John Flanagan Interview

His lifelong dream was to be a writer

John Flanagan

John Flanagan, author of the Ranger's Apprentice series

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When did you start writing?

First memory is in Fifth Grade at Primary school. We used to have a day a week when we wrote what were then called "compositions." These days they'd be called essays or assignments I guess. Other people used to write things like "what I did during the holidays" or "A family gathering" or "A day at the fair." I used to write adventure stories. I have a clear memory of being annoyed with my teacher, Brother Kelly, because he made me change realistic dialogue into a grammatically correct structure. Example: the statement from a helicopter pilot "Okay, down we go!" had to be changed to "Yes. We will go down." Even then I knew people didn't speak that way.

Fortunately, my more recent experiences with editors have been much happier.

What made you decide to write this fantasy series?

Initially I started writing a series of weekly short stories to encourage my son Michael to read. Will was based on Michael so he did the sort of things Mike enjoyed: climbing, archery, throwing knives at trees. That sort of defined the period as mediaeval and I chose fantasy because I like reading fantasy—and I didn't want to be constrained by real historical events. Those original short stories are incorporated in Book 1.

Which of Will's characteristics would you most like to have and why?

This is a trick question. If I say his courage and loyalty you'll think I'm a cowardly woos you can never depend on.

So instead I'll say his head for heights. I get vertigo if I stand on a chair to change a lightbulb.

I wish I could shoot (a bow) as well as he does but I'm way out of practice these days. I still have a longbow however.

Are any of your characters based on you or your family?

As I said, Will was based on my son Mike: small, agile, quick on his feet and fast thinking. And while I would never pretend to be Halt, a lot of the dialogue between Will and Halt is based on exchanges between Mike and me when he was a teenager.

Horace, by the way, was inspired by Mike's longtime best friend Jeremy.

What adjectives would you use to describe your latest book, The Burning Bridge?

Ummmmm . . . How about absolutely essential? Oh, absolutely is an adverb, isn't it?

I hope it's exciting and fast moving. That was certainly my intention. Involving perhaps? Amusing? I think humor is part of real life and I try to incorporate it into my books. I think there's an element of thriller in Burning Bridge. There's a mystery for the reader to unravel. Just what is going on here? So I hope it's intriguing as well.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Thanks for saying "some of." I hate being asked "who's your favorite author?" Let's see. The late Ed McBain. His dialogue was superlative. David Eddings because he was the first person I saw incorporate humor into his fantasy novels. And my longtime favorite C.S. Forester. I first read the Hornblower books when I was about 12. I still read them today. And I get something new out of them each time. Patrick O'Brian for his lilting dialogue and narrative. James Lee Burke for his incredibly evocative descriptions of the Delta area in Louisiana. And on and on and on.

Have you started working on your next book? Can you give us a sneak peak?

If you mean Book 3 in the Ranger's Apprentice series, yes indeed. In fact, it's already written. Okay, a sneak peak: it's not set in Araluen. The story focus moves to Skandia in the north and Gallica on the main continent. Will faces a problem he can't solve alone. Help comes from an unexpected source. Halt has problems too, which he solves in his own unique way. And we see a lot more of Horace as he becomes increasingly proficient in the skills of a warrior. I can't tell you more than that without giving away some of the events in Burning Bridge.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell readers?

Just this. Thank you for buying my books and thank you for enjoying them. It has been my lifelong ambition to be an author and you've made that dream come true for me. I love hearing from readers and I hope to have my own website up and running within the next few months. There'll be a contact site there. For now, all the best to you and as we say in Australia, your blood's worth bottling.

Source: Penguin Young Readers

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