Chris Bradford's 'Bodyguard: Hostage': rejection karma and the art of the open box formation

Nearly five years ago, one of the first big school events we ever did was at Larkmead School in Abingdon. A young author thrilled kids with martial arts moves and samurai sword-wielding mayhem as he brought to life his action-packed debut 'The Way of the Warrior'. His name was Chris Bradford, it was the start of the Young Samurai series - and we were all hooked.

Two years later, and with the Young Samurai series garnering huge critical and commercial success, we put on a huge event for World Book Day: one of the highlights of our bookselling lives.

Chris Bradford is now one of the biggest children's authors there is - not just in the UK, but around the world. So how excited were we when we had the opportunity to take part in the launch of the first book in a hit new series from Chris - "Bodyguard: Hostage"?   

The action centres on fourteen year-old Connor Reeves, part of an elite teenage bodyguard team. Assigned to protect the daughter of the US President, what follows is a high-octane, action-packed tale that we have loved reading in the shop.

And the action gets as close to real life as you would wish. For the Young Samurai books, Chris trained in swordsmanship, karate and gained a black belt in Zen Kyu Shin Taijutsu. For 'Bodyguard' Chris trained to become a fully qualified professional bodyguard.

So what could be better in a school event than to impart crack bodyguard techniques to assembled school children? 
First stop was Henry Box School in Witney. Dressed in black, with essential wraparound shades, the event began explosively with Chris shielding the librarian against a potential hostile threat. With the help of volunteers, he went through some of the techniques of threat assessment, surveillance, anti-ambush exercises and unarmed combat.

Then it was back to Larkmead for a triumphant return to the venue of that first event five years previously. First, Chris met some visiting year 6 pupils from Marcham Primary School...
Then it was onstage at Larkmead for an explosive event - and more training...first the venue threat assessment...

 ...then some intel about the book itself...
Before some actual exercises involving the open-box formation that didn't exactly go to plan. Here fictional celebrity 'Justin Beaver' is left worryingly exposed...
The final test is the 'bullet-catcher'. Volunteers showed incredible bravery in the face of a real Nerf Gun...
Finally, Chris signed books and posters for children. Myself and librarian Ms Stott felt suitably prepared to adopt the bodyguard pose: 

Naturally we wanted to find out a bit about how Chris ticks as a writer. Taking advantage of a 'safe zone', and relaxing into a yellow 'combat awareness state' we asked Chris a few questions...

Five questions with...Chris Bradford's Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently working on the second in the series 'Bodyguard: Ransom', but I'm also busy plotting the story-arc for the entire six books that are planned. There's an unfolding conspiracy - hinted at in the first book - but I don't want to go too much into that. I'm also editing the final book in the 'Ninja' trilogy for Barrington Stoke (the second book, Ninja: Death Touch, comes out in August).

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Read Stephen King's 'On Writing'. If you are writing fiction, it's a must-read. Aside from that, write the book you'd want to read!

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?
The best is when you talk to the parent of a child who has never read a book before, but loved your book. You've been involved in giving that child the gift of the love of reading - and that is the BEST. The worst is the actual, physical writing of the words. Ideas, research, plotting - that's all fun. But the sitting down, the writing (and rewriting) you have to do every single day. Writing is like a marathon.

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, e.g. a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?I'm not as lucky as other writers who can write anywhere, anytime. I have an office (well shed) in the garden. I need complete silence to write. I need to get my focus. I compare my style as trying to get a butterfly to land on your hand; you need to wait an hour and not move a muscle to get it to land. One distraction, and it flutters off and you need to start again. That's what it's like for me.
5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?
The breakthrough was the response I got to the initial manuscript. My agent had warned me that it might take weeks or months to get a response. It duly got sent off, and Puffin got in touch the next day. I think my agent's exact words were 'Chris, this is unusual'...

One of my theories is 'rejection karma'. Before I became a children's author I had 13 years as a musician, and believe me that was 13 years of taking many, many rejections. So it was like I had built up all this rejection karma, and when I submitted that manuscript... BANG. It all happened.

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