Philippa Ballantine: My Writing Life


I’ve been a writer nearly as long as I can remember. It may sound trite, but I can hardly recall a time when I wasn’t one…I guess my earliest memories were colored by reading. My Dad read Lord of the Rings to me as a bedtime story. So I really ended up with words and magic in my blood. I give him blame and credit for that!

pip_long hairShortly after then, when I was about thirteen or so, I started writing myself. I think the impetuous was that I had run out of Dad’s books, and in my youthful bravado thought I could easily do the same thing.

It was only when I got to university that I realised my chances of making a life as a writer in New Zealand were small. I gave up for at least ten years, spending my time working as a librarian—another way to be close to books.

I got back to writing when I had a bad break up with a boyfriend, and decided to get back to what I had always dreamed off. Luckily, the internet had been invented in the intervening years, and I was able to make use of that to reach out to the elusive American market.

Now I am into my fourth year as a full-time writer, and it is hard work, but the thing I want to do most of all in my life.

Every day there is marketing to get out of the way; posting to all those social media networks, and answering email. Then I can settle down with a cat by my side on my laptop to write.

I work on my laptop because I like to move about the house. I can sit at the kitchen table and enjoy some morning sun, or I can put my feet up while I write from the couch.

I usually have some kind of music on while I work. Usually that is soundtracks from movies. I can tend to get distracted, or start bopping to music if it is anything else. Soundtracks evoke a mood, but most often do not have words to distract me.

If I get stuck, or can’t find a way through, I will often retire to pen and paper. Plot points and characters get scribbled out on a notepad, which probably no one else but me could ever read.

If that doesn’t work then I will take a break. I usually hop on my elliptical rider and watch a documentary on Netflix to clear my head. The funny thing is sometimes I find new inspiration from odd places. The YA series I am working on as a spin off of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, got an idea while I was exercising. I literally leapt off the elliptical to scribble it down.dawnsearlylight

However, the one thing that chases me in my writing life is procrastination. I will need to clean something, make bread…heck even do laundry before writing. So I have come up with a method of getting around that.

There is a wonderful program called Write or Die, which I have downloaded on my computer. I write into it, and it is all about getting the words out. If you slow down it starts screeching, the screen turns red, and generally goads you onward. I can crank out the words when someone is watching me. It makes up for not having a boss hovering over my shoulder.

After not knowing what I should be doing for most of my twenties it feels grand to know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, and even better to know people are enjoying the stories I weave.





New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. Pip is the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences with her husband, Tee Morris. Dawn’s Early Light is the newest book coming March 25th. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.


3 comments to Philippa Ballantine: My Writing Life

  • I’m going to have to check into this Write or Die program. It sounds like something I need. Does it call you to the computer when it is hungry (a scheduled time to write, and how many words it wants for a meal?)

  • Razziecat

    “Write or Die” *snerk* This might actually work! Deadlines inspire me – I work with them at my day job, and NaNo always pumps me up. Might have to try this! 🙂

  • inkfire

    I’m with you about the soundtracks. Currently my favorite is from How to Train Your Dragon. I know, kids movie, but the music is A-Maze-Ing, and, at heart, I will always be a kid. And, I really don’t know how to phrase this next part, but the sound of it closely matches the plot/tone/mood/basically everything of my WIP and helps me get in the right frame of mind and churn out the words. I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone outside my head. If not, I’m sorry. I try but I don’t always make sense….