Tag: uk

Keep Reading, Keep Writing

‘Your setting is a haunted house in Mexico, populated by the ghosts of a drug baron’s old enemies? SOLD.’

A lot of the best things in life start with something simple – in this case, it was my phone ringing.

It was an offer to come and work with young readers and writers in one of my local schools – an opportunity I immediately jumped on. When I was younger, I was very keen on exploring teaching – so much so, that when the time came to organise some work experience when I was fifteen, I called my local school to get some hands-on experience.

Life has a way of sometimes not giving you what you want, and while a career didn’t work out, I still harboured that hope one day I’d get a chance – hence my excitement at the aforementioned offer.

‘Have you thought about adding a dinosaur to your incredibly well-developed psychological drama?’

Since these early meetings and conversations, I was thrilled to be offered a role as Writer in Residence, at Beamont Collegiate Academy in Warrington – a role I cherish. Reading and writing meant everything to me as a kid, so to be able to share that with the young readers of today – and writers of tomorrow – means even more.

Last Friday I was given a day with some of the brightest, most promising students I’ve come across. Bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, excited to learn, buzzing with the simple fun of creation – it was a complete blast. We got to share ideas, brainstorm stories, whip up characters on the spot. It was a constant reminder of everything I love about not just writing, but stories in general.

It also gave me the chance to meet two of the most promising young writers I’ve ever come across. They’ll remain nameless here, but if they aren’t published within the next ten years, I’ll be amazed. At the ages of fourteen and fifteen, these young women wrote with such an ease, a confidence, an Elvis-like swagger. ‘Blown away’ is an expression that doesn’t do how I felt justice. Their work is light years ahead of what I was writing at their age – heck, even at my current age.

‘If you don’t eat those biscuits in the next two minutes, I’m claiming them. I’m deadly serious.’

We chatted over coffee for a couple of hours, and I learned all about their processes and inspirations. One of them actually, on designing characters, draws them first. No words, just, direct from imagination, creates them visually with a pencil. I couldn’t get over it. Conversely, the other creates characters with an easy methodical approach, ending up with a multi-layered creation because she’s gone through every layer personally. I’m sure I learned more during our meeting than they did!

But when the dust settles on my excitement over all their work, and I take stock and perspective, I can see exactly why this has happened. The environment at Beamont (or BCA Warrington, as it is otherwise known), is one of collaboration, free-thinking, encouragement and care. These students have been given the confidence, freedom and backing to express themselves by a staff-room that is full of pride and belief in their charges – and I add that about not just the amazing English department, which is beyond a joy to work with, but the entire teaching faculty and staff behind the scenes. The atmosphere there is nothing short of joyous and buzzing.

Through working with BCA Warrington, I’ve been able to visit a number of schools in the region, and some in tougher areas than others. The same thing is apparent – excellent teachers, creating excellent students. I’ve got a full slate during March of school visits all over the region (never mind World Book Day, I’ve got World Book Month!), and I’m excited – but above all else I feel so lucky.

Keep reading, and keep writing. That’s the key to it all, I’m sure of it – and as long as I have this opportunity, I’ll keep on spreading that message.

A Wanted Man – FREE TODAY!

‘A Wanted Man’, is FREE today!

A Wanted Man
‘A fantastic read with brilliant characters… A perfect ending… did not see that coming. 5 stars’

‘one of the best books out the hundred I’ve read this year so far’

‘A great read from start to finish – highly recommended’

To grab your copy, head on over to Amazon – thanks always for your support!

A Wanted Man – published!

It’s with great delight that I can share the news that A Wanted Man, my debut novel, has been published by Endeavour Press. You can grab it here!

A Wanted Man is, simply put, the story of a soldier who was discarded, but still has more to give. I kept asking myself what it would feel like to give everything for your country, only to come back to find everything was different – including yourself. What would happen if you only have training for things that are of no use at all in regular civilian life? What do you do when you’ve grown up while fighting wars abroad, only for the fighting to end and you’re not needed anymore? When I posed these questions to myself, the character of Ben Bracken began to form in my answers.

When I was 17, I wrote a screenplay that was about a criminal gang in Manchester, UK, near where I still live today. It was profoundly formulaic, and followed similar tropes seen in countless movies over the years. I loved a good crime yarn, and wanted to write one – that was my simple motivation. But as I got older, I mulled over this screenplay time and time again, realising that something was missing. It was only when my own friends and acquaintances started to come back from Afghanistan, and I spoke with them about their experiences, did the penny drop. Their collective states, each varied, inspired me hugely, both in terms of my admiration for them, and creatively as well.

And then I thought about dropping an ex-soldier into that old crime screenplay I’d written. The possibilities suddenly seemed endless, and I was away. The creative process organically seemed to turn the project into a novel, as I started from fresh. Before long I was flying and in 8 weeks, I’d written the first draft.

That was late 2013, and since then I have grown immeasurably, both personally and in terms of my writing, and it’s with immense pride that A Wanted Man finds readers today. I really hope you enjoy it. I had a blast writing it, and there’s plenty more to come from Ben Bracken, mark my words.