Bernard Ashley, Author
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Did you always want to become an author?

No. I enjoyed writing stories at school, but after wanting to be an actor - and realising that I wouldn't be so great - I turned my ambitions towards teaching (qualifying with drama as a special subject from Trent Park).

It was when I wrote some stories for children in my early days of teaching - and they were published - that I dropped acting as a hobby and turned to writing.

I went on to teach for 38 years, writing in my spare time, before I became a full time writer.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?

I didn't really celebrate the early stories, but when my first novel, The Trouble with Donovan Croft, was published by Oxford University Press in 1974 I took my family to a celebration dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Blackheath.

Since then we have always tried to do something on publication day - because it's often a big non-event otherwise. The exception was when Orchard Books launched Little Soldier in 1999 with a party at Groucho's. That was very special.

How do you decide what to write about?

It's not me who does the deciding: it's a character, an event, a sudden idea for a plot that starts things off.

Sitting trying to think of an idea for 'the next book' is a waste of time. These desperations might lead to a chapter or two, but they usually die like seed sown on stony ground.

I do other things, get on with other aspects of my life, I don't fret and up to now I haven't had to wait too long for something to hit me.

When an aunt died some years ago she left me a musical box - the workings of which gave me an idea for a thriller, which became Running Scared, a BBC TV serial first, and then one of my most successful novels. That's the kind of way it happens.

How long did it take you to write your last book?

As I write this answer, I've got lying on my desk before me the first draft of the last chapter of a book called No Way to Go which Orchard Books intend to publish next summer.

I need to deliver the book in a fortnight - which will be tight, because I will now go through the 70,000 word manuscript once again to pull everything together.

Characters and emphases change in the writing of a novel - and I began writing this novel nine months ago.

What are you working on at the moment?

Please see the last answer. Then, it's clear out the shed.

Who is your favourite author and what is your favourite book?

My favourite author is Graham Greene, and his The Power and the Glory is my favourite of his books. In children's books, Roy Browne is tops for me - although, sadly, dead now - and I consider his The White Sparrow to be his best. Browne writes like Greene, and I should be happy to write like either.

What advice do you have for budding authors?

Just write. There's too much advice flying around - just write what you want to write - but write. No one ever wrote a good story by talking it up. Do it.

Tell us a secret…

No. If it's about someone else, who would ever trust me again? And if it's about me, then you can bet I've got a very good reason for keeping it quiet.

Bernard Ashley's first novel The Trouble with Donovan Croft was published in 1974 and won the Other Award. He has since written many other novels, several of which have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal including: A Kind of Wild Justice, Running Scared and Little Soldier, the last of which was also shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Although Bernard has written several books for young children, he is best known for his stories for teenage readers, which are fast-paced and centred around an emotional theme such as bullying, the exploitation of children and gang culture.

Bernard has also written stage plays including The Old Woman Who Lived in A Cola Can and The Secret of Theodore Brown and has adapted stories for television, including his own novel Dodgem, which won the Royal Television Society Award in 1992.

When shipwrecked Pax is discovered by an elderly man searching for his only grandson, they form an unlikely bond and as Pax regains his memories, it becomes clear that their destinies have long been intertwined by a silent betrayal.
Dinner ladies don't count
Growing good
Justin and the demon drop kick
That's the one
Who loves you Billy?
Your guess is as good as mine
Freedom Flight

Life with dyslexia is difficult for Tom but he's a keen sailor and he's brilliant with maps. When he rescues Danni, an immigrant girl, off the Somerthorpe rocks, Tom's life takes on a whole new meaning.


Ellie is scared of water so when her dad decides to move to a pub by a canal, she is afraid but there's something more disturbing about the pub. Song Fang Yin knows the truth about the smokescreen but can she escape her captors?

Angel Boy

When Leonard runs away from his home in Accra for a few hours, he takes the tro-tro bus to Elmina but before he knows what's happening, he is kidnapped by the meanest gang of all, who plan to use his angel-face to fleece the tourists.

Playing Against the Odds

Fiona arrives at a school at the same time as various items start to go missing. Her classmates and teacher conclude that she is the guilty party but Chris, who starts to fall in love with her, wants to believe that she is innocent.


High in the mountains the Blue Dam bursts, flooding the camp site in the valley below. Tom knows that he's in trouble but who is the mysterious stranger who comes to his rescue?

Johnnie's Blitz

Johnnie Stubbs is on the run from the law. Escaping with three-year-old Shirley, a traumatised child suffering from the effects of the Blitz, he meets a gypsy girl and her family. Johnnie has things to prove and must get Shirley back home.

Little Soldier

After Kaninda has survived a brutal attack on his village in East Africa, he joins the rebel army before aid workers take him to London. All he wants to do is take revenge on his enemies but he is drawn into a dangerous local conflict...

Revenge House

When Sophia and her mum move into Revenge House, little do they know how the timbers of the ancient building are steeped in the secretive life of the marshes and they find themselves sucked into a criminal underworld that threatens their lives.

Tiger Without Teeth

Davey, who has spent his life avoiding confrontation, is suddenly forced to face reality when he starts to be bullied at school and his grandfather dies.

A Kind of Wild Justice

When Ronnie's father is framed and sent to jail, Ronnie finds himself on his own. While looking for a way to clear his father's name, Ronnie finds himself caught up in a scheme to bring illegal immigrants into the country.

The Trouble with Donovan Croft

When Keith gets a new foster brother, not only won't Donovan speak to him, he won't speak to anybody at all. When the kids at school start bullying Donovan, Keith knows that he should protect him at the risk of being picked on too.

Down to the Wire

In the second Ben Maddox book, Ben is on his way to the Ivory Coast to report on a fragile political situation. While there, he stumbles across another human interest story and finds himself thrust into the world of child trafficking.

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Some of Bernard's books for older readers...
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