Andy Robb

Andy Robb

About Author

Andy was born in Devon. Once he realised that he was too short to be taken seriously as a costumed hero, Andy decided to spend as much time as he could playing make-believe. After training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he went on to appear in various stage-plays around the UK and in a number of film and television productions including Coronation Street (As Brian Tilsleys murderer) and The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe (released in 2012). Whilst acting Andy wrote a number of pieces for stage, television and radio before a chance encounter with author, Alex Garland, inspired him to start writing fiction. Andy now lives on a houseboat where he wrote his debut novel.

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June 2012

Stripes Publishing

Archie is a 14 year old geek who loves role-playing games - but when he falls for a gorgeous girl in real life, he takes on his biggest quest ever. Author Andy Robb talks about Geekhood and Close Encounters of the Girl Kind.

Q: This is your first novel for teenagers - so what do you normally do for a living?

A: I have many hats. I trained as an actor and still do that occasionally. At the moment my day job is copywriting for the internet - it means I am my own boss and if there's a showbiz opportunity, I can take it up. And it gave me time to sit and write a book!

Q: An actor? Anything we could spot you in?

A: My most recent claim to fame is a role in the Woman in Black; it wasn't a massive part but it's my first film role so it was a novelty for me. If anyone watches Coronation Street, I was the guy who murdered Brian Tilsey - but that was a long time ago. It made me famous for about a year and it was interesting having all that attention for a while. I enjoyed it but I also learned that fame isn't all it's cut out to be...

Q: How did you end up writing a novel for teenagers?

A: A friend and I actually sat down to write a television script together. We had a great idea and spent a year writing it but although there was interest no one picked it up. We went on to write other things but the idea kept bothering me; I thought TV was probably the wrong avenue for it.

Then I was working as a caterer on a film set for Sunshine with Alex Garland who wrote the book The Beach. When I found out who he was, I asked for some writing advice and he took a look and sent my manuscript to his agent!

I think the teenage market is the natural area for me to write in, probably because I am one of those people who don't like growing up. Some of my best memories are routed in my childhood experiences, I will buy the Beano for my son and read it, and I still watch the films I loved as a kid - like Star Wars!

Q: Your main character is a bit of a geek - anything like you?

A: Archie loves role playing games, and yes, I was a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons geek. I think I wanted to escape day to day life. Like Archie's, my parents split up and it was easier to be in my room chasing trolls than listening to them rowing. So I relate to that in Archie.

Q: So what exactly are role-playing games?

A: Well, a group of players involve themselves in a quest that is governed by the 'games master'. He would have written out a series of encounters for the players but the players themselves decide what they want to do. So it's like a long improvisation game but with certain rules.

Q: Isn't that what computer games are for?

A: You'd be surprised how many people are still involved in this kind of gaming - there is still a very large and growing community of gamers! In a computer game you're restricted by the game but on table top games you're only restricted by your imagination.

Q: Archie also has two opposing voices in his head, one that is him and the other delivering killer lines. Where did that come from?

A: It came about because I'm a coward in many respects - I find it really hard to say things that need to be said. In my head is the voice saying what should be said, or delivering the killer line, and I think everyone has that little voice in their head that yaps quietly away to them, so I wanted to reflect that. It's also very funny!

By the end of the book, Archie has found his own voice.

Q: Archie has a step family which he finds quite problematic - is that based on your own experiences?

A: Yes, it was pretty much for me as it is for Archie. After my parents divorced, my mum got involved with a guy who I couldn't stand, although having also been a step parent myself now, I have a lot more sympathy for him than I did then. I know what it's like to have step children looking at you in horror!

Q: We're not going to give away the ending - but did you always know which way it was going to go?

A: Well, Archie would either get the girl or not. To be honest, it could have gone either way - but do you have to get the girl in order to be the hero of the piece? I only had a vague idea where the book was going while I was writing it. I have heard writers saying 'the characters determine what happens' and that is what I found when I was writing the book.

Q: Any tips for budding writers?

A: I can only say what I found when I write. To me, Geekhood had to have something to say beyond the story and for me, that was what can happen if you don't talk to other people about things - it can all go horribly wrong. So if you feel passionately about something, use that in your story.

It's also important to know your characters well and what they would or wouldn't do, whether you have created them or drawn them from real life. If you know them well, they will react realistically in any given situation.

Q: What are you writing next?

A: Geekhood 2 will be out next year and it's a continuation of Archie's story.

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