Recently, I attended an author visit by John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The series began as a collection of short stories for his young son, who was not interested in reading. Although the series was originally meant for young boys, the series has a large following amongst girls (John took his publishers advice on introducing a strong female). The books have since gone on to sell millions of copies throughout the world, been translated into various languages and has won many awards.
John was entertaining, informative and great with the children. A highlight was his ‘show and tell’ – being a longbow, which he got some of the children to demonstrate. Here is his advice to writers just starting out:-
- Plan your story – you wouldn’t get in your car without knowing exactly where you were going.
- Story ideas can be found anywhere – it could be as simple as just walking down the street.
- Character names can also be found anywhere – one character’s name was found upon a billboard in Tamworth advertising a local business (of course, some alterations had to be made).
- Although rejection letters can feel personal, your story may not suit the publishers’ requirements, or the publisher may recently have accepted something similar. John was rejected about nine times!
- Be persistent – John Flanagan almost gave up trying until one of his children reminded him of those short stories he had written some time ago (they later went on to become the Ranger’s Apprentice series).
Attending author talks can be very rewarding – not only do you learn about the author’s work, you also get a feel for their personality and see how they interact with their readers. I recommend it to anyone.
Image by Debbie Johansson.