Q&A with Kelley Simms, author and illustrator of “They Said It.”
Please give our readers some background on your credentials as a journalist.
I’ve been a graphic designer, illustrator, writer and a freelance music journalist for various magazines, newspapers, record labels and webzines for over 20 years. Although I’ve been published many times, this is my first book.
Talk about the new book “They Said It.”—Entertainment’s Biggest Stars Speak. How did the idea come about?
While employed as a graphic designer/illustrator/writer for Gannett Newspapers, Inc., I had hundreds of opportunities to interview and write articles of advanced previews of entertainers touring and making appearances in certain cities of the newspapers that Gannett owns.
What was the writing process like and how long did it take you to write the book?
The interviews that appear in the book were originally published in narrative form, so there wasn’t much “writing” involved except for converting the articles back to the original questions with some modification and clarification for the Q&A format. Some of these interviews go back a decade. I was already working on another book about heavy metal and infographics that I was shopping around while simultaneously writing this book. The overall process started in December of 2022, but as I mentioned, these were articles previously published, so I didn’t really have to edit too much of the originals. With the exception of writing style, grammatical errors and rewording some of the questions, it only took a few months to complete.
You also created and designed the front and back cover illustrations as well as all the inside cartoon caricature line drawings. What was the impetus for the cover design?
I wanted to be totally involved in the creative process for the whole aesthetic of the book. It’s a combination of traditional drawing skills mixed with computer vector techniques. I wanted the cover to show various human expressions that conveyed speaking or laughing to go along with the title. For the inside illustrations, I wanted them to be fun but not too cartoonish, with little visual hooks that represented characteristics of each entertainer; i.e.: Tim Allen holding a hammer and his tie decorated with “Tool Time,” Yakov Smirnoff’s tie as the American flag, and Jim Breuer wearing an AC/DC shirt.
How difficult was it to secure a publishing contract with Bear Manor Media?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult at all. I initially sent an idea proposal to only one other book publishing company and heard nothing back from them. I then emailed Bear Manor Media CEO Ben Ohmart with the same outline proposal and received a response and a contract offer the next day.
What interviews stand out the most or who were some of the entertainers that were the most enjoyable to speak with?
I’d have to say both times I interviewed comedian Jeff Foxworthy were highlights. During our first conversation, he told me I was a good interviewer and that I knew what I was doing. Kristen Chenoweth was another memorable interview because she’s from my home state of Oklahoma and we knew of each other’s high schools. I was also happy speaking to comedian Yakov Smirnoff because he complemented me on my promptness for the interview. Honestly, there was something enjoyable about every interview.
What’s next? Will you be writing another book soon?
Definitely. As I mentioned earlier, I have already started on INFOMETAL: Informational graphics meet heavy metal, an infographics book on heavy metal bands that I continue to work on. I also have a ton more interviews of various musicians from several different musical genres that I’d like to give the same type of Q&A treatment for another book.