ALAN Windram opens up on 10 things that changed his life...

1 Books

IT was The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit that got me into reading. I used to rush up to my bedroom from school and just get immersed in that world. My inspiration and creativity have all come from reading stories and the places they can take you. Working with children and seeing that spark inspired by their own stories, as well as what they read, has helped me and guided me into what I am doing now.

2 My guitar

I HAVE been into music for as long as I can remember. My mum and dad both sang with the church and various choirs and my mum was in amateur dramatics.

There were four boys in our family and we were all dragged along to sing at various things, and a couple of my brothers learned piano. I was rubbish at maths at school so unfortunately, it was a choice between getting piano lessons or my dad helping me with my maths so I had to do that.

The National: Play the guitar by hand Artist musician.

I started to learn guitar and write songs when I was probably in my early 20s. I loved lots of different types of music and that inspired me to write my own songs and eventually, when I lived in Edinburgh, I formed a band. I wrote all the music and we did support for Fish, Horse McDonald and Ricky Ross.

Our band was called Splendid and it was all poppy, radio-friendly stuff I wrote.

We released three albums. And the guitar got me doing more performing. It got me out of my shell because I had to do something in front of other people. I now write songs for all my kids’ books.

3 Cameras

I HAD a camera when I was a boy but now I use my phone camera for everything. I just love capturing moments. It could be anything – the family, the cats or just scenes.

The National: Close-up shot of woman photographing the street view in Oxford Street, London using smartphone.

Recently, because we are in the world of publishing, my wife and I did a cake-baking book with Roxy’s, a local café in Oban, and to cut costs, I was the photographer. I took the pictures with my phone and they were well received. It’s amazing the quality you can get from a camera phone and because it is with you all the time you can capture special moments. You never know what you are going to see.

4 My mum and dad

OUR parents allowed us to be ourselves. My brothers were really into sports, whereas I wasn’t, so I had more time with my mum who was in amateur dramatics.

They both provided us with great values for living and were really good role models. They allowed us to make mistakes but were there to help and guide us.

Even now when they are in their 80s they are always there for us.

My mum has often said to me that I am doing all the things she would have loved to have done with music, writing books and getting out there and performing in different ways.

5 One Button Benny

THAT picture book has opened up so many doors for us in publishing but also for me as an author.

The book came to me almost fully formed in about half an hour. I went to meet my brother in Edinburgh and he was late so I thought I would go for a walk around Arthur’s Seat.

I get all my ideas when I am walking and by the time I got around, I had come up with the whole concept of the book and put it all on my phone so I wouldn’t forget.

I wrote the story, then found an amazing illustrator, Chloe Holwill-Hunter, who lived in the Borders and the book went on to win the Bookbug Picture Book Prize, the biggest picture book prize in Scotland. It was chosen by more than 60,000 children all over Scotland which is an amazing accolade.

It’s an adventure story about a little robot who has only one button and I am publishing the third book in the series on Star Wars Day on May 4.

I’ve been touring the country doing events with it for the last four or five years and that helps to fund what we do in Little Door Books.


I ABSOLUTELY love DIY and my wife and I have renovated a couple of properties in the Borders.

We always bought flats or houses that needed loads of work done to them because they were cheaper, so I learned lots of different skills in renovation. I love the idea of recycling things like old skirting boards.

We are up in Oban now and have been building a house for a couple of years. We lived in a caravan for two years while it was being built.

With all the spare wood, I am making bathroom cabinets and shelves and I turned pallets into sheds and woodstores. I’ve just finished making a kitchen island.

When I am working on things like that, my head switches off from other things and I can just focus on what I am doing.

7 Live performing

I THINK that was a way to get over my shyness.

When I was younger I was in the Galashiels Operatic Society and a friend of the family saw me in one of the musicals and asked me to join her small children’s theatre company. That developed into me writing stories and doing events all over the place.

When I started doing children’s theatre I would dress up as Old MacDonald and it was great to hide behind a character and be someone else.

Then when I played in the band, I loved the banter and the heckling.

Now when I am doing kids’ book events, it is like being in the band with all the heckling except the audience isn’t drunk. All the young kids will just shout out and if you are rubbish they will soon tell you.

I love going to schools, libraries and book festivals.

What I am trying to get across in my events is the whole theatrical side of the story, sharing it through words, illustrations and songs.

8 My wife Susan

SHE is my soulmate. We are into motorbikes, films and travel and this year we will have been married 35 years. We have our own space but there is a lot we do together as well.

She is a rock for me because I am sometimes all over the place with these wild ideas. She has often told me they won’t work but when I said I was thinking of writing children’s stories, she thought I could be good at that.

I loved the theatre and music but I was never going to make a living from it. So as soon as I said I wanted to write stories, she thought I should give it a go. I was an operating theatre nurse for 25 years which I did like but it was not where my heart lay.

Susan is the editor of The Oban Times and basically keeps the wolf from the door which has allowed me to develop Little Door Books into all it has become.

9 Art

WE’VE always been into going around galleries. Susan is really crafty as well. Neither of us could say we are artists but we appreciate others’ creativity, especially illustrators as they have to create a world from very few words.

Without the images in One Button Benny by Chloe Holwill-Hunter, I don’t think it would have been as successful. They bring it to life.

I like working with other authors and illustrators because they take a story and create a world we can all appreciate. It’s something that really inspires me.

10 Little Door Books

IT started off almost by accident with me self-publishing my first books. I did not know how to find illustrators but the author Vivian French put us in touch with one. She loved the results and published her next picture book with us. At that time we were not even Little Door Books.

After we did the book with her, she introduced me to other people at every book festival we went to. We then started to work with known authors, putting them together with unknown, exciting new illustrators because we want to give them a start in the publishing world, as a lot of publishers work with the same ones all the time.

Over the last few years, we have been championing new illustrators while working with authors like Sara Sheridan, Colin MacIntyre from Mull Historical Society, Chae Strathie and Jonathan Meres.

We can only afford to do so many books a year but a few illustrators have been picked up by the majors which is what we hope. We want to give them a showcase.

I’ve just been working on a book we published on World Earth Day, April 22, called Scotty Plants A Seed by the best-selling author Conn Iggulden and illustrator Lizzy Duncan.

During COP26, the story was given to every delegate and now we are publishing it for the wider world.

Climate change can be quite scary for kids but this book tells the story that nobody is too small to make a difference, and no difference is too small to make when it comes to saving our planet.

I’m thrilled to have been working on this book, helping to get the message out to children that they actually can make a difference just by planting a seed.

Scotty Plants A Seed by Conn Iggulden and Lizzy Duncan is published by Little Door Books and is out now