John Flanagan's bestselling RANGER'S APPRENTICE adventure series originally comprised twenty short stories, which John wrote to encourage his twelve-year-old son, Michael, to enjoy reading. The series has come a long way since then. Now sold to more than twenty countries, the series regularly appears on the NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller List and has been shortlisted for children's book awards in Australia and overseas. John, a former television and advertising writer, lives with his wife, Leonie, in the Sydney beachside suburb of Manly. He is currently writing further titles in the RANGER'S APPRENTICE series as well as the exciting new BROTHERBAND series.
Who is the character of Halt based on, and how has your understanding of the characters changed over time?
Halt, I realised several years ago, is based on my sixth-grade teacher. That realisation came as quite a surprise to me. I never knew it at the time I began writing the books and allowing the characters to grow and develop in my mind. I always thought he was solely a product of my imagination. Then I realised how much one's subconscious is involved in all aspects of writing stories like these. Characters often tend to be based on people you know. (Will was based on my son Mike, for example.) The trick is to change them around a bit, give them some conflicting qualities to make them real. All-knowing, infallible Halt, for instance, suffers from seasickness. It makes him a little more human.
As to my understanding of the characters, they've grown to feel like real people to me. I know them all so well that now I tend to know how they will react to a given circumstance and, as many other authors have said before me, you can't have them reacting out of character. They won't let you.
How do you keep track of the battles while changing perspective?
I do a lot of sketching and mapping of the battle field so I know where everyone is and where everyone is going. I keep that map beside me while I'm writing. Also, mapping it out lets me see if there's anything I've overlooked â€“ a way for the enemy to outflank my heroes, for example. The good thing about an imaginary battle is, if there's a way for this to happen, you can always create a river or chasm or mountain to block that loophole.
How does it feel knowing that you've helped many more children, not just your son?
Humbling is the first word that springs to mind. It's something I never expected. I set out merely to entertain and divert readers. To know that I've helped some of them (and, it seems, quite a large number of them) to learn to enjoy reading makes me feel that I've actually done something very worthwhile. I have actually changed people's lives â€“ through the medium of my stories and my characters. I love that fact. I am so very, very proud of it.
What's been your biggest adventure?
Many years ago, I resigned my job, sold my car and bought a ticket on a ship to England. I'd had no prior inclination at all to leave the country. I had no job lined up in England. I had no work permit and not a lot of money. When I got there, it took me three months to find a job. But I was following a young lady I'd fallen in love with. I followed her across the world and we were married about two weeks after I arrived in London.
We're still married.
Rangers are motivated by a sense of duty and service to each other, king and country - what motivates you to continue to write the series?
I love the characters. As I said earlier, they're very real to me. I have loved seeing them grow and develop and form relationships. And I love being a story teller. There's nothing better than creating your own world, your own events, your own people. It's the best fun in the world. I live in fear that someone will find out what a good time I'm having and they'll stop me. (Just kidding.)Â