Writers' Minds - Keris Stainton

Image Credit: Whizzy Barr
Ever wondered what makes a writer tick? What cogs of creativity whirr to bring stories to life? We take a peek into the minds behind the craft and probe for creative rituals, routines and inspiration hunting. 


This month, Keris Stainton, author of five books for teenagers, including her latest book, SPOTLIGHT ON SUNNY, has dropped by to give us an insight into her writer’s mind. Keris, before you dash off to interview Judy Blume (twice!) – are you ready for our quick fire questions…? Fingers on buzzers... 

Inspiration - are you a hunter or gatherer? 

I've never heard of this in a writing context before! Even so, I'd say I'm a gatherer - I collect and save inspiring things I think I may write about at some point in the future. Does that make me a gatherer? 

Are you a plotter or pantser? 

Definitely a pantser. I generally start writing with nothing but a character or setting and love making it all up as I go along (and encountering surprises along the way). I love first drafts for this reason. But it does mean rewrites are an absolute nightmare. 

Shed sitter or cafe dreamer? 

Cafe dreamer. I love writing in cafes and even my horrific rewrites are more bearable if I can do them somewhere cosy with coffee and cake. 

Any mottos or words of wisdom hung above your desk? 

I haven't really got a desk at the moment - we're in the process of moving house - but I used to have a framed photo of Nora Ephron with the quote "Be the heroine of your life, not the victim." My desktop wallpaper is an Amelia Earhart quote: "The most effective way to do it is to do it." 

Target word count per day or as it comes? 

Last year I set myself a target of 1000 words every weekday, which worked out at 250,000 words for the year. So I'm taking it a bit easier this year. But I do usually try to get at least 1000 words down each day when I'm writing a first draft.

Pen or Keyboard? 

Keyboard all the way. I can barely hand-write anymore. It's sad. 

Music or silence? 

Silence if I'm home, but I like music if I'm in a cafe. I also use music if I'm struggling to get on with writing. I make a playlist for each book and there's usually one song that will get me going. (I once read a tweet from, I think, the author Rachel Cohn, that said something like 'Sometimes I have to sneak up on my book from behind a cloud of loud music.' Exactly that.) 

Chocolate or wine? 

Too cruel to make me choose! I'm trying to cut down on both at the moment (during the week) (unless I'm celebrating) (or I've had a bad day), but if I had to give one of them up forever I think it would be chocolate. I do love a nice glass (or five) of red. 

Perspiration or inspiration? 

Hmm, both? Inspiration for the first draft and perspiration for all the miserable drafts thereafter. 

To get into the Zone, do you use any techniques or triggers? Anything truly weird and eccentric? 

I may have worn a 'writing hat' in the past... 

Do you ever hear your character’s voice in your head? 

When I'm writing? All the time. Weirdly, there's a talking pug in my latest book and I hear him quite a lot. I also sometimes see my characters on the street. Almost said hello to one once. 

If there one key piece of advice, one gem of wisdom about the craft of writing, be it character development, re-writing or plot vs story, what would that be? 

I read a couple of tweets by Chuck Wendig last year that have been enormously helpful and comforting: 'Writing the first draft is sometimes just an act of plopping clay on a wheel. Editing is when you spin it, shape it. Some books need gentle sculpting. Others need great grabby fist-squishes. Others still need whole new blobs of wet mud.' 

Keris Stainton is the author of five books for teenagers with the sixth - Counting Stars - coming out in September this year. She lives in Lancashire with her husband and two sons and is obsessed with tea, Twitter, US TV and Harry Styles. Later this month, she's going to be interviewing Judy Blume (twice!) and she's more than a little bit terrified.

Louise Cliffe-Minns is the Events Editor and joint Features Editor for Words & Pictures. 

Contact: events@britishscbwi.org 


Blog: Louminns.blogspot.com
Follow: @LMMinns


  1. Excellent post (apart from the shivers about thinking about chocolate or wine). Love that Chuck Wendig quote, too.

  2. Brilliant stuff! I agree with the wine :-)

  3. The Chuck Wendig quote is spot on. Thanks for letting us see inside your writer's mind Keris!

  4. we all ended up not too long ago revising a word along with developed two possibilities. Selection one particular ended up being "The book will be fearless the way it rips throughout the veils connected with false impression.


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