Interview: Andy Seed on grilling Cleopatra - not as in a BBQ obvs, but with questions
Every now and again, when in our local bookshop, we spot a book that we positively absolutely just have to read. 'Interview with Cleopatra' is one such book. Judging from the cover, it looked fun, funny, and funtastic with some super artwork too!
Fortunately, after reading the book, it turned out to be fun, funny, and funtastic with super artwork. Which just goes to show that on occasion you really should judge a book by its cover.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview the interviewer and writer of 'Interview with Cleopatra', Andy Seed. We discussed Tranimalators, pushing brothers out of windows, and why Vikings don't understand bluetooth technology.
Check it out below:
Imagining History: Could you tell our readers a little about 'Interview with Cleopatra and other famous rulers'?'
Chris Seed: It’s history with added extra fun! Using my very handy Tranimalator machine I am able to go back in time and talk to famous figures from history. I decided to start with rulers because they make the big decisions and they are THE BOSS. I chose a selection of 10 big-shot leaders from different places and times and I grilled them with my BEST QUESTIONS. Yes, some of them were a bit confused as to who exactly I was and where I came from but I managed to talk my way out of the various sticky situations I found my myself in.
Where the did idea to interview historical figures from the past come from?
I had already done a series of animal interview books starting with INTERVIEW WITH A TIGER and INTERVIEW WITH A SHARK. These have been very successful and my brilliant editor Laura said, “Andy, how about going back in TIME and interviewing some historical bods for a new series?” And I said, “OK”.
I thought it would be fun to start with famous rulers like Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Boudicca, Viking king Harald Bluetooth, and Elizabeth I, so that’s what I did. Er, once I got the tranimalator working…
How did you go about researching the book? That's a whole lot of history for you to read through!
Yes, I mean, I could have just BELIEVED everything Montezuma, Genghis Kahn and the others told me but I thought I’d better actually check out their stories, so I did research lots of FACTS, yes. I got loads of history books from my local library (you can reserve them online and borrow them for FREE) and I even read some of them! I also looked on the internet but it’s not always reliable. Most of the time what the rulers said did actually match up with the history books, phew! Oh, and reading their stories was really INTERESTING too.
What was the weirdest piece of historical trivia you uncovered during your research?
There was a lot of weird stuff but a favourite fact came from my interview with Akbar the Great. He was this ruler in India in the 1500s who created a huge empire by clever rule, being fair to conquered people, and running his lands well. Altogether he was a wise leader, But he also pushed his brother out of a window twice! Ha! Oh, and he also had over 300 wives…
How did you settle on the list of figures to interview? How did they make the cut?
Yes, good question. There was a lot of arguing between me and Laura. She won. No, actually, we agreed on quite a lot of names. We wanted kings, queens, emperors, military commanders, and other leaders from around the world. We also wanted people from Ancient times (such as ancient Egypt), plus the Middle Ages and more recent history, so it was a really good mix. To make the cut the rulers had to be interesting, powerful, important, and famous. How did they get chosen… by interview!
Which was your favourite historical ruler to write about?
I think Elizabeth I was one of the best because she was such a great queen at such a dramatic point in England’s history. The Viking king Harald Bluetooth was another favourite, although I had a lot of trouble explaining to him about Bluetooth technology…
Which historical ruler would you never want to meet in a dark alley?
Definitely Genghis Kahn, the merciless Mongol conqueror. I mean, it’s estimated that his armies wiped out TEN MILLION people, so chopping up one beardy children’s author wouldn’t concern him for a second.
Is there any historical ruler who you would want to be ruled by?
Saladin seemed like a really nice dude. Boudica was very inspirational (but you were likely to be involved in a lot of very bloody battles following her), Cleopatra was clever and sassy, of course, but if I had to choose one it would be the ruler of the African kingdom of Mali, Mansa Musa? Why? Because he was the richest man in history and he gave thousands of bags of gold away, that’s why!
What are you working on next?
Well the next title in this series is nearly ready: INTERVIEW WITH BLACKBEARD AND OTHER VICIOUS VILLAINS. Then I am working on interviewing Vincent Van Gogh and other great artists. What fun! The books all have ace illustrations by Gareth Conway.
Thanks to Andy for taking the time out of his busy interviewing schedule to be interviewed by us!
Be sure to check out 'Interview with Cleopatra and other famous rulers' by clicking right here.