[Interview] David Bedford, children's author

Over the past six years, David Bedford has published 30 books, with translations in 20 languages. The books range from best-selling picture books such as Big Bear, Little Bear, to The Team series of short comic novels for 7 to 11-year-olds about a struggling football team that enlists the help of a professor and her football-playing robot.

Bedford has a Ph.D. in Gene Cloning from the University of East Anglia and is a member of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) and the National Centre for Language and Literacy.

He spoke about his writing and the direction it is taking.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

When I first became an avid reader, around the age of 16, I read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and decided to have a go myself... much later, while I was a scientist at Stanford University in the U.S., I began writing seriously, with the idea of making a career out of it.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

I mainly write children's picture books, and the most influential writer for me in this genre is Martin Waddell, who wrote Owl Babies and many other great books.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I try to write stories that are "true," that reflect real life. Because I write for children, this means that my stories are set thoroughly in a world children understand; my stories are concerned with the daily issues children encounter.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

My first books for children were published before I had children of my own - these were mostly traditional entertaining kinds of stories, to make people laugh. Since my children were born, my writing has moved in new directions and my books are now, more than ever, attuned the world of children, and often the relationship between parents and children.

What would you say are the biggest challenges you face?

Each book has its own rhythm and structure, and each time I write a story I have to find out what rhythm and structure suits it best. And so each time writing a new book it is the biggest challenge.

How do you deal with these?

When I'm writing a book I focus on it and give it all that I have. I can only make it as good as I can make it - and that's what I try to achieve.

What is your latest book about?

Masters of Soccer is the sixth book in a series I write about a soccer team. There's not too much soccer in this one, and the books are in any case more about the team of boys and girls who play together, about their characters. In this book, two boys from the football team are being forced to perform ballet at school - and for them, it is going to be the most embarrassing experience of their lives.

How long did it take you to write it?

Only three weeks. It was the fastest book of this length (7,000 words) that I've written. It was published in June this year in the U.K. and Australia. The first four books of the series are published also in the U.S., and the first three in Thailand, so hopefully this new book will be available in more countries soon.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Sometimes it's difficult for me because I put my characters — who I love — into very difficult situations. The difficult part is that I have to find a way for them to get out of that situation, and that can be very hard to do. Though the more I write about them, these characters — Harvey, Darren, Rita — speak for themselves and find their own way out.

Which did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed writing about the emotions of fear and awkwardness that embarrassment can bring. I am using my own experiences as a guide!

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

It is funnier, faster and more intense than the other books in this series. When the book was finished and printed, and I read it through, I was breathless - I had forgotten to leave some time for the reader to stop reading for a moment and breathe! But it is supposed to be a page-turner, so probably I can call it a success.

In what way is it similar to the others?

All of the books in this series (we call it The Team Series) are about the main character, Harvey, having a problem to solve. The series starts with him being no good at soccer, and his neighbor, Professor Gertie, helps him by inventing a robot. Every book now has Professor Gertie and her robot trying to help out - usually causing more mayhem and disaster.

What will your next book be about?

I have written a bedtime book for my daughter, called Time for Bed, Isobel. In fact it has just been published in the U.K. and Australia, and it is doing so well I have been asked to write a sequel.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

The moment of becoming a writer was the biggest achievement, simply saying to myself that I was a writer and being brave or foolhardy enough to dedicate a significant amount of time to writing.

How did you get there?

I left my career in science behind even before I had published a book, and I worked at writing for two years before I sold my first stories. So I'd say there was dedication and focus at the heart of it. And perseverance. And never being able to think of a serious Plan B.



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