SATURDAY mornings, Parkhead Library in Glasgow’s east end, was where Angela Proctor first fell in love with fairytales. “Properly dark fairytales,” she says, with relish. “The unfiltered originals, the ones where Little Red Riding Hood does get eaten by the wolf – none of the watered down, happy ending stuff.”

She adds: “I remember finding a big hardback book of Grimm’s fairy stories and loving it. Those early ones were meant to be warnings. Children shouldn’t wander off alone into deep, dark woods. They shouldn’t speak to wolves. Fairy stories are full of truths.”

The author – who writes as AH Proctor – recalls a “very, very happy” childhood with her parents, Daniel and Jessie Brown, and her brother, Daniel junior.

“We lived on a council estate, we really had nothing,” she says. “Fairy stories allowed me to go to other worlds for a while. But it was a wonderful childhood. I went to the library every Saturday morning with my dad, who loves to read.

“On the way home through Tollcross Park, he’d conjure up stories for me – if I’d picked a book on trolls, for example, suddenly there would be trolls hiding in the park.”

She adds, smiling: “It was funny and amazing and slightly scary sometimes.”

Proctor is the creator of the Thumble Tumble stories, enchanting tales about a little witch who lives on the magical isle of Arran.

Such is the popularity of the books that the character has made it on to Visit Scotland’s literary trails map, alongside heavyweights like Harry Potter, Katie Morag and the Gruffalo.

The map aims to inspire young readers to follow their favourite characters across the country and already Proctor’s neighbours on the island, where she has a holiday cottage, have noticed a distinct increase in activity.

“I got a phone call from one of them to tell me a little boy was licking my front door,” Proctor smiles.

“The house in the stories has a door made of liquorice, and our door is black, so this little boy was just trying it out. That was very odd. It made me realise how popular my little witch had become.”

The fantasy adventure series, which has prompted some reviewers to call Proctor the “next JK Rowling”, is a huge hit with younger children and the Glasgow author is in great demand at literary festivals and book signings.

She has recently donated a novel study pack to Scottish schools, in a bid to help boost literacy and support teachers with limited budgets, and she uses the profits from her books to support the Beatson in Glasgow. She has now raised more than £30,000 for the cancer charity.

All of it – the fame, the joy of engaging with her young readers through schools, the ‘second life’ as a successful children’s author – exists because just over four years ago, Proctor found an unexpected way out of one of the darkest periods of her life.

“My mum was diagnosed with lung cancer at Christmas 2013,” she explains. “I knew nothing about lung cancer, I had no idea what to expect, and we were given lots of positives to focus on. They said mum’s life expectancy – she was 60 at the time - would be reduced, so in my head, I’m thinking, maybe 70?”

Her voice falters. “When she died eight months later, I was shell-shocked. We were so close, she always supported me.”

It was her mother, says Proctor, who did not miss a beat when she told her parents she was giving up her secure, well-paid job to travel the world for six months.

“My dad nearly had a heart attack, but my mum just said – you go for it, hen,” she says, smiling at the memory.

Proctor told “a little white lie” to get a temping job with General Accident when she left school.

“I said I’d always wanted to work in insurance,” she says. “I liked the job, though, and a temp job became a permanent position, and then I sat some exams and got a promotion, then I became a senior consultant…and then I left to travel the world.

“It was scary, a little, but I always thought I’d just come back and get another job. In the end, I started my own company.”

The shock of her mother’s death in 2014 deeply affected Proctor. “I was very depressed,” she admits. “I was struggling to deal with it all. My husband Scott suggested I should write down the made-up stories I told our kids at bedtime.”

She pauses. “He told me later, he was desperate, and was just trying to think of something, anything that might help me,” she says. “But it worked. I started writing, and I didn’t feel so sad.”

Thumble Tumble was born, and the stories kept coming.

“I can’t start anything and not finish it, so I wrote them up and sent them to a publisher,” says Angela.

“On Christmas Eve, I got a phone call. Someone wanted to publish my book. I was a director of a financial services company, the mother of two children, with no spare time at all, and it was terrifying. Awesome, but terrifying.”

The book – Thumble Tumble and the Ollpheist – was a hit, and Angela is now working on the fourth tale in a series of eight.

Her children, who heard the stories at bedtime in the holiday cottage on Arran for many years, know how it all ends, of course.

“I have sworn them to secrecy,” smiles Angela. Ten-year-old Skye and Kyle, who is eight, are named after two of Proctor’s favourite places in the west of Scotland, Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh. But it is the island of Arran which holds a special place in her heart.

“I hadn’t been for years, but I remember it being amazing when I was a child,” she explains.

“Scott and I were looking for a holiday home, somewhere to ‘staycation’ now that we had young children, and Arran popped in to my mind.

“The first time we went to have a look, Scott fell in love with it. We found a but’n’ben and bought it almost that very day.

“If my books encourage more people to visit the island, that’s great. Arran is a special, beautiful place. Magical, even.”

Proctor has visited hundreds of schools since the first Thumble Tumble book was published.

“It’s an absolute joy to go in to schools and meet children and teachers who love the books,” she says. “Meeting the young people who read my stories is really important to me.

“I have run competitions, to design a character for the books, to write a blog – it’s been fantastic. We had more than 3000 entries for the design contest.”

Working with teachers and Glasgow City Council to design the novel study pack – which she has donated free of charge and hopes to see rolled out across the country – was particularly satisfying.

“Study packs, which are basically different activities all related to a particular book, have to be useful and relevant to the curriculum, and tick all the boxes teachers need ticked,” says Proctor.

“I hadn’t realised how difficult it was for teachers to find time to create their own packs on newer, more modern books. So I thought I would create one, with the help of Glasgow City Council.”

She adds: “Scottish teachers take a battering, sometimes, but I feel for them. When you see what they have on their plates, the hoops of fire they have to jump through, you understand how hard a job it can be.”

Proctor continues to fundraise for the Beatson, and is happy to be able to support the charity which meant so much to her mum.

“My mum had lots of treatments in lots of hospitals, and it’s horrible,” she says. “But the Beatson was different. It has a lovely cafe, she could get her hair done or her nails done and we could be together somewhere that wasn’t awful. It was where she was happiest.”

Ann Fotheringham


Favourite film:

My guilty pleasure is a Hitchcock classic on a cold winter’s Sunday afternoon. I’d struggle to choose an absolute favourite between Marnie, North by North West and Strangers on a Train

Favourite music:

As my life is manic to hectic 24/7, I like music that helps me chillax. My favourites include Morcheba, Nora Jones and Moby.

Last book read:

I recently read The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas with my daughter Skye. I last read the book over 10 years ago and cried just as much this time.

Career high:

In financial services, it was setting up my own company and as an author it was when my children saw my first book in print

Best trait:

I asked my work colleagues to help me answer this question and they decided my best trait is my generosity

Worst trait:

My worst trait has to be my OCD, although I also secretly think this is my best trait

Best piece of advice ever given:

Quit your job and travel the world. When I returned I set up my own business and started a family. Best advice ever!

Ideal dinner guests:

I think it would be really interesting to have a ladies’ lunch with women from different backgrounds. If I could wave my magic wand my table plan would include Madonna, JK Rowling, Judy Murray, Elizabeth Taylor, Kate Moss and Michelle Obama.