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

Sara writes and edits fiction for children and teens. Her books have been published in the US, UK and Europe. Dark Parties, her first Young Adult novel, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award for Europe. As a freelance editor of series fiction, she has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books. She teaches Master’s courses on writing for children/teens currently at Goldsmiths University and previously at the University of Winchester. She has given writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe. She co-founded Undiscovered Voices – which has launched the writing careers of forty-two authors and illustrators, who now have published more than 400 children’s books worldwide. ( 

Tell us about your creative space.

Many of my books have benefited from writing and imagining in cafes, bookshops, trains, planes and even boats. But now I mostly write at my desk in the office I share with my husband. I have a lovely view of London’s rooftops to inspire me. I’d like to say that I have a tidy office, but that would be a lie. I’m highly organised, but my desk is usually a chaos.


Your creative tools - what are they?

I like to buy a notebook when I start a project. I love scribbling and keeping notes and asking questions and being able to  watch my idea take shape. I prefer to write with a mechanical pencil with an eraser. (The eraser usually dwindles much faster than the lead.) Other than that, it’s just me and my computer.


Do you have a routine?

I’m a morning person! I’m most productive when I go straight to my desk after breakfast – don’t check social media or email – and start writing. I usually have an objective for what I want to accomplish for the day.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?

I try not to have any rituals or special items so that I can write anytime and anywhere. When I was trying to get the voice right on my most recent project, I started each writing session by listening to a book on tape that had the voice and humour I was trying to infuse into my story.



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

During lockdown I invested in Masterclass. Here are a few gems from a variety of voices:

The perfect place to write is in your mind; if you are in the zone you can truly write anywhere.
David Baldacci

You don’t have to be smart or extraordinary. You have to be on fire with the idea of your words.
David Sedaris

If you are struggling to get started, there’s fear. Identify the fear and look it in the face.
Margaret Atwood

Intention and obstacle are the most important things in drama. Start with a strong, clear intention and a formidable obstacle. Once you have those things you then get to grip it and rip it.
Aaron Sorkin


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

Love what you are writing! Be engaged and compelled by it. If you are enjoying the process, that spark and passion will find its way onto the page.Just write. Don’t say, I have to have a two-hour block of time or perfect lighting or your special pen or…whatever it is. If you have five minutes, jot an idea down. If you don’t feel like writing, sit at your computer and find something in your story to explore. I’ve found that five minutes turns into an hour and even those times I’m not feeling my muse, I can do research or play around with a scene. A bad or sad or mad or frustrated mood doesn’t mean you can’t write something great. Use that emotion.

Favourite ‘how to’ book about writing?

There are soooo many! My new favourite is Voice: The Secret Power of Great Writing by James Scott Bell. I’ve learned so much from James Scott Bell’s many books. He has such a wonderful way of breaking down writerly topics and giving writers straightforward tools, tips and tricks to improve their writing. You hear editors and agents speak about ‘voice’ so often – a unique, fresh voice is what they are looking for. Voice is really the only book I’ve ever read that explains what the illusive ‘voice’ is and how to achieve it. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Planner or pantser or a mixture of both?

I don’t get out of bed without a to-do list or let Big Ben chime in a new year without annual goals. I ponder and research and write around a new idea for ages. I explore character and setting. Then I develop plot and subplot milestones. At this point, I’ll probably write a chapter or two to see if I can hear the voice of the piece. I’ll develop a detailed storyline, probably broken down by chapter. Only after I’m happy with my plot – and if I’m under contract, my editor is happy with my plot too – will I start writing the book. That’s not to say that I don’t leave room for my characters to surprise me. Ideas will continue to spark, and the story will continue to evolve until I sign off on the final proof.

What inspired you to first start writing?

I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first short story when I was eight years old. It was about how Sara Murray (aka me) met her favourite movie star – Farrah Fawcett Majors. I was from a small town, and the only way that was ever going to happen was in my imagination. I discovered the power of writing with this – really awful – story. If I could imagine it and write it down, I could bring a story to life in the minds of others. I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since.

What’s your least favourite question?

During school visits children often ask, ‘Are you famous?’ or ‘How much money do you make?’ I find this disturbing that children are focusing on the wrong thing. If you have a career you love, you dedicate yourself to improvement and you are tenacious, then you have a chance of earning a living at it. Passion – not fame and money – are the best motivation for any endeavour.

Find Sara on Twitter or visit her 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 and at

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