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

Linda is the patron of reading at Liberton High School, Edinburgh. The former Chair of SOAiS (The Society of Authors in Scotland) she is the author of numerous books for children and young adults, the latest being The Dangerous Lives of the Jacobites - Fact-Tastic (Discover Kelpies-Floris). She is also the author of the seminal Writers & Artists Guide to Writing For Children & YA (Bloomsbury)


Tell us about your creative space.

I live in a beautiful village in East Lothian and my creative space is my writing shed in the garden. I call it Tuscany…well, I can dream… It has been my writing refuge for many years now and used to be a warm wood colour but last year we freshened it up by painting it a pastel seaside green, inside and out. I have a desk and chair, an added higher shelf if I want to write standing up, a radiator heater for winter, some shelves with an assortment of objects I like or that hold memories, a small table, a cd player if I want music, and a comfortable chair for curling up in when I need to puzzle something out, read research or read back what I’ve written. I’m lucky enough to have an office in the house where I do admin and prepare for talks and events. Sometimes if I need to look at two documents at the same time or while doing a final line edit, I’ll work in the office where I have two screens connected to my computer but I do most of my writing in Tuscany.


Why does this place work for you?


I honestly don’t know why it works so well but the minute I enter Tuscany, whether the doors are closed or wide open in the sunshine, I find myself inside a quiet creative zone. Even if there is noise outside it always seems far away. It may be partly because I only take out there the things related to the book or story I’m working on, so no extra files or clutter. I’m sure that helps keep me within the story with fewer distractions.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?


I generally prefer silence, but I have a couple of CDs that I know really well (Jack Johnson, and Getz/Gilberto.) I put them on low in the background when I’m getting ready to start writing but I often turn it off once I get going because I find it distracting. Other times I’m lost in what I’m writing and forget it’s on at all. I read a little of what I’ve been working on, to get my head back into what I’m writing, but I don’t spend much time on that.


Your creative tools - what are they?


I work on a laptop. The words seem to arrive on the page, filtered through my typing. I once tried speaking the words into a microphone but it didn’t work for me at all. I’ll occasionally scribble some notes or ideas in a notebook - a separate one for each book I am working on - like most writers I love notebooks, but when I’m thinking fast it can become indecipherable, so typing is often best.


Do you have a routine?


If I have a deadline I try to get out there first thing in the morning and break for a walk in the middle of the day. With a deadline looming I will work every day, but I think it’s important to take time off. If I have events to prepare for or admin to do I try to keep that kind of organisation to the afternoon when I need a break or I’ll do event prep on a separate day so that I don’t break the flow of writing.


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


Do it because you love it, not for fame or fortune that may never happen. You need to work at your craft because that’s how you improve. Read different kinds of books and analyse how and why the writer chose to write it that way, and whether it works well for the story. Don’t give up and don’t take rejections personally. Believe in yourself but strive to be a better writer all the time. Most of all act professionally; to the other people in the industry this is a job, not a hobby and be grateful for any help or advice they may give you, whether you decide to act on it or not and appreciate they do not owe you their time or experience. Oh, and never accept a deadline at the beginning of January, you’ll spend all Christmas holiday trying to get it done and they’ll probably not look at it before the end of January!


Does walking or exercise help the creative process?


I like to walk, we have great walks near us either countryside or by the sea, so a variety of possibilities. I think walking helps, it keeps me fit, sitting at a desk for hours on end is not a healthy choice. A walk can give your subconscious time to work and time away from a problem can be the way your brain works out how to solve it.


What about food and drink?


Good strong coffee or long cold drinks in summer, often water- with frozen berries to cool and flavour it.


Planner or pantser?


Definitely not a planner, it can get me into trouble at times but if I plan too much I lose the fascination that makes me want to write and discover the story. I do sometimes know where the story will end but not how it will get there.


You can follow Linda on Twitter @Strachanlinda or visit her website.

All photos courtesy of Linda Strachan

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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