IN THE SHOES OF… Anthony Burt


What's it like to be in someone else's shoes? In this new series, Deputy Editor Fran Price invites an author or illustrator to describe a typical creative day. This month, we meet debut author Anthony Burt.

Anthony dressed up as a caterpillar for an event


My cat Watson jumps on my stomach and wakes me up (he isn’t small and so this usually knocks the breath out of me). Meowing loudly in my face, he forces me out of bed and, like a zombie, I get up to feed him. I curse his crepuscular nature under my breath whilst telling him I love him to his face. Then I go back to bed. I’m not a morning person – writers who get up at 5am and churn out 2000 words as the sun rises are superhuman!


The infamous Watson



Here’s actual daylight. I have some breakfast, which is usually a cup of tea and some granola. I get my granola in Frome from a lovely little shop, and when I go in to buy it, the woman behind the counter says “oh, here he comes again, the granola addict!” At this time in the morning, my brain is a spin-cycle of story ideas and jobs that need doing today and I have to find a way to calm the noise down so that I can focus on the thing I’m writing today.




I go out for a walk in the countryside, and this fresh air time is essential for me because it’s when I contemplate storyline ideas, sort out plot problems and little character revelations happen…whilst I slip over in mud and am chased through fields by sheep. I grew up by the coast in Dorset and spent my childhood playing on the rocks and cliffs of Portland Bill, so if I don’t get my “outside time” either hiking or gardening then I just don’t feel as relaxed and clear-headed as I could to write.




Lunch time! After a two-hour hike, I put off writing a little longer and eat. Lots.




Although writing is a “job”, for me it’s still a huge treat to be able to do the thing I love doing. And, I don’t know about you, but I put off having treats because I know they’ll taste better when I do have them. What I’m trying to say here is, I put off writing a little longer and do emails, admin, talk to Watson, drink tea, read, and then stop procrastinating and get on with enjoying the treat!


Illustration by Ciara Flood from The Animal Lighthouse (Guppy Books)



Whatever it is I’m writing, I tend to have a strict rule that I put my mobile phone aside or leave it downstairs before going up to my spare bedroom to work at the desk there. There are just too many social media distractions, YouTube cat videos and WhatsApp chats to be had on your phone and it can suck you in so easily.


I take a lot of my writing inspiration and advice from Stephen King, who I’ve been reading since I was 11 years old (although I don’t write anything as remotely scary as he does when I write for children, I’d like to make clear!). Like King’s writing space, my desk faces the wall. I realise this might seem weird because a lot of my writer and illustrator friends need to have a view to stare out at for inspiration, whilst tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop or tablet. But, again, I find this is too distracting (I’m seeing a pattern here of how easily distracted by everything I am!).

Anthony's writing space in the spare room

For a while, I was having difficulty writing, so decided to change my creative space around and followed King’s “desk against the wall” advice. My productivity went right up, so I’d say, if you’re struggling to create for whatever reason, change up your workspace to see if it helps. But, of course, everyone has to find what works best for them.


(And, as an aside, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read King’s On Writing, then I wholeheartedly advise you to do so!)




More food. And cake. Probably a beer too.




This is when my “best writing” kicks in. For some circadian rhythm reason, when darkness descends, I relax and feel like I’m at my most creative. And, if my cat Watson has been out a lot in the daytime, he often chills out more at this time and goes to sleep in his bed next to my writing desk. Having his relaxed snoring next to me, some movie soundtrack music on and a low lamplight (a bit like a candle, so I can pretend I’m writing in the olden days with a quill pen and ink), makes me feel much freer to write.


Illustration by Ciara Flood from The Animal Lighthouse



Yes, I’m often still writing at this time. I’m tired but, if the words are flowing, I don’t stop them unless I know I’ve got to be somewhere early in the morning for a teaching job, a meeting or seeing a friend. Like many writers at the start of their careers, I can’t afford to write full-time and always have other work I do as well. I’ve worked with children with SEND or those in-care for the past 17 years, as well as running community conservation projects (I still run Way of the Wharves as a trustee, which is based in North Devon, despite now living in Somerset).




I do sometimes write until this late as I’m truly a night owl. I think it’s the stillness of the night that I like. The spooky feeling of the witching hour that keeps me in the writing zone. That, or Watson has re-trained me to work during twilight cat-hours so I’m awake more of the times he wants food and hugs!


Back cover of The Animal Lighthouse (Guppy Books)

Anthony's new middle-grade adventure novel from Guppy Books, The Animal Lighthouse, is out May 12th, 2022.

*Header image by Alex Crump; all other images courtesy of Anthony Burt and Guppy Books.


Anthony Burt has worked in primary, secondary and adult education, and has run inspiring community youth work, art, music, film and TV projects for children with special needs for 20 years. He’s a teacher and bookseller, and in 2019, he entertained 8000 children in 20 days as host of the Imagination Lab at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He enjoys writing all kinds of children’s stories, usually with a dark but heart-warming and comedic twist. He is an eternally faithful concierge to his cat Watson and lives in Frome, Somerset.  Instagram: @anthonyburt4


Alex Crump is an illustrator based in Wiltshire, with past careers as both a teacher and a zookeeper, as well as other current side lines of storyteller and charity/museum educator. 
Instagram: @alexcrumpillustration

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