To discover how others are working, Loretta Flockhart speaks to writers and illustrators 
about their creative spaces, inspirations, routines and tools. 
This month, we hear from writer Marie Basting.  

When Marie was fifteen, a careers advisor told her that girls like her don’t become writers. For a long time, she believed this. But then something magical happened and Marie came to realise that girls like her can do anything they want!


Marie’s debut novel, Princess BMX, was published to critical acclaim in 2019. Her second, an MG fantasy inspired by Roman mythology, My Family and Other Romans, was voted a Books for Topics Book of the Year 2023. Her latest book, Auntie Medusa and Me is available from August 2024.

Maria in her usual creative space

What’s your ideal creative space and where do you usually end up working?


My favourite place to write is the wonderful Gladstone Library in Hawarden, North Wales. With its spiral staircases, floor-to-ceiling books, and general gothic vibes you can’t help but be inspired.  However, as much as I love it there, I usually write at home. I struggle with routine so while I have claimed the dining room as an office, I might also work in bed, in the kitchen, or lying on the sofa with my dog on my feet.


Gladstone Library, Marie's favourite creative space 

When do you do your best work or feel most inspired?


I’m usually most productive around midafternoon when panic starts to set in because I’ve spent most of the day procrastinating or getting distracted by social media. Inspiration kind of creeps up on me, most often, when I should be doing something other than writing.


Marie's books: Auntie Medusa and Me, My Family and Other Romans, Princess BMX

Where do your ideas come from?


The idea for my latest book, My Family and Other Romans, came to me in my sleep. I have these vivid technicolour dreams that stay with me for weeks and often plant the seed of a story. I also take inspiration from the places I visit, the things I see around me, and general life experiences. And of course, myth and fairy tales play a huge part in my writing.


What are your favourite tools for writing?


I mostly write on a failing old laptop that I keep meaning to replace. No fancy tools or software, just plain old Word. When I’m plotting or stuck, I might write in one of the many notebooks that my husband buys for me… though I fear the demise of Paperchase might also mean the demise of my faux-fur animal notebook collection.


Marie's favourite notebooks

What encourages or hinders your work?


I am easily distracted. My chaotic brain is both a blessing and a hindrance. I have lots of abstract and unusual ideas but can find it hard to focus on one thing and my mind tends to jump around. I need a sense of purpose and urgency to do my best work and focus better when I have a tight deadline.


How far into a new project do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas?


I often talk through ideas with friends at an early stage. I think a lot of new writers worry that people are going to steal their ideas, but I’m a team player and an optimist - if you can’t trust your writing friends then the world becomes a pretty bleak place, right? I also think people do have very similar ideas sometimes. Originality stems from how you package the concept and how you deliver it.


Marie and writer friends at an SCBWI conference

Has the way you create changed over time or is it the same as it’s always been?


It has indeed. I used to be a pantser but now I try to have some sense of direction rather than making it up as I go along. I’ll write a one page synopsis, which helps me find the heart of the story, then set out key plot points for the first act. Once I’ve written the first act, I’ll think through the second. I still veer off-path and tinker too much, but I have learnt my best ideas come to me when I’m in the flow and if I plot in detail I lose my spark.


What’s your one essential piece of advice?


Be you. There is no right or wrong way to write a book. Be open to learning but trust the process you have developed is right for you. Writing my second book, I felt pressure to be more ‘professional’ and plot out my novel in detail. This led to a pretty mediocre book that I didn’t enjoy writing and which ended up in the recycle bin. I try not to compare myself to others. Yes, I’m a sporadic writer, I go off-piste frequently and I waste far too much time procrastinating but in the end, I get the job done. So that’s OK.


Marie at a book signing

Best creative advice you’ve been given?


My MA writing tutor Nicola Mathews Browne taught me to imagine putting my self-critic in a secured metal box and burying them deep underground. Self-sabotage has always been a challenge but at least now I am aware that those negative voices are a self-limiting defense mechanism. I might not always be able to bury them, but I can have a strong word with my unconscious self when it starts causing trouble.


Why do you write children’s books?


Lots of reasons, I guess, but deep down I’m writing for that girl – fifteen-year-old me – who was told she wasn’t the right fit for the writing world. My books may be adventure stories, but they also show children it’s OK to be different. That if they believe in who they are they can defy the limits others put on them and achieve the impossible.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

**All other images courtesy of Marie Basting


You can find Marie Basting on Twitter @riewriting. Marie's website is


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor for Words & PicturesYou can find her on Twitter @lolajflo


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at:

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