IF THERE'S someone who knows how to command the attention of an army of school children it would have to be children's novelist John Flanagan.
With microphone in hand, Mr Flanagan entertained the crowd with his experience of becoming an author, storytelling tips and future writing plans.
Mr Flanagan is best known for his award winning Ranger's Apprentice series and its offshoot the Brotherband Chronicles. However, he said his fantasy stories almost never saw the light of day because he was fed up after publishers rejected him eight times.
"A month before my first book was picked up I was ready to give up but my agent yelled at me to stop whinging," he said. "I really want the kids to learn that if you really want to do something and you keep at it, it eventually works out for you."
With Mr Flanagan's self-deprecating sense of humour and honesty it's easy to see why his books are a hit with the kids.
"I can joke about [the rejection] now but at the time it's not funny, it's hurtful. It's a rejection of yourself," he said. "I remember the day my book got approved. My agent called…she asked if I was sitting down. She said Random House had picked up the series. I could now finally say 'I'm an author'. I was so excited."
Prior to becoming a published author Mr Flanagan worked in advertising and television. He labelled the day his books were picked up in America as "freedom day" because he was finally able to give up his day job. Mr Flanagan's books are sold in 30 countries and have been translated into 25 languages.
"My advice to any writer is to have a plan. Usually I have a four page outline, just half a dozen lines for each chapter. I try to write a chapter a day, Monday to Friday from 10am to 1pm," he said "I have to be very organised because I'm lazy but I never have writer's block because I know where I'm going."
Mr Flanagan said he is working on a new book series but couldn't say much more. His visit was a favour to his great nephew and JPS student Josh Hammond. "I love talking to kids, kids who have read my books and kids who haven't read my books. I say to them, 'Ahh, why haven't you read them?'," he joked.
"Question and answer time can get a bit scary though. They might say 'Right, in book five you said this…' and I just wonder what mistake I've made. Kids are great, you can't get the details wrong because they'll notice it."