Thursday, 7 July 2011

Guardian Article

I was asked to write a short article about a living children's author I admire. It was a tough call, because there are about five I could have chosen but in the end I chose Anthony Horowitz, for the reason I mention in the article:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Review in Blog

I stumbled by chance on a long, thoughtful and interesting review of WALK THE WILD ROADin a blog which I think is definitely worth looking at for anyone interested in books for this age range.
Here's a link to it:

Thursday, 30 June 2011


Good news today - Puffin are going to do yet another reprint of BUDDY. This book - my best-selling title - has now been in print non-stop for 29 years. It keeps chugging on and I keep getting great letters from individual readers about how it touches them, and from teachers who tell me how it still goes down well with classes after all these years and never dates. There's no doubt that the 1986 BBCTV series of BUDDY was a massive boost to the book and brought it to the attention of a really wide audience. I still get requests from people, schools in particular,  via my website ( for copies of that TV series and it's a pity that the BBC doesn't consider re-showing it. But the continuing success of the book proves that it doesn't need the help of TV anymore.

                                   The original hardback cover from 1982

                        Back cover photo of how I looked back then. So young!

            Paperback to tie in with the BBC TV series starring Roger Daltrey (1986)

                                                         Current cover

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


My latest book has just been published by Pearson. It is called GHOST GAME and their lead title in a new series, Heroes, which is aimed at boys who are reluctant readers.

The challenge for me when I was approached to write a book like this was to create a story which, at the same time as being easy to read and have 'boy appeal', was worthwhile. The market is flooded with violent trashy books and I wanted to write something which would be powerful and dramatic but have an emotional range and interesting, three-dimensional characters.

As the title suggests, this is a ghost story and I think it delivers all the necessary thrills and chills. At the same time, though, it deals with a boy who has suffered the terrible loss of his mother and younger brother. Together with his father, he is trying to create a new life in a new town. The frightening events which occur in the old house where they are staying temporarily also reflect the grief that father and son are trying to deal with.

Although it is primarily intended for the schools market - and there will be an amazing CD-Rom for classes to use as a teaching aid - I hope it is a stand-alone good read. It is not for sale in shops, but is available on all the usual internet sites.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Once I had done all the research at home and in Poland (as detailed in the entries below) I was ready to start writing. I surrounded myself with maps and photos, giving my writing room over entirely to the world I was trying to describe.

I quickly decided on THE ROAD FROM HOME as the title for the book and I saw that there would be two parts - HOME and THE ROAD.

I soon became wrapped up in the world of HOME, building up a detailed picture of Leo's family and their life of struggle and poverty. Even as I was writing I knew that I was going into far too much detail and that a lot of it would eventually be cut because the real meat of the book would have to be the adventures of THE ROAD. That cutting process, though, is often necessary but I console myself with the thought that if the material has been intensely imagined a kind of ghostly memory of what has been cut will still be there, giving greater depth and resonance to what remains. And on a more mundane level, the details that I have built up in the long version about the people and the places will help me concentrate the dialogue and descriptions as I go through doing the cutting and revisions.

When I finished the HOME section it was over ninety pages long and I cut it down to just over forty, omitting characters and various incidents that I had created. It often hurts at the time, to lose something that you have worked long and hard on, but there is also something very satisfying about reducing the material to essential heart of what is needed. Cut, cut, cut to the bare bones of the story.

Then it was on to the second section - THE ROAD. The same process took place: piling on the detail and the incident and then going through, perhaps as many as seven or eight times, cutting. Chopping away at the words until the story is there, told as directly and as simply as possible. I think that we're all influenced by the writers we read when we're young and the two authors who marked me when I was a young teenager were John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. I loved the way that they never indulged emotions but allowed the power of the moment to hit the reader with a few brief but telling details.

When the book was finally finished after nearly fourteen months of writing, re-writing and cutting, I gave it to my agent who quickly found an editor at Sourcebooks who loved the story. He made some excellent suggestions and there was another round of cutting and a bit more fleshing out a couple of moments that he felt needed expansion. The book was still called THE ROAD FROM HOME and he eventually sent me a proposal for the cover:

I liked the idea very much - I particularly liked the starkness of the black and white photo. But I was worried about the rather modern shoes and socks and the shorts, and an overall feeling that this was a twentieth century image rather than nineteenth century one.

Back to the drawing board. And quickly the design department came back with an image that I loved. It seemed mysterious as well as beautiful and I gave it a big thumbs up.

Then four months later I got an email saying that they were abandoning the cover and that they wanted me to find another title for the book. They had shown the cover to marketing people and others in the book trade and they had all said that, pretty as the cover might be, it felt too 'vague' and that it didn't give a strong enough feeling of adventure and excitement to attract the target audience. As soon as they said it, I realised they were right. As for the title that I loved, my editor had found that there was another book called THE ROAD FROM HOME and that fatally, it, too, told the story of a young person leaving their native country.

For almost two months I batted ideas around for a new title, never quite being able to forget the original. I emailed suggestions to my editor on a regular basis then, one day he emailed back and said, "That's the one!". It was WALK THE WILD ROAD.

Within a month the design department had come up with the cover and as soon as I saw it, I realised that the people who had rejected the previous cover had been absolutely right. This new one was so much bolder and more exciting. It gave a feeling of movement and adventure and hope. And I loved the lettering and the details that hinted at the story - the dog, the stork, and the clever and subtle use of the American flag in the background.  It was perfect.

Friday, 1 April 2011



WALK THE WILD ROAD is now available at Here is the link:

It is also at WH Smith:

And at


I'm delighted to say that my new book, WALK THE WILD ROAD, has just been published in the USA by Sourcebooks. Over the next few weeks I'll be writing about why and how I wrote the book.