COLLABORATIONS are all the rage in the book world, but it’s not every day you get an engineer and a builder turning out children's fiction together. 

But that’s just what Steve Bailey, from Davenham, and John Mills, from Pickmere, have done to release a new book for youngsters.

Steve has nurtured an ambition to write since childhood, but it was only when he married at 59 and took early retirement that he found the time and support to make his dream a reality.

Inspired by one of David Walliams’ books, the now 62-year-old hit upon the idea for a children’s mystery story and Pet Talk was born.

Northwich Guardian: Steve Bailey signing copies of his book, Pet Talk, at illustrator John Mills' art classSteve Bailey signing copies of his book, Pet Talk, at illustrator John Mills' art class (Image: Steve Bailey)

Steve said: “A lot of it’s down to my wife, Maureen, who's just brilliant at encouraging people to explore things they’ve always wanted to do.

“She kept saying I was putting off writing, and asking what was stopping me.

“I started writing adult fiction, but I just couldn’t finish them. They ended up causing me a lot of stress, especially the plot weaving and interactions.

“It was when I picked up a David Walliams children’s book and realised it was a lot like my own writing the penny finally dropped.

“Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I enjoyed it so much.”

Through wife Maureen’s painting class, Steve met builder John and eventually asked him to do the illustrations after some initial confusion.

Northwich Guardian: Pet Talk by Steve Bailey; illustrated by John MillsPet Talk by Steve Bailey; illustrated by John Mills (Image: Steve Mills)

Steve added: “We didn’t think of John at first because we thought he was a landscape artist.

“He was actually a bit sad when he realised we hadn’t asked him, but we didn’t know he loves to illustrate.

“We’re so glad we did because the work he’s done is wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s turned out.”

Pet Talk is the first in a series of books about a group of 12-year-old misfits – the gang of geeks – who use their tech savvy to get to the bottom of a wave of mysterious dog disappearances.

The book, which is available through Amazon in hardback, paperback, and e-book format, has sold more than half its original print run in the first week of publication.

Steve said: “It’s a tremendous feeling when you hold a copy of your own book for the first time.

“With children’s fiction, the only limit is your own imagination because kids just love a good story.

“Pet Talk is about a bunch of kids who stumble across a gang of dog thieves, then help the lacklustre local police solve the crime.

“And with me being an engineer, there’s a lot of tech in there too.”

Steve has recently returned to his career in engineering after a period of retirement, but says if Pet Talk continues to sell well, he’d love children’s fiction to be a new career.  

“If I can make this book succeed, I’d love to write full-time.

“I’ve already got the next one planned. It’ll be a least a three-part series.”