Meet our speakers: Bali Rai

Find out about Bali Rai, who will be joining our BookTrust Represents training event in Bradford in September.

Bali Rai

Author Bali Rai will be joining our BookTrust Represents training event in Bradford, hosting a session entitled, 'The Publishing Industry: How to Stay Published'.

Getting to know Bali

Who was your favourite author and/or illustrator when you were growing up and why?
My absolute hero was Sue Townsend. I admired others such as Roald Dahl, but Sue was my biggest role model and inspiration. She was the only writer I knew from my home city and came from the same working class background. I could connect to Sue in a way that was impossible with other writers.

Who are your favourite children authors and/or illustrators now and why?
I have so many – and I know most of them, so this feels a bit weird! Michael Rosen, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Chris Riddell, Melvin Burgess, Catherine Johnson, Alan Gibbons, Alex Wheatle, Linda Newbery, Frances Hardinge, Eve Ainsworth, Sita Brahmachari, Angie Thomas, Irfan Master, Polly Ho-Yen, Sarah McIntyre, Nicola Davies, Tanya Landman... I could keep going.

Most of them write easily accessed, quality stories, many of which represent the lives of children and teenagers who are often ignored by literature. They're also fabulously talented. I love a great story, told properly.

What advice would you give to a new author and/or illustrator that you wish you had been given?
I was very lucky. I had the support and guidance of many great people in the industry. I would say that you should be true to your own style, and not write to trends or because you feel something will be the next 'big thing'. Our industry is also shockingly lacking in diversity, so be aware of that.

Mostly, I would say enjoy yourself and try and connect with your readers where possible. I've been doing that for nearly 20 years, and it's helped to keep my career going. Being a writer is tough in the current climate but it's also amazing and rewarding.

What has been your career high so far as an author/illustrator?
Again, I've been fortunate and have had many highs. My IBBY Silver Star and every other award I've won. My doctorate. Promoting my hero, Sue Townsend, on BBC One. Working with so many amazing librarians and literacy projects and educators. Being able to work with teenagers and children across the world, to encourage reading and improve writing skills. To be honest, I'm proud of all of my achievements so far.

What are you currently reading?
Haha! There's not enough room. I'm a judge for the Costa Book Award so I've had about 50 books to read in the past two months! I'm also judging the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Award, so there's another 70 essays to get through, too! And I've also just finished Anita Anand's biography of the Indian suffragette, Princes Sophia Duleep Singh. It's utterly brilliant!

Who or what inspires your work?
I'm mostly inspired by real life, everyday voices, from multicultural, urban and suburban communities. But I also love historical fiction and fantasy, and have a love of simple stories, told well. Every book I've ever enjoyed had inspired me in some way.

Why are you supporting BookTrust Represents?
BookTrust Represents is a timely and much-needed project that is helping to foster a love of reading for children across the UK that don't often get to meet authors or even afford books.

I think we're sitting on a literacy timebomb in the UK, and this project is doing something concrete and special to challenge that. I am passionate about promoting reading and literacy, and encouraging children to express themselves through writing, and this project does just that. It's an honour to be part of it.

More about Bali

Bali Rai has written over 40 novels about teenagers and children. Born in Leicester, his writing is inspired by his working-class, multicultural background. A leading voice in UK teen fiction, Bali is a passionate advocate of libraries, reading for pleasure and promoting literacy. He has nearly 20 years of experience in working with young people across the UK and further afield and is extremely popular with schools. He has been nominated for and won numerous awards since 2001.

Bali has worked closely with The Reading Agency, BookTrust, The National Literacy Trust, Empathy Lab UK and many other organisations, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by De Montfort University in 2014. He also featured on BBC One's Rebel Writers show and is an ambassador/patron for several high-profile literacy and arts projects. He is a Costa Book Award judge for 2019 and is currently working on two new titles. His latest book is Now or Never – A Dunkirk Story.

Discover some of Bali's books

Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story

Author: Bali Rai

Narrated by Private Fazal Khan, a young Muslim soldier in Company 32 of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, this is a moving and insightful account of a key event in the Second World War. Fifteen-year-old Fazal runs away from his family in northern India and lies about his age to join up and serve the British Empire, just as his grandfather did during World…

Read more about Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story

Stay A Little Longer

Author: Bali Rai

Since Aman’s father died, nothing has been the same. Then she befriends a new neighbour, who is lonely too. This warm, optimistic book carries a vital message about the importance of confronting and resisting homophobia in all parts of society. 

Read more about Stay A Little Longer

Tales from India

Author: Bali Rai

Discover India’s rich folk-tale heritage and ancient cultures, with this captivating collection of both popular and lesser known, mostly secular Indian folk tales – reworked for a modern audience.

Read more about Tales from India

The Harder They Fall

Author: Bali Rai

Bali Rai once again hits home with a current and unfortunately necessary book. As always, the characters are fully fleshed out, the dialogue both believable and accessible, and the plot well paced and worthy of its subject matter.

Read more about The Harder They Fall

Join us in Bradford on 21 September

BookTrust Represents

Our project promotes and supports children’s authors and illustrators of colour, so young readers find the books that represent them.

Learn more about BookTrust Represents