For a peek into how others are working, Loretta Flockhart invites writers and illustrators
 to reveal a few secrets about their creative spaces, processes and tools.
 This month we hear from writer and illustrator, Dawn Treacher 

Dawn has taken many routes to publication beginning with an independent traditional publisher, Stairwell Books, for the picture book Mouse Pirate, to her first middle grade fantasy adventure The Curse of the Goldicoot, which she self-published in lockdown. Her 
latest book Pandemonium of Parrots, a steampunk fantasy middle grade novel, was published by Stairwell Books last October. 

After entering a national writing competition she was selected by Kickback Books to be the writer for their Christmas fantasy adventure series The Kringleset Chronicles – two of which have now been published with the next in progress.

Dawn's most recent books

Tell us about your creative space 

My absolute favourite creative writing space is my caravan, Geraldine, who lives at the back of our house. In spring she doubles as my greenhouse too. Set on a gravel drive backing onto a wood she offers escapism. I imagine I’m on the beach on holiday, where I can hear the birds sing and see the trees. I’ve written four novels in her so far. It’s exciting to write in her in a thunderstorm too which I’ve done several times. Her main drawback is she has no electrics, so, for winter this year, I bought a sleeping bag suit – which is also great for cold houses!

Dawn's sleeping bag suit

I wrote two middle grade novels in Geraldine during lockdown and published both in 2020. I thoroughly recommend one – she was cheaper than our tiny garden shed! Sometimes in winter, especially if I have writer’s block and need to crack on with a project, I head to York University Library to write as it’s peaceful, full of motivated students and no distractions.


What are your creative tools? 

I always write the first two drafts of my novel long hand with notebook and pen. That is the only way ideas flow for me. So my favourite creative tools are my pens, always the same brand, and notebooks, always with motivational pretty covers. I have so many notebooks they fill a filing cabinet and a bureau and the cupboards in Geraldine. And I never throw any of them away!

Dawn in her caravan, Geraldine

Tell us about your routine

I have no routine. I try to write every week but I can’t commit to every day. As a full time carer at home every day brings different challenges, but coffee shops also offer writing opportunities when there is a chance. I have to be flexible. I always carry a notebook and pen.

Dawn's illustration penwork

Any particular prompts to get started? 

I don’t need any particular prompts to write the next chapter of my books but I love using writing prompts to allow myself to write more widely, where I can explore all genres. I do creative writing exercises every week and I run a group in a local cafe to help others use prompts to get creative . As a direct result of one such session I am now three quarters of my way through my first adult cosy crime novel.


What was your favourite book as a child? 

I adored Wind in the Willows as a child and read it every year. I keep an old copy in my bureau as a lucky charm. All my children’s fantasy adventure stories feature animals and one day I aim to write my first animal POV novel  it’s been percolating in my mind for the last few years!


Does exercise help your creative process?

A great way to solve plot problems is to go for a walk. I’m lucky to live in rural North Yorkshire where many walking paths are on my doorstep. I’ve solved many a plot dilemma that way.


Any food and drink you need to be able to create?

Tea is absolutely essential, no matter where I write.

Dawn's illustrations for Harriet the Elephotamus

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m not really a planner. When I start a new novel I have a picture in my mind of a location or character and then I just start writing. It flows from the pen until I have about five chapters. Then, and only then, I think about planning. I like to know an ending by that point but I let my characters tell their story and I tend to follow.


What inspired you to first start writing and illustrating? 

I trained in illustration over 25 years ago but didn’t go any further until I spent three years studying children’s book illustration by remote learning just 10 years ago. I’d not written much until the course required me to write and illustrate a picture book . So I took a 20 week course in writing for children and have been writing for children ever since and published five books to date.

Instagram: @dawn.treacher

                                                                                                            *Header image: Pete Olczyk
*All other images courtesy of Dawn Treacher


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor and features editor for Words & Pictures.


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