Adult colouring book success still sinking in for Millie Marotta

When Millie Marotta quit her teaching job to become a full-time illustrator, little did she imagine she'd soon be dominating the grown-up colouring book trend. She spoke to Hannah Stephenson

Millie Marotta's adult colouring book Animal Kingdom outsold EL James and Harper Lee last year
Millie Marotta's adult colouring book Animal Kingdom outsold EL James and Harper Lee last year

WHEN Millie Marotta takes a mug of tea into her studio, she is careful not to spill it on her desk, which is is frequently covered in her painstakingly detailed illustrations.

These line drawings have been packaged into her massively popular adult colouring books to meet demand for a trend that looks set to continue growing.

Each page takes her at least a day to create. What if she makes a mistake?

"I wince," she says with a laugh. "If it's just a wonky line or slightly imperfect shape, it doesn't matter too much because it's a hand-drawing. But if I get half way through and mess up, I have to start again."

Her first book, Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom, was Amazon's bestselling title of 2015, outstripping EL James and Harper Lee, selling almost 500,000 copies by Christmas Day.

"It's still sinking in," she says of her success. "It's been such an incredible journey but at the same time it's bizarre, because for me, day-to-day, I'm still doing what I was doing before. I work from the same room at home and I have to pinch myself sometimes, to remind me that actually, things have changed quite dramatically."

Animal Kingdom was followed by Tropical Wonderland, and now Wild Savannah makes it three, inspired by her love of the natural world – all waiting to be coloured in and embellished, to ease away the stresses of life.

Despite the positive reaction, Marotta (36), still seems a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and can't quite believe that all eyes are on her in the world of publishing, as she endeavours to continue her quiet life in her three-bedroom cottage in Wales.

She lives with her partner in the same rented home they've shared for years.

"The spare room has become my studio. The second bedroom is where all the stuff gets dumped. The bank balance is much healthier now, which takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's amazing. I never anticipated the books doing as well as they've done."

Since her colouring books took off, she has received thousands of letters and messages from people thanking her for helping them relieve stress, or get through difficult times.

"Some of them are incredibly personal and catch me off-guard," she reveals. "Lots of people suffering from anxiety or depression find colouring to be a good distraction when they are feeling really low.

"Today, we lead such busy, fast-paced lives with multi-tasking and trying to cram so much in. The colouring books have just been an enjoyable and accessible way to encourage people to stop, slow down and switch off all the distractions in life."

:: Millie Marotta's Wild Savannah is published by Batsford on February 11, priced £9.99.