Quite a lot in some ways, because if a character is meant to be sympathetic, a 'good' character, then their values and emotional reactions to things might be like mine. And sometimes my characters are going through the same things that I have, which is why I can write with feeling. They are not just clones of me, though. Some of them have had different lives and they see things in other ways. In fact some of them are nothing like me. I don't write in the first person and I don't make any character just like me.
What is the quirkiest thing you've ever done?
Probably the time I tried to disguise myself, just to see if I could actually fool anyone. All I did was change the way I combed my hair, wear a pair of glasses which at that time I never did, and wear some clothes unlike anything that I usually wore. I think it had a couple of people guessing, but no one I knew well.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
At about seven or eight years of age, when stories I liked were read to me. I promptly wanted to make up new stories with the same characters, then invent new ones, then write the stories down. I love fiction, and always wanted to create my own stories and write them out. So as soon as I was old enough to understand and listen to other peoples' stories, I wanted to create my own.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
It's quite a range! Starting with the classics, Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness, Jane Eyr, Wuthering Heights (despite the sadness of it) and Huckleberry Finn. Some of Shakespeare's plays are excellent, such as Romeo and Juliet ( even though it is sad), Macbeth (despite the grimness) Henry V and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I love good Christian fiction, such as Frank Peretti's The Oath and others of that genre. I enjoy thrillers including some of Jack Gibson's and Tom Clancy's. I love The Wind In The Willows and still own a copy. Also The Chronicles Of Narnia. Michael Crichton's novels are entertaining and raise issues worth raising, such as Jurassic Park. In non-fiction, I like Phillip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew and The Screwtape Letters. This list could go on for ages. I own hundreds of books.
I do, too. Probably well over a thousand. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Outcasts Of Skagaray is the only one published so far. I've also written a teen readers' novel set in the area where I grew up, about social inclusion among kids. I've written another fantasy adventure called The Fire Horse which is allegorical, and am completing a sequel to Outcasts Of Skagaray.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Happily for me I don't have a day job anymore because I became critically stressed when teaching high school and was medically retired. We have a house with a garden that I can do things with; and I love to sit and read, for hours. I spend time just 'hanging out' with my wife, because we can talk about anything with each other. It's good to go for a long walk in the bush or a nature reserve; or browse in a book shop. (Of course! I can get lost in one for hours.)
How do you choose your characters' names?
I try to make them easy to easy to remember, and to invoke some meaning, whether in English or the imagined language of the world they live in. In Outcasts Of Skagaray the name "Tarran" simply sounded strong without being menacing, and it means 'Guiding Hand' in the story. "Shanomie" also seems euphonious to the ear and therefore sympathetic in its implication; and "Shenoa" and "Ambrand" more or less the same. They are meant to sound consistent with the world in which they are set. Old English sounding names seem congruent with a world something like Arthurian Britain or Celtic Europe, but I don't use what I know to be existing names. Mind you, with people making up new names it gets difficult to be original. As much as anything else, they simply come to mind and I modify them if need be.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
When I had a period of really bleak depression, the idea snuck up on me that I should leave home and family, and try to start a new life somewhere else. I refused to give in to it, and I'm very glad that I didn't let myself be so selfish. It would have really hurt those close to me, far too much to excuse by just saying "I need...." or whatever other excuse I might have offered.
I know that was a hard-fought battle. Good for you. If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
Possibly a wild horse, because being able to run fast and long over wild country would be pure joy. Horses have the capacity to bond with others, they are sociable and can be noble in their behaviour. Or looking at it from another angle, possibly a wolf because I would feel safe with a pack; and canine animals, including dogs, can be admirable in their way.
What is your favorite food?
Spaghetti bolognaise. I've always loved it.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I found sometimes that it was hard to be realistic, so the the story and an ending are not 'cheesy', without hurting sympathetic characters. It might involve restructuring the plot so that I can shift someone out of harm's way, yet not having the ending too cute. It's an ongoing problem that I hate a sympathetic character having to suffer too much. It needs to be thought through, slowly.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Write about what you can feel deeply about. Write about something that you would like to see happening, and make the story about how it happened, despite difficulties. Or write about the prevention of something you would hate to happen. This may not be original, but when you feel strongly it is much easier to write with feeling instead of just trying to think of what a reader might like. You need a sense of audience, but not just a cynical intention to sell something. It needs to be real to you, and important.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
I'm trying to show that strength is not the same as harshness or cruelty. It is meant to show how you can survive really miserable and frightening experiences if you trust in God and look for what is good in the universe. It's about not giving up, as much as you might want to. In Outcasts Of Skagaray the central character finds it easier to keep living and not despair when there are others who need him and are in the same situation as him. And as a Christian, since I believe God is real and essential, I'm saying that if you look for God you will not be ignored.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My web page is www.threeswans.com.au and if want to preview the novel there are sample chapters there. My blog it http://threeswans.blogspot.com if anyone wants to chat or leave comments.
Thank you, Andrew for this chance to chat with you. I've always been fascinated by Australia, and I love to feature authors from there.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Andrew's book. Then go check out his website and blog.