The Naughtiest Pixie in Disguise – Top Tuesday Writing Tips From Ailsa Wild

TODAY’S GUEST AUTHOR –  AILSA WILD

Ailsa Wild is an award-winning Australian author. She’s the creator of The Naughtiest Pixie and the hilarious Squishy Taylor series, which has been published in the US, UK, Spain and Turkey. When she’s not taking her characters on cheeky adventures, Ailsa is a performer, acrobat and professional whip-cracker. She lives with her family in Melbourne. She likes dressing up in costumes, eating cheese at bedtime and answering the question, ‘But … why?’

ABOUT THE NAUGHTIEST PIXIE IN DISGUISE

Adventurous pixie, Jenifry Star lives with her nana and elderly aunties who don’t seem to know the meaning of fun. Jenifry has Kipsy-cat for a friend, but she wants desperately to play with the human children, to have friends she can talk to. Her Nana and Aunts forbid it, and in spite of their warnings about the Pixie Hunter, Jenifry is determined to sneak into the school and pass herself off as a human.

She’s having fun until the principal asks her for proof of enrolment. The only way for her to stay at school with her new friends is to get Nana’s permission to be there.

Cheeky, bold Jenifry is so much fun, the sort of pixie that every child would want for a friend. Kipsy-cat is also a quirky fun character that young readers will love.

Lively language and made up words add a quirkiness and charm to this pixie adventure story.

Despite its playfulness, The Naughtiest Pixie has universal themes of belonging and friendship that add a whole new layer of meaning. This is also a story about facing your fears.

The Naughtiest Pixie is a real treat for adventure loving readers and even contains a Pixie Pancake recipe and fun character profiles at the end of the book.

Saoirse Lou’s gorgeous fun illustrations help bring Jenifry and friends to life.

HOW AILSA WROTE THE NAUGHTIEST PIXIE IN DISGUISE

TIP ONE – INSPIRATION

Where did you get the inspiration for the character of Jenifry Star?

Since I was really tiny my dad has loved it when I was cheeky and rebellious. I always think of his big, delighted laugh when, aged two, I climbed the kitchen bench to reach the sugar, or later stood up to high school power structures. Despite this, there were times when I was really well behaved because I was so afraid of getting in trouble. I did my homework because I was scared of being humiliated by my teachers. I didn’t ask questions because I was afraid of looking stupid. In a way I wrote this story for that scared little Ailsa – to give her some room to try being naughty in a fun way, rather than it being terrifying. I was also inspired by how much kids love the Treehouse books and how naughty Andy and Terry are. I wanted to write a girl character who is thatbadly behaved. To be honest I didn’t quite manage Andy and Terry’s level of ridiculously naughty, but it did inspire me to write a wonderful adventure story.

TIP TWO – MAKING A CHARACTER MISCHIEVIOUS

Why did you decide to write a book about Pixies?

I love stories about magic – especially stories that have their roots in folklore. I love how pixies play tricks on humans and I like their close relationship with nature. Pixie folklore comes from Cornwall, which is where I lived as a child, so I like that connection too. Also I wanted to write a about a little girl whose naughtiness is loveable and forgivable – and I thought readers might forgive her more easily if the mischief runs in her blood and is taught her by her naughty pixie family.

TIP 3 – TO PLOT OR NOT

Did you plot Jenfry’s adventure or did you just write and see where the character and her personality took you?

My writing is usually a mix of plotting and ‘just writing’. I wrote myself into the character of Jenifry and a few thousand words of story, then I stopped and planned things out in an excel spreadsheet! I wrote the story mostly as I’d planned but making some discoveries along the way. Then, after a break I actually went back and wrote a newplot in a new excel spreadsheet and wrote quite a different story. So my process is a real mix of planning and letting the story evolve.

TIP 4 – FIRST PERSON IN JUNIOR FICTION

First person isn’t common in junior fiction. What made you choose this point of view? Did the character just pop into your head and say, ‘this is how I want to tell my story?’

I love first person. I feel like you really get to be there, right inside the character on their adventure. It was a bit tricky writing Jenifry because my previous books, the Squishy Taylors, are also in first person. Both stories have a sense of action and physicality and both characters are quite strong and determined – so I had to be reallycareful to make sure I wasn’t writing Jenifry in Squishy’s voice. I did lots of thinking about pixie words and how a pixie body might feel and tried to bring that into the Jenifry’s voice. It was quite a process and definitely didn’t jump out fully formed!

TIP 5 – CREATING A FANTASY WORLD

Jenifry’s pixie world is fun and quirky and very authentic. What are your writing tips for creating a fantasy world?

My main tip is go nuts, and then cut back if you have to. That allows your creativity to just let loose and play and you can have all your wild ideas and create a different and wonderful universe. At first, don’t let anything be impossible. Then afterwards you’ll need to edit, and making sure everything fits together logically in the story-world. In all my early drafts (and I’m working on Book 4 now) I’ve had a moment where I’ve gone really over the top, like making Nana’s dialogue overly ridiculous, or having pixie magic way too visible to humans. I’ve had to prune it back so it’s believable within the story-world. I also did a bunch of handwritten backstory and world-building. I never did that systematically (though that might be a good idea!) but whenever I was confused or unsure about how the world worked, I would write it out.

Find out more about Ailsa and her books at her website.