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 Amy Sparkes. 

Amy Sparkes is the author of over 30 children’s books, including the bestselling The House At The Edge Of Magic middle-grade series, the Pirate Blunderbeard chapter book series, and BBC’s The Repair Shop stories picture book series. She writes the ‘Writing For Children’ column in Writing Magazine, and set up and helps run the Writing Magazine Children’s Book Prize. Amy is passionate about helping authors and regularly offers free events and coaching.

Amy also runs a TV/film production company (Sword & Fiddle Productions Ltd) with her husband and home-educates four of her children.


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


I’ve been a professional writer since 2007 but only got my own writing space three years ago. It’s a dear little space in the attic. You have to stoop to get in and I can only stand up in one place, but I love it. I have lots of personal things – childhood toys and special things my children have made. Despite the mess, it’s a happy and inspiring place.


Amy in her writing space

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


I’m most productive when I’m away from my house. This helps generate higher word counts, but I rarely get this opportunity.


My most inspired work is usually on a walk, alone in the countryside. Sometimes I’ll write key scenes in my head, running them through several times, tweaking dialogue or finding ways to generate more emotion. I play them in my head like I’m watching a film. Then I write it down when I get back home. I’m definitely more of a lark, but I have chronic heart and autoimmune conditions which mean I experience a lot of fatigue and I find getting up early and staying up late very hard these days!  


Where do your ideas come from?


I ask what fires me up right now – what themes, genres, character relationships or tone would I like to explore? I enjoy developing these thoughts, letting them brew and then I brainstorm my favourite ideas in a notebook.


I also think about unexplored territories for me. Trying out pitches can help me test an idea and see what’s missing.


The House At The Edge of Magic middle-grade series 

What are your favourite tools for writing?


My laptop is usually the last place I go. I prefer to ‘write’ in my head, with the ideas, the characters and the tone of the story. I like to ‘feel’ the story and this dreaming and thinking time is important. So my writing is mostly done in my head, followed by notebooks and pens, and then the final stop is the laptop.


I’m a musician, too, and sometimes if I’m trying to nail a big or emotional scene, I’ll listen to music which helps convey the tone or get me in the zone.


What inspires your work?


I love character relationships. Having six children brings inspiration for sibling dynamics, so this often features in my work. I used to write fantastical stories when I was a child and a couple of current projects draw from stories and phrases I created when I was 9 or 10 years old, so that’s fun.


Childhood places also inspire me – my last book, The Lighthouse At The World’s End, is inspired by my fascination with the two lighthouses near my home town.


What encourages or hinders your work?


I have a busy life, juggling home education, family life and caring for relatives so I don’t achieve as much as I could with my writing. I also have ADHD and struggle with concentration. Although my children are my harshest critics, they can also be very encouraging.


When I started in 2007, I don’t think there were critique groups or online communities in the same way as now. I’ve never had writing buddies, so I’m self-reliant which is helpful. I’m also lucky to have had my brilliant agent, Julia Churchill, since my second book, and she has been beyond amazing.


The Toy Bus, a BBC The Repair Shop picture book 

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


I enjoy pitching ideas and am happy to throw them out in the early stages to my agent, publishers or TV/film work. The advantage of pitching early is that you get a feel of whether people get the idea. I do like to have a clear sense of what it is otherwise I can’t communicate it clearly.


Do you work in the same way for each project and proposal?


I generally take each project as it comes. It depends on how the idea develops, who I’m working with, and which other projects I’m juggling simultaneously. Right now, I’m on draft 2 of an adult novel, draft 1 of a lower middle-grade novel, I've just finished filming one short film and about to start filming another. I’m always thinking of new ideas at the same time, so work rolls along on a conveyor belt.


Advice on Amy's writing space door  

Has the way you create changed over time?


I’ve been writing for a long time. These days I put more development into the idea, the characters, and the voice before I start writing. I still rarely plot!


Have you surprised yourself with the way your creativity flows?


I’ve always had to write in snatches of time. I’m still amazed at what can be achieved if you roll up your sleeves and just go for it. I’m also amused at how quickly and miraculously a book can come together when there’s a deadline the following week.


Best bit of creative advice?


On the door of my writing room, I have one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes: “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” (Measure for Measure).


Although it’s not specifically creative, it applies to the life of a writer!


My Tree, a picture book by Amy Sparkes

Why do you write children’s books?


I love the imagination of children’s fiction and how incredible it is for us adults to share our thoughts, feelings and experiences with young people – sharing the truths about the world to help empower them in their own lives.


What was your favourite book as a child and do you still have a copy?


I still have a few of my childhood books. My favourites are probably The Chronicles of Narnia series and The Hobbit. I’m also looking after my own children’s favourite books because I think they will cherish them in the future!


That’s the wonder of books and stories – they are timeless.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

**All other images courtesy of Amy Sparkes  



You can find Amy on Instagram: @sparkes_amy  and on Facebook:


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor for Words & Pictures
You 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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