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					 Edinburgh International Book Festival                        while. This is what we authors call suspense, you
                                                              see. I’m building up suspense.
 Tony Bradman
                                                                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,
                                                                Audience: Aww.
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
                                                              disgusting?
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
 Audience: Yes.
                                                              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
 Audience: Yes.
                                                              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
 Audience: Yes!
                                                              they’re not at school”.
  Tony Bradman: Okay. You’ve all come from
                                                                Audience: Yes.
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
 Audience: Yes.
                                                              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

                                                          1
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
 Audience: Yes.
                                                             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
actually.
                                                             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.”

                                                         2
  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,
                                                                     Audience: Yes.
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
                                                                     Jenny: Jenny.
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
  [Applause.]
                                                                   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
that.
                                                                   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


                                                               3
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
                                                                name is—?
   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
                                                                Scotland.
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
here.
                                                                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
                                                                are?
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

                                                            4
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
                                                                      Candy: Candy.
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


                                                                 5
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”,
                                                                [Laughter.]
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
                                                                of fun.
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.

                                                            6
  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
  Audience: Eeughh!
                                                               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?
  Audience: Yes.
                                                                 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
cheque.
                                                                 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?
                                                                 Audience: Yes.
  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.


                                                           7
  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
                                                                  Audience: Yes.
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?
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.

                                                            8
                                                               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
                                                                 Last question.
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
  Next question.
                                                               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
                                                                 Audience: Yes.
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
                                                                 Audience: Zoom.

                                                           9
   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.
                                                                 teachers fainted.
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”.
  Audience: Zoom.
                                                                   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
                                                                   Audience: Eeughh.
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
                                                                 enjoyed it?
  Tony Bradman: To my teachers.
                                                                   Audience: Yes.
  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.
  Children: Oh.
  Tony Bradman: But it is the world’s most
disgusting poem.


                                                            10

				
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