Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Chris Bradford

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Chris Bradford is the author of the award-winning Young Samurai series

Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspiration comes from my own life and my travels to different countries around the world. Many of the scenes in Young Samurai have an element of truth in them, whether it be a lesson learnt, a place visited or a problem overcome. The initial idea for Young Samurai developed from the fact that I began learning martial arts at an early age and have always dreamed of what it would be like to be a true samurai.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?

Once. I have regular little blocks that I overcome with a run or a walk or a cookie! But once I suffered a month long block due to creative exhaustion. The solution: 2 weeks in South Africa with no computer or mobile phone, and just a bunch of giraffes, lions and cheetahs for company!

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

My three tips would be:
1) Write and read lots. Continually feed your creative side.
2) Every day try to do something that will help your writing career. It can be as big as writing a full chapter; or as small as finding out the name of the editor at a publishing company.
3) Write the story you would love to read yourself. If you get excited by it, then others will too.

Do you have favourite authors or books yourself? Who are they?

As a child, Roald Dahl. As I grew up, Stephen King. He’s is not just a Horror writer; he also wrote brilliant stories such as The Green Mile, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption. And if anyone’s interested in writing or being an author, you must read his book On Writing. Excellent advice.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

The Twits by Roald Dahl, a very twisted little story.

How much does your editor change what you write? What relationship do you have with your editor?

My editor and I are a team. An editor is essential to the crafting process of writing. As an author you can get too close to your book to see the bigger picture, so you need fresh eyes to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s about polishing the rough stone into a sparkling diamond.

Do you feel a tension between writing what you know will sell and writing what you would like to write?

No – I write the sort of books that I’d want to read as a reader: exciting, action-packed adventures. I hope that if I enjoy reading them, then others will too.

At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?

From the very start I type down my ideas, my research, my plotting and the story itself. It helps me construct and lay out my book. When writing the actual book, I find the process of typing to be instrumental in the creative process.

What control do you have over your book cover (and your illustrations)?

I’m quite involved in my covers. I offer suggestions and advice to help guide the designer to create the most relevant and exciting cover. But ultimately Puffin has the final say, since they have the marketing experience to know what type of cover will sell best.

Do you write with a particular age group in mind? How does the target age group affect your writing?

My books are enjoyed by all age groups – I have fans from 7 to 70 years old! Within the stories, there are multiple layers that appeal to different people – exciting action scenes, interesting cultural settings, intriguing characters and thought-provoking philosophy. However, the Young Samurai is targeted at the 9-14 age bracket and the only significant effect this has on my writing is to make the main characters children. Otherwise I simply try to write the best book possible.

What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author?

I’d be a professional musician still…or else an explorer like my friend Steve Backshall!

At what stage did you know you wanted to become an author?

When Puffin offered me a three-book deal for Young Samurai! Before then, I’d been working as a musician and songwriting tutor. However, this was too good an opportunity to miss and I dropped everything to concentrate on my writing books. I haven’t looked back since.

 

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