The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Baptise Paul
Have I got a treat for you today. The talented debut author Baptiste Paul!
In addition to being "a dad, a native of Saint Lucia, and a sports fan," he is also the husband of Miranda Paul. He roasts his own coffee and chocolate and eats "anything [he] can grill." And he has a personality to match that smile.
I have been anxiously waiting to post this interview since I received the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of The Field a few months ago. Baptiste's joy in his island heritage and Creole language radiates from this book. If you're looking for a treasure, be sure to run to your bookstore TOMORROW and check it out.
Welcome Baptiste, thank you so much for talking with me.
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started?)
BAPTISTE: I mostly start with a memory, feeling, or idea. I’m a big fan of outlines before drafting. During the day I walk around with a pencil tucked above my ear and a memo book in my pocket. I like jotting down thoughts as soon as they come to mind. After I have the idea documented, I ask questions: who, what, why where, when, how—and I repeat the whole process a lot. I’m not a fast writer because I have to switch back and forth between two languages. I process all information in Creole first. It’s tiring but it’s the only way I can make sense of the world around me.
As for my writing space, I go to my basement. I enjoy it there because I can be a true introvert where me and my thoughts coexist. I have kids, so that quiet time sometimes gets interrupted by distractions. I’ve trained myself to be a “to be continued” writer. When I get interrupted, I can leave a sentence incomplete and pick it back up another time. Writing is the kind of work that’s never really done anyway. A story could go on forever if there was no one to stop you…
Who doesn't have distractions? I think I'm that kind of writer, by default. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I absolutely 100% love tuna and pepper jack cheese on pizza.
Hmm. I can honestly say I have never tried that pizza. It sounds . . . interesting. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
My favorite books as a child were the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W Dixon. I still get the chills reading some of the classics like, The Three Little Pigs, Beauty and the Beast and Jack and The Beanstalk.
Your debut picture book The Field releases tomorrow (March 6th). What was the inspiration for this story?
The inspiration for The Field came from my life experience as a child. The idea however, came from playing outside in the rain with my kids. Certain events bring back memories and for me it was playing outside in the rain. Those moments were the happy times and play was my escape from my reality —the poverty and the hardships I lived with every day. It’s tough to talk about the struggles, because people start feeling sorry for you. My childhood memories were quite fun to be honest.
Play is an awesome escape from everyone's reality; we all could benefit from a little more playing. What was the most rewarding part of the publication process for The Field?
Two things stood out the most: (1) I would say seeing how Jackie turned my writing into illustrations; and (2) Seeing the Creole words on the page. It is very important because Creole is more spoken than written.
If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?
Dream big and never stop. The struggles, whether it’s poverty or systemic, use it as motivation to propel yourself to the next level.
I love that! How long did it take you to create such a wonderfully succinct, lyrical story? How many drafts/revisions did it take (if you feel like sharing)?
It took me about five revisions. Each time I went through the text, I felt something was missing. The first draft had just a few Creole words and since I was trying to be authentic to my experience I felt I had to include more Creole words. The Creole words in the text are not just words, they are alive and they have emotions. Overall, the entire process from writing to editing to publication is over two years.
The Creole words are definitely a large part of the book's charm for me. I also adore Jacqueline Alcantara’s illustrations. When did you first see the illustrations? How close where they to the pictures you envisioned as you wrote and revised?
The Illustrations were spot on. She captured the images exactly how I envisioned them. The world I lived in and the one Jackie illustrated are very similar. As I flipped through each page key details that Jackie captured in the illustration unlocked key childhood memories — the fun ones as well as the hardships and I cried.
What a special gift to see your childhood reflected in your own book. Who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)
As a child, I would say that the elders in the village were my greatest source of inspiration. It is because of them I developed the love for storytelling. They were masters of their art.
As an adult, my inspiration comes from my children, they are my voice of reason, my check and balance, and my go to critique partners for whatever piece I’m working on.
Is there something you want your readers to know about The Field?
It’s a celebration on life and what it means to be human. Live life deliberately and make play a key part of your everyday!
I think that will have to go above my computer. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I am always working on new material. At this moment I’m working on a manuscript about a child climbing a mountain. I’m also collaborating on new stories with my wife and picture book author Miranda Paul.
[FYI - This anticipated collaboration releases in May 2018.]
Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or anything you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?
Publishing is a long process but it’s worth the wait. There is not a single magic formula to getting published. Sometimes you get a critique you don’t like but you need to accept the feedback.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
I would say cats. I have grown to love them. One of the cats came to comfort me after I got clawed by another one.
My two cats will be happy to hear that you love cats and find them comforting!
Thank you, Baptiste for stopping by and sharing a bit about your debut book with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.
Be sure to stop back by on Friday for the #PPBF post on The Field.
To find out more about Baptiste Paul, or get in touch with him:
** If you are in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area - Join Baptiste on March 10th at 12pm at Barnes and Noble (2498 S Oneida St, Green Bay, WI 54304) for The Field Launch and Book Signing.