Ever wondered How do you become a ranger? Or How do you organise plotlines around the non-linear ‘Decide-your-destiny’ style of writing in Ranger in Danger? To find out read the interview with Alison Reynolds and Sean Willmore.
Ranger in Danger Author Interview
Lots of people have asked us how the Ranger in Danger books were written, so we decided to interview the authors!
How did you come up with the series name ‘Ranger in Danger’?
Sean: Because it rhymes and it’s true. Many rangers around the world face danger in protecting endangered species and ecosystems. About a thousand rangers have been killed in the last 15 years.
Alison: I think the series name arose after lots of brainstorming by different people. It reflects the life of a ranger perfectly. And the rhyme is very catchy.
Why did you decide to use the ‘decide your destiny’ format?
Sean: It gives the reader the chance to see the decisions made from the ranger’s perspective and just as in life, decisions you make have consequences, positive and negative.
Alison: Sean thought up the ‘decide your destiny’ format. I’ve really enjoyed writing the series, as the choices made me consider what I would do. I also think it gives the reader the power to imagine what they would do if they were a ranger.
You obviously make a very good team. How do you work together to come up with plotlines, ideas, etc.?
Sean: Generally I have some stories and experiences from my travels and friends who are rangers overseas, Alison and I discuss what would work, she writes it out, comes back to me, we correct it until we’re happy and voilả − RID
Alison: It’s a lot of fun writing the series together. We work out a very vague outline, e.g. what problems a ranger faces in the chosen area. Then Sean tells me about a real-life ranger, some stories, and I think ‘what if?’ Then I start writing and let my imagination run wild. When I get stuck I ask Sean what he would do if he was hanging from a cliff, caught in wild river rapids or something else exciting, and together we work out a solution.
How has writing Ranger in Danger changed your life?
Sean: Well, we’ll see once the books really start to get out there, but I’ve got a new group of friends in Alison and people at the publishing company ─ Five Mile. Plus I got to think like a kid again!
Alison: I’ve written about topics I’ve never really thought about. The series has got me thinking about the environment and my part in it. I’m much more aware of rangers and what they do. Sean is hopeful that learning about animals will one day cure my phobia of snakes, but we’re not there yet. Like Sean, I’ve enjoyed making new friends including him and the Five Mile crew.
Did the real ranger in each story have any say over the story?
Sean: Yes, if there were things they didn’t agree with, but generally they trusted me and said go for it.
Alison: Sean advised me about how a ranger would react to different situations and liaised with the real-life rangers.
Who drew the illustrations?
Sean: Andrew Hopgood. Great front covers!! Love ’em
Alison: I love Andrew Hopgood’s illustrations too! All the covers have been amazing but wait until you see Book 5 − Erik’s Enigma. I’ve been constantly amazed by what Andrew’s been able to illustrate: leaping leopards, charging rhinos… Andrew’s done it all.
How do you organise your plotlines around the non-linear ‘Decide-your-destiny’ style of writing in Ranger in Danger?
Sean: We come up with the general story and Alison asks me a lot of ‘what would you do if…?’ and then you can choose from there.
Alison: I tend to start writing and see where it leads. I try to have choices every few pages or so. Then I end up with a huge spider web, so I draw it out on a huge piece of butcher’s paper to check every strand has an ending. Sometimes they don’t, so I have to give them one. Often I have an idea and write it up, then I have to find somewhere to put it. That’s where the paper map comes in useful. When I can’t think of an ending, Sean always manages to help me out. I think it helps that we find the same things funny.
Which is your favourite Ranger in Danger character, and why?
Sean: The reader who is the ranger in danger, because they are learning and having an adventure along the way.
Alison: I really liked Coco in Book Two, Hernando’s Labyrinth as he chose to change from the dark side to the side of good in some versions. I always end up really liking all the real-life rangers and feel as if I know them even though we’ve never met. And I especially enjoyed writing King Cobra, the villain in Book 3, King Cobra’s Curse.
When you first begin writing a new book for Ranger in Danger, what are the first few things you think about to organise the plotline? Characters? Different endings?
Sean: Location, geography, animals, rangers’ activities, environmental problems in the area.
Alison: This must be why Sean and I are a great team. Apart from the location, I’m probably more focussed on the characters, and what makes them act like they do. Sometimes I’ll think up an ending with Sean, so I have to write the strand to get there.
Sean supplies the ranger activities and environmental problems in the area. But so he should! He’s the real life ranger!
What do you like best about writing Ranger in Danger?
Sean: Finishing them!! And honouring the rangers around the world who do this work for real!
Alison: When I hold the finished book in my hand, feeling as if I’ve really accomplished something to share with the readers. I’ve also really enjoyed learning about animals, different countries and rangers.
How do you become a ranger?
Sean: It’s different for different areas, but generally you go to university, study science and environmental science and then get lot of field experience. There are many people who would like to do the work, but really only some who are cut out for it. You have to be very passionate about your work, the environment and understand it’s a life, not just a job!
Alison: I would suggest reading all the series, but Sean will probably say that’s not good enough.
What qualities do you need to become a good writer?
Sean: Team up with Alison Reynolds and have a good imagination and life experience to draw from.
Alison: Practise, perseverance and an interest in what’s happening around you. Also team up with Sean Willmore so you get a lot of plots!