The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne

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Summary: Jim can't stop talking about the Sesame Seade Mysteries so he was delighted when author Clementine Beauvais and ilustrator Sarah Horne popped in to see us.
Date: 15 April 2014
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Jim can't stop talking about the Sesame Seade Mysteries so he was delighted when author Clementine Beauvais and ilustrator Sarah Horne popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Clementine Beauvais: The jury of the Nobel Prize, of course, but also a flock of primary school children running around the playground in search for interstices of freedom in the adult-imposed routine.

  • BB: When you first created the character of Sesame, did you have a mental image of her? If so, how close is that to Sarah’s drawings of her?

CB: Bizarrely, I don’t tend to picture my characters very much in my head, unlike fictional places, which are very clear to me. I don’t generally think of my characters as blonde or brown-haired, as white or black. As a result, I don’t often describe my characters – Sesame’s never described in the books. I had a long conversation with my editor about what Sesame looked like – she needed to tell Sarah! But I honestly had no clue. We made it up on the phone!

Then, when I saw Sarah’s first sketch of Sesame, I immediately thought – “That’s it! That’s Sesame!”. I ‘recognised’ her, even though I’d never seen her.

  • BB: Some of the villains in Sesame Seade are rather nasty pieces of work. Who’s your all-time favourite fictional baddie?

CB: Maybe the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Or Mrs Coulter in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Or Norman Bates of Psycho… actually, they’re all pretty much the same character, aren’t they? Sesame’s villains aren’t as murderous. But her mum can certainly be as scary as a velociraptor sometimes.

  • BB: You use some really complicated vocabulary and references, including Gorgias, Thomas Aikenhead, and incarnadine in your first two Sesame Seade books. Are you expecting children to understand them or look them up, or are they a nod to your adult readers?

CB: To be honest, they’re more of a game with myself: an added challenge. “How many references to obscure things can I put in there without them being taken out?” Most often I don’t expect anyone to spot them – they’re just there for me to have fun while I write the book. A few of them get taken out at editing stage.

But I was flabbergasted that my editor let me keep the sentence ‘and the multitudinous seas incarnadine’ (I think that’s the sign of a good editor!). Maybe one kid will remember the line in a few years’ time, when rediscovering it in a Shakespeare class…

  • BB: How long can we expect to be following Sesame's adventures for? Any chance of her lasting to the point where she becomes a Cambridge student herself? (Crossing my fingers here!)

CB: For now, there’s only three books, though maybe if readers send enough boxes of sesame snaps to Hodder… But I don’t think she can ever grow up. She’s too cool for adulthood. And Jeremy Hopkins provides the perfect portrayal of the typical Cambridge student. As we speak, he’s probably got an essay to write, due last month.

  • BB: What's next for Clementine Beauvais?

CB: I have a series for younger readers coming out with Bloomsbury in September. The first one is called The Royal Babysitters, and sees Holly and Anna Burningbright, helped by Prince Pepino, trying to babysit the royal sextuplets of the King and Queen of Britland while repelling an invasion by King Alaspooryorick of Daneland. Needless to say, he’s come with hummingbird cannons and an army of robotic mermaids. It’s completely different from Sesame, but still (hopefully!) funny and adventurous.

  • BB: How much guidance do you get from either the author or publishers when you're illustrating a book?

Sarah Horne: Sometimes lots of guidance, sometimes none at all depending on the project. Usually there’s a lot of discussion between the publisher and myself once we get started on a book. I am often given a character description of how the author sees their characters, then I spend some time reading the text and getting a feel for the characters and scenarios, and we go from there.

  • BB: There have been some brilliant adventures for Sesame in the first two books (and more to come, I’m sure, in the third.) What’s been your favourite picture to draw?

SH: The Sesame Seade books have been a massive joy to illustrate. I think one of my favourites to draw was Sesame’s bedroom door sign from Gargoyles Gone A.W.O.L. - Very witty stuff. I had to do this one in a couple of sittings for fear of going seriously cross-eyed.

  • BB: Has there been any scene in the Sesame Seade series so far which has left you thinking "How on earth am I going to draw that?”

SH: At one point, I think it was at a rate of about 1 in 5 illos, where I wondered how on earth I was going to draw that thing! A notable one was 'Sesame Film Noir' from Sleuth on Skates. Quite a bit of research went into that particular piece.

  • BB: When growing up did you always want to be an illustrator? Who were your favourite illustrators as a child?

SH: Yes, I was fairly clear on what I wanted to do. I always loved to draw for stories, but I didn’t know it was called illustration. My dream job was either to be a dustbin lady or to sit in an office all day and draw and draw and draw.

I loved Richard Scarry's books and the amazing detail in his work. I also loved books by Judith Kerr, Babbette Cole and Raymond Briggs. One of my absolute favourites was Don’t Forget The Bacon by Pat Hutchins.

  • BB: What's next for Sarah Horne?

SH: I’m nicely busy at the moment- currently working on a very fun novelty/picture book with Hodder, some non-fiction work with Egmont, and a scattering of smaller fiction projects which involve some nice inky black and white work.

  • BB: Thank you both for chatting to us - it's been a real pleasure!

This review was kindly given to us by the ever-generous Ya Yeah Yeah

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