Creating Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Creating Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

29th May 2014 < Back

When we first met (at the Edinburgh Festival back in 2011) we didn’t imagine that we would end up working together. Sarah was best known for picture books, and for her comics, like Vern and Lettuce, while Philip wrote novels for older children, such as Mortal Engines and Here Lies Arthur.

But although we’re quite different in many ways (Sarah is an American living in London, while Philip is English and lives in the middle of Dartmoor) we both like a lot of the same things. We quickly became friends, and we had such fun talking together, discussing our childhoods and the things we loved, and throwing ideas to and fro, that we just couldn’t help doing a joint project. We decided that we wanted to make the sort of book we would have enjoyed reading when we were kids, full of adventures and funny characters, with lots of illustrations.

Oliver and the Seawigs is partly based on an idea which Philip had been mulling over for ages, but it never really worked until Sarah joined in, and added the very McIntyresque idea of islands wearing wigs.  We came up with the characters and the story together, and then Sarah did the drawing, and Philip wrote the words.

We ended up with a tale about a reluctant explorer called Oliver Crisp, who sets off to rescue his parents, and gets caught up in adventures with a short-sighted mermaid named Iris, a rambling island named Cliff, and a contest to find the island with the best wig of all. Here’s a video we did about working together.

Oliver and the Seawigs - Meet the creators from MB Films on Vimeo.

It’s great working as a team, because it makes us both have ideas we wouldn’t have had on our own. And once the book was finished, we had to start doing events to promote it, at schools and festivals all over the country. We even had a launch on board the Golden Hyde sailing ship in London, where Sarah wore her own twelve foot high seawig.

The hats she wears in our Seawigs shows haven’t been quite that big, but we’ve been having fun singing the seawigs song, and teaching everybody how to draw a sea monkey (sea monkeys are the cheeky critters who help the villain of our story, Stacey De Lacey, but they’ve turned into the stars of the book).  They’re really easy to draw, to - at least, they are if you follow this handy guide.

Oliver and the Seawigs - How to draw a Sea Monkey from MB Films on Vimeo.

There’s also a ‘How To Draw A Sea Monkey’ activity sheet on Sarah’s blog.

We’re really keen on getting people to draw their own pictures, write their own stories, and maybe combine the two to make illustrated books and comics. It doesn’t even matter if they’re not very good (neither of us was very good when we started). Recently Sarah persuaded 56 other people to draw mermaids as badly as they could, which was fun (though not for the mermaids, who were terribly offended).