In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Teri Terry, author of multi-award-winning, best-selling speculative thrillers for teens.

Teri is a long-time member and sometimes volunteer for SCBWI-BI. Her most recent book is Dark Blue Rising, the first in the Circle trilogy. It came together when three of Teri's obsessions collided: the sea, weird science, and the climate emergency. Other books include the Slated trilogy – where she predicted Brexit – and the Dark Matter trilogy – about a pandemic in the UK. Some of her friends have started calling her Teridamus. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and a very cute and naughty cockapoo named Scooby.

Tell us about your creative space.

I used to always write early in the morning in bed, listening to Mark Knopfler, with countryside out the window. This changed for three reasons: my back couldn’t take it anymore; we moved and there isn’t as good a view out my window; and we got Scooby – who likes to be walked first thing in the morning! I’m much more flexible now with time and place, but most of my writing is done at home. I’ve never been great at concentrating on trains or in cafes.

I have a lovely garden office with a lovely desk and lovely views! I should do most of my writing there – in part to justify its existence! – but often write in the garden, on a chair upstairs or on the sofa. Particularly if cricket or tennis is on TV. Since we converted part of my office to a home gym, I feel less guilty about working elsewhere.

I’d guesstimate that I do about half my writing in the office, and the other half in other places. The office gets used more for event prep, admin and editing – easier on a big screen. Writing a first draft seems to flow better on a laptop with my feet up – though with the added hazard that Scooby sometimes evicts my laptop.

Why does this place work for you?

Since lockdown and both of us working from home, I appreciate even more now how great it is to have a space that is separate from the house. My husband can’t invade my office for work because he needs good internet, and it’s a bit touch and go in the garden. Also, with him home I don’t have to have Scooby with me all the time – she has an ongoing barking competition with next door, so isn’t always great in the garden. So I’ve been writing in my office more than I used to.

Do you need particular prompts to get started?

When I’m in the midst of a draft, I’ll get started by reading over what I wrote the last time or even go back further. Light editing seems to remind me what I’d rather be doing and then I’ll get going!

As far as music goes, there are occasional others, but Mark Knopfler is my usual music of choice for writing. Lately I also really like Icelandic Sigur Ros’s album, Liminal Sleep: it’s perfect for writing about altered states of consciousness and general weirdness. Silence is also good, but if it isn’t possible, music helps cover other sounds. I absolutely can’t write with the radio on – the talking bits distract – but when editing or doing other things like radio Scala.

I really like to be surrounded by things that make me think about what I’m writing – currently that means the sea, in books, images, and yes – even a soft toy dolphin. I’m also really addicted to having specific talismans to hand, and will spend more time than I should tracking down specific things online – like my dolphin bracelet.

Your creative tools – what are they?

I love stationery! Everything I write has a dedicated notebook, and I can’t start until I find the ‘right’ one. I will confess that sometimes I get it wrong, and then will carefully copy out everything into the right one when I find it. Also, I can’t bear to rip a page out of a notebook – doesn’t matter if it is coil bound and you can’t tell; I’d know. Apologies to whoever it was at a Scooby conference a while back wanting a piece of paper!

Current favourites for writing are Pink Pig A4 coil bound sketchbooks: I love the thick, blank paper, and being able to use 0.7 gel pens (in a variety of colours – current favourites are turquoise or black) and not being able to see it through on the other side. I also have A3 and even A2 notebooks for plotting & planning.

The notebook gets used for initial planning and writing, notes from research, and pages with scribbles and lots of arrows in different colours that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me. I do most of my first draft direct to laptop or iMac these days – on Word – but whenever I’m a little stuck or need some arrows, I go to the notebook.

The photo is of the coil bound A4 sketchbook in sea green that I used to write my latest book, Dark Blue Rising. The notebook on top was too pretty to resist, and, for anyone who has read Dark Blue Rising, is the inspiration for Tabby’s notebook that Cate made.

Do you have a routine?

I don’t have a fixed routine; what works seems to vary all the time. When I started writing full time – eight or so years ago – I tried to make myself sit and work normal working hours, but I’d end up writing loads and deleting even more afterwards. I wasn’t leaving enough thinking time. Now I find two to three hours of writing a day where I’m really concentrating gets me there far faster than trying to write all day, though sometimes when I’m either really into it or a deadline is looming, will write all the hours – evenings and weekends, too.

Favourite ‘how to’ book about writing?

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It’s isn’t any sort of how-to manual; it is more about being in touch with your creative self – there are snippets of creative wisdom interspersed with weirdness. I like that you can dip in and out of it and read it all out of order if you want to. I remember years ago reading the part about what you choose to write on – something along the lines that if you choose to write in small notebooks you will always write small stories. Though this probably fed my addiction to buying big notebooks.

What about food and drink - what must you have at hand in order to be able to create?

Tea. Huge amount of tea! And I choose the mug to fit the mood or what I’m working on. I don’t tend to snack while I write at all. If I’m looking for snacks it’d be because I’ve had enough and need a break.

Planner or pantster?

I love diving in and writing without a plan! I still do, but the problem with that approach is that I ended up taking wrong turns and deleting loads. It’s actually easier and quicker to plan more, but I still resist it. I do broad-brush planning rather than anything in detail, and not even that until I’ve dived in and written all over the place for a while first. That seems to help me find my way to my characters and story.

All photographs courtesy of Teri Terry

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 W&P Illustration Features editor, John Shelley. Find him at

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