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John Flanagan
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John Flanagan   John Flanagan is the New York Times best-selling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, which won the Australian Publishers Association’s Book of the Year for Older Children and the International Success Award. John also developed a television sitcom called Hey Dad, which aired for eight years. He’s now a full-time author who lives in Australia.

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This episode originally aired on 12/10/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with John Flanagan

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Bonus Question(s) that Didn't Air on the Live Radio Show

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Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you a bonus question real quick. Now you do a lot of school visits. What are some of the best things of doing these school visits?

John Flanagan: Oh, it’s fantastic to be in touch with your audience, to have that face to face contact with the people who are reading your books, to see how they’re reacting to it. And for my lights, one of the big revelations was . . . I do a lot of them here in Australia, as I said, I did a lot a year before last in America--or the year before this last year--in America and I’m hoping to be over there again next May.

And it fascinates me that kids are actually the same and they like the same things. And you look at it and think, “Wow, this is great!” And you realize the majority of kids you meet, and I met kids in the States in very expensive private schools and in some pretty heavy schools in Los Angeles for example where afterwards the headmaster told me, “Well, we’ve never had an author here before. And we weren’t sure what was going to happen.” [laughs] “Thank you for telling me that.” And they were just so responsive. Initially, they were a tough audience, you know, kind of “make us laugh”, “why should we be impressed with you?” They turned around and “that was fantastic, that was brilliant.” And you know, you walk in and they’re all very tough looking. They’re still kids and basically they’re the same, which is great. It’s a great thing. And they’re basically pretty nice.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

John Flanagan: You know, it gives you a hope for the future when you see that.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, that’s great. I had that same feeling. [laughs] I have that same opinion, you know, ‘cause I love doing school visits and being in front of the kids and seeing their eyes just . . . especially the younger ones; the younger you get the more excited they tend to get.

John Flanagan: Well they believe in their imagination. And I think the other thing is the beauty of kids is they won’t just be polite to you, you know, and so if a kid says, “I really like your book.” You know he’s not being polite.

Matthew Peterson: Oh yeah. Yeah, he means it.

John Flanagan: Because you know he’s just as likely to say, [laughs] “Your book’s a load of rubbish.” So they will tell you, and they’re willing to tell you and they’re willing to give you an honest opinion. They’re willing to email you. I think kids in this time are in such touch, such contact with their audience, unprecedented, if you think about it. They’re willing to jump online, I mean, some of them want to have continual conversations with you. [laughs] You’re going, “I can’t keep this up. There are another 20 waiting.”

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, you know, you actually gave me an idea. Have you had any bad experiences with the school visits?

John Flanagan: Yeah. Yeah. Usually with, one particular, again, Queensland, a deputy principal, who I literally wanted to take outside and slap! I was in the middle of the presentation and you know, I do a certain number of gags and you know the structure of a gag. My writing partner Gary Reilly used to say, “You set up for your tag and you don’t interrupt it.” And I was building up to a gag and suddenly this head mistress leapt to her feet and screeched at some boy in the audience who was just casually flicking the velcro strap on his shoe.

Matthew Peterson: Mmm.

John Flanagan: And she startled the principal who was sitting in front of her and completely killed the atmosphere.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

John Flanagan: And then berated this kid for playing with his shoe and then turned around and said, “Well, back to you.” And I thought, “Thanks a bunch!” [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Oh! Oh man!

John Flanagan: A little later she did it again in the middle of question time. Somebody asked a question and she leapt to her feet and screeched, “That’s a stupid question!” And instantly I saw six other hands go down, you know.

Matthew Peterson: Ooooh! [laughs]

John Flanagan: Again, kids aren’t the problem, sometimes.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, wow!

John Flanagan: Deputy principals.

Matthew Peterson: I did a school presentation once and someone rang the fire alarm like two or three times during my presentation.

John Flanagan: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] I think . . . I’m not sure if we all went outside; I think we did go outside. I’m like, “Oh boy, well this is . . . this one’s ruined.” [laughs]

John Flanagan: Yeah, I had another one where, I’m half way through and suddenly a bell rang and half the audience got up and left.

Matthew Peterson: Ahhh.

John Flanagan: And then 15 minutes they sort of came back and half the others got up and left. I said, “What was happening?” And they said, “Oh it was school sports photo day.”

Matthew Peterson: Ohhh.

John Flanagan: [laughs] “You could of told me!”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

John Flanagan: So there was a basketball team going out, then the net ball team, and then the swimming team, you know, in the middle of your one hour talk. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: That is hilarious.

John Flanagan: And you realize that a lot of teachers are using you as a babysitter for the time.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Yep.

John Flanagan: But those things are few and far between to be honest. I mean, the majority of teachers and librarians are fantastic. Librarians are my favorite people. They’re just great.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, they’re your biggest advocate. You know, they’re the ones who really help introduce the kids to . . .

John Flanagan: Exactly. They are the most important for promoting particularly kids books because the media’s not that interested. Normal media coverage is usually pretty low. It’s librarians, it’s booksellers where parents come in, or aunts and uncles. “I’ve got a twelve year old nephew. What could I get him?”

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

John Flanagan: Bang! Ranger’s Apprentice.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

John Flanagan: Get him all nine. Don’t hesitate!

Extra Material That was Cut from the Show Because of Time Constraints

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