Edinburgh International Book Festival while. This is what we authors call suspense, you
see. I’m building up suspense.
Then we can have some questions and answers.
23 August 2007
You can ask me anything you like, including
questions about the other authors who are here and
whether I know anything gossipy about them. I could
Sophie Moxon: Hello, everybody, and welcome to
tell you some terrible stories about some of them, I’m
the RBS schools programme at the Edinburgh
sure. Then I’ll build up to a big treat. Do you want to
International Book Festival. My name is Sophie know what the treat is?
Moxon and today it’s my huge pleasure to introduce
Mr Tony Bradman. [Applause.] Audience: Yes!
Tony has been writing books for around 20 years, Tony Bradman: Well, I’m not going to tell you.
and in that time he’s written over 200 books,
including the very brilliant Assassin, which has just
been published by Barrington Stoke. You’re going to Tony Bradman: That’s what we call suspense.
spend the next hour with Tony. It’s going to be a lot You’ll have to wait and see.
of fun. There’s going to be lots of time for questions,
So, would you like to start with something really
so get thinking now. Afterwards, Tony will be signing
copies of his books in the signing tent, which is next
door. For now, without further ado, let’s give a big Audience: Yes.
hand to Tony Bradman. [Applause.]
Tony Bradman: Well, many years ago, I wrote a
Tony Bradman: Hello. Can everyone hear me? book called Very Silly Lists. That’s all it is—it’s just
lots of very silly lists. It includes lists that are
disgusting and some lists about teachers. Now, I
Tony Bradman: Can you hear me at the back? usually do one of each—a disgusting list and a
teacher list—to start with. Hands up those of you
who’d like the teacher list first. Hands down. Hands
Tony Bradman: I can’t hear you. Can you hear up the one person in here who’d like the disgusting
me at the back? list. Right, I’ll do a teacher list first. Now, what would
you like? I could do “10 things teachers do when
they’re not at school”.
Tony Bradman: Okay. You’ve all come from
locally or from a long way away on buses or trains.
Did anyone come by plane today or by helicopter? Tony Bradman: Or my favourite: “10 things your
No? Camel train? teacher could do to really impress the class”. I’m
sure your teachers are very impressive.
What I’m going to do is what I usually do when I do
school visits, of which I’ve done quite a few over the Number one. Your teacher could peel off his or her
years. The teachers usually like me to do something rubber face mask to reveal a hideous alien
very serious that will help them with their literacy underneath. [Laughter.] In the last Scottish school I
programme, but I like to do really subversive things went into, the kids said, “She’s done it already.”
stuffed full of disgusting things, bad language and Number two. Your teacher could burp louder than
violence. Would that be okay? anyone else in the entire class. Number three. I love
this one because if you do it in a school all the
teachers kind of look at each other very shiftily. Your
Tony Bradman: So it won’t be serious at all. I’ll teacher could be outrageously cheeky to the head.
start with something very, very disgusting. I might do [Laughter.] Number four. Your teacher could do a
something about teachers as well. [Laughter.] I quite backwards flip into the classroom. [Laughter.]
like winding up the teachers. Would that be okay? Number five. Your teacher could announce that
she’s giving up teaching for an easier and less
Audience: Yes! stressful job such as being in the SAS.
Tony Bradman: Then I might do something very, Number six. Your teacher could hand out bundles
very dangerous that contravenes the health and of £50 notes to everyone in the class. [Cheers.]
safety regulations. I’ll need some volunteers from the Number seven. Your teacher could ask you what she
audience to come up on the stage. We’ll do that in a should write in your school report. Number eight.
This is a difficult one. I’ve never met a teacher who’s
managed it yet, but here we go. Your teacher could and a book called The Dirty Dozen, which is a
remember everybody’s names all year round and not football story.
get them wrong once. [Laughter.] Number nine. Your
You have to do the Romans at school, don’t you?
teacher could come to school by private jet. Number
I’ve always liked Roman stories. I grew up reading
10. Your teacher could saw one of the other
lots of historical fiction. I brought one with me
teachers in half. [Laughter.]
because I’m going to read it again. It’s a story by a
Right, and you’d like a disgusting list now, would great writer called Rosemary Sutcliff. It’s called
you? Dawn Wind and it’s about the end of the Roman
occupation of Britain. It’s got some fantastic pictures
in it by a wonderful artist called Charles Keeping. I
Tony Bradman: I don’t want to give you the think you can still get this book.
impression that I just do disgusting and unpleasant
I liked all those stories about Rome and the Celts. I
things about teachers. This one is rather like a
always used to think, “The Celts are up there north
poem. It has lots of puns for the literacy people out
of Hadrian’s wall, aren’t they?” Of course, now that
there, and lots of language use. It’s “10 utterly
you’ve had a change of government, you’ll be
disgusting crisp flavours”.
rebuilding Hadrian’s wall to keep us out, won’t you,
Number one: sneeze and onion. Number two: salt from the south? I’m quite happy with that as long as
and bogey. Number three: snail cocktail. Number you have George Galloway back, but there you go.
four: dog drool and vinegar. Number five: smoky [Laughter.] Is that a condition we can’t go for?
hedgehog. Number six: curried hamster.
So I suggested to my editor at Barrington Stoke
Audience: Eeughh! that I’d love to write a book about Hadrian’s wall. A
couple of years ago, I read a wonderful book about
Tony Bradman: It’s not as bad as you think,
the emperor Hadrian. Everyone thinks about
Hadrian’s wall, which I’m sure you’ve done in school,
I’m afraid I can’t do number seven. I’ve been run but no one thinks about the emperor Hadrian and
out of several local education authorities after doing why he built it. People tend to think that Hadrian’s
number seven. It’s just so appalling that, if your wall was built just because the Romans wanted to
parents found out— keep the Scots—the Celts—out of the rest of Britain,
from the Roman bit. But in fact, when I read the book
Audience: Please! [Laughter.] about Hadrian, I found that that’s not the case.
Tony Bradman: Okay. As my wife would say, men The emperor Trajan, who came before Hadrian,
are all weak. I’ll do it. Number seven—I did warn was a really aggressive emperor and he conquered
you—is garlic and old teacher trainer socks. lots of places. He conquered a country called
[Laughter.] Number eight: beef and bogeys. Number Romania, and that’s why it’s called Romania—
nine, also known as the reception class special: because they made it into a Roman province. He
cheese and vomit. conquered all sorts of places and had lots of wars,
Audience: Eeughh! [Laughter.] then he died. Hadrian was his successor, and he
thought that the Roman empire couldn’t deal with all
Tony Bradman: The reception teachers are all these wars any more and that they were a bad thing.
flashing on that now, aren’t they? They’re like, “Oh He went round the whole empire and looked at all
no!” Number 10 is my personal favourite. Ready the borders to try to work out where they should
snotted. Isn’t that just the most disgusting thing stop. He came to Britain in AD 122.
you’ve ever heard?
He came up to this part of the world, because the
Audience: Yes. Romans had tried to conquer the whole of what is
Tony Bradman: Pretty much so. now Scotland. They’d gone up as far as Inverness.
There was a big battle near there in the first century
I’m here today in Scotland. Scotland is one of my AD. They said, “It’s too hard. The people up there
favourite places. I love coming to Scotland. I’ve been are too tough. They’re too difficult to conquer.” So
here quite a few times. One thing that I always they pulled back to the area where Hadrian’s wall is,
wanted to do was to write a story that had a Scottish and when Hadrian got there he said, “I want you to
flavour. I suggested the idea to a company called build a wall here so that that puts a limit to where the
Barrington Stoke, which is based in Edinburgh. I’m Roman empire is. We’re not going any further.” So it
sure some of you have heard of it. They do lots of wasn’t built just to keep out raiders from the north. It
really great books. I’ve written quite a few books for was actually to say, “This is as far as the Roman
them. I wrote a book called The Two Jacks for them, empire goes and no further.”
It grew into a trading barrier. It was a place where Would you like to do the interactive volunteering
the Romans met the people from the north of Britain session?
and traded with them as well. It was partly military,
but it had a lot of other things going for it as well, so I
thought it would be really interesting to write a story Tony Bradman: I need some volunteers. Hands
about it. I had this idea about a boy who encounters up those who’d like to volunteer. Sometimes I pick
Hadrian. He’s a boy from the Celtic tribe of the the ones who don’t put their hands up, but there you
Votadini, which I think was the tribe in this area, the go. We’ll start with one of my friends from
eastern lowlands of Scotland. Later, the Welsh Corstorphine Primary School, who I met earlier. Out
called them the Gododdin, which is the same kind of you come. Stand over here. And your name is—
word. There’s a big poem that was written in about
the seventh century AD called The Gododdin, which
is about the people of this area. Tony Bradman: I’ve picked out Jenny because,
instead of telling you how I write a story, I’m going to
I had this idea about a boy who was living here
and met Hadrian when he came to build the wall. In show you. I thought I’d start with Jenny because I
the story, the boy feels that the Romans are coming looked at her and I could see that we’re exactly the
same. You can tell that, can’t you, just looking at us?
back to conquer and kill, because that’s what they
did before. He decides that he wants to try and kill Audience: No.
Hadrian to stop him doing it. He’s only a young lad.
That’s why the book is called Assassin. Shall I read Tony Bradman: Really? Are you married, Jenny?
you a bit? No? [Laughter.] Now, Jenny is the point at which
everything starts. I picked out Jenny because I could
Audience: Yes. tell just by looking at her that she is, like me, a
Tony Bradman: We’ll go back to the funny stuff in genius. You can see ideas sparking from her head. If
there were no lights on, blue flashes would be
a minute, but I feel I ought to do this as well. This is
from the first chapter, which is called Leader of the coming out of her head as she thought of ideas as
Pack. good as the idea for Assassin. We all start with
ideas, us writers, and Jenny’s going to start the
Tony Bradman reads from Assassin. whole process off for us. She’s going to hold my
magic pen that I bought in the magic shop Ryman’s
near where I live. That’s an important part of having
Tony Bradman: Thank you. Lots more happens an idea. When you get an idea, what’s the most
after that, and there is an assassination attempt. I important thing to do with it, everybody?
enjoyed writing it. It was a lot of fun to do. I really like
Audience: Write it down.
historical fiction. I wrote another book about the
Roman period, which is out of print at the moment Tony Bradman: So we’ve got the idea, Jenny’s
but it’s coming back next year. It’s called Little Flame got the pen, and we’re going to write it down.
and the Great Queen. It’s about a little girl who
I get lots of ideas all the time. One of the questions
meets Boudicca, who was the great Queen of the
I’m asked is “Where do you get your ideas from?” I
Icene who rose against the Romans and burned
down London, among other things, which wasn’t don’t know. I get ideas from all over the place—from
very nice of her, but there you go. So I enjoyed doing people I know and people I meet. People like
Jenny—she’ll definitely go in a story now. Ideas flash
out of my head all the time.
I’d like to write another Roman story, but next
So we write the idea down, for which I’ll need
year—in fact, I’ve just agreed to do it—I’m going to
write a Viking story, because I like the Vikings. Of another volunteer. It’s hard to pick people from the
course, you do the Vikings at school as well, don’t back, but it’ll have to be you. And your name is—
you? Craig: Craig.
Audience: Yes. Tony Bradman: I always meet someone called
Tony Bradman: One thing I always notice when I Craig in Scotland. I don’t know why. Stand there,
Craig, next to Jenny. She doesn’t bite. I don’t think
come to Scotland is that there are an awful lot of red-
haired people in Scotland. They’re all descendants she does, anyway.
of the Vikings, I’m sure. They’re all from Norway and What do you need if you’re going to write your idea
Denmark and places like that. down? I used to write ideas down on bits of paper or
old envelopes. If I was in a school I might write it on
a passing child, but then you have to take the child talks about that … actually, her name is Jackie
home with you, bring it up, send it to university, pay Wilson. She’s reasonably successful, I suppose, so
for the wedding and all that sort of stuff, so now I use there you go. [Laughter.] Then I get to the point
little notebooks. Here’s a notebook that I use. I carry when I think, “Yes, this is a really serious story. It’s
it around with me all the time. Craig’s going to hold going to work. I need to get serious with it.” For
the notebook. I keep lots of notebooks and I scribble which I need another volunteer. Okay, we need a
ideas down in them. boy, don’t we? We’ll have that one there. And your
I get lots of ideas when I go to schools. Here’s an
idea—teacher on a diet can be made to divulge Blair: Blair.
school secrets if bribed with chocolate. [Laughter.]
Tony Bradman: Craig, Blair … I must be in
When you go to a school, you sit in the staff room
and what do you see? Lots of lady teachers talking
about their diets while they eat chocolate biscuits. The next stage is a big notebook. There are two
I’ve always wanted to put a character like that in a types of writers. There are those who are wildly
story. I will do one day. It’s going to be called Attack creative, like Jackie. She just writes and writes and
of the 50-Foot Teacher. pours it all out, then she fiddles about with it
afterwards. Then there’s the other kind—the sad little
The notebook is where I write my ideas down.
boys who listened when they were at school and
Sometimes they’re in there for a long time.
their teachers said, “You must plan your work and do
Sometimes it’s a couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s 10
a rough draft and then a fair copy” and stuff like that.
years. I did a book called The Magnificent Mummies.
Of course, I’ve always been in thrall to the women in
The idea for that was in the notebook for 10 years
my life who tell me, “Just make sure that’s clean”
before I turned it into a story.
before I come downstairs. So I plan. I do a lot of
Now we need another volunteer, because we’re planning.
going to develop the story. It’s going to be that girl
I like to plan. When I did Assassin, I planned the
there, from Corstorphine, in the red. I saw her shoot
whole thing out. I planned every chapter so I knew
her hand up. And your name is—
what was going to happen. I feel it’s like a road map.
Libby: Libby. If I was driving from where I live to Scotland, I would
get the map out and see where I was going to go so
Tony Bradman: Stand there. Right, you’re getting
that I didn’t have to keep stopping and asking
the picture. We’ve got an equal opportunities act
people. When I sit at my desk in my 68-bedroom
mansion in the Beverley Hills of south London,
The next stage is when I develop the story a bit where I live, and I look at the blank screen of my
more. I use a slightly bigger notebook, which Libby’s computer, I like to think that I know where I’m going
going to hold. Here you are. I scribble down lots of with the story. Every day, when I finish what I’m
things. If I think an idea’s going to be good, like with writing on the computer, I write a little plan of what
Assassin, I kind of play with it. I’ve got a friend who I’m going to do the next day, so that when I start I
writes children’s books and she says that the nicest don’t have the problem of staring at a blank screen
part of writing a story is that it’s like playing a game or a blank piece of paper thinking “What am I going
with your imaginary friends when you’re young. You to do now?”
just sit and fantasise, but the difference is that we
As you can see, this is the worst handwriting that
scribble it down and have a lot of fun with it and
anyone has ever had in the history of the human
enjoy it. This is the creative bit.
race. Do you agree? It’s important to remember that,
The trouble is that, often, when you do story writing if you’ve got really bad handwriting, you’ll be rich and
at school, teachers and parents go on and on about famous like me one day. [Laughter.] That’s not what
league tables. You’ve got to get it right. There are I’m supposed to say, is it?
tests, exams, SATS. Actually, this whole festival
Right—another volunteer, please. We need a girl.
exists because people like me and all the other
We’ll have that one there. Out you come. And you
people who write and illustrate books do it because
we love it and it’s fun. I really loved writing Assassin.
It was hard work in parts, but I loved doing it. Orla: Orla.
After I’ve thought of the idea and written it down, I Tony Bradman: Come and stand here, Orla.
scribble away and have fun creating and being Terrific. Now, in my 84-bedroom mansion in the
expressive, which is the thing you should do if you Beverley Hills of South London, where I live, I get to
want to do anything, really. Just enjoy it. My friend the stage where the book is all planned and ready to
go. I then sit and start working at my computer. Now, And your name is?
this is a first. No one has seen this story before. This
is my next book for Barrington Stoke. I type away on
my computer and, although my handwriting is very Tony Bradman: Nice to meet you, Candy. You
bad, everything is perfect. This is what it looks like can hold this.
when it’s done—pretty neat, eh? Orla’s going to hold
that. It’s a story called Harald Hardnut, which is Now, I work with a lot of illustrators. They’re all
prima donnas. They all think they’re wonderful, but
about the legendary Viking king Harald Hardrada,
who was 6’6” and blonde and careered around basically it’s the story that counts. They just come
along later and do a few fancy pictures. [Laughter.]
Europe killing people and looting things. He’s a hero
Anyway, I have to work with them. I did lots of books
of mine, being politically correct like I am, but there
with a guy called Martin Chatterton. Along with the
you go. I’m a soft liberal.
editor, there’s also someone working at the publisher
It takes me a long time to write. The planning can called a designer, and the designer designs the
take a long time. This story took me quite a long book. It doesn’t just appear the way you think it
time—probably about two weeks, because it’s quite does. Someone has to decide how big the letters are
a long story. I go over it again and again. I read bits going to be, how big the title’s going to be, how
out. I’m sad, like most men, and if there’s a fight many pages it’s going to have, how many pictures
scene I like to get up and act it out. I charge around there’ll be and where the pictures are going to go. To
the study pretending I’ve got a sword and a shield do that, they get the artist to do black and white
just so that I get it right. I do all the voices and all the illustrations so that they can put the whole book
accents. together in a rough form.
Eventually, I print it out and I send it to the This book is called No Misbehaving Allowed. Once
publisher, for which I need another volunteer. I need we’ve got the rough copy, I read it and scribble on it,
a boy at the back—perhaps a teacher could choose “Martin, this is the worst piece of work you’ve ever
one for me. done. Are you never going to learn? You must be an
idiot”—you know, all those kinds of things.
And you are?
[Laughter.] We work very closely together. We get
Matty: Matty. on very well, in fact, although he has just moved to
Australia. I don’t know why, but there you go.
Tony Bradman: Right, stand there, Matty.
Eventually, it goes back to Martin and he has to do
Now, the next stage is that I have to send it to a the pictures properly, for which we need another
publisher. There are lots of publishers apart from volunteer. Now, someone at the back can choose
Barrington Stoke. One of the publishers I do a lot for me another boy from over there.
is called Egmont. They publish Lemony Snicket and
And you are?
Winnie the Pooh and all sorts of people. I send it to
my editor at the publisher. Her name’s Rachel. The Steven: Steven.
editor’s job is to be a bit like a teacher. They read
Tony Bradman: Stand at the end, Steven.
your story and scribble on it—“I don’t like this bit”,
“Change this bit”, “This character doesn’t work”, Steven gets to do the flashy bit. Here are the same
“Move that around.” Of course, people like Phillip pictures, but done in colour. There you go. Hold that
Pullman and J K Rowling have to do a lot of up so that everyone can see it. Martin does the
rewriting, but I never do. It’s always fine. [Laughter.] I whole book again in colour. These days, like a lot of
usually get a letter from my publisher saying artists, he draws the outlines, scans it into a
something like: computer and does the colour on the computer. I
“Dear Tony, said to him, “What do you do? I could replace you
with a robot, for heaven’s sake.”
Many thanks for sending us your fabulous story No
Misbehaving Allowed. It’s the best story we’ve ever read. It’s We look at the book one last time to make sure
much better than that Harry Potter.” that everything’s okay, because they could have
[Laughter.] made a mistake. A picture could be in the wrong
place. If they did that and the book was useless,
With No Misbehaving Allowed, we fiddled about they’d have to destroy it all. If you print 50,000
with it, then it was okay and it was ready to go into copies of a book and it’s wrong, you would have to
production, for which we’ll need another volunteer. pulp them and do it again, which would cost a lot of
It’s going to have to be my friend over there. I can’t money. So we have to check it very carefully and
leave with anybody upset. read it to make sure. Even so, mistakes sometimes
get through. I’ve had the odd book with a misspelling down now. Well done. You were very good. Brilliant.
in it, but generally it’s okay. Good kids. Are all the kids in Scotland this nice? Can
I take a couple home? Anyone in particular?
Then we say, “Yes, fine, you can print the book”,
for which we’ll need one last volunteer. It’s going to
have to be from my friends at Corstorphine, and it’s We’ll do some questions, but would you like me to
you. read you something disgusting again?
Audience: Aww. Audience: Yes!
Tony Bradman: Aww. One of the lessons we have Tony Bradman: I’ll just do the promotion bit.
to learn today, kids, is that life is not fair. Another book that I did for Barrington Stoke, and
which I really like, is Alien. I loved doing that. It’s got
And your name is?
fighting and aliens and stuff in it. I dedicated it to my
Bronwyn: Bronwyn son because he likes all that. And I’ve done a
version of the Scottish play as well, which was a lot
Tony Bradman: That’s a nice Welsh name. The
thing about the Votadini is that they probably spoke
a form of early Welsh. The “wyn” at the end means Would you like a disgusting list, or do you want
white, doesn’t it, Brownyn? another teacher one first? Here’s 10 things that
teachers do when they’re not at school. [Laughter.]
So there’s the book. Just to show you that it’s the
They’re all looking a bit shifty now, aren’t they?
same book, here is the same picture. Brownyn’s
Number one. They plan the most boring lessons they
going to hold that. Right, we go back down the other
can. You never knew that, did you? Number two.
end, where we started. We all remember that Jenny This is the one that makes the teachers look really
is our genius. “Jenny the Genius”—that’s a poem in shifty. They make little dolls resembling the head
itself, isn’t it? We have the idea; we write it down in a teacher and stick pins in them. [Laughter.] I’ve been
notebook; we play with it; we get a bit serious; we
in schools where I’ve done that and it’s gone very
write it up properly; we do a fair copy; we get a letter
quiet. No names mentioned—none north of the
from the publisher: “It’s much better than Harry border, anyway. Number three. They eat all the
Potter—what a genius you are, Tony”; the book goes sweets they’ve confiscated from their pupils. We all
through design, production, and the final stage of
knew that. Number four. They dream about
production, then it’s a book. becoming dictator of the entire universe. [Laughter.]
Now, how long do you think that took from Some of them already are. Number five. They
beginning to end? practise writing sarcastic comments on school work
and reports. Some of them go on to be editors,
Member of audience: Two weeks. actually.
Tony Bradman: No. Number six. They phone up other teachers and
Member of audience: A year. swap tips on how to make their lessons even more
boring. [Laughter.] Number seven. They wish they
Tony Bradman: Very good. It was a year. Some were children again and could run around the
books take longer. Jackie writes her books very playground having a good time and being really
quickly. Someone told me it takes three to four cheeky to all the teachers. [Laughter.] Number eight.
months, then they’re out quite quickly. Philip Pullman They go to top secret government training centres
takes a long time. I’m a slow writer, although I’ve somewhere in the Highlands, where they’re taught
produced a lot of books. It’s all that I do, but I only how to make their pupils’ lives as miserable as
write 500 words a day—probably two pages a day is possible. [Laughter.] Number nine. They fill out job
my tops. But if you keep writing two pages every applications for any job not involving teaching or
day, you get there in the end. kids. Number 10. They think about going to work the
I think that it took J R R Tolkien 12 years to write next day and cry a lot. [Laughter.] There you go.
The Lord of the Rings. From his idea to the point Here’s a disgusting one. We did crisp flavours,
where it was finished, it took 12 years, whereas for didn’t we? Here’s 10 unusual and disgusting fast
some other people it might be a month. When I foods. Up here in Scotland you have a very healthy
wrote Assassin, it was probably about two months. eating policy these days, I’m pleased to see. No
Often, it takes between six months and a year, laughter.
depending on what happens.
I’ve had all these in schools, you know. Number
So that’s how it’s done. Let’s have a round of one. Rat in a roll. Number two. Rancid yucky yak
applause for our volunteers. [Applause.] You can sit yoghurt drink. Number three. Hamster burger.
Audience: Eeughh! The other side of it was that l loved reading. When
I was at primary school, I had a wonderful teacher
Tony Bradman: Number four. Budgie in a bap.
called Mr Smith. He used to read to us. He read us
The feathers get in your teeth, that’s all. I have to
The Hobbit. It took a year. You know, that’s the one
say that my lovely wife thought of the next one, not
about Bilbo, before The Lord of the Rings. I just
me. It shows a particular turn of mind, actually.
loved it, and from then on I went off and read The
Number five. Pot poodle. Just add boiling water.
Lord of the Rings. As I said, I love historical stories
[Laughter.] Number 6. Snake and vinegar crisps.
and I like stories with big Vikings knocking seven
Audience: Eeughh! bells out of each other. I loved all that, and that was
the only thing I wanted to do. From the time I was
Tony Bradman: I can’t stand vinegar myself.
about 13, it was what I wanted to do.
Number seven. Gerbil jam butties. Number eight.
Chocolate chip chihuahuas. Number nine. Terrapin It was those two things, really—wanting to be my
toasties. Number 10—my personal favourite. Kitten own boss and not having to do what other people
kebabs. told me to, and also loving stories and poetry. The
man who’s on after me today—it’s a session for
adults—is one of my heroes. His name is Tony
[Laughter.] Harrison. So I’m coming back to do what you do. I’m
going to sit there and listen to him, then ask him a
Tony Bradman: Just on a skewer, like that. question and get him to sign a book for me. He’s a
Now, does anyone have any questions? Of course, fantastic poet.
we have to leave enough time for the treat. Do you
want to know what the treat is?
What was your first book?
Tony Bradman: The first book I wrote is going to
Tony Bradman: Well, I’m still not going to tell you. be reissued by Barrington Stoke next year. It’s a
Audience: Aww. football story called One Nil. There’s an old version
of it, which has been around for a long time. You’ve
Tony Bradman: No, I’ve never been a teacher. I’m probably seen that. But Barrington Stoke will be
just naturally cruel. doing a new version of it next year. It’s based on
something that really happened to a friend of mine.
He skived off school to go and watch the England
Questions from the audience. squad training. Why would you bother, especially
For your disgusting fast foods, why didn’t you do after last night? Anyway, I always thought it would
puppy pate? make a very funny story, so I wrote that, and it was
my first book. I wrote it in October and November of
Tony Bradman: That will go in the reprint, okay? 1982, 25 years ago.
You’ll have to tell me your name and I’ll send you a
Which one of your books do you like the best?
How long did it take to write your longest book? Tony Bradman: That’s a very difficult question. It’s
like being asked, “Which of your children is your
Tony Bradman: I wrote a couple of football books favourite?” You can’t answer that. I like all my books.
and each of those took me about nine months, so I’ve always tried hard to make each of my books the
that was quite a long time. They were 224 pages best book I can do at that time, but I do have a soft
long. But mostly I do shorter books because I like to spot for a few of them. I like a book called The
get them finished. Frankenstein Teacher. Has anyone seen that?
What inspired you to write? Tony Bradman: I enjoyed doing that. I’ve read it in
Tony Bradman: I always wanted to write. To be a lot of schools. There’s a bit in it where the school’s
honest—I probably shouldn’t say this—I never hamster gets run over, and all the kids gasp, even
wanted to have a proper job. I didn’t want to work in the naughty ones who’ve been at the back poking
an office. I didn’t want to do what other people told each other in the head. I love it because it always
me to do. I really liked the feeling of being in control has a big effect on kids.
of my own destiny.
I like the Dilly the Dinosaur stories because they’re years ago, and it’s just been bought by Cartoon
all based on my kids. Yes, we have a diplodocus, a Network. They’re going to adapt it into a film for
tyrannosaurus rex and a stegosaurus. [Laughter.] Halloween 2008. I have to say that it’s a deeply
And I really enjoyed doing Assassin. I really like disgusting story. I can’t tell you what it is because it’s
doing historical stuff, so I’m going to do more of that. intimately connected to the treat. I’m getting the
feeling that I really ought to tell you what the treat is.
Do you think I should tell you?
Do you have any disgusting secrets about any
other authors in Great Britain?
Tony Bradman: But I’m not going to.
Tony Bradman: Yes, I do, but I don’t think I can
reveal them now, I’m afraid. See me afterwards and Audience: Aww.
I’ll reveal a few things. No, they’re all wonderful
Tony Bradman: I think we’ve got time for two or
people, I’d say.
three more questions.
What gave you the idea to write?
What’s your favourite book you ever made?
Tony Bradman: I don’t know. I can’t remember
Tony Bradman: I don’t really have a complete
exactly what it was. I suppose that the teacher I
favourite. As I said, I have a soft spot for some, like
mentioned at primary school was very encouraging.
The Frankenstein Teacher and the Dilly stories.
See, my mum and dad got divorced when I was
There’s a book called Dilly and the Goody-Goody
about seven, which was very unusual then. It was a
which I really like. I wrote a picture book years and
long time ago and not many people did that in those
years ago called Look Out, He’s Behind You!, which
days. I didn’t see my dad for about three or four
is a lift-the-flap version of the Little Red Riding Hood
years, or not very much. This teacher, Mr Smith, was
story. I absolutely loved doing that. I thought it was a
a really nice man and I think I kind of hero-
really good book. It has the wolf chasing Little Red
worshipped him because he was a bloke, you know?
Riding Hood. At the end, I have the wolf locked away
He was a man. He really liked stories and reading. I
in a shed. When I read it to classes in schools, I
thought, “Well, if a bloke likes it, why shouldn’t I?”
always say, “I’m afraid I can’t open the door where
I just got into it. I learned early on that reading a the wolf is.” They say, “Oh, go on, open the door.” I
story is a fantastic escape. You can imagine things say, “I can’t. The last time I opened the door, the big
and you go on this journey into another world. bad wolf magically came to life, jumped out of the
There’s a bit in an Allan Ahlberg story called The book, ran around the room and ate two of the
Giant Baby where the character is thinking about teachers.” I always say to the kids, “Of course, you
stories that he likes. He says, “It was the kind of don’t want any harm to come to the teachers, do
story that was so good I didn’t want it to end, and you, so I can’t open the door.” They all say, “OPEN
when I did finish it, I wanted to go back and start it THE DOOR! NOW!” That’s a favourite, because I
again straight away.” I always had that feeling. My must have read it in hundreds of schools.
son likes movies and DVDs, and it’s like when you
watch a film that’s so good you can’t think of
anything except what’s in front of you. I get that from How do you feel when you’re writing your books?
Tony Bradman: When you’re really into it, it’s
I was reading a book before I came here today. really great, because you just concentrate. It can be
When I go back and have lunch, I’ll push everything very hard sometimes, when you really have to work
out of the way and I’ll have a book. It’s just what I do. out how to express something in the right way. I like
It’s my entire life. stories that have clues at the beginning about what’s
going to happen at the end, but you don’t notice.
That’s quite difficult, because you’re not quite sure
Would you like any of your books to be made into what to put at the beginning to make the end work
movies? properly. There’s a lot of thought. The beginning is
always really hard. That’s the hardest part. The
Tony Bradman: Well, the Dilly the Dinosaur
middle is pretty hard too, then the ending’s really
stories were made into a cartoon series on the BBC
hard as well, so—[Laughter.]
years ago. That was fun. It was exciting. And I’ve
just signed the contract for a film adaptation of a I do enjoy it. If I’m not enjoying it at some level, it’s
book that I wrote with my friend Martin. He did the probably not going to be a very interesting book. It
pictures. It’s a graphic novel. I wrote it seven or eight probably won’t be interesting to other people.
group, I’d say it’s hard to do a good one in less than
six months. I know people who spend up to a year or
I’m from Sciennes and we’ve got four questions.
longer. You have to get the plot right, the plot being
Tony Bradman: Go on, then. the secret plan of your story. That’s why we call it a
plot. It’s like the gunpowder plot. It’s a secret. You
First, why did you call your cat Rufus?
keep all the clues secret and you have to join them
Tony Bradman: Everybody thinks it’s because up. Plotting is very difficult and that’s why it can take
Rufus is a ginger tom, but in fact Rufus was named a long time. It’s like working out a puzzle in your
after a character in one of the greatest films of all head before you write the story, then you have to
time. It’s a very intellectual film that often comes up make sure it works when you actually write it.
in top tens. It’s called Bill & Ted’s Excellent
Adventure. There’s a character in that called
Rufus—he’s a dude who can play the guitar. I spent
a whole summer with my son, when he was about
Do you let your children read your books before
seven, going around irritating everyone saying,
you publish them?
“Excellent, dude.” So we named the cat Rufus.
Sadly, Rufus passed away a couple of months ago, Tony Bradman: Well, they’re all grown up now.
and I cried. I really did cry. They’re 29, 26 and nearly 24. When they were
younger, they did read my books, but they would
only say things like, “That was really great, dad. Can
I have some more pocket money?” [Laughter.] I did
read them some things. I try stuff out on my
What is your favourite children’s book?
grandchildren now. I’ve got two grandchildren, Lily,
Tony Bradman: I think my all time favourite who’s eight, and Oscar, who’s five. Actually, they say
children’s book is also by Rosemary Sutcliff. I’ve got much the same thing. “Are you going to buy me a
it at home. My wife bought me a first edition of it present now?”
recently. It’s called The Eagle of the Ninth. It’s about
We’ve got time for one more question.
a young boy whose dad has gone missing when he
was a Roman soldier. A whole legion has vanished.
They came up to Scotland and no one ever saw
Do you like writing?
them again, which often happens to people from
England, I hear. The boy goes north to find out what Tony Bradman: The best question. I do. It’s what I
happened to his dad’s legion. He travels all around do. I couldn’t possibly do anything else, although if I
the lowlands, in the bit between Hadrian’s wall and really couldn’t write any more, I’d like to visit schools,
the Antonine wall—the firth of Forth and up there. because I enjoy going to schools and meeting kids,
Eventually he finds out what happened. He has to go strangely enough. Teachers don’t understand that,
somewhere—if you look at the map in the book, I but it’s great because I can go in, wind them up, get
think it’s the Mull of Kintyre, where there was a tribe them hysterical and leave. [Laughter.] Which is what
called the Epidii in that period. I’m doing today, I think. This level of hysteria could
probably last till the end of the year.
It’s a wonderful book. It’s about boys and their
dads, and it was important to me because I didn’t Right, now would you like the treat?
see my dad a lot. It’s about a boy going to look for a
dad. That only occurred to me recently. I thought,
“Why did I like that book?” It’s because it’s about a Tony Bradman: Well, I don’t know. I tell you what.
boy searching for his dad. There’s a chase, and I’ll read you a poem, which is kind of like a test. If
fighting, and the way she describes the Celts, they’re you pass that test, I’ll give you the treat, okay?
not evil. She describes them brilliantly. It’s quite a
difficult book, and 11 or 12 is probably the best age Right, everybody sit up straight, please. Cross your
arms. Cross your eyes. Look this way. Dear oh dear.
to read it, but it’s my all-time favourite book.
A little bit of discipline. Thank you. This poem is
Next question. called “Grandad”. It’s about my father-in-law. It gives
me enormous pleasure when I read it. You’re going
to play a role in the poem. You’re going to be a car.
How long does it take to write a thriller? All you have to do is say “Zoom”.
Tony Bradman: Thrillers can be quite hard. If All together now. One, two, three—
you’re going to write a proper thriller for an older age
Tony Bradman: Very good. Everybody raise their Children: Yes!
right arms, and as you say “Zoom”, you go like this.
Tony Bradman: As certified by the Guinness Book
One, two, three—
of Records. You have to sit very quietly for this last
Audience: Zoom. little bit. It’s very short, like me, as my wife used to
say. You have to sit quietly and wait to get the full
Tony Bradman: Right, that’s the chorus. You’ve
effect. Last time I read this in a school, two of the
got to say it four times. I can’t tell you when to do it.
I’ll have to give you a signal. The signal is the flying
fickle finger of fate, which I usually leave at home in It’s called “The Thing”. I got the idea from one of
my 100-bedroom mansion in the Beverly Hills of my favourite science fiction films of the 1950s, The
south London. When you see that, you have to do Thing.
“Zoom” and the gesture. Ready. One, two, three—
Tony Bradman reads “The Thing”.
Tony Bradman: Someone asked me about films. I
Tony Bradman: Right, that’s the test element. I’m wrote that poem 20-odd years ago and I’ve read it in
going to tease you. Sometimes I’m going to pretend every school I’ve ever been in. About eight years
to do it. Sometimes I will and sometimes I won’t. If ago an editor I worked with a lot asked me if I had
you get it wrong just once, I won’t be able to give you any ideas for a graphic novel series that they were
the treat, which is of course something I’m not going doing. I said that I did. I’d always wanted to turn that
to tell you. poem into a graphic novel, so I wrote a story called
The Thing That Came From Jason’s Nose. Jason is
Tony Bradman reads “Grandad”.
being bullied by a horrible boy. Jason flicks the
Tony Bradman: Very good. Well, I’m afraid I’m bogey away and it lands in a drain and is swept
going to have to ask your lovely teachers if they think away in the sewers. It encounters some radioactive
it’s okay for you to have the treat. I mean, we have water leaking from a nuclear power station and it
been cruel and horrible to the teachers today, so I becomes a living creature. It returns to the school
can only do it if they say it’s okay. Hands up the where it gets bigger and bigger and eats the
teachers who say we can do the treat. What’s it teachers.
worth? Right, hands down. Now, I want all the
children to put their hands on their hearts and repeat
after me, “I promise— Tony Bradman: But finally it is defeated. I wrote it,
and the book didn’t do very well. I don’t know why.
Audience: I promise.
Teachers didn’t seem to want to buy it. But this
Tony Bradman: If I get the treat. American film producer saw it and she thought it
would make a good film. They bought it, and it’s
Audience: If I get the treat. going to be a film next year called The Thing That
Tony Bradman: To be very nice. Came From Jason’s Nose.
Audience: To be very nice. Thank you very much for coming. Have you
Tony Bradman: To my teachers.
Audience: To my teachers.
Tony Bradman: Right, everybody put their arms
Tony Bradman: For the rest of my life.” up in the air like this. Repeat after me: “We are not
Audience: For the rest of my life. worthy”.
[Laughter.] Audience: We are not worthy.
Tony Bradman: Very good. Well, all right. I’ll give [Laughter.]
you the treat. Now, when I tell you what the treat is, Tony Bradman: Thank you very much.
there will be two reactions. From the children, there’ll
be an “Oh, is that all?” From the teachers, there’ll be [Applause.]
a horrified squeak. Because the treat is that I’m
going to read you a poem.
Tony Bradman: But it is the world’s most