Q&A with Patricia Bailey

Life in a 1905 Nevada mining town is not easy for any thirteen-year-old. For orphaned Kit Donovan, the main character in The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan by Patricia Bailey, it seems downright impossible. When Kit gives up on her mother’s dying wish for her to become a lady, she becomes tangled with dangerous practices at the mine. Using a man’s hat and a printing press, Kit defies threats of violence and discovers that justice doesn’t always look like she imagined it would.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Patricia and talk about brainstorming walks, middle grade novels, and The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: I have such a hard time coming up with titles. Kit’s story was actually untitled the entire time I was writing it. When it came time to write the synopsis I knew I needed a title so I started freewriting about the story and bam! The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan sprang from my brain and stuck.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: I wish. It seems like each story has its own way of coming into the world. The one thing that is consistent for me is that I take a lot of walks and just let the characters and the story roll around my head. Then I come home and scribble down all the ideas and lines of dialogue that came to me while I wandered. Other than that, it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Sometimes I write in the morning; other times I write at night. Some books I plot all the way through, while others don’t get plotted until I’m somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I revise as I go and other times I write it all out in one big push. I would love to be one of those people who has a systematic approach that works every time, but I’m not, so I try to just go with what I have.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: I think the easiest part is coming up with the idea. Characters and voice come to me pretty fully-formed which is a great gift. The hardest part for me is accepting that what’s going to end up on paper is not going to be as clean and clear and wonderful as what’s in my head, and that I have to be okay with that. The distance between what I imagine and what gets down on paper in that first draft can be pretty discouraging. Working through that is always tough.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Because they’re the best. Children’s books are wild and funny, heartfelt and serious. They’re always about growth—physical, emotional, social—and about meeting challenges and facing new adventures. The voices are always clear and rich, the struggles are real and meaningful, and in the end there is always a glimmer of hope.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: I think the character of Kit makes my book stand out. She’s a fun character. Caring and outspoken and determined to do the right thing. I like that she’s starting to see the difference between what adults say is the right thing to do and how they actually act when push comes to shove, which makes her question how she wants to live in the world.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: I talk to myself—a lot—and I wander around. When the weather is decent, I walk the neighborhood sorting out ideas. When it’s raining or snowing I pace back and forth between my writing space and the kitchen. I’m also kind of picky about pens; they have to have blue ink and be just the right weight. And I need sticky notes. Lots of sticky notes.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Right now I’m working on a middle grade contemporary novel set in the Pacific Northwest. I’m also researching a historical novel set near my hometown.

Q:What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: I loved all kinds of books as a kid, but my preference was fiction. I read all the classics: Charlotte’s Web, Mary Poppins, Anne of Green Gables, and, of course, everything by Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly. I adored historical fiction as a kid and read whatever the local librarian would give me that was set in the Old West. Now I read a mix of fiction and nonfiction, but find myself mostly reading middle grade and YA novels.

Thanks, Patricia! Find out more about The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan on our website.

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Q&A with Patricia Bailey