Sam Curry and Elle Stevenson failed to win the children’s book task on The Apprentice recently, but their kid lit creation Snottydink became an unexpected IRL success. Copies have since sold on eBay for close to £70 – yes, really – and How To Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell has declared herself a fan of the mythical elephant/dragon hybrid. So in a display of pluck and chutzpah that Sir Alan Sugar would surely approve of, Curry and Stevenson have teamed up again to create another children’s book about a unique-sounding creature, Gobble Gruff. Sam gave NME a call yesterday to explain all – and share his thoughts on what being an Apprentice candidate is really like.
Why do you think Snottydink became a hit in real life?
“Well, for me it was really important to create a decent product – I didn’t feel I could justifiably sell something I didn’t believe in. But considering we literally wrote that book in a day, I didn’t expect people to receive it so well. I was definitely very pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying that book is as good as any other children’s book, which may have taken months to make, but I think there’s something to be said for the harsh deadlines that the show imposes. There’s probably something in the simplicity of that book that people can relate to, especially in the children’s book market.”
What made you and Elle decide to write another children’s book?
“It was kind of a culmination of different factors. I really enjoyed putting Snottydink together and Elle was really keen to get writing again. Then when I went into Gosh Comics – the store that bought 150 copies of the book in the task – they told me they’d completely sold out before the episode even aired. Those books sold off their own back. The last kind of pushing force was Cressida Cowell’s praise on You’re Fired – when you’ve got someone as big as her in the children’s book industry praising what you’re doing, it’s a real inspiration.”
So, what is Gobble Gruff exactly?
“Gobble Gruff is another mythical creature; we’re calling it part cat, part ogre. He’s one creature in a tribe of creatures, but like Snottydink he’s quite different to the others – he’s a lot bigger and taller. Every winter there’s a series of sporting tests that the creatures have to go through, and because of his size, Gobble Gruff doesn’t do very well on the first one. He has a period of reflection and decides he’s going to keep trying his hardest to succeed. I won’t give away the ending, but whereas Snottydink was very overtly about acceptance, this book is about acceptance but also the importance of perseverance. It’s aimed at ages three to five, but we’re saying ‘three plus’ because I already know a few adults that want to buy it.”
Now that you’re out of The Apprentice bubble, how do you feel about the show?
“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, but obviously it is difficult. It really is 5.30am starts and then getting home at 7pm, eating dinner and going straight to bed because you’re exhausted. And then sleeping in those really uncomfortable beds in a room with, like, five other people. There’s no contact with the outside world and no internet on tasks! You don’t realise until you do that show how much you rely on Google for everything.”
Why is there no internet?
“Oh, God knows! It’s just ridiculous. They say if there’s internet, it gives people an unfair advantage, but I just think that’s rubbish. All business in the entire world needs the internet to function, so why is there a TV show that professes to be serious in business, but doesn’t use internet? It doesn’t make sense to me. I guess in terms of filming it might be boring to have people just tapping away on laptops constantly. It’s far more interesting to film people running around London and calling people frantically all the time. At the end of the day, you have to remember it’s a TV show and they’re making it to be entertaining.”
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What do you think about your fellow contestant Selina Waterman-Smith’s provocative recent comments about the show?
“Do you know what, I don’t even follow what she says any more. I just think it’s best to ignore her. I know she said something about the show being rigged and the finalists being chosen in advance, but I think everyone knows that they’re just the words of a bitter person. Obviously it’s a TV show so it’s not entirely real. You’re not really just running into those shops – the BBC has to pre-authorise them for filming and stuff like that.”
She appeared to insinuate that people on the show were leaking stories about her to the press.
“I mean, it’s just ludicrous. She has a personal PR man who’s going to all these papers to sell the stories – the show’s not leaking a thing, the show’s desperately trying to stop these stories coming out…. It’s weird, she thinks she’s some kind of celebrity, but no one cares, or they shouldn’t care anyway. I kind of wish they didn’t care because then she wouldn’t have a platform.”
Who’s more stressful to have trailing you around: Claude Littner or Karren Brady?
“Oh Karren, hands down! Claude is really fair – when you do something stupid, he brings it up, but he’s also quick to praise when it’s deserved. I really like Claude: he’s got a really nice manner to him, he’s very intelligent, he’s quite calm and relaxing. Whereas Karren is just very pushy. Like, when we were doing the book task, she was sitting there saying: ‘The illustrator’s here! The illustrator’s here! They’ve been here for three hours, don’t you want to speak to them?’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t, I haven’t finished the book.’ Then she’d ask you again five minutes later. It was like, ‘Just be quiet, for five minutes, please.’ So yeah, I would say Claude is better.”
Is Sir Alan as intimidating as he seems?
“I mean, probably not unless you get to the final five. Because you don’t really get to spend that much time with him. You literally see him when he tells you what the task is and then again in the boardroom: that’s it. So we don’t get to know him any better than the TV audience does. It’s so funny, everyone asks you for your impression of him, but I’d say during the whole process, for me anyway, he wasn’t prominently at the front of my mind. It was always about the task and the other candidates, because those were the things you were constantly focusing on.”
Gobble Gruff by Sam Curry and Elle Stevenson is available to buy from Wednesday (December 16) on Amazon.