Chris Bradford

Chris Bradford, B.A. (Hons) English Literature

Chris graduated English Literature in 1995 and went on to become and author and songwriter.

Wonderful environment, close to the countryside yet possessing enough ‘city life’ to have a real social buzz. As soon as I stepped foot on the campus, I found it very welcoming and simply felt at home. Exeter is also a highly respected university and the English Literature course was engaging and varied.

I experienced some of the best years of my life at Exeter. I made friends for life, gigged with my band, and joined some great societies, as well as founding the infamous CocSoc with my friends! To compensate for those sins, I helped raise money for RAG. I also hiked the width and breadth of Dartmoor. In fact, I enjoyed life at Exeter so much I returned a year later to work for the Students’ Union. Of course I did study too, and this was the icing on the cake of university life.

In terms of study, I enjoyed the variety of engaging topics on offer within my English degree. One of my options was Contemporary Cinema – not only great fun but highly useful in terms of its critical analysis. My final year dissertation ended up being on Clint Eastwood: The Violent Hero. The degree has proven to be an excellent grounding for my career as an author.

A careers’ open day organised by the university led to me to applying for an expedition to Africa with the charity Raleigh International. This was literally a turning point in my life. The opportunity truly grew me as a person and expanded my horizons, as well as my confidence. The benefits of a constructive gap year cannot be underestimated.

I didn’t exactly have a career path, more a dream and passion to follow. After graduating, the gap year in Africa and my brief return to Exeter, I travelled and worked in Australia. It was during this trip that I decided I wanted to be a professional musician.

Focusing fully on a music career, I studied for a year at the London Music School before embarking on several years of gigging, networking, part-time jobs and self-funded recordings. It was a great life with some truly amazing highlights from appearing on TV and radio, to supporting James Blunt, to performing for HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout all this, I survived but didn’t thrive. Then I created an opportunity to write a book about songwriting with the British Academy of Songwriters & Composers. The resulting book was the critically acclaimed Heart & Soul: Revealing The Craft of Songwriting. Its publication and success led to more book deals about the music industry.

As my profile rose, I attracted a literary agent. This was a crucial step in going to the next level as a writer - along with my inspiration for my first fiction book: Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Signed by Puffin Books in the UK and Disney in the USA, this series launched me as a major children’s fiction writer. A position which I continue to build upon through constant touring, an active online presence and the publication of my new series, Bodyguard.

I’ll let you into a secret. I love the creation of a book idea, I love the research I do for a new book series, I love developing the plot and I love finishing a book. But I struggle with the writing! This is the hardest part of the job. Sometimes the writing flows, but often it’s a matter of banging my head against the wall until the words bleed out! Believe me, this is a career that demands commitment, focus and the determination to never give up.

In terms of a typical day, it depends whether I’m writing or touring schools. If I’m writing, I work 8am to 6pm six days a week. I don’t leave my desk until I have a written a chapter a day. That is my daily goal. I finish off the day with a run.

If I’m touring schools, I will usually perform two events a day. One of my USPs as an author is my live event. I bring my books to life through a combination of interactive performance readings, bodyguard training and even samurai sword displays! This is how I inspire children to read.

My whole degree essentially feeds my career as a writer (and before that as a songwriter). The foundation of literature that I acquired at Exeter has seeped into my writing, giving me the confidence and the knowledge to be an author. Yet, whether I was an author or not, the written skills and analytical ability I learnt at Exeter are transferable skills that have helped me in all my occupations.

If you wish to become a writer, then you need to read a lot. Fill your own ‘well of words’, so to speak. Secondly, you need to write. I know it sounds obvious, but real writers can’t allow themselves creative blocks or ‘not being in the mood’. Every day I sit down at my desk with that target of a chapter a day. It doesn’t matter whether the result is good or bad, as long as it’s written then I can work on crafting it into something decent. My third and final piece of advice would be to read “On Writing” by Stephen King – this is a masterclass in the craft of fiction writing.

My plans for the future include enrolling on a scriptwriting course. By adding ‘another string to my bow’ as a writer, I hope to open up more opportunities for the development of my creative ideas.

Good communication is essential in this day and age, whether verbal or written. That’s why an English degree is so relevant and useful. Ensure anything you present is polished, professional and above all spell-checked! Remember, first impressions count.