Cliff McNish

Cliff McNish

Children's author, YA author
Booking enquiry
Cliff McNish - author tools

Available for

Workshop, Talk, Interview, Commission a book


Age 5 to 7, Age 7 to 11, Age 11 to 14, Age 14 to 16, Age 16 to 18+, Adult


Adventure, Fairy tale, Fantasy, Horror, Humour, Mystery, Science fiction, Suspense-thriller

Book types

Alphabet, Fiction for children, Fiction 8-13, Fiction for young-adults


  • Novel 'BREATHE' voted in 2013 by CILIP Librarians as one of the 100 best adult and children's novels of all time.
  • Shortlisted for the North East Teenage Fiction Award.
  • Winner Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year.
  • Shortlisted Rhode Island Teen Book Award.
  • Winner Virginia Readers' Choice Award.
  • Shortlisted The Texas Lonestar Award.
  • Winner Calderdale Award (twice)
  • Shortlisted The Bay Book Award
  • Nominated for Carnegie Medal
  • Tayshas Reading List.
  • Winner Salford Award



The whole year have had follow up lessons in story construction, which have been very effective with good outcomes. Quite frankly, we all enjoyed the day so much. You were wonderful.’ Head of English, Guilsborough School, Northampton.

I pride myself on the feedback and testimonials I get from students and schools. Fully up-to-date details of the talks/workshops I offer are always on my website I’m happy to give up to four author talks/workshops in a day, lasting up to an hour or so each, depending on how the school day is organised. I’ve been teaching (and hopefully inspiring!) young children through to teenagers in school for 16 years, so I’m very experienced in working with able and less able students of all ages. Let me know what your needs are, and we can go from there.

Author Talks – up to 60 minutes

I love talking to students about my writing life – how I started out, the influence of my daughter on my ideas, as well as the ups and downs of a career in fiction. I can command an audience of any size, and there’s ample time for Q&A plus those burning questions students always have. I'll dig down into deep themes of writing with teenagers, but I'm equally happy to engage with younger pupils on a lighter level. I've put together a funny and heart-warming talk/show about my time fostering dogs for Battersea Dog’s Home. It's proven hugely successful with children aged 6-11.  

Author Workshops

Here are my main workshops:

1. How to Craft a Story. A simple five-step technique for creating a compelling story. Even the most reluctant students who have problems generating ideas and characters can follow and use it immediately, making it extremely popular with teachers as well as students.

2. The Ghost. My approach to the chiller. This workshop always focuses the attention of students.

3. Heroes and Villains. We study what it is that makes us love and despise characters. In the process students learn the essence of story - how to create deeply motivated characters that drive natrratives forward. 

4. Creating Fantasy Worlds. Pupils conjure up a believable fantasy world. A fun, illuminating session that is all about how to make the fantastical credible.

5. Great descriptive writing. Looking to unlock the descriptive gene in your students? Hands-on exercises to get them excited about their own prose. 

6. The 4 Great Stories explores repeated archetypes in fiction (such as the Dream Come True, Overcoming the Monster and Character Transformation). I use the students’ own favourite books to explore how archetypes can make their own fiction far more powerful. Sounds dry, but in fact works fantastically well with KS2 as well as KS3 and upwards.   

 7. Create me a Witch!  is for younger students (KS1 and lower KS2). I use ideas from my Doomspell novel to stimulate the visual imaginations of the children. They go on to create their own personal images, which become the basis for an exercise in expressive descriptive writing.

8. Humour. A fun session for students Years 1-4 where we write humorous descriptions and think about what makes readers laugh.

Other talks/workshops

Do your teachers need inspiring? I've specialised recently in teaching teachers how to engage students in the craft of writing. Please contact me if you would like some details and testimonials on that score. 


Standard Society of Author rates apply. Please contact me for details.


Here are just a few:

'You visited our school recently and we loved it ... we were hoping you might be interested in coming again.’ Librarian, South Hampstead Junior School.

‘Fantastic, inspirational. Great way to teach story writing.’ – CDC Teaching Programme, Kent County Council.

‘The children loved every moment of it.’ – Head of English, St. Michael’s Primary School, Highgate.

Fiction testimonials

When Cliff McNish’s debut fantasy novel THE DOOMSPELL appeared The Bookseller immediately hailed him as ‘a great new voice in writing for children.’ The Doomspell Trilogy went on to become a huge international success, translated into 26 languages. He then turned his attention to the ghost story. The resulting BREATHE was voted in May 2013 by The Schools Network of British Librarians not only as one of the top children’s novels of all time, but made the top 100 combined adult and children’s list in that category.  

McNish is one of our most talented thriller writers [for children and young adults] with an ability to make your spine crawl and your heart pound with his stylish pared down prose.' – Amanda Craig, THE TIMES.

'Such is McNish's skill [in Breathe] that when you read of the young hero Jack's asthma attacks, you'll find your own breathing feels constricted. He evokes the same empathy when dealing with the ghosts who haunt Jack, taking us into the realms of inventiveness that are his trademark. Breathtaking.'  – Philip Ardagh, THE GUARDIAN 

'Breathe is a brilliantly inventive ghost story, compellingly written. It is spine-chilling, disturbing and truly frightening. A real page turner.' – BOOKTRUST

'Gripping, racy, children have been fighting to borrow it [The Doomspell].' - THE GUARDIAN

GOING HOME, about four dogs stuck in a rescue centre, ' is a must for animal lovers ... amusing and heart-warming.’ - THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

Event feedback

Cliff was great with the students. There was a wide age range and he catered for them all. The workshops with year 7 & 8 were very impressive. Hope he will visit us again.

Jeanette Dunk (St Margarets)

Books by Cliff McNish

I have written over fourteen novels for children and teenagers. These range from dark ghost stories and fantasy to warmer animal-relation fiction. BREATHE was voted in 2013 by British librarians as one of the top 100 novels of all time.


For ten-year-olds upward. Multiple-award winning ghost story. 
The Doomspell

The Doomspell

For nine year-olds upward. Magical fantasy translated into 26 languages. 
Going Home

Going Home

For eight year-olds upward. Warm-hearted story of dogs stuck in a Rescue home. 
The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground

A dark ghostly horror story aimed at students twelve and older.  
The Scent of Magic

The Scent of Magic

The second instalment of the Doomspell Trilogy. For nine year-olds upward. Magical fantasy translated into 26 languages.  
The Wizard's Promise

The Wizard's Promise

Magical fantasy - a gripping finale to The Doomspell Trilogy. Translated into 26 languages. 
The Silver Child

The Silver Child

A fantasy novel about 6 children chosen to defend the world from a threat from the stars. For children 10-14 who like their science fiction and fantasy, but are ready for something more challenging than magic.