In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features author and musician Alan McClure

Alan is an author and musician based in Galloway, south west Scotland. He has published two Upper MG novels, Callum and the Mountain and Jack’s Well, both with Beaten Track, and he is co-creator (along with Susi Briggs, author of Nip Nebs) of Oor Wee Podcast, a series of half-hour episodes of stories and songs in Scots for a family audience. As well as writing stories, Alan writes the music and produces the show in his home studio. He also shares stories on his YouTube channel, Tales fae the Shed, which gives him the excuse to be very silly for fun. Callum and The Mountain was shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize.


Tell us about your creative space.

My happiest and luckiest creative moments tend to come when I’m out tromping through the woods or ploutering about the hills – living in Galloway provides endless natural inspiration and I often come home from a walk with a new song in my head, or with some intractable story problem solved by a neat wee phrase that was hiding under a tree. The sticky bit is translating these moments into something which other folk can enjoy, and that usually happens at my desk or in my shed.


Your creative tools – what are they?

I need a guitar or two to hand, regardless of what I’m working on – any sort of writers’ blockage can be better endured by strumming a few chords. I’m also an inveterate doodler and I like a good supply of black and yellow Staedtler HB pencils. I don’t know why one isn’t enough, but it isn’t! The sum total of my preparatory notes for my first novel was an A4 doodle of the landscape, with scattered lines of description and a lot of question marks. After a few vague visuals I need to get typing, a process I really enjoy and for which I rely on my PC and a laptop.

Do you have a routine?

I wish I did. Figuring out what to do with my time is a puzzle and I suffer from regular option overload. I’ve been on sabbatical since August 2020, taking a break from being a primary school teacher, and I’m surprised how much I miss the ordered days of the classroom – I thought they were holding me back, but it seems my productivity was actually helped by a clear framework to the day. That said, Covid and lockdown has been very weird for everyone and I blame that partly for my shoddy attention span. I’m getting better at making lists, and I have spurts of manic creativity – I just need to get better at avoiding the lulls.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?

Getting the boys off to school and waving my wife Michelle goodbye is a good start! I try to make sure I’ve played my guitar before 9am every day, even if it’s just a few scales, and I need to get outdoors for a bit before lunchtime or I’ll feel as if I’ve no time for it. My most helpful prompt is probably a deadline – I work far more efficiently to a brief than I do to my own whims!


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

I’ve no useful advice on commercial success, having not really achieved any, but I would urge folk not to lose sight of why they create things in the first place and to stay true to the purest of motivations. If someone gets what you do, treasure that feeling, but chasing numbers is, in my experience, deeply unfulfilling.


What was your favourite book as a child?

I’m a massive fan of Terry JonesFairy Tales and I still have the copy I got in 1982. I’ve read it to my boys and to successive classes over the years – hilarious, imaginative and powerfully anti-authoritarian. I also devoured Asterix and Tintin!

And why children?

I didn’t write for kids to begin with, but becoming a primary school teacher and a dad just naturally led me in that direction. I find children to be a fantastically discerning audience, and I worry that a lot of mainstream children’s writing vastly underestimates their intelligence. I want to share ideas that’ll blow their minds the way great stories blew mine – I’m not sure that relentless toilet humour really does that.


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

“Where can I buy your books?”


Where can our readers find you?

Twitter: @alandmcclure 

* Photos courtesy of Alan McClure

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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