An interview with Andy Robb a.k.a Derek the Cleric!

Andy Robb aka Derek the Cleric

With over 40 books under his belt, a Children’s Book of the Year Award 2010, not to mention a thriving Twitter and Facebook fan base for ‘Derek the cleric’, a KM interview with the very funny and talented Andy Robb was surely long over due!

Did you have an artistic/Christian upbring?

I was brought up in a Christian household but didn’t give my life to Jesus until I was married. Deep down I’d been searching for a God who I could encounter, and my experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit, subsequent to my conversion, gave me a living reality of God and spoiled me for anything less.

My parents were amateur artists and drawing was something that absorbed my childhood. In my teens I set my heart on making it my career.

Do you remember your first efforts at writing?

I come from a family that loves books, in fact we had a family bookshop for a number of years. My brothers and I always seemed to be writing something or other be it school magazines, stories or our own comics.

Was there ever a desire to work in ministry?

Not initially. Before I became a Christian I had two rather shallow ambitions: fame and fortune. I’d had some success as a cartoonist and illustrator working in publishing and advertising including being involved in the initial design of the Kellogg’s Honey Nut Loop bee and being licensed to draw Hagar the Horrible for a national advertising campaign.

Only after I became a Christian did God give me a passion for communicating the things of God and bringing alive the Bible to children.

Did you study art/illustration formally are you self-taught?

I trained at Colchester School of Art which gave me a solid grounding but have invested time over many years developing my own artistic style.

Tell me a bit about your creative process – where do you do most of your creative work and which medium/media do you prefer to work in?

I now work from home but don’t have a problem with self-motivation. Yes, it’s great to have creative inspiration but it’s also possible to operate in the creativity you innately have to fulfil a brief.

I begin the artwork process by producing rough sketches which I then trace over in Indian ink. I scan this into my Mac and then colour it up in Photoshop.

Derek the Cleric - Range of cards by Andy Robb

How was the idea for Derek the cleric conceived and can you tell me a bit about his journey so far?

Derek the Cleric began life as a single frame cartoon on the back of the now defunct Christian Herald newspaper. Three years ago I decided to resurrect Derek by bringing alive his world (and that of his church, St Cliff’s) in a regular blog.

As Derek’s audience grew, I added Facebook, Twitter and a website www.derekthecleric.com to this.

Derek’s very own book ‘A Year at St Cliffs’ was published last year and there is now a range of greetings cards and other merchandise bearing his name.

Derek the Cleric - BishopDerek the Cleric - PopeDerek the Cleric - Bishop

To what extent is your writing inspired by your own experiences of church?

Although I’m not an Anglican my experiences of church have given me much fodder for Derek the Cleric.

As for my kids books, the content very much springs from my relationship with God and my personal understanding of the Bible.

“Christianity doesn’t have to be boring” – do you consider yourself to be the leading light of this message? And are there any other writers whom you feel are doing a good job?

I’ll let another be the judge of that but having experienced something of God’s love and power in my life and having come to put my faith wholeheartedly in his word I remain passionate about helping others to know this also.

Christian writers I come back to time and again include Derek Prince, John Bevere, Colin Urquhart, Bill Johnson and Andrew Wommack.

Are there any  particular illustrators/writers that have influenced your own work?

I’ve read so widely over the years that I probably wouldn’t be able to single out any authors but cartoonists who I’ve admired include the illustrator of the Asterix books, Albert Uderzo and a guy called Robert Nixon who drew many of my favourite childhood comic characters.

You are the author of over 40 books including  Derek the Cleric – a year at St Cliffs, the Professor Bumblebrain series as well as the award-winning 50 Weirdest Bible Stories (CWR). Are there any more books in the pipeline?

50 Wackiest and 50 Juiciest Bible Stories are in production right now but after that, I’m not quite sure. I do have a heart for a kids product range which mobilises children to be agents of God so I’m praying for a publisher who has this on their heart as well.

Derek the Cleric

What was the motivation behind the Boring Bible Series?
I’d seen the Horrible Histories books and thought a book range that brought the Bible alive to kids in the same way would be great.  It’s really pleasing to know that the twelve book series is still in print years later.

Derek the Cleric - Boring Bible

Would you consider applying your humour to something other than the Bible and church life and perhaps writing away from the Christian book genre?

I have thought about it and am not closed to the possibility. I have a secret ambition to write a radio comedy. We’ll see!

Andy’s Boring Bible books are available from the Kevin Mayhew website www.kevinmayhew.com/catalogsearch/advanced/result?name=Boring+Bible and all good christian bookshops.  A mixed-pack of 8 Derek the Cleric greetings cards is now available for both retail customers and trade customers. Look out for a gift range of Derek the Cleric products coming soon from Kevin Mayhew.

Posted by Sarah

What are you giving up (or taking up!) for Lent?

Pick up and use Youth Work Resource for Church and SchoolThe Greatest Love Story Ever Told and then some by Rosie RushtonFeasts and Festivals by Claire Benton-Evans
Derek the ClericHiding in God by Annie HeppenstallThe Psalms - Translated by Nick King
Fruitfull by Suzi StockThe New Testament - Translated by Nicholas KingOur Earth, Our Home by Ellen Teague

A wise priest once told me, ‘Give vent to your creative bent this Lent’ – so this year, I’m going to start learning the ukulele! It will be the first musical instrument I’ve tried to learn since I gave up piano lessons at 15…it could be a long forty days and forty nights!
Claire Benton-Evans

I’m giving up the early morning cup of coffee, with a view to praying a bit more. And possibly abandoning alcohol…
Nicholas King

I like the idea of taking something up instead. I’m going to start a ‘thankful’ box. Basically each day I will try to write down a short thing I’m thankful for on a slip of paper and put it in a box or jar…. then at the end of the year I will read them through. I’ve heard of people who have done this and they say how positive and encouraging it is so I’m hoping I can keep it up!!
Suzi Stock

I’m going to make an effort to actually finish all the books I have on the go…that’s a biography, three poetry books and two novels at the moment!
Sarah Sibley (Copy Editor and Social Media Publicist)

I’m going to curb my sweet tooth- no more Humbugs, Skittles or Cola bottles!
Steven Gibbon (Website Manager)

Having stocked up on pancakes for yet another year I and my flock at St.Cliff’s are journeying through this season of Lent by abstaining from that firm favourite: chocolate.That my elevenses are invariably accompanied by a digestive biscuit covered with this now-forbidden treat makes this an even greater sacrifice for this humble clergyman. Between you and me, I had considered proposing that our discordant and cacophonous organist, Mrs Higginbottom, perhaps lay off ‘tinkling the ivories’ for this forty day fast but discretion got the better of me. Onward and upward.
Derek the Cleric

I’m going to try to give up crisps. It sounds like a small thing (and I know it is in the grand scheme of things) but I eat a lot of crisps! It will certainly make me think abut God most lunchtimes when I have my lunch.
Philip Eley

I’m giving up drinking tea!
Abbie Goldberg (Marketing Manager)

I’m going to try and give up fizzy drinks.
Kevin Duncan (Managing Director)

I’m ‘taking up’ rather than ‘giving up’, I want to re-awaken my musicality, which was always a real love of mine and also an important part of my prayer life, but it got a bit lost in recent years. I want to be able to replace ‘I used to play …’ with ‘I play’.
Annie Heppenstall

This Lent I will be attempting to reduce my use of my car by at least 50%, shopping more frequently from shops nearby to reduce wastage, and reading the Psalms cover to cover!
Rosie Rushton

I’m giving up having three sugars in my tea and sticking to two from now on!
Amanda Harker (Sales Coordinator)

I’m giving up junk food!
James Hare (Sales Coordinator)

I’ll be attending Pax Christi’s Ash Wednesday Vigil at the Ministry of Defence today to repent Britain’s Nuclear Weapons expenditure and nuclear threat. Throughout Lent I’ll support campaigns to stop more expenditure on Trident. Lent is a time for repentance and making peace.
Ellen Teague

Posted by Sarah 

New titles coming soon from Nicholas King, Annie Heppenstall and Claire Benton-Evans…watch this space! A range of ‘Derek the Cleric’ greetings cards are available from our trade site at trade.kevinmayhew.com/greetings-cards/derek-the-cleric.html. Books by all mentioned authors and more can be found on our website at: www.kevinmayhew.com.