John Flanagan, author of The Ranger’s Apprentice series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |November 12, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Flanagan,

author of The Ranger’s Apprentice series,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sydney, in Waverley. I grew up in Clovelly, a rather sleepy little seaside time warp sort of suburb. It was in the eastern suburbs but not in the affluent part. My father died when I was quite young – about 6 or 7. I went to St Charles Christian Brothers in Waverley and in secondary school I attended Waverley College. I did two years at university, part time. Hated it. Left and concentrated on working in advertising agencies. Much more fun, lots of pretty girls and really good parties.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I wanted to be a fighter pilot. At eighteen, the pinnacle of my ambition was to become creative director in an advertising agency. By thirty, I wanted to become an author. Strangely, I never considered writing books for teenagers.

Why? I guess because I grew up at a time when it seemed that everyone who had participated in World War II had written their memoirs and read just about all of them – particularly those about pilots. I have always been fascinated by military aircraft. Still am. At eighteen, well, I was working in an advertising agency and creative director seemed like the best possible job to me. (When I achieved it, I found it wasn’t).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

You’re kidding, right? Who can remember back that far? I have no idea. I guess it might have been that the USA, Australia and Great Britain could never be on the wrong side of an armed conflict. We were the good guys and could do no wrong.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I can’t think of any. Isn’t that terrible? I certainly can’t single any out. As far as books go, it was more an accumulative effect.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I didn’t know there were ‘innumerable artistic avenues’ open to me. I wrote a novel because I like reading them.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The hero was called Simon Bond ( a conglomeration of the names of James Bond and Simon Templar). In those days, the Bond series were not as well known as now, so I thought I’d get away with it. The characters were paper thin. The plot wasn’t bad and I modestly claim to have been one of the first to recognise the potential of lasers as offensive weapons. Laser technology was in its infancy and I read about them in a magazine (Time, I think). I thought they would make the basis for a really cool weapon of destruction. It was several years before they started to crop up in movies and thrillers in that role. I was just ahead of my time, as usual.

Oh, sorry. That was my first novel. I misread the question. The latest one is much, much better. It’s set in my version of Japan (Nihon-Ja) and it focuses on Horace more than the earlier books have. It resolves several long standing questions about the characters. The book is called The Emperor of Nihon-Ja.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. A sense that they have been entertained.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

CS Forester. In Horatio Hornblower, he created such a wonderful, complex, admirable (yet sometimes disappointing) character. Plus he believed in himself. He never gave up in the face of multiple rejections.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To keep going. To keep entertaining.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Keep going. Plan your work before you start writing. Don’t give up if you’re rejected. You will be. But CS Forester and I have proved that it doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.

John, thank you for playing.

Ranger’s Apprentice on facebook

John Flanagan’s

Ranger’s Apprentice Series



Get your child reading now. We promise they will not be able to resist.

Ranger’s Apprentice 10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

Horace is missing. Months have passed since he was sent
on a military mission to the court of the Emperor of Nihon-Ja but he
has failed to return. Evanlyn is worried, and in company with Will and
Alyss, she sets out to discover what has become of their old friend. 

They find that Horace has become embroiled in Nihon-Jan politics. The
arrogant Senshi sect has rebelled against the rightful Emperor and
Horace has chosen to stay and lend support to the deposed ruler. Now he
and Will must find men willing to face the highly trained Senshi
warriors, while Alyss and Evanlyn must overcome their longstanding
rivalry to seek aid from a mysterious group of mountain dwellers.

Ranger’s Apprentice 9 : Halt’s Peril

Halt, Horace and Will are on the trail of Tennyson and
his followers. The false prophet of the Outsider cult escaped justice
for his crimes in Clonmel, and Halt is determined to stop him before he
crosses the border into Araluen. 

Will has defeated one of Tennyson’s Genovesan assassins in Clonmel –
but there are two left alive. Are the extraordinary archery skills of
Will and Halt enough to save them during a duel with the Genovesans . .
. or is Will’s mentor facing his last battle?

Ranger’s Apprentice 8: The Kings of Clonmel

Will is at the annual Ranger Gathering but Halt is
investigating mysterious happenings in the west. When he does finally
return, it’s with bad news. 

Hibernia is in turmoil. A religious cult calling themselves the
Outsiders are sowing confusion and sedition, and five of the six
Hibernian kingdoms have been undermined. Now the sixth, Clonmel, is in
danger. Halt, Will and Horace set out to restore order.

Can the secrets of Halt’s past help them in their mission?

Ranger’s Apprentice 7 : Erak’s Ransom

When Erak, the Skandian Oberjarl, is taken hostage during
a raid on the desert lands to the south of the Constant Sea, only a few
of his men escape, including Erak’s second-in-command, Svengal. 

The timing couldn’t be worse. Svengal arrives to tell King Duncan in
the middle of Halt’s wedding! The festivities will have to continue
without the groom, his best man and the king as they try to work out a
plan to pay for Erak’s release. Halt and Will must go on the mission,
but a royal presence is needed too.

The Princess Cassandra – or Evanlyn, as the boys know her – persuades
her father to let her go with them. Horace will provide the muscle
power, and the Ranger Gilan rounds out the group to make sure that
Evanlyn is well protected.

In the treacherous desert lands, will violent sandstorms, warring
tribes and danger at every turn keep them from reaching Erak in time?

Ranger’s Apprentice 6 : The Siege of Macindaw

Now a full-fledged Ranger, Will must rescue his friend
Alyss from a rogue knight and uncover vital information. 

In this desolate northern fief, where can Will find the fighting men he
needs to overcome Sir Keren and his band of criminals?

Across the border, the fierce Scotti tribesmen are waiting for the
signal that Castle Macindaw is in friendly hands, and the way is clear
to mount a full-scale attack.

Ranger’s Apprentice 5 : The Sorcerer In The North

Time has passed since the apprentice and his master, Will
and Halt, led the Araluens to victory against invaders, and Will is now
a full-fledged Ranger with his own fief to look after. 

The fief seems sleepy and boring, even, until the king is poisoned.
Joined by his friend Alyss, Will is thrown headfirst into an
extraordinary adventure propelled by fears of sorcery, and must
determine who is trustworthy to the king and who is trying to take his

Will and Alyss must battle growing hysteria, traitors, and most of all,
time. The king is fading, but when Alyss is taken hostage, Will is
forced to make a desperate choice between loyalty to his mission and
loyalty to his friend.

Adventure abounds in this absorbing installment of the New York
Timesbestselling series.

Ranger’s Apprentice 4 : Oakleaf Bearers

Can sworn enemies fight side by side to save their lives
and their kingdoms? Just as spring approaches and Will and Evanlyn can
finally escape Skandia, Evanlyn is carried off by mysterious horsemen. 

Will sets out after them, but one boy against six fierce Temujai
warriors is impossible odds – even for a Ranger apprentice. Halt and
Horace arrive just in time.

But the happiness of their reunion is cut short when Halt realizes
these Temujai are only scouts for a massive invasion force. The four
Araluans must work together with the Skandians to defeat the invaders –
if the Oberjarl will accept their help.

Ranger’s Apprentice 3 : The Icebound Land

Kidnapped and taken to a frozen land after the fierce
battle with Lord Morgarath, Will and Evanlyn are bound for Skandia as
captives aboard a fearsome wolfship. 

Halt has sworn to rescue his young apprentice, and he will do anything
to keep his promise – even defy his King.

Expelled from the Rangers he has served so loyally, Halt is joined by
Will’s friend Horace as he travels toward Skandia.

Ranger’s Apprentice 2 : The Burning Bridge

As the Kingdom of Araluen prepares for war against
Morgarath, Will and Horace accompany the Ranger Gilan on a mission to

But Celtica’s villages are silent. Only an exhausted and starving girl
called Evanlyn can tell them why: Morgarath has sent his foul creatures
to enslave the Celts.

While Gilan rides swiftly back to report this news to the King, Will,
Horace and Evanlyn discover the true purpose behind Morgarath’s actions.

The Kingdom is sure to be defeated in a surprise three-sided attack –
unless they can find a way to prevent it.

Ranger’s Apprentice 1: The Ruins of Gorlan

STUNNING NEW LOOK for the New York Times and Australian
bestselling series about Will and his friends from Castle Redmont 

Will is small for his age, but agile and energetic. All his life, he
has dreamed of becoming a great knight like the father he never knew,
so he is devastated when he is rejected as an apprentice to Castle
Redmont’s Battleschool. Instead he is apprenticed to Halt, the
mysterious Ranger whose uncanny ability to move unseen is thought to be
the result of black magic.

Reluctantly, Will learns to use a Ranger’s secret weapons: a bow and
arrow, a mottled cloak and a stubborn little pony. It may not be the
sword and battlehorse he longs for, but when Will and Halt set out on a
desperate mission to prevent the assassination of the King, Will finds
that a Ranger’s weapons are not so useless after all . . .

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • Terri-Anne Glynn

    December 6, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I really enjoyed these books. I bought them originally for my son and he “couldn’t get into them” so I started reading them and got hooked. I am way older than a teenager and I think these books are not just for teenagers. I hope the series keeps going and would love to see it made into a TV series or series of movies, if done with the right people, it would do very well. Of course any movie/tv series would have to be high quality to do justice to the writing. With series such as Merlin, The Seeker etc, this would slot in just fine! Great work

  • Adri P-R

    December 19, 2010 at 7:06 am

    I got the Ruins Of Gorlan off a friend and we couldn’t stop reading! we loved them so much we were kinda racing against each other. I loved Archery, knife throwing, horse riding e.t.c. before i started reading the books and as you can imagine my love of those hobbies was tripled by the time i had finished, i would recommend these books to young and old. 🙂
    * * * * * 5 star

  • Frank

    July 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Ranger’s Apprentice has always been my favorite series! Now, I have a question. Earlier, John Flanagan mentioned making a female apprentice. Is that still happening?

    • April 8, 2018 at 4:03 am

      Of course, Frank, the New apprentice is Horace’s and Cassandra (Evanlyn)’s child.

  • Nick Hare

    August 9, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I first ordered this series in the middle of June and received the first 3 at the end of June. I just finished book 8 today. I can’t put them down. absolutely brilliant.

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