about sue & paul
Sue Hendra grew up in Wimbledon and has always loved making up stories and drawing pictures. Her favourite book as a child was Mr. Silly. She graduated from Brighton University in 1994 and has been creating picture books ever since. In 2006, she met Paul Linnet and could instantly see that she’d met a fellow nitwit who liked talking nonsense. Sue loves swimming and can swim up and down for a very long time. Her favourite book is still Mr. Silly.

Paul Linnet was born in Brighton and grew up in the Midlands, reading Tintin and playing classic 80’s video games, before becoming obsessed with scribbling, writing, guitars, and motorcycles. He studied graphic design at Derby University, and later moved back to Brighton where he met Sue Hendra. They made up a story about a fish with fingers and then a slug with a doughnut for a shell, and now no one can stop them from writing more and more frankly ridiculous books. Paul still loves scribbling, writing, guitars, and motorcycles.
how we work together

We always work together to create the books. When I say together I mean that we both write the text for them and we both make the pictures for them. I don’t mean that we both hold the same pencil—that would be silly.

One of the things we realised about each other on our early dates was that we loved to laugh. We are almost competitive in our desire to get a huge, drink-out-of-the-nose (Paul once made tea come out of my nose), belly laugh from one another. For every two or three funny lines we put in a book there are hundreds that are either too long, too silly, or too rude to get in.

Usually one of us will come up with an idea then together we will try to flesh it out. Sometimes that idea is just a sketch on a scrap of paper or a joke or a concept (where do fish fingers come from for example). We then pass sketches and Illustrator documents back and forth between each other gradually sculpting the final art and story. It’s not always straightforward getting the story together. Although we share a sense of humour we differ in what we want from a story. One of us wants a big thrill ride adventure with too many words and too much action and the other wants surreal, no rules, and storytelling with a tight text. It’s trying to find the middle ground that gives the books their style.
the story behind supertato

So, we had always wanted to do a story about a superhero. A new exciting, dynamic, crime-fighting icon of justice. But who or what should this character be? A dinosaur-pirate-alien-radioactive-bug-thing? No, no, no, that’s far too common! We decided on a humble spud—a plain old potato—for our story.

Our character started life in a garden; living halfway down a compost heap.

Its arch enemy was a giant fluffy bunny who commanded an army of evil carrots. Carrots who tried to defeat our hero with a steaming pan of baked beans and a good helping of cheese!

“Hang on, that’s not how the story goes!!” you may well be saying.

True, but that was how it started!

Even though our books are quite simple, it takes lots of time, experimentation, and fierce debate to create a character and to create the right world for it to live in and decide on what will happen to it. In the example of Supertato, the compost heap just wasn’t right. We experimented with a kitchen and a city but finally agreed on a shop. Here’s a big pile of mock-ups that only made it as far as the recycling bin.

Here are some scribbles from the early versions of Supertato. At first, we thought Supertato could be saving vegetables and fruit from their own mishaps but it soon became apparent that we needed a proper baddy. As you can see, he defeated an evil soup monster who ended up in a pool of his own broth. Meanwhile, Supertato and the pea (his sidekick in this version) look on triumphantly. 

It’s funny looking back at these versions and seeing that Supertato used to be called Derek! Once we had the environment and the characters right, we had an absolute ball making the first Supertato. We were talking in Supertato and Evil Pea voices, which helped a lot when working out the dialogue and winding up our daughter!

When we were asked if we’d like to make a sequel to the first book, we jumped at the chance. You may notice that in Supertato: Veggies Assemble, our hero appears to have some friends. Even a completely amazing superhero needs a hand sometimes and now he has a loyal band of veggies standing by for each new adventure.

As well as the picture books, Supertato has also had the great honour of starring in two World Book Day Books: Supertato: Hap-Pea Ever After and Supertato: Books Are Rubbish. Paul came up with new stories for each one. Here’s a peek at our initial plan for Hap-Pea Ever After—you can tell we’re illustrators, can’t you?! Unlike many of our books, it stayed pretty close to this initial pagination all the way through the process.

So, here we are, three books in and really excited about doing our World Book Day events. Thanks to Supertato we’ve been invited to Hay and Edinburgh festivals for the premiere of our Veggies Assemble ‘show’ (don’t expect too much) the plan is to make some veggie props and get the audience involved. I’m thinking it’s going to be fun...