Friday 3 May 2013

Friday Feature: Author Interview with Andy Robb

Really pleased to present an interview with the brilliant Andy Robb, author of the Geekhood series, highly recommended reads if you enjoy reading about teenage boys navigating the perils of love and LARP. (If you don't know what LARP is, check out yesterday's review of Geekhood: Mission Improbable!)

Jim very kindly asked me to do this interview, saying that he finished writing the questions “late at night , so they might be slightly surreal” and that I was to “ignore anything too out there!” Personally, I like a challenge…

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

My brain operates in 2-D, hand-drawn animation, so I tend to visualise people as cartoon characters. I’d never actually imagined my readers until that question was asked, so I had a go. For some reason, I got a picture of a crowd of cartoon people sitting in cinema seats, with the lights up, each reading a copy of Geekhood. But, I’m going to interpret the question another way to give a less-weird answer: I kind of hope that the people who the books speak to are young adults, probably around 13, who might be having problems of their own. I know Geekhood is supposed to be a funny book, but I hope there are little messages in there for the people who need them.

2. You really bring the role-playing games the characters play to life. Do you play RPGs yourself?

Not as much as I used to. I started out on D&D which, I think, is still the best. But my interest in painting miniatures soon took me in other directions and I ended up playing Middle Earth, Judge Dredd and – my favourite of that lot – Paranoia. I liked Paranoia because each character had a specific hidden (and often ludicrous) agenda, which could turn a game upside down. As much as RPGs are about adventuring and telling stories, I also think they’re for people who like people; people who like to understand how other people think and work out the mechanics of creating and investing in a character. It’s like making a movie, but without the cameras. Or huge pay-packet.

3. Clare and Archie's fake relationship is brilliant! Who would be your ideal fake girlfriend?

If you’re going to lie, go big. I’d plump for someone completely and utterly out of my league and who would have no interest in me whatsoever. Oh, hang on… that rules out a lot of people! I’ll say Diana Troy out of Next Generation because, as an empath, she could let me know what the girl I really liked was actually feeling about me.

4. I really like the shop The Hovel, which caters for all of the boys' gaming needs. What's your own favourite place to shop?

I do like a Games Workshop, but I also love Forbidden Planet. I’ll take either for a lazy browse.

5. I always like seeing well-drawn adult characters in YA novels, and thought the relationship between Archie, his parents, and their new partners was really well done. Who are your favourite fictional parents or guardians?

That’s a tough one! But I do think Bilbo Baggins did a good job as Frodo’s adoptive father. Not only did he have a cool home, but he also discovered the joy and horror of adventures. Plus, he proved he was fallible – which I think is important; I’m forever telling my lad that grown-ups get it wrong, we’re just terrible at admitting it. As a parent, I sometimes feel like a very old-looking child.

6. You've appeared as an actor in some massive films and TV programmes, with Coronation Street and two Discworld adaptations being perhaps the most impressive (at least to me!) Where would you rather live, Weatherfield or Ankh-Morpork?

I’d have to go for Ank-Morpork. I think I’d fit in with the dress-code a lot better.

7. As if I wasn't jealous enough that I couldn't make it to the Geekhood: Mission Improbable launch (thanks for the invite, though!) I've just seen the awesome superhero cupcakes. If you were a cake, what type of cake would you be?

It’s a toss-up between a Battenburg and a home-cooked fruit cake. I think I’d go for the fruit cake, because home-cooked ones always have burnt currants on the surface and I think that’s a bit like my personality. But no candied orange – can’t stand the stuff.

8. I know you do school visits from time to time - what's the best thing about them?

Most of the time, the students I talk to have never heard of the book. So, to help them understand a bit about it, I tell stories about my teens – generally embarrassing ones about asking girls out – just to give them an idea where I’m coming from. But I do talk about more serious stuff; things like divorce. The best bits for me are when something I’ve said has struck a chord and a student hangs about to talk to me about it. I’ve seen poems and I’ve mopped up tears; it can be very emotional, but it’s incredibly humbling to think that you
might be helping someone to articulate the problems they’re going through.

9. Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader. Frodo Baggins had Sauron. Archie has Jason Humphries. And you have Cethan Leahy. How did this literary rivalry start?

Every Holmes must have his Moriarty. Where other heroes have adversaries who are often far cleverer or stronger than they are, I decided to hedge my bets and go for someone obviously inferior on every level. If he’s a master of anything, it’s mediocrity. Actually, it was Cethan who started it – he was on Twitter, bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have a Literary Rival, so I applied for the job. And, in seriousness, I’m delighted to cross swords with him: he’s funny, articulate and a talented artist and it makes Twitter a fun place to be. But don’t tell him I said that.

10. What's next for Andy Robb?

Immediately, a cuppa. Long term – it’s a bit more fuzzy. I’m waiting for Stripes to confirm or deny the possibility of a third Geekhood, but that’s some weeks away. Fingers crossed. If it doesn’t work out, I’ve got another idea bubbling away – something very different. But I don’t want to start on it, until I know
what’s happening to Archie, as I’ve already got the plot in my head and the opening paragraph. For the time being, I’m doing a few events: Southampton Recon, the Hay Festival and Edinburgh. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on keeping on.

Thanks for the questions, Jim – it’s really nice to answer something a bit

Thanks for the great answers, Andy - I'll keep my fingers crossed for a Geekhood 3!

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