In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Peter Bunzl, a BAFTA award-winning animator, as well as a writer and filmmaker. 

Tell us about your creative space. 

My home office is where I do most of my writing. I work on a computer with two screens: one shows my research, the other my current manuscript. There’s usually a tower of children's books or a stack of papers on my desk, plus gifts and objects I pick up on my travels.

Why does this place work for you?

Because it’s quiet and all my notes and things are there. When I have a new idea I write it on a Post-it and stick it around my screen, that way I don't forget it. Sometimes, when working at home is too distracting, I go to the library. Libraries are great places to write too, and you can discover inspiring books you never knew existed.

Peter Bunzl at his writing desk

Do you need particular prompts to get started?

Some calm classical music is always good, especially in the morning when it’s noisy outside. A film soundtrack if it’s an action or spooky scene and you need something to go with it. Sound effects apps like Noizio are good too. That has sound effects for rain, train journeys, crackling fires etc. You can set it to the sound of your scene.

Your creative tools – what are they?

Pen and ink, Scrivener, Post-its, A3 pads, oils, watercolour etc, etc. When I start writing a new project I use a yellow legal pad to make notes. Post-its are for more random thoughts. I normally try and write a 5-10 page synopsis in longhand on the legal pad. Then, if I suddenly need to add a missing scene into the text, I will just write it on a Post-it and stick it where it needs to go in the chronology. I have a load of extra Post-its stuck around my computer screen with unrelated random ideas on. If any of these end up being useful for the book, I will stick them all on a sheet together and staple them down. Working from all these various scraps of paper I write my first draft straight into the computer. After that, it’s on to editing ...

Do you have a routine?

I try to write at least a thousand words a day. That can take all day or an hour. I am best first thing in the morning when my brain is fresh, or late afternoon, when I am running out of time and I know I have to stop soon.

What is the best creative advice you’ve been given?

Doesn’t matter how many nos you get, you only need one yes.

And what advice would you like to give to writers/illustrators who are trying to get established?

Don’t stop until you get your yes.

What was your favourite book as a child?

The Witches by Roald Dahl. It’s scary and funny, and a quirky story with a unique ending. The style is completely different from my book. It's a first-person memoir. Those kinds of book – told in retrospect by a character – always have a cracking opening line and The Witches is no exception: "I myself had two encounters with witches before I was eight years old." It’s the sort of opener that makes you want to read on.

Original cover of The Witches by Roald Dahl

What is your favourite ‘how to’ book about writing and/or illustrating, and why?

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It is very quick and easy to read and it contains everything you need to know about plotting in the most stripped down form. It also explains the mechanics and tricks writers use to move a scene along, and it gets you thinking about stories in terms of what mix of genres they are.

Does walking or exercise help the creative process?

I go swimming two or three times a week. When I am swimming up and down I can think about my story and sometimes even work things out. My partner is a big walker, so sometimes we go walking in the countryside. It is great to get away from emails and screens and questions, and get some air that’s not grey and heavy like the air in London.

Pantser, planner or mixture of both?

I am both a plotter and a pantser. Before I start writing I write a synopsis of 5-10 pages, which includes as much of the plot as I have at that moment. There will be holes, but I try not to worry about them. Then I go ahead and write the book from start to finish. If I get stuck writing in order, I’ll skip ahead to a bit I'm sure of. Later, I go back and fill in the blanks.

And why children?

I've always written and I always wanted to tell stories for children, but I only recently became a children's author. Before that I worked for ten years in the animation industry on various projects, and wrote and directed my own short films on the side. My scripts often featured child protagonists, so to me it didn’t feel like a great leap from that to writing children's fiction.

What question do you most like being asked about your work?

It’s always nice to start with a compliment, so ... Your writing is very visually strong, how has filmmaking and animation helped your writing?

Which is your least favourite question?

Where do you get your inspiration from???


Peter Bunzl is the author of the Cogheart Adventures – a series of Victorian steampunk stories for kids. The first book, Cogheart, was shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Waterstones Book Prize and the Branford Boase. It won the Dudley Teen Book Award, Sefton Super Reads and the Awesome Book Award. The sequel, Moonlocket, came out in 2017 and the third book in the series Skycircus is out now!

You can find out about Peter on:
Twitter @peterbunzl
Instagram @peter_bunzl
Or his website

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at

The header image is by Emma Graham, a Hook finalist at the 2016 SCBWI BI conference and a finalist in The Stratford Literary Festival picture book competition 2017. Emma's first illustrated book, Symphony Hollow, was written by Jessica Reino and published by Spork. She is commissioned illustrator for The Children’s Appeal at Ipswich hospital creating illustrations for publicity, charity events and the refurbished children’s ward. 

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