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

Emily Ilett

Emily lives in Dundee and writes Middle Grade stories for children. Her debut The Girl who Lost her Shadow won the 2017 Kelpies Prize and was published in 2019 by Floris Books. It was longlisted for the Branford Boase Award in 2020. 

Emily's debut novel longlisted for the Branford Boase Award in 2020

Tell us about your creative space.

I usually work in bed or on the sofa covered in blankets – the comfiest, warmest spots in the flat! I also like making notes outdoors, especially when it's somewhere that I’m trying to write about, like an ancient woodland.

Emily in her creative space at home

Emily in her creative space outdoors

Your creative tools - what are they and why?

I get through a lot of notebooks for each story – these are filled with research, plans, bouts of frustration, spider diagrams, sketches and plenty of question marks. When I start to have an idea, I’ll often make a few drawings as my stories usually begin with one picture in my head and everything spreads from there. Usually, I’ll attempt a plan using post-it notes and then move onto the laptop, although, with my current project, I’m writing whole sections in my notebook first and then copying them out, which is quite unusual for me.


Do you have a routine?

I try to write for 30 minutes every weekday morning, and more at the weekends. This is proving a bit harder this year, as I’m training to be a primary teacher, so I’m grabbing pockets of time as and when they appear.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?

I write much better early in the morning when it’s quiet and I’ll often begin by rereading the opening of my WIP. I use the first few sentences as an anchor for tone and voice, and then I’ll continue writing from where I last left off.


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

Melvin Burgess once said: Don’t stop.

This has proved very straightforward, very useful advice, especially when stopping is sometimes extremely tempting.


Favourite book as a child?

Impossible to choose but I loved Tamora Pierce’s books, especially her Magic in the Weaving series. Her women and girl characters are phenomenal and I’m so glad I read her when I was younger.

Published by Scholastic Press

Does walking help the creative process?

I’ve been learning about mushrooms for my WIP so, during walks, I’m often on the lookout for different kinds. I get very excited if I see one that I’ve only previously read about. In fact, one of the things I like most about writing is that it makes me properly notice what is around me.


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

Way too many cups of tea!


Planner or pantser?

I try so hard to be a planner, but every time I end up just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best…


And why children?

Books meant the world to me as a child, and they still do. Childhood is such a confusing, complicated time, and I think books and their magic offer such a lot to children, and I love being part of that.


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

I like being asked what my favourite moment in my book is. As writers, I think we all lean towards being critical of our own work and this question reminds me to celebrate what I’ve written as a reader, not as a writer.

You can find out more about Emily here or follow her on Instagram 

*Photos courtesy of Emily Ilett

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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