should space book, full of strange machines and creatures. But the cakes were Sarah's idea...

SM: I think it was a sort of Sorcerer’s Apprentice idea, mixed up with a story I vaguely remember from childhood about a kid who sets off a doughnut-making machine and can’t switch it off; we have a machine that just won’t stop making cakes, which keep evolving into ever more freaky and dangerous sentient beings.

‘Cakes in Space’ and ‘Oliver and the Seawigs’ are both adventure-themed – what is the greatest adventure you have ever had?

SM: Travelling around India had its moments: riding a train that was two trains’ worth of passengers squashed into one; missing the last bus at the Abandoned City of Fatephur Sikri; getting penned in by a pack of angry wild dogs in Jaipur, stumbling upon a town populated only by wild monkeys, then into a strange temple cave ceremony while my husband and I were cycling near Deogarh. And that was just one trip! I do like a bit of adventure.

PR: I avoid adventures! I'm not very adventurous at all, except in my imagination.

If you were on a 199-year journey, like Astra and her family in ‘Cakes in Space’, what 3 items would you take with you?

PR: Astra takes her favourite cuddly toys, including her most favourite of all, Mammoth. That's because I loved cuddlies when I was little, and right through till I was twelve or thirteen I used to snuggle up with my toy lion, Whiskers, when I went to sleep. So maybe I should take Whiskers along, for old time's sake, although he's a bit threadbare these days. But as you get older, items become less important, so I can't think what else I'd take - probably just a phone or computer, loaded with photos of friends and family and favourite places.

SM: I’d love to wake up for part of the time everyone else was asleep and try my hand at doing a series of linocut prints. Maybe they could feature my robot companions. So perhaps lino squares, lino-cutting tools and nice, thin printmaking paper.

Do you have plans to create further books together in the future?

PR: Yes! I hope we'll go on and on! We're already at work on a third story, and planning a fourth. And we both have our own solo books, too; I'm working on a novel for older children and young adults which will come out next autumn. It's another space story, but of a completely different sort!

SM: Philip let me read his new novel. It’s amazing!! I love working with this guy, he’s so good at taking rough ideas and beautifully crafting them into something fresh and exciting. And I’m also working on picture books; my book with David O’Connell, - Jampires - comes out at the same time as Cakes in Space. And right now I’m working on another picture book.

Do you have any projects in the pipeline you can share with us?

PR: We've done the sea and outer space, so our next adventure is going to take us to the frozen north.

SM: Just you wait, these books are just getting better and better! I’m itching to illustrate the third story RIGHT NOW but I have to finish my picture book first. For Cakes in Space, I’m looking forward to running around book festivals and such with Philip, dressed as Princess Leia Cake. Philip looks even better in a space suit than you’d imagine, it’s going to be good fun!

What were your favourite books as a child?

PR: Too many to list, really, but my favourites were all fantasy (like The Lord of the Rings) or historical (like The Eagle of the Ninth) or funny ones (the Asterix books, and the Molesworth books by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle (a great author/illustrator partnership!).

SM: Lots! The Twenty-one Balloons by William Pène du Bois, Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Runaway Robot by Lester del Ray, No Coins Please by Gordon Korman, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak,The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  

What are your future literary ambitions?

PR: I've really enjoyed working with Sarah. It's a real change of pace and approach after my longer, more YA-ish novels, and in many ways, it feels like a fresh start. So I hope there will be many more books like this, and that we'll build on the style we've developed and experiment with it. The next book will take us to frozen north (we think), and after that, who knows?

SM: I’d like to keep writing bonkers stories with my best friends, swanning around the world in awesome costumes, experimenting with new kinds of projects, and getting enough time to make silly drawings that aren’t for any project, just for me. I’d also like a full-time PA to deal with all the emails and things that keep me from drawing and writing stories.  

Do you have any top tips for budding writers and artists? 

PR: I HATE writers' tips, and all those lists of rules for writing. Why are people so keen on rules? Writing should be about breaking rules and writing whatever you want to. The best way to learn is by reading a lot, and thinking about what makes your favourite stories work. It's quite a slow process, but if you keep reading and writing, it will come.

SM: If you particularly want to make books, don’t just study how to make pictures … make books! Make lots of books, make books quickly, don’t always be a perfectionist about them; the more books you make, the better you will get at making books. A little photocopied book makes a great business card, and making books teaches you about all the elements of book design. You can even learn about marketing your book by taking a stack of your home-made books to an indie comics fair or artist book fair where you’ve booked a table. You’ll learn how to present your work and discover what makes people stop, look and buy your books. Get a blog where you can build up an audience who like the way you work. 

Do you have a special place you write and illustrate?

PR: I have a studio in my garden which I write in; I like the peace and quiet, and there's no internet access so I don't have that distraction.  But I can write on trains or in cafés if I need to, I'm not too fussy.

SM: I can sketch anywhere, but I do most of my book drawing in my studio, the Fleece Station. It’s a room in old police station in Deptford that I share with comics artist Gary Northfield and graffiti knitter Lauren O’Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade). When I’m writing, it helps to go to a café and tank myself up with some coffee.

Where can fans of your work find out more about you and your work?

PR: My website is www.philip-reeve.com, and I blog at philipreeve.blogspot.com I'm also on Twitter as @philipreeve1, and I have a Facebook page.

SM: I make activity sheets for every book I do: http://www.jabberworks.co.uk.
Twitter: @jabberworks