- Please introduce yourself and your business/career.
Hallo there. My name’s Andy Robb and I’m an author and an every-now-and-then actor.
- When did you first start writing? What led you into this area of work?
I think I sort of started when I was training at drama school. Part of the deal was that you had to write back-stories for your character, in order to see where they’d come from and how they got to where they were. But I got into it as a creative outlet when I left and was a jobbing actor; me and a mate would sit down and write TV scripts and hawk them off. The book-writing started during a lengthy spell of not working as an actor. I was working as a cook, as part of an on-set catering unit. We were working on a film called ‘Sunshine’. I’d started my first book – I think I was near the end of the first draft. One of the folk who was always hanging around the catering truck was the writer of the film (and, as it turns out, an author), called Alex Garland. Once I found out who he was, I had a chat with him and showed him what I was writing. He very kindly showed it to his agent and, after an interview, she became mine.
- We’re currently reading your first book, Geekhood, Close Encounters of the Girl Kind (shortilsted for the Waterstones Children’s Book prize 2013) and really enjoying it. Is the 14-year-old protagonist, Archie, based on you?
Glad you’re enjoying it! Archie is based on various aspects of me. I stole heavily from my teenage years: I was an avid D&Der and my parents had split up and everything seemed awful. D&D and painting miniatures were my escape from it all; a bit like therapy, I think. When I started Geekhood, I was very conscious that I didn’t want to write a book where a kid developed super-powers and made everything good, because my life wasn’t like that. And it was also the time when girls came onto my radar. Sarah is an amalgamation of various girls I fell in love with (which I did every five minutes or so) and the story that set the ball rolling is when I tried to tell a girl I liked her and got so worked-up I passed out. A geek to my teeth.
- Before you started writing, you were an actor and appeared in many different TV shows and movies… which was your favourite?
I think my favourite telly was a TV adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd. We spent three months filming it and I got to work with one of my heroes: Nigel Terry. Nigel became a good mate and we were in touch, right up until he passed away, last year. A top man.
Film-wise, I really enjoyed doing Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic. I do a bit of voice-over work and ended up playing the part of Kring, the magic sword, which was great fun. Plus, I didn’t have to learn any lines, as it was all read out in a sound booth.
- If you weren’t writing, would you still be acting, or is there something else you might like to do?
I’ll always do a bit of acting, I think… but my unfulfilled ambition is to get a blues band together. Not being that good on guitar and being a dreadful singer, I think it’s going to be a while before it happens…
- Give us one unusual, little-known fact about yourself.
I was once rescued from being crushed by an automated drinks’ trolley by Tom Baker. Yes: the Fourth Doctor saved me from a robot!
- Do you have any plans or special events coming up that you are able to tell us about?
There are a few authory things on the horizon: festivals, workshops and things like that and I’m focussing on finishing my third book, at the moment. Nothing spectacular, for the time being.
- Who is your favourite superhero or character and why?
The Incredible Hulk. I discovered him at about the age of 10 and got swept away. I think the Hulk is a favourite with people who were kids like I was, because he’s everything you’re not and does everything you want to do. There was many a time at school, when I wished I’d been fiddling about with Gamma radiation. I’d’ve had more than my fair share of ‘Hulk smash!’ moments.
Comics also got me into drawing. I loved Jack Kirby’s artwork; there was something so Universal Horror about it. I was also a big fan of Sal Buscema, who made ol’ greenskin more dynamic, in my 10 year-old eyes. And then Todd McFarlane came along and turned it all on its head, but in a really good way. Thursdays were ‘Hulk Weekly’ days and then the TV show came on and then there was the fateful incident where I decided to dress up as the Hulk for my local carnival. What I hadn’t counted on was that green food-colouring is really hard to get off and I spent the first three days of the next week going to school, looking like an unhealthy pea.
- What is your guilty pleasure? (go on, you can tell us…. And D&D doesn’t count….!)
Gah! So many! I still enjoy painting miniatures, but I don’t see that as a guilty pleasure…let’s see… I know: car-crash TV. If I’m not watching some HBO series, I’ll be sneakily catching up on something like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. He like the Hulk in a pinny; maybe that’s why I like it.
- Who do you most admire and why?
My mum. She’s an incredible woman, who’s done the most incredible things and never really talks about them. We got to really know each other during my parents’ divorce; in all that adversity we were thrown together and became friends, instead of just mother and son. She never fails to astound me.
- What’s your favourite project that you’ve been involved in?
Gawd. There’s a question. My next book is always my new favourite project but, that aside, I still write things with my old mate, Miserable Jim. Despite his nickname, he’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met and we’ve always got a project on the go. Only a few have ever seen the light of day, but I’m really hopeful for the latest one. If it goes anywhere, I’ll let you know, as it’ll be big news. Miserable Jim is the inspiration for Matt, in the Geekhood books: dry, awkward and insecure, but a friend to the end.
- And a recommended read of a book you haven’t been involved in?
I always say Lord of The Rings, so I’ll say something else, this time. Anything by Phillip Reeve – Mortal Engines is always a firm favourite. And anything by Jonathon Stroud: his Bartimaeus books are blinders. And Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is always on my turntable.
Our review of Andy’s fantastic book, Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind is now live on our site. You can get your own copy here