Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Interview with Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman

With the follow up to the stunningly brilliant, Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space, Dominic and Ben have done it again and put the super intelligent alley cat on a second outing where he explores the important world of physics. I had the opportunity to interview Dominic and Ben and find out what exactly makes these books more than just educational.

Dr. Dominic Walliman is a scientist who lives and works in Vancouver where he works on Quantum computers. He studied Quantum Device Physics at Birmingham University where he also taught Physics. He also holds a BSc and MSc in Computer Science.

Ben Newman is an award-winning illustrator and the author of two books, The Bento Bestiary and Ouroboros under Nobrow.

BWB: Dominic, when researching the book was there any facts that you found hard to explain in a simple way?

DW: Because I'm a physicist, and know the subject really well, the thing I found really difficult was how much information I wanted to pack into the book. My early drafts were way to long and detailed and so the difficult part was cutting it down and getting to the essence of each topic. Whenever we cut anything I thought "But that is all so interesting", but you have to draw the line somewhere, and Ben helped me out loads with this.

BWB: Ben, how did you feel about returning to Astro Cat after the huge success of Frontiers of Space?

BN: I was really pleased 'Frontiers of Space' was received well so I was excited to return to a project that I didn't think we’d get a chance to. Dominic and I had spoken earlier about subjects that we would like to do with Professor Astro Cat but didn’t want to get too ahead of ourselves in case it didn’t happen. We learnt a lot about working together on the first book but I think we learnt more on ‘Atomic Adventure’.

BWB: Dominic, how did you and Ben get introduced?

DW: Ben and me go back a long long way to our school days in secondary school. Fast forward a few years, he had become a successful illustrator and I had just finished my PhD. He wanted to create a kids science book, and I think he remembered me in school enthusiastically telling him about crazy and amazing the Universe is, and he thought we would make a good team. I jumped at the chance!!

BWB: Ben, what inspires your beautiful colour palette?

BN: I like to work with restrictions on my colour palette so I only use the secondary colours that that palette provides. I collect lots of old printed ephemera, like 50s matchbox labels, so that physicality has had a big effect on my perception of colour and how I use it.

BWB: Dominic, what gave you the idea to do this second book with Ben?

DW: Physics is a subject that a lot of people remember being difficult and kind of intimidating. I think this is such a huge shame as physics is deeply fascinating, and doesn't have to be difficult if it is explained well. So this was my approach to the second book, physics is very dear to my heart and I wanted to try and share the joy with young people today to help them have a really positive experience with it.

BWB: Ben, what part of this book did you enjoy illustrating the most and why?

BN: Funnily enough, the front and back cover. I think it’s because it’s the first thing people see and is often a reason why they pick the book up to look at it in the first place. There were a couple of spreads inside that took me a long time to solve but I really enjoyed drawing the pages with lots of characters. I get free reign over the page designs and illustrations so it’s impossible to not enjoy that. I’m very lucky.

BWB: Dominic, would you like to do another book with Ben?

DW: Yes please! With two books under our belt we are becoming an ace team and Ben is a pleasure to work with. I still think it is amazing that I get to have my words illustrated by Ben Newman. Wowza! What a privilege!

BWB: Ben, what's next for Professor Astro Cat?

BN: Hopefully more adventures in different areas of science. We have plans. Some are already in motion. Some are still whispers.

A huge thank you to Dominic, Ben and Emma at Flying Eye Books for this insightful interview. Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure is available to buy now from Flying Eye Books.

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