What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve sort of written for a long time. Back in my LAMDA days, part of the training involved creating backstories for characters you were playing and I think that set the ball rolling. A while after leaving drama school, I wrote comedy as part of a group and we ended up having to write material for our part in a TV show. But I think the thing that really got me going was doing theatre. Some theatre jobs are great, with great people, great scripts and all the right ingredients. Conversely, some are dreadful. I was out of work as an actor and, on a bit of a whim, decided to see if I could write a book. While I was doing it, I bumped into an author and badgered him for advice. He put me in touch with his agent and she now represents me. It was all a bit accidental, really – but a good one.
How would you describe your books to someone who hasn’t read them?
“The best book you’ll ever read in your life.” If that doesn’t work, I’ll throw things.
How much of Archie’s character do you draw from your own experiences?
Loads. Both Geekhoods are thinly-veiled autobiographies. There’s a story I tell at events about the first time I asked a girl out. It didn’t end well. It was telling that story to a mate that got me thinking about how I was with girls back then and it opened the floodgates for embarrassing and awkward stories. Pretty much everything that Archie does in the book was done by me, first. All the divorce stuff is very close to the truth: my folks did split up and there was a stepfather involved for a while. While we didn’t get on, I did understand that his job was a tough one and I’ve tried to reflect that.
And then there’s the Geek stuff. I was a committed miniature-painter and reader of rulebooks. Both gave me a way to leave the madness of my domestic and romantic lives behind.
How did you find writing the romance aspect of your novels?
I found it a bit bittersweet to be honest. Looking back, I realise what a romantic teenager I was, but it’s always tinged or tainted by those horrible hormones demanding that you find out what a boob looks like. Writing it all was funny to do, but it also made me realise why I was single until I was 19.
Would you describe yourself as a geek?
Yes, I would. The stuff I was into in my teens has now found itself in the mainstream; you don’t have to be a geek to watch a Marvel movie or Lord of the
Rings. But, back then, it was very definitely non-mainstream. I loved things like Dr Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons and the like – but it wasn’t readily accepted. So, you ended up gravitating towards people who had similar interests and formed little geeky gangs.
I am a geek and proud of it.
One of your books was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Childrens Books Prize. What did that mean to you?
That was all really confusing; I couldn’t quite believe it! As a first-time author, it did make me feel less of a charlatan and the evening was fantastic. I don’t think I really understood what a big deal it was at the time – which is probably a good job, as I didn’t win! But, it was very humbling to find myself in that room with all those talented types.
What’s next for you?
A dystopian YA I wrote, called ‘The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker’ is coming out, later this year – keep an eye on Amazon for that one. In the meantime, I’m writing two new ideas – partly to see which one really takes and partly to see if I can write two books at once! In my showbiz life, I’m voicing an animation and with the rest of my time, I’m doing what I love most – which is being a dad.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Start writing and keep going. Listen to criticism and learn from each thing you do that doesn’t go the way you want it. Each book is a roll of the dice; an experiment. There are never any failures, if you learn from your mistakes.
Follow Andy on Twitter @ThatAndyBloke. His website is http://www.theandyrobbsite.co.uk