Sydney Writers' Centre interviews Australian kids and YA author Tristan Bancks

Sydney Writers' Centre interviews Australian kids and YA author Tristan Bancks

Tristan Bancks is an author predominantly of children’s and teen books, particularly for boys. He’s also the author behind the Mac Slater series of books and the illustrated series, “Nitboy”, which is currently being developed for television. His latest books are “Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space” and “My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up”.

hi Valerie kooky from the Sydney right of center and today I'm talking to author Tristan banks Tristan is an author predominantly of children's and teen books particularly for boys he's also the author behind at the max later series of books and the illustrated series meat boy which is currently being developed for television his latest books are galactic adventures first kids in space and this book my life and other stuff I made up Tristan welcome to the Sydney router setup thank you do you Tristan you're releasing these two books in quick succession tell us about this one first my life and other stuff are made up well it is what the title says it's very young descriptive title it is it's about stories things that happen to me weird funny stuff that happened to me when I was a kid and then I've embellished those stories and made them a bit wild or a bit crazier and a bit more amazing than they actually are and i think the sort of theory behind the book is that every kid has stories and that they should use those stories as a jumping-off point for telling their own tales mm-hmm now I must admit I don't have kids and I'm not very familiar with what young boys are interested in but it seems that interested in in in lots of bodily fluids colostomy bags this blower hat vomit um kissing a dog after he's eaten poo very sick you talk about this stuff so where do all of it you said this is cat came from your experience but if this is about the adventures of a young boy called Tom weekly so have you just did these things happen to you a lot of did like the dog kisser is about a kid who takes his dog for a walk and every day no matter what time they always run into this guy who kisses his dog and he's like it was a beautiful Chinook II who's the one who's the puppy dog and the dog licks him all over the face and then at one stage he opens his mouth and the dog looks right inside and I told us I read this story to kids in schools and they're like oh when I say this and you know lots of it that and that is based on somebody who we used to run into and would walk our dog and and then yeah there are lots of odd stories in there about the time that I had my appendix out in order to avoid detention with the school librarian and you know lots of things that actually happened to me but then I've sort of embellished them and made them a bit a bit Mair than they actually work so tell us about galactic adventures first kids in space what is behind this idea why did you want to write this book which is a quite a different book in a different age 22 my life and other stuff I matter yeah it's probably more middle grade galactic adventures upper primary and early high school and I was just interested in this civilian space travel movement you know richard branson's virgin galactic and people are putting down two hundred thousand dollars to book their ticket to space for five minutes of weightlessness and also the characters who are paying 20 to 35 million dollars for a seat for 10 days on the International Space Station and I was just intrigued by the fact that regular people were regular people with 35 million dollars are going into space and you know I thought it can't be that long before kids go into space and so this book explores that idea so this is a novel and it tracks you know a story and narrative story to you plop the whole story before you write or do you just start writing and see where the muse takes you how does it work for you is it a bit of both I on that book I wrote so zero draft where I just go in and I'll just free right and then of course your room I will use to avoid doing that because you really back and there's all these tangents you know you have an idea midway through that takes it off in this direction and it it's hard to wrestle it back into shape but interesting things happen on that journey when you're just free right and your lip let things flow so I let that happen and a lot of interesting characters sort of came up and odd things a sort of mysterious kids that he runs to run their do along the way the wouldn't have but had I been more plotting you from the very beginning so are you afraid if that happens that you won't get to it into like you could just keep on going on those tensions a beard I have a general direction that I'm going in I do i do I you know I've done a lot of thinking before I actually get to writing the draft so I tend to know where I'm kind of hitting but then occasionally you know you do go off on a tangent then you you just go with it but no I feel comfortable enough that I will find an ending it's usually not very good the first time I right at the end but you know by about the seventh time it does it starts to work so you also conduct workshops in schools in four groups of young people of creativity and you're currently on tour with get reading tell us a bit about those things um at first it's a big part of being a children's what they're doing workshops and talks and at first I didn't know whether I like that aspect I sort of thought I just want to be left alone her to write write write write write write but writing drives you crazy after a while you know if you if you have too much time to write and there's this unlimited expense you know you do need parameters around it so I actually enjoyed a lot going to schools and talking to kids and you know today I went to balmain primary school talking to a bunch of kids and one of them was talking about pulling their tooth out tying a string to a door and pulling their tooth out and all the kids alike and then she said I and I said I began to pull your tooth out now because she said it was a bit wobbly and she said yeah okay and I was like no we can't do you not supposed to say okay I think she got a piece of string and tied it around a tooth and she was pulling it all the other kids are going no no don't and then she actually pulled her tooth out right in front of me and these other kids so things like that are just gold and I jotted it down in my iphone as I left the school and that's definitely got to be a short story it's a short story in there somewhere you're just talking about your iphone I know you're quite connected you do some skype visits to two classrooms and you also have a website and you're quite active in social media how important do you think that access 50s for for authors these days I think it's essential i think i think i was reading someone interesting blog or can't think so there is seth Cody or much shatkin or one of those guys and they were talking about the fact that that model of the of the writer in the cabin in the woods doesn't exist anymore nathan bransford i think it was saying it doesn't exist anymore you can't just write the book in the woods and send it to the people who get it out there for you and they'll take care of that that just doesn't like the publisher rifle think it's a real partnership now and you've got to work together and I think that and they will work harder for you if you were the writer or working hard to to get your book out there to spread the word and you know I quite like that aspect of it too now we had a lot of questions from our Facebook community as well that they wanted me to ask you so I'm going to ask a few of those how do you ensure that you don't talk down to children when writing and get don't pitch to high above their heads where do you get that middle ground well I think it's not something that I give conscious thought to I feel like I can talk to kids I feel like I I feel like I just don't don't talk down to them and I don't write if you're writing literary fiction I guess that can go over a kid's head but you don't mind I feel like the stories that I writer engaging stories that I would have really liked when I was you know 10 12 years old so I think I think you just find it by doing it by writing over and over and seeing how the stories go read the stories to kids and I see their reactions and I think you slowly feel it out the time because this as we've said this is quite a different age to this you know they are a different audience because this is younger so how do you switch hats like you know it's so subtle the voices and in the audience since for these two books how do you switch hats between writing for one and writing foot to the other yeah I guess it's just the age of the character as well I tend to you know to young the character in my life and other stuff too galactic adventures I think there might be difference might be like 12 and 14 or something like that and or 11 and 13 sec and so I guess it's just imagining what is it like being a kid of that age what was it like in your first year of high school versus you know when you're in year four you five connoting and I don't know it just naturally flows but I think in structurally or in shorter sentences you know a simple of vocabulary all of those things helped and I guess just the ideas the ideas within the story you're naturally if you're writing a story with a year seven or eight kid in mind you naturally write more complex ideas for them to deal with to do with mortality and and their own drift from the sort of safety of childhood into that kind of unknown thing of high school you make it sound so easy Tristan I'm sure for a lot of people that's not quite that easy because I've read some of your stuff for those adults as well and it's excellent so you do make it sound quite easy but you're obviously able to switch between the two i think when i first met you with 16 years ago in the halls of pacific magazines and at that time you were writing for magazines so you were discovering writing for the first time were you trying out different genres of writing before you found your Kneeshaw how did you end up deciding on children's and teens yeah I rope I read lots of stuff I wrote if for magazines and I write for TV and England when I was presenting their and research off v and then I've written short films and I've written feature films the feature films didn't get up but the but the short films did and the features taught me it taught me a lot so and then I had this opportunity to write before I heard about a publisher looking for writers for an educational book series and it seemed like a good opportunity and I've written for kids TV and things so I went for it and tried it out loved it so much and then i wrote for another educational series and then it started developing my own trade book project as well so it was it was you know an evolution and I think everything you write helps you to write the next thing known and writing different genres that had a different media really helps so an interesting question then from one of our Facebook fans is what do you wish someone had said to you when you were starting out hmm I think just just right just do it when I was wanting to direct films and I spoke to lots of assistant directors and people who are in production and they said oh well maybe I can do that be around a lot of sets and they said no just go and do it just go and make films write a film go and shoot it and that's how you learn and I think say was writing you can't learn by hanging out with other people or but you know you do it by every day sitting down at the desk and just starting to write the discipline yeah I think I think that's what it is and if you love doing it then it doesn't really take that much discipline if you can put their headphones on and dive into that world and not be too precious about what you're writing in the beginning and and just let the words flow I think that's that's the secret to it all so what's your writing routine when you're actually writing a book what do you do you know a ritual that you have to start the day do you pray to the writing gods I do you do get a little bit superstitious about it about how you sort of get out of bed and where you you know yo and and when you organize the cup of tea but I tend to try to get up in about six this is when i'm having a writing day and when i'm having periods of writing i'll get up at six and i'll go on write three pages flat out and I've just stuff whatever's in my head and sort of veering towards my current manuscript and then I'll write for until seven o'clock just working working on the actual new manuscript and then I'll stop for an hour and then from like eight til 11 so I do about four hours writing in the day eight til 11 i'll be working on the manuscript and then sort of 11 till 3 i'll work on you know email and all the business aspect to be a writer that's why my general any pretty much to stick with it because as long as you can stick to a routine then you'll get the words out there do you try and achieve a certain workout I do I usually try for I used to try for two thousand words a day but the new book that I'm working on is just dictating to me that I it's not going to do two thousand words a day and it's more like a thousand words a day and I kind of help it and it's being a longer a longer draft that I've ever written before but it wants to be written that slowly so I have to go with it tell us can you tell us what your work what you're working on it oh it's about a kid on the run a kid who his parents have done the wrong thing who take him out of school and say they're going on a holiday but he realizes that things aren't quite right and he has to become a detective within his own life to work out what's happened is it bit darker than other things that you Richard before maybe it's a bit dark there's lots of lightness in there lots of humor in things but it's a big thing that he's dealing with and I think hopefully kids all sort of understand it's very much about kids getting are often dictated to by adults everything they do is dictated to but what do you do when the adults aren't acting responsibly and you have to actually act on your own volition and you know make ethical decisions yes so putting kids in two lemmas and also getting them to face the darker side of things is interesting point and one of our faith facebook fans has a good question but I just want to read this prologue first out of galactic adventures it says in 1971 two years after the first moon landing the US government secretly attempted to send three children into space the craft containing 13 year-old Douglas Bailey the live in UROD meriden holden and nine year old robert white exploded before it lived earth and I must have been I read that and I just went Wow now our Facebook someone at one of her facebook fans who said some people thought Harry Potter was too scary for children but they loved it is there a fine line between providing adventure and excitement for children and scaring them you know how do you know when you may be crossing the line yeah I think I'm pretty conscious of it I don't know that is a big big opening you know this but when I was in year six my first day of year six I was we're all gathered around the space shuttle Challenger was about to take off and it was taking a teacher up the first time NASA had taken a civilian I think into space and we're watching and two minutes into the journey it exploded and there was this yes and I feel like I remember that really distinctly when it was and what that what that felt like and that really influenced the writing and that prologue was very much influenced by that experience and you know what was our 11 years old and and you know kids do experience dark things I certainly I'm certainly not as dark as a lot of the young that's what a lot of the Harry Potter books no it's like as they progressed more like the first harry potter perhaps rather than the sort of 6th or so to enjoy riding shore stories or longer pieces I like the balance between short stories and longer pieces when you've been writing something really long like I wrote galactic adventures in my life simultaneously so I and you know been writing these drafts of galactic and there's lots of characters and a lot to plot and lots of things to take care of and so he can write a short story after that was the greatest dream ever so there are a really good balance between one another is so thankful to write something short after you've written something long but then after a while of writing short stories i think i yank it to tell something with a bit more of it up when you were starting out or when you were you know the merging writer what were you doing to hone your craft when what advice would you give to people to hone your product to hone their craft just writing a lot you know and getting what stuff out there i'm not into writing and putting everything in the proverbial draw i'm really into to write a short film i'm gonna go and make the short film anything i'm going to write a book i'm going to work really hard to make sure that the thing is published story for me to write an article i'll work hard to get it out there i think yeah i mean i do a lot of writing that's just that's just for me but if i'm actually working on a project that i think is worth investing timing i also work i also worked just as hard to get it out there so publishers I mean it's a commercial reality that publishers need a marketable book and you know it need to take certain boxes do you write some of your books with that in mind to fit what they might be looking for or or or not I tend to write stories that I think kids will will like I certainly don't I mean you are writing for kids it's like if I told you a story that what I did on the weekend I'd tell you different things to what I would tell a twelve-year-old I just I just veered towards certain things that might be interesting to you I was actually burn at Beckett a writer I a writer at reading matters that gave that example of how how you sort of very when you're writing for kids so certainly I think about who I'm writing for it I think about me at that age and I tend to write more for that rather than thinking what's the market and how am I gonna you know I gotta stick a few werewolves in just to try no it's just so careful sure another question from our Facebook fans what's your best advice or tips you can give somebody who's writing for children I'd say apartment right right right of course but yeah try to try to remember what you were like as a kid trying to write a lot of your memories as a child / file on my computer that's just like pages and pages and pages of memories of cousins that have friends at school and all the things that I might have forgotten and I revisit that and I explore further into different ideas to do with my childhood and I would say try to read read lots of books the kids read in the market you can't ever expect that just because you have kids and you want to write books that are four books for kids that you know that that's all you know you also need to read it what everybody else is writing for kids I would see who's doing it well and who's not doing it well I've learned from those authors yeah a lot of the people who are buying these books other parents of the children who are who are reading it what's your advice to them if they said to you you know we just want our kids to be more creative and not just sitting on the computer and play computer games so what's your advice to them I'd say arm them with these tools for creativity you know arm them with lots of paper and lots of pencils and with and help them to tell their stories you know sit down and get them to you know if they're into Lego or something like that maybe they'll create a LEGO creation and then you say okay what story can you tell about is and a kid up sit there until you a whole scenario around a single lego thing that they've built and and you know and i often get my son's to do that and then I'll transcribe their stories for them and get the stories down and then you read them back and they're so amazed this open it I'll read it again really because they love the stories they've created even before their you know old enough to be able to write their own stories down you obviously passionate about this site I think so yeah I think it's really important I make little stop-motion movies with my kids as well and I love that and I think I think providing our story stimulus is it is really important you know I give them a video camera give them a as stills camera to go and shoot pictures the things that they're interested in you know encourage that when you free certain your final line or of a chapter or a certain piece of work what's your inner barometer how do you get that sort of feeling that you know that's okay or you know that really sucks how do you know what what's what tells you that something wrong it's just I guess leaving it alone for a period and then coming back whether it's two days or a week or a month that thing when you come back and you just know I don't know I could analyze it I guess but it's just most of it is just instinct of understanding that that sentence is you know maybe I've written eight sentences in a row that are the same length or something if you know you've got to vary that or a character is one-dimensional and feeling paper-thin that you know you've got to give greater detail on who that character is or most of it is just instinct of having read lots of good children's literature and knowing that this isn't yet as good as that visible called Hatchet by gary paulsen without a kid who crashes in the Canadian wilderness and has to survive by itself out there and it's really good it's really tight it's really simple sort of Hemingway short prose and I I really like that kind of lean things at the moment I'm trying to write this book and I want it to be as good as hatchet try to set the bar the bar high I'm sure you'll reach it if not exceeded now we you talked about characters do you some writers they met out their characters they fill an entire questionnaires to get the entire backstory of their character whether that's included in the in the final version or not before they even start writing how do you develop your characters the character to have a scenario and I start riding around that like what if kids went into space who will be the first kids in space or what if there was a kid who got into all these kooky situations and we did any resorts of struggling to survive you know suburban life they're all be there usually via what if like that and the characters usually in the first draft are pretty one-dimensional but they start as I write the story and the situations come up the characters start to expand and become more 3d certainly i usually don't start with a character and then find the final scenario it's usually the other way around me now writing a book like this has a very long gestation period you've got the idea you've got the first draft you've got you know getting it back from your publisher you've got it in you got redraft adjust its long which is the most exciting part which is the partner thank you you know a bed in the morning usually the first draft when you're really excited and you're foolish enough to think that you're going to be able to write this really well it's really great yeah there's going to be the best thing you've ever written and you're so fired up and then getting the book back from the printer it's the sort of either too exciting bits and then that bit in the middle is sort of like a you know an arc like this where you go down into the woods and then you think what am I writing this thing for and I know nothing about what I'm writing about and you know and you just want to give up and you that usually happens on every book but I think that's a crucial point to get to when you want to give it a give up but you know you just there's something in you that believe you can get back up here and find your way out of the woods and when you do it feel so good when you're reading that draft back and it actually reads well and you're like this is almost like a book is not someone good almost publish this but I mean these days rested you're a successful stream Lee talented author do you do you have those periods of insecurity happy that so many successful talented I mean I mainly just said I'm thinking about how successful and tell them today and then the words just flow haha no i mean i think like like every rider everything you're right it's kind of hard you know you get to a point where you just don't know i think i think that's the most exciting thing to write something that you don't know how to write then you haven't written before you don't have a recipe for to follow the you know just join the dots i think that's that's the exciting part about writing having a question that you don't know the answer to and letting that guide you through the through the right one before and on that note thank you very much for your time today Tristan no worries thank you

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