How I write 2: Asking my cousin’s son to run up 1000 steps

My nephew ran up a hotel staircase six times so I could get Surface to Air right. He’s was 11. After a night out with his dad and him (curry, etc.), we went to a hotel in Leicester (appropriate city for a rugby book). He ran up five flights of stairs at full pace. Several times. I timed him. The reason for that is in the book.

My daughter has ballet every Saturday mornings. An hour in the centre of Halifax. Right next to the rugby field where Crossley Heath School’s teams play. On Saturday mornings. Watching U15s play is different to watching adults play. I learned a lot.

RAF Centenary Logo 2

I needed to know as much as I could about what it feels like to have a dad or mum in the RAF. Thanks to Albrighton School, which educates the children of the men and women of the RAF base at Cosford, I was able to both talk to them, then ask their opinion of the book’s first draft. Otherwise the book would have been nonsense.

Four more tomorrow.

See How I write 1 and How I write 3.

Find out more about Surface to Air here.

How I write 3: Going to Toulon & meeting an England legend

Toulon is the second most important character in Surface to Air. I went there to research the book. It is a brilliant city. The French fleet sits in the harbour, aircraft carrier and all. You can stare down at it from the top of the very steep hill next to the coast, Mont Faron. You can take a taxi-boat across that harbour. There is also – of course – the Stade Mayol. All four settings feature in the book.


Andrew Sheridan is the reason I could write Surface to Air. I met him when Sale Sharks supported a book festival event I was doing in Manchester. When the former England World Cup finalist moved to finish his career Toulon I contacted him. Please could he help me contact Toulon Rugby? He did more than that. He met me outside the Stade Mayol – home of the European Champions two years on the bounce – and showed me round, let me watch training, chatted to me, introduced me to others and – when he’d gone – fixed it for me to stay and watch the team’s kicker kick. Jonny Wilkinson.

This is not the first time I have demonised the Russians in a book. I did it in Dead Ball too. It is to do with Putin that the meanest team my heroes play is Russian. Enough said. But – to balance things up – in another book, White Fear, a Russian saves the Arctic single-handed. Also, my favourite author is Dostoevsky. Just saying.

I read a lot of books about recent air conflicts to get this book right. About the Balkans, Libya and the Falklands. Once I had read them I invented my own air war – with a focus on humanitarian relief – which acts as a backstory in Surface to Air. That’s where the mum and dads are while the boys are playing rugby. At war.

See How I write 1 and How I write 2.

Find out more about Surface to Air here.

How I write 1: Getting help from Jean Valjean & Jonny Wilkinson

When you have a book coming out, it is a good idea to re-read it. Doing so helps you to remember what you had to find out to be able to write the book. It can reveal forgotten obsessions you had a year or more ago. Or experiences you created for yourself that have changed your life in other ways.

Here are some of mine.

In early 2014 I was obsessed with the musical Les Miserables. It was the only thing I would listen to on the car CD player. I sang along. My Les Miserables obsession was partly why I wanted to set the book in Toulon. The film begins in the docks of Toulon with Jean Valjean and other convicts – heaving a boat in from the sea. I named the book’s heroic French fly-half Jean Valjean.

I read Jonny Wilkinson’s autobiography. It astonished me. It was extremely honest. Wilkinson wrote about how he struggled with everything he did needing to be perfect. He exposed things about his behaviour that he did not need to expose. That is why his book is the best autobiography I have read. That is why I based the hero of Surface to Air – Rory – on Jonny Wilkinson.

It’s the Rugby World Cup later in 2015. Taking place in England and Wales. One of the reasons I wrote the books was to exploit that. If ever a publisher was going to agree to a rugby series for kids then it was now. Credit to Barrington Stoke for being that publisher.

Read How I write 2 and How I write 3 here.

Find out more about Surface to Air here.

On Welsh rugby

Tonight England go to Cardiff for the opening game in the 2015 Six Nations tournament.

The last time we played there, Wales battered us. It was not a pleasant thing to watch, as an England fan. But we were out-fought fair and square, so I’ve no complaints. Wales were the better team.

One of the greatest rugby books ever written is called Calon. It is by Owen Sheers.

Calon is about Welsh rugby. How important the game is in Wales. What it means to the Welsh. How intense – in particular – the England game is for them.

Calon means heart in Welsh.

Calon gave me a better understanding of Welsh rugby. It troubled me, to be honest. Especially the updated section in the paperback that deals with the game I refer to above.

But Calon also inspired me.  Very much. The intensity. The desire. The sacrifice. And I know that intensity, desire and sacrifice are not exclusive to the Welsh. All other five nations’ players have those just as much, but no one has written as well about it in a book as Owen Sheers has, as far as I know.

Calon inspired me so much, that a book I have out in June is about a boy called Owen, who faces challenges as a member of his school rugby team. Throughout my book – called Deadlocked – Owen reads Calon. It gradually fills him with strength that enables him to do the right thing for his teammates.  It gives him with heart.

Deadlocked – book three in my Rugby Academy series – is not out yet. But the first two books are.

They are about a team of English and Welsh boys who play for a rugby team on the border of the two countries who play each other tonight. The school is called Borderlands.

I am watching the match alone tonight, but I can imagine Owen sitting down to watch it with Rory and Woody, the heroes of the Rugby Academy’s other two books.

Just for the record – and speaking of intensity, desire and sacrifice -Woody is based loosely on things I read in Sir Clive Woodward’s book, Winning. And Rory is based on aspects of Jonny Wilkinson’s fantastic autobiography, Jonny.

Books for young rugby fans

It is a big week for rugby. League and Union.

Because Rugby League’s Superleague and Rugby Union’s Six Nations begin this weekend.

Happy days.

I like both codes. So it’s my pleasure to list eight rugby books for children that you might find useful.

Rugby Academy
Rugby Academy

Combat Zone, Surface to Air and Deadlocked are about a school rugby union team playing in fictional UK, European and World schools’ rugby championships. Union, 9+.






Scrum!Scrum. Both codes in conflict. A dad and a step dad. South v North.  League and union, 7+.





Haka Boy is about a boy who has to give a presentation to school assembly. But he is nervous. Until he witnesses the Haka. League, 5+.

ISBN 978902039251
ISBN 978902039251

The Last Try is a fictional account of Jack Harrison, the only rugby league player to win the VC during WW1. League, 9+.

rugby extraInterchange. Two brothers support rival teams. And then play for them too. Intense sibling rivalry in Hull. League, 7+.

What’s a Bear to Wear. A picture book about a mascot in crisis. League, 3+.

I hope these books sound good. You can read about other rugby books for children here.

Six Nations magazines 2015

The rugby union Six Nations featured heavily in the weekend’s newspapers online and on paper. There was some great rugby reading to be done.

But there are two places I always go first for my Six Nations previews in print. And here they are.

So, what do the Rugby Paper and Rugby World have in their special Six Nations editions this year, both published in the last few days?

And – equally importantly – who do they think is going to win it?

The Rugby Paper

The main section of this week’s Rugby Paper has lots of news about the Six Nations – about how the week has unfolded at each training camp. In addition, all of the paper’s columnists address issues like who should play for each team, who looks vulnerable, with a few memories of their own involvement in Six Nations of years gone by.

But there is also a twelve-page pull out guide to the tournament. The guide begins with an entertaining in-conversation session between Andy Robinson, Nick Cain, Jeremy Guscott and Peter Jackson. Then, a feature on the intense fixture that is Wales versus England. But there are also features on the other four teams.

The Rugby Paper’s expert panel of four predicts Six Nations winners to be: Ireland, England, England and Wales.

Well worth £1.50 if you have a couple of hours between now and Friday night to get yourself even more in the mood.

Rugby World

As usual, Rugby World goes into a lot of detail analysing the Six Nations, with comprehensive features on all six teams, especially the four from this side of the channel.

A wealth of columns and interviews with key players and predictions from ex-players, current players and coaches.  Big names include Dan Cole, Gethin Jenkins and Greig Laidlaw.

Also, a feature on the new trophy being competed for for the first time. And – not forgetting – a review of an Official Welsh Rugby Cookbook.

All enhanced by some superb photography. Just what you need on the arm of your sofa – or en route to one of the matches

If you need one of those tournament guides that come out for World Cups, then Rugby World is the closest you can get.

The general consensus among the players polled in Rugby World is that Ireland will win the Six Nations.

Two great magazines fresh from the printers. Ready to help ease you into what promises to be another ultra-competitive northern hemisphere rugby union championship.

I hope you enjoy them. And it.

Rugby Literacy Resources 2015

I have written five rugby league books for children and four rugby union books. But – as well as that – I have created several rugby-related literacy resources that I hope parents, teachers and librarians will use to enthuse children to read for pleasure.

Theo Price3

With the Six Nations (union) and Superleague (league) about to begin this coming weekend this is as good a time as any to tell you about them.

In brief (with links):

Two resource packs of ideas to help schools and libraries use rugby to encourage children to read rugby for fun. Love Rugby Love Reading and the Rugby & Literacy Pack.

A letter that schools can send home to give parents ideas about how they can help their children to read for pleasure through an interest in rugby. Download.

A comprehensive list of various rugby reading materials (all test-read by me) for children. Here.

Free posters to download – or receive by post. Here.

During the summer I will be doing a tour of the thirteen libraries near to the Rugby World Cup venue stadiums, funded by the RFU. From 10th to 27th August I will be hosting my Rugby Reading Game for families from Newcastle to Exeter. More information about that here soon.

Later in 2015 – in good time for the Rugby World Cup – there will a new toolkit of ideas for using rugby to encourage children to read for pleasure. More info on this blog soon.

Finally, there are my books. A new series – Rugby Academy – about a UK school playing in the UK, European and World Schools Championship, published this year to coincide with the Rugby World Cup being played on these shores. Along with my other kids books about rugby league and union.

Thank you for reading. And enjoy the rugby.