April 30, 2008 / 10:01 AM / 11 years ago

Fantasy author Flanagan finds magic in writing

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian author John Flanagan has built up a large teen fan base for his fantasy series the “Ranger’s Apprentice” but he admits he can no longer read any fantasy novels other than his own.

Flanagan, 63, worked in advertising and television before his writing career took off in 2004 with the release of his adventures about Will, an orphan who becomes an apprentice Ranger, and his master Halt as they strive to keep the Kingdom of Araluen safe from invaders, traitors and threats.

So far seven books have been released in Australia with an eighth due later this year, and four are out in the United States where there is an option out to make the books into a movie.

Flanagan spoke to Reuters about writing — and rejection:

Q: What is the appeal of the “Ranger’s Apprentice?”

A: “I think the books are exciting. They are adventure stories that I initially wrote for my son Michael when he was 12 and not interested in reading. I made them short stories as I thought that would keep him going and those stories helped me identify a set of characters.”

Q: Did it get him reading?

A: “It got him interested in it. There is a scene where the lead character breaks into an office at midnight to find a paper about himself and out of the darkness shoots a hand to grab his wrist. Michael said that really frightened him and that is actually the best compliment I ever had.”

Q: So those short stories lead to the series?

A: “Eventually. He is 30 now and I started when he was 12. I did 20 short stories but after about five months I got involved with a TV sitcom that ran for about eight years so then I was writing stories all day. I put my stories in a drawer for 10 or 12 years until my daughter Kate reminded me about them.”

Q: Number 8 in the series is due out later this year and number 9 is in the making. Do you have an end in sight?

A: “I have not set a number. I definitely know there is a 10th and chronologically that is the last book as it is set 20 years later but whether that remains the last book I don’t know.”

Q: Have you any other books in the works?

A: “Another series which is a type of spin-off series has been running around my brain for some time now and that is starting to pop up. There is a group of Scandians in the series who are based on the Vikings. They are big goofy types and not the smartest group. I have an idea of a story about a young boy living in Scandia. It is a bit of a take on Jason and the Golden Fleece — the concept of a sea quest.”

Q: Did you have many rejections along the way?

A: “Yes, with other books. To get rejected takes three to four months and it is really awful. You send it off and get a letter back a few months later saying no thanks. But I had a concerted effort and I had a feeling about these.”

Q: Do you read other fantasy writers?

A: “No, I can’t read any fantasy any more because I don’t want to find an idea along the lines of something I am working on. Often kids want to send me their stories to read and I have to apologize and say no.”

Q: What do you read?

A: “I read a lot of Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, I loved all the Evan Hunter/Ed McBain books and was very sad when he died a few years ago. I read a lot of historical stuff, and love things about Napoleonic or medieval wars.”

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Patricia Reaney

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