50 Days to Publication


Three. Children often ask me if any particular author has inspired my books. When it comes to the Defenders series the answer to that is Bernard Cornwell and the Last Kingdom series. I came to the series through the TV series. It blew me away. The characters and drama. And, mostly, the history. Then I started on the books. I became obsessed. I moved onto reading the wonderful Rosemary Sutcliff and others. I started taking bookings in places with a strong Viking or Anglo Saxon history so I could visit the sites. I loved it. I had never really engaged with history others than WW1 and WW2 before. Now I was reading it, watching it, visiting it… and writing it.

Two. I like to try my books out on children. The first Defenders book is troubled by ghosts of the Vikings who came here to attack Anglo Saxon culture. Where better to try a Viking storyline out than in Newcastle? The children at Newcastle School for Boys read my manuscript and I spent the afternoon with them hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like. It was extremely useful. They pointed out where the story was confusing. They also showed me parts of the story where I could make it a lot more exciting. It helped. That’s why the book is dedicated to the school where I am proud to be Patron of Reading.

One.   I am a history writer. There. I’ve said it.  I write books with historical backgrounds. But I still feel like a fraud saying it. I’m supposed to be a football writer, aren’t I? But I’m changing now.  Look at the past few books I’ve written. Footballers fighting in WW1. Children going back in time to fly Sopwith Camels and Spitfires. Books about history as well as football. And that means I can do it. I can write about subjects other than football. That’s why Defenders is going to be about major historical events. The Vikings attacking the Saxons. The Iron Age. The Romans in Britain. Figures coming back from those pasts to haunt the present. That’s what Defenders is about. As well as football.

My new series – Defenders – is published by Barrington Stoke on 15th June 2017. It’s a mix of history, haunting and football. In the 50 days running up to publication I am going to do a short daily blog about how and why I wrote it.

Five things for schools this summer

I’m involved in a few projects this summer that could be interesting to teachers, librarians and parents. I’ll be blogging in more depth about them over the next month.

But, in brief, for now…

One. I am working with the National Literacy Trust and the Football Association on a range of resources that will tie in with this July’s Women’s European Football Championships in Holland. In June a toolkit of ideas for school activities relating to women’s sport will be published. In July a nine-part live story for schools that will tie in the tournament with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Plus a tournament blog and writing exercises. All free. A blog about this to follow soon.

Two. I have my first new football book series for four years being published in June. By Barrington Stoke. Defenders is about a girl and a boy solving history-related hauntings in football settings. Tying in with the KS2 topics of Iron Age, Roman Britain and the Anglo Saxons / Vikings. More about that here.

Three.  As a result of the above books my school visit offer will include the options of my usual football and rugby reading games, but now with history reading and writing activities too, supported by replica artefacts from the eras listed above. More about my visits here.

Four. In June I am working in nine Leeds schools, where we’ll be writing a story in nine parts, one day after the other. Each school will take up where the last school left off with a 1000 word chapter carrying the action forward. Each class will plan the story, write it and edit it. All in one school day. It will be set in Leeds and will feature some of the city’s history in an adventure story.

Five. Writing. I am finishing a story that links cross country running – well, fell running to be precise – with a major historical event. But more about that later.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch via this website if you want to know more.