To celebrate the publication of Oliver and the Seawigs, I’m so pleased to welcome the book’s author, Philip Reeve and illustrator, Sarah McIntyre onto the blog.
How did the working partnership between you both come about?
PR: We met at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010. Sarah was doing a drawing a day on her blog at that time, and I thought that sounded like a good idea, since I'd rather let my drawing lapse since I became a full-time writer. So I came home to Devon and started drawing landscapes, and we talked a lot online about drawing and stories, and became the best of friends.
SM: The most interesting bit was when winter set in, and he kept going out on the moor and drawing. And I thought, if he’s braving the cold of Dartmoor to draw, I can at least manage to get to Greenwich Park. So I nearly froze my fingers off more than a few times, trying to keep up with him.
PR: At first I never imagined we'd work together, because our styles and outlooks are so different, but it was such fun inventing stories and throwing mad ideas to-and-fro that it just became inevitable.
What came first – the storyline or some of the pictures?
PR: We came up with the idea together, and Sarah did some drawings of the main characters, which I referred to while I was writing. But lots of the ideas in the story are Sarah's, and sometimes when I got stuck I'd just ask her what she wanted to draw!
SM: The Sea Monkeys came about because of an advert I’d seen in comics as a child, offering a family of sea monkeys if you’d send them a dollar. There was a little drawing of a happy underwater family – strangely humanoid – and I knew the sea monkeys couldn’t possibly be actual little people for only a dollar. So they started in our book with that advertising image, became part of our text, then I drew them as something slightly different.
I understand there are plans for further books in the series, can you tell us anything about that yet?
PR: We've signed a contract for four books, and I hope there will be many more! They won't be a series in the usual sense, though: each one will be a new story, with new characters. The second is a space adventure, set aboard an enormous spaceship where everyone is asleep in suspended animation except for one girl who wakes up, and has to deal with various problems that arise, including cheeky aliens and... well, it's called Cakes In Space.
SM: We didn’t want to to tie ourselves down to one set of characters; we’re looking forward to playing around with entirely new ideas each time. And we like cakes, and space.
Your working partnership has been compared to Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake’s – how does that make you feel?
PR: McIntyre is a lot taller than Quentin Blake...
SM: Reeve isn’t quite as grumpy as Roald Dahl.
What projects are you working on individually at the moment?
SM: I’ve just finished a picture book with Scholastic that I’ve written myself, called There’s a Shark in the Bath and I’m working on another picture book with David O’Connell at the moment. I’m also the artist for next year’s Summer Reading Challenge, so I have a few posters and stickers and things to prepare for that. I’m trying to keep the downloadable activity sheets on my website up to date with each book and suddenly I’m getting requests from some of our foreign Seawigs publishers (Dutch, Turkish) to hand-letter the sheets in different languages
PR: I'm just finishing the third novel in my Goblins series, which will be published by Scholastic.
Oliver and the Seawigs is published by Oxford University Press. Check out K.M. Lockwood’s review here.
To find out more about Philip Reeve:
To find out more about Sarah McIntyre: