Petra Baillie interview


A little introduction: 

I am a 27 year old woman from the idyllic west coast of Scotland. Like most new writers, I have a day job and often describe myself as a ‘weary teacher by day and a witty writer by night’. Being a busy teacher and writer means I must be strict with my goals. A very powerful quote from author Anne Tyler states:

“If I waited until I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”

Although we may not want this to be true, it is. As writers, we want our writing to be an art where we pick up the paintbrush whenever inspiration strikes. The reality is, that if we don’t just write then nothing would get written at all. I can stare at my screen for an eternity waiting for that perfect “A-HA” moment, but despite how I feel, I know that if I just type and write, it will flow. So for the past couple of years, that is exactly what I have been doing. Letting it flow…

The very first piece I wrote as an author was my middle grade novel, The Strange and Wonderful Adventures of Pippa. While I was redrafting, I dipped my toes into picture book writing. I wrote 2 traditional picture books and created 4 unique “Illustrate Your Own Book” where children can bring the text to life with their own illustrations! I have since turned my hand to YA and pieces of Flash Fiction here and there. As long as I am working toward a writing goal, I’m happy. 

When did your love of books begin?

My love of books and reading began when I was very young. I loved having picture books read to me. When I was old enough to learn to read, I was so excited I read my school books back to front and recited it word for word. As I grew taller and the booker I read got thicker, I realised my love fell within fantasy. Give me anything with magic, dragons, evil and sorcery. I was luckily the right age for Harry Potter, and I still try to read the series once a year to fall back into my childhood. Recently at one of my illustration workshops, a parent asked me which of my books would be suitable for her daughter's age. The parent looked slightly concerned that she picked up one of my picture books. I assured her that reading is a joy, it doesn't matter what you read or what age it is for, as long as you are transported to another life through the pages.

When did you start to have the wish to become an author?

I have always enjoyed the act of storytelling. As a teacher, my favourite time of the day is reading a book to my class. Whether that be The Gruffalo (my favourite!) to an infant class or the BFG in the upper school. I never intended to write a book until one morning I woke up after dreaming about a young girl walking into a magical forest. From there, I opened the Notes on my phone and began to write my first novel - The Strange and Wonderful Adventures of Pippa. I must admit, I didn’t get very far. Pippa was stuck in that magical forest on my phone for almost 2 years until I decided to take a gap year from teaching and sail around the world working on cruise ships. It was then that I had some time to give Pippa that adventure she deserved. Since releasing the novel in 2021, I have turned my attention to writing picture books, which I adore, and have recently finished a (rather messy) first draft of my YA novel. 

I love to write funny picture books that I can read with a class. I enjoy creating a whole world of adventure that I can dive into. I also fancy some flash fiction every now and then. I reject the notion that to be really good at what you do then you need to just do YA or Middle Grade or Picture Books. I write what I feel and what brings me joy. I am not a “full time writer” like others in the profession, but I can’t imagine a time where I will ever stop writing.

How have you found the process for becoming an author?

If I had to sum up the process in one word it would be 'exhilarating'. I loved writing, however after stacking up a few manuscripts on my laptop, a decision had to be made. Do I go through the dreaded query process or journey through the self publishing maze. Up until now, I have gone down the self-publishing route. It was a route that I felt was good for me at the time I was in my life. I had done my research into editing and publishing. I had scoured blogs of the unrelenting rejections. I read the tweets of 6 month replies, or worse, no replies at all… We are lucky enough to live in a time where self publishing is so accessible. When I had reached my writing goal to finish the novel before New Years Eve 2019, I was elated. Buzzing. Jubilant. I couldn’t believe I finished a whole novel. And I wanted to share that with the world. That’s not to say that I didn’t seek professional advice. I am lucky enough that my professional advice started close to home. My mother is a published author with a variety of short stories and a published novella, Magenta Opium. She was the first port of call to start the edits and then it was given to my grandmother who is an editor herself. As an author/ illustrator I created the cover myself and enlisted the help of a graphic designer friend to complete the title typography. Once it was finished, I surrendered the book to the harshest critics… children. I read the novel to my P5 class in school and was delighted with the response. I went ahead with self publishing and then got in touch with other important people in publishing - the people who buy the books. I got in touch with local book stores and schools who were more than happy to promote local talent and it grew from there. The journey I have been on the past few years getting Pippa to where she is has boosted my confidence in myself. I have learnt so much about the industry and connecting with a variety of different people. So much so, that I am eager to polish my YA manuscript and seek representation for it. Many people go on different publishing journeys, but we all just want our books to bring excitement and joy to those who read it.
What would you say to those wanting to become an author?

DO IT! Why not? What have you got to lose? What have you got to gain? Someone will be the next Stephen King, will it be you? Someone will be the next Julia Donaldson, will it be you? Someone will be the next Margaret Atwood, will it be you? 

It is hard work, especially if you have a full time job but when you type that last word on your laptop of your very first manuscript, it is the best feeling in the world. You know it is full of mistakes, and you will need to rewrite another 5 or so times, but when you hold your book for the first time, or see it in a shop, or have one of your readers message you, all the painful edits, falling asleep at your computer screen and hurtful rejections make it all worth it.

Tell us about your book/books:

The first book I ever wrote was my middle grade novel, The Strange and Wonderful Adventure of Pippa. The bones of the first chapter of the novel was born from a dream. Not in a metaphorical, “I have a dream” kind of way, but in a “I literally dreamt the start of the book” kind of way. This was my first foray into writing. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a story plan or character descriptions. I simply saw the story play out in my head like a movie and wrote what I saw. I saw the way the camera panned across a scene and I saw the way a character tensed up in frustration. It’s not a proper way to write a book, but I enjoyed the process. I went on that adventure with Pippa. Besides, that’s what edits and rewrites are for! 

Pippa is a perfectly normal eleven year old girl who finds herself in the unordinary land of Mirilia. Pippa stumbles upon an adventure in a land that is both like and very unlike Scotland, where she finds a host of magical creatures, including dragons that apparently once lived in our fair land. Throughout her quest she encounters ancient Celts, dances in a ceilidh in an abandoned castle and rescues dragons who only understand Gaelic. She must find a way back to Scotland before the evil Queen of Mirilia closes the magical doors between the worlds, trapping Pippa forever…

It is an exciting, spell binding tale of confidence and resilience. Pippa must accept her fate and destiny and bring peace to both Scotland and Mirilia. 

Since publishing my novel, I have entered the world of Picture Books and to this day, I'm not sure which is more difficult to write! I have written two traditional picture books, Ben Merlin and Zip: The mystery of the lost wool, and The Leprechaun who Lost his Rainbow (which is my favourite!). I also have created four very unique Illustrate Your Own Books where children can express their creativity and illustrate my words! In this collection I have: Danny the Dinosaur, Feelings That Are Funny, Poppy the Pirate Thief and The Night I became Santa. I complete illustration workshops fairly regularly in my local bookshops with my books!

What do you love about the writing/reading community?

The writing community is incredibly supportive. I am not a social media person, I have Facebook and share my author news on that, but it wasn't until a local bookshop owner insisted that I get on Twitter. After being on Twitter since summer, I have connected with a number of authors, bookshops, people in publishing and like minded people like myself. It is a freeing environment where there are no stupid questions - ask away! A number of opportunities have come up since being a part of the writing and reading community including writing for you lovely lot!
If you could say anything to your readers what would it be?

THANK YOU! I love what I do and I couldn't do it without any of you. It makes my day when one of my readers gets in touch with me with a message, picture or video. I write for me, because I love it, but to hear that others enjoy my incessant ramblings scribbled on random pieces of paper makes my heart full.

Where can people connect with you?
You can reach me on: 
Twitter @PetraBaillie
Facebook @PetraBaillieAuthor


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