Bali Rai was born in Leicester in 1971 and grew up in a multicultural, multi-racial community close to the city centre. As a child he dreamt about three things—playing football for Liverpool F.C., being Bob Marley and becoming a writer. At the age of eleven he read the book that would inspire him to write. It was The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. Other authors had inspired him to write for fun (Roald Dahl in particular) but it was Sue Townsend who became his true role model.
In 1991, after attending Judgemeadow Community College and QE II Sixth Form in Leicester, Rai moved to London to attend Southbank University. He graduated in 1994 with a degree in Politics. For the next two years he did various jobs until personal circumstances forced him to return to Leicester. Over the next few years he worked for a large supermarket, in telesales, as a bar manager and then as assistant manager of a nightclub. It was during this latter period that he began to write his first novel, (Un)arranged Marriage.
Eventually he showed parts of his debut novel to Jennifer Luithlen, an agent based in Leicester, and she took him on. The novel, having been edited, was then shown to Transworld (now a division of Random House) and he signed his first publishing contract. The novel was published in 2001 to great acclaim.
The Crew, Dream On (Barrington Stoke) and Rani & Sukh followed quickly after, and all were well received and widely read. Other notable books include The Last Taboo, City of Ghosts, Angel Collector, Killing Honour, and the Soccer Squad series, all published by Random House. Bali Rai has also written many books for reluctant readers, which are published by Barrington Stoke. These include Revenge of the Number Two, Them and Us and The Gun. He also wrote a non-fiction book for Walker entitled Cutting Through The Crap. His Devana High school series was republished by Tamarind Books in Autumn 2013. Rai's books have been nominated for and won numerous book awards across the UK. He is also very active in schools and colleges, and occasionally teaches creative writing to adults too.
Rai is often asked to go abroad to talk about his work and has also appeared on television, and more regularly on the radio, where he has contributed to shows for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4, Radio 5 and the Asian Network. In 2010 Rani & Sukh became a set text for GCSE, and (Un)arranged Marriage remains a recommended read for pupils in Key Stage 3. He has also been writer-in-residence for both the Reading Agency and Booktrust, and is heavily involved in the Society of Authors and their Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group.
2012 saw the release of Rai's first ever picture book,The Guru & the King (A & C Black), as well as Demon Hunter, part of the Heroes series published by Pearson. Fire City for Random House was published by Random House in August 2012. What's Your Problem?, originally published by Barrington Stoke, was republished by Five Leaves Publications in late 2012.
Bali Rai is currently an ambassador for the Reading Agency's Reading Ahead programme, and a Premier League Reading Star. His latest young adult novel, Web of Darkness, has won four regional books awards. He is working on three new projects for 2017.
For (Un)arranged Marriage
- South Lanarkshire Book Award shortlist (2001)
- North East Book Award shortlist (2001)
- Wirral Paperback of the Year Award shortlist (2002)
- Lancashire Book Award shortlist (2002)
- Branford Boase Award shortlist (2002)
- Leicester Book of the Year Award (2003)
- Angus Book Award (2002)
- Stockport Schools Book Award (2002)
For The Crew
- Leicester Book Award shortlist
- North Lanarkshire Book Award shortlist
- Calderdale Book Award shortlist