Thursday, 31 March 2011


I was in Poland earlier this week researching my new series - the Squad - which is out in May 2012.

The story is set in Poland and Ukraine and is about terrorists, spies, Russians and football. And gas pipelines. It is set just before the EURO 2012 football tournment, which takes place in both countries.

I needed to go to Krakow to find settings for city centre chases, cathedral spying, football training and other things.

There are two football stadia just outside the town. The larger one worked out best as a setting. A stadium. A training pitch (where my characters will train). A mysterious wood right next to it.



I won't pretend the trip was a great success. I got a lot of what I needed. But, in the end, I just wanted to get home and be with my family. I'm away a lot in schools all over the UK and, because I could and had no commitments, I cut the trip short.

I'm not the great adventurer I thought I was.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Arts Cuts

I was very sorry to hear today that the publisher Route has lost its Arts Council funding. Also, NABoldWE. Along with Puffin, both Route and NAWE have had more to do with helping me make a living as a writer than any others. Route published most of my first stories and worked with me on the book I edited and co-wrote, Four Fathers. That gave me the confidence to believe I could be a writer - and the oppotunities to write and perform. To learn. But the greater thing Route did was edit both my writing and how I saw myself as a writer. Ian Daley read my stuff and talked to me about it. Many times. He made me think about what sort of a writer I was and helped me work out where I was going. Without Ian Daley - and a funded Route - I would not have become a full time author. NAWE intervened around the same time. They had a course called Making a Living as an Author in Schools. That's what I wanted to do. So that I could buy myself the time to write. The course was outstanding. There were seminars, a mentor and a work placement in a school. It worked wonderfully. It gave me confidence. And - with the chance to develop ideas with the teacher during the placement - I worked up the Football Reading Game. I have done that activity over 2000 times now. Earning 60% of my income over the last eight years doing it. The rest of the time I write. I hope both Route and NAWE find a way through this. They are both fantastic organisations. **** It was good to hear that some of the other Arts Organisations I have worked with have got their funding. The Reading Agency, Booktrust and the brilliant Comma Press.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


I'm planning my new series for Puffin, The Squad. It is about spies and football and comes out in May 2012. I've got the plot sorted. I was working on characters today.

I need a sort of a master spy. He's going to be called Jim. He is based on two Jim/James I know. Clear-minded. Fair. Kind. Ready to tell you the truth, even if it's not so nice to hear.

I like basing my characters on real people. It helps me make them more real.

I'm also working on a spy called Lily. She's based on someone else. As is Marcella. But I'd best keep their real identities secret... for now.

I have a week to sort out the characters and plot in full, then I'm off to Ukraine and Poland in a hire car to find some settings. Woods full of wolves. Gas pipelines. Football stadia.

I can't wait.

Friday, 11 March 2011


The cover for Scrum is done!

I am really excited.

The book is about a boy who plays rugby league in the north (urged on by his dad), but has to move south when his mum remarries and can only play rugby union (urged on by his step dad).

North versus south.

League versus union.

Dad versus step dad.

And it's out to mark the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup, which starts in September.

Thanks to Barrington Stoke for doing such a great job with it - and for asking me to do it in the first place.

Own Goal trailer

I was at Charlton Athletic FC yesterday with Ghyllgrove Junior School.

We were making a trailer for my forthcoming book, Own Goal. Filming scenes in corridors, under stands, on staircases. Chases. Protests. Keepy-uppies.
This is 'Danny Harte' surveying the pitch.
Own Goal is about an Italian football club owner who is using his TV channels to hypnotise poeple into supporting his team. Danny realises no-one is supporting their home teams any more, so he is forced to investigate.
The children of Ghyllgrove Junior have planned, written and performed the trailer. And I am HUGELY grateful to them.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I Fell for the Fells

If you read this blog a bit, you'll know I have been running for nearly a year and a half.
(No wonder I'm tired.)
I was running in a very few road and trail races, but now I am aiming for my first fell race on 2nd May. It's in Mytholmroyd, where Ted Hughes came from.
Seven miles across the fells, going up (then down) 1100 feet.
I've been training a bit. This is a pic of where I go, near Todmorden, where I live.
I want you to know that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE RUNNING ON THE FELLS. It makes me so happy. On Saturday I ran round a half empty reservoir just off the Pennine way, through an abandoned farm house, over the moors. It was sunny and foggy and raining and cold and warm. It was amazing.
Fell runners are normally lithe and weigh under eleven stone. I am fifteen stone. I will come in the last 10% of runners - and only if I train hard.
But I love it!

Big Week

This week could be one of the great weeks. Or not.

I often read tweets and blogs about authors having things they'd love to tell us about, but can't. Things like book prizes they know they've won. Film opportunities that might be happening. Books they might - or might not - get deals for.

This week I have two things like that. And I'd love to tell you about it... but I can't.

As well as that, this week I am going with my favourite class in Basildon to make a film trailer for my next book (Own Goal, due out in May).

We are doing it at Charlton Athletic's ground. I am really excited about it. The Basildon children have helped make my working year even more fun than it normally is. I am with them on Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

I had a great day at Canon Lee School in York today, talking with Helena Pielichaty. Elina, George and Billy were kind enough to take some pics. And here they are with some idiot in a white tee shirt.

Thank you all for a great day. To Miss York too.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

World Book Day 2011

Thursday 3rd March is World Book Day: the day that hundreds - probably thousands - of authors go into schools to talk about reading and books and to encourage children to do the same.

Author visits have a massive impact.

When I go into schools I always ask the children who their favourite authors are and sometimes they tell me that they met Jacqueline Wilson or Cathy Cassidy or Craig Bradley and that they LOVED-meeting-them-and-ever-since-they've-read-all-their-books-and-all-the-books-those-authors-said-that-they-liked.

They also say that meeting an author has made them want to be an author and they've started writing a book themselves.

It definitely works.

Today I was in Abbotswood Junior School in Hampshire. I had a wonderful day. The highlight was being told that a boy who was not at all into reading had been read one of my books and had surprised everyone by reading another, then asking his parents to get him the rest of the series. And that he has started saying he likes books.

This meant the world to me.

Yes, I get paid to write my books. But hearing something like that makes me feel like I am doing the right thing.

Just like the hundreds of other authors who will be out there on World Book Day.