In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Justin Davies. 

Justin writes comedy adventures for children, believing firmly that both reading and laughter are fundamental. His first two novels, Help! I Smell a Monster & Whoa! I Spy a Werewolf, were recently published by Orchard Books (Hachette Children’s). 

After twenty-five years flying around the world as a glamorous flight attendant, Justin recently hung up his wings. Now he lets his imagination fly as he continues to write from his base in Fife, Scotland, where he lives with his husband and retired greyhound, Sally. Justin works at his local primary school as a pupil support assistant – but, of course, he doesn’t ever run new ideas past the children. Not at all!

Tell us about your creative space and why this place works for you. 

My creative space is a spare room in my house which I’m fortunate enough to have sole use of. During lockdown, this was a huge bonus, and it was where I ended up spending the better part of five months working on a new book. The room’s main draw is the view: from the window I can see across the village harbour to the iconic Forth Bridge, and when I’m stumped for words or just need a break, I watch the trains rumbling over, or the tide rolling in and out. 

It’s a dynamic view and seems to help keep my brain ticking over nicely with ideas. But lest I become too distracted, I have my desk turned to the wall where my giant corkboard looms over my desk.

I’ve tried to get to grips with Scrivener, really I have, but I love pinning index cards to the board and can lose entire days plotting a story like this. I keep my favourite ever photo by my desk too… it’s of me and my school friends at a music festival. My eighteen year old self – with what looks like an entire tube of hair gel in his full head of hair – reminds me that time is racing on and those books won’t write themselves! 

As wonderful as the view from my room is, come winter, multiple howling easterly gales barrel in from the North Sea along the Firth of Forth. The biting chill finds its way in, sending me scurrying to defrost in the kitchen with laptop and notebook in hand. 

Until the pandemic, I also worked frequently in the reading room of the Carnegie Library in Dunfermline. I love to try and guess what everyone else is working on… family history… college essay… love letter… solitaire… a novel… and then take surreptitious glances to see if I’m right. I miss the library. 

The Carnegie Library, Dunfermline

Do you need any particular prompts to get started? 

No, not really; just the fear/guilt of not getting anything down is usually enough. However, the occasional YouTube video can help settle me for a writing session. This can be almost anything… Randy Rainbow (if you don’t know him, check him out for hilarious satirical musical numbers about Trump), Hey Duggee, Eurovision songs, old Torvil & Dean routines. I can’t write with music playing though. Never could. 

Your creative tools – what are they? 

I keep it simple with my notebooks, laptop, cork board and piles of scrap paper. I also couldn’t write without my Thesaurus, and use it multiple times during the day; talk about a distraction… forget your internet rabbit holes… I can lose myself in my Thesaurus for hours. 

Do you have a routine? 

My routine has taken a dramatic, and surprising turn since I left my flying career behind (or it left me – thanks for nothing Covid 19!). Whereas I once had no set routine, writing between flights and when jetlag allowed, I now get up early to try and manage an hour’s writing before heading off to school, where I work as a pupil support assistant. I’m home by lunchtime, and after a quick dog walk, I settle in for a few more hours at my desk. I’ve never had a fixed routine before, and I’ve discovered it suits me. I even squeeze in some Pilates before breakfast. (I not sure I recognise the person who wrote that last sentence – what’s happened to me?) 

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

The best creative advice I’ve been given (and that I’d give) is that no amount of spare time is too short to get some words down. It’s amazing how those grabbed blocks of twenty minutes can add up! If all I have time to do is think about one perfect word for a sentence, then it’s time well spent. 

Favourite childhood book? 

My favourite books as a child were The Faraway Tree books. I read and re-read them until the covers fell off. I was desperate to climb that tree and visit Upside Down Land!
I also went through a Doctor Who phase, and must have borrowed every last book in the library. After selecting my books each week, I then had to pick out four Mills and Boon romances for my mum! The looks I used to get from the other borrowers as I made my selections for her! 

Pantser or planner? 

I am a planner and proud of it. Index cards are fabulous things and Post-Its are an absolute boon to authors. If you stood still in my study for long enough, I’d probably start covering you with a plot outline. 

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

“Where do your ideas come from?” My answer is always the same: my ideas come from the moments when I have nothing to do. I let my mind wander and see what happens. When I was a child, I was bored a lot and I’d make up entire fantasy worlds in my head. To be creative, you need empty spaces – time to think and time to dream. It’s also the question I hate being asked because it makes me worry that the child asking it has never known the joy of being bored. 

Let your children be bored!

If I hadn’t spent hour upon hour in my box room bedroom on a dull estate in a boring town dreaming of something – anything, I’m not sure I’d be a writer now. My plea to parents: let your children be bored! It’s good for them.
* All photos courtesy of Justin Davies

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 and at

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