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What/who inspired you to get into writing?

My inspiration came from the fact I’m a geek and I love comics – so I read Spiderman comics and daredevil comics and all marvel comics, and they were written by Stan Lee who is world famous. That’s what inspired me, so read comics. That’s what inspired me to read books, and tell my own stories. It was a full circle story because many years later I got to work with Stan Lee, so I got to meet the guy who taught me to read. I will always remember the first time I met him in person. We’d skyped before, but when I met him in person I was a little fanboy – all I could think of was saying ‘Thank you for my childhood!’ because he was my inspiration, and he didn’t know.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest series The Inventory?

I call it The Inventory just because it’s the American pronunciation and it will annoy every English teacher ever. So, The Inventory is about a secret underground organisation who own this enormous warehouse where they keep the world’s best technology because, quite frankly, you can’t be trusted with it, and I can’t be trusted with it. So, all these wonderful things from x-ray glasses to rocket packs are all hidden in there – all the things you would think about as a cool invention. They’re hidden away to protect the public, and the first book is essentially about the bad guy called ‘The Collector’ who is working for an organisation, and he’s looking for one specific thing. I won’t tell you what it is. The inventory is run by a secret government organisation, a guy called Charles Parker, who lives there with his nephew called Dev. Dev leads his friends Lot and Mason into this underground adventure to prevent The Collector from finding this stuff he’s looking for which could destroy the world.

What’s the most important message you want to get across in these books?

If you want to read a worthy book, you read Phillip Pullman with a good message. If you want to read my books, its popcorn fun entertainment, and the underlying message is- go and have fun. The underlying message is that you don’t know where your imagination is going to take you. So everything I’ve written from Tarzan through to the Inventory series are very different stories, but they all go back to the idea of where does your imagination take you and that question what if? What if you were lost in the jungle? What if you found a rocket pack? So the message I try to get through in films, and everything else I write rather than be moralistic and say ‘you should be good with each other and end all wars’ it should be ‘have fun and explore your imagination’. Read the book and then think what you would do with this.

Which character do you enjoy writing the most?

In the Inventory series there are three main characters – there’s Lot, Dev and Mason. Lot’s the girl, and Dev and Mason are the boys. When I originally came up with this story, me and my editor (who was a man) walked into the publishers and said we want the main character to be Lot, and she’s a girl. We were told that you can’t write books for boys with girl characters, because they won’t read them. Which I feel is nonsense because we play Tomb raider – we love girls. All boys will read the book, but unfortunately Dev became Lot, and Lot became Dev. Other than change their names, I did very little. So I wanted Lot to feel like a full real girl where you have the same problems and issues I have, and Lot became the most fun character to be, but then she became Dev. But, in my mind it’s the same character.

Can you tell us about your conservation work and what inspired you to do it?

So, for Tarzan, I got involved in a lot of conservation work, and when I was a kid I used to watch David Attenborough documentaries all the time and I used to love them. It inspired me to want to travel the world, but also look in the animal kingdom. So when I go away, I try to get into jungles and the ocean as much as possible. Tarzan was the ideal opportunity because I’d seen during my research how endangered the gorillas were. All apes are endangered unfortunately, but particularly gorillas. So, if you go to a zoo you’ll see a lowland gorilla, and there’s only a few thousand of those guys left. What you won’t see in the zoo is a mountain gorilla – there’s only 750 left in the entire universe, and I wanted to give something back. So, for every book we sell of Tarzan, we give towards the ape charity. So that was good conservation work to be part of. We worked with Bristol Zoo, EAZA (European association of zoos and aquaria), and of course I got to meet the gorillas. I got to go into the jungle and have fun with them. Conservation is important, and you can have the boring conversation about it, or you can have the fun conversation which I try and tell my audience – go out and try and sniff a gorilla. It’s important because we need them to survive if you’re ever going to do that. It’s something that I really like to do. I went swimming with whale sharks, and now I’m a member of this organisation which tracks them around the world, so I get photographs of my shark when it’s been spotted. Conservation can be fun, other than just giving the boring contribution every month and then forgetting about it, you can go and do things and then write about them.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the Film/TV industry?

I’ve been a teacher, and I’ve delivered pizzas, and I was terrible at both of those, and I’m okay at this so it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like a real job. Its fun because it keeps you constantly thinking, unexpected problems, no day is ever the same, and you’re always looking ahead for the next project and where it’s going to lead you. You’re always creating things – even if it’s a problem. You’re creating something new and exciting, so the whole film, TV, book and comic book thing is all part of the same adventure. It’s going out and creating something, and it’s not delivering pizzas.

What’s been your favourite project to work on?

Wow, that’s a really tough question. They change. It’s always the next project. Tarzan sticks in my mind because I got to go to America. In California, there’s an area called Tarzana which is where Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan, lived. So, I got to see his estate and meet the people who own it. I also got to go to Africa and meet gorillas. So, all of that is great fun and it’s never been equalled, but just last year we were filming a movie that’s out later this year called Crowhurst; so we got to hang around on yachts, and have fun, and meet wonderful actors. We’re hopefully doing a film this autumn in Italy, so I’ll get to go to Italy. Every project brings up something fresh and new, so every time you ask me, it will be the next one.

What’s your advice to young writers?

My advice to young writers is boring – just do it. Don’t give up. You’ll have lots of problems coming your way, and it’s like a marathon. A lot of people expect overnight success, but it could take you 30 years to be the writer you want to be, but it starts with writing now. Same with film, and same with music. So, it’s the boring advice of keep on doing it. Do other things, have a backup plan, become a doctor, deliver pizzas like I did, but eventually if you want to do it then it will happen. The other piece of advice is to ignore the ‘when I’m older’ saying – you can do it now! I’m meeting people who are 12 years old and writing such great stories that could get published. I try and put them off because I don’t want the competition, but there are no age barriers. So, do it now- and keep at it.

By Isabel Rolfe.