Book People: Tristan Bancks
I’ve been an avid fan of Tristan Bancks for many years now, as has my teaching partner Jackie – who teaches a Geography unit each year which supports the Room to Read Challenge, of which Tristan is a proud ambassador; read about Jackie’s 2016 project here.
To purchase books in this blog post click on title links or cover images.
Tristan is a multi-talented, all round lovely guy who has this literary profession thing down pat: he is a powerful writer able to write a diverse range of genres; he has a background in acting and filmmaking; he’s got a great social media presence (the business side of books as he calls it); he tours for four months of the year (if you’ve not had him at your school or library GET ON IT) and he’s a passionate Room to Read Ambassador. He also happens to have an extremely lovely wife, Amber Melody, who I met at a blogging conference – it really is a small world isn’t it?
Tristan Bancks is going places in the literary world and this is as much due to hard work as it is to his immense talent. He first came to my attention with his ‘Mac Slater’ books, which, *YAY*, have just been reprinted and are perfect for 10-15 year olds who like adventure, inventing and all things extremely cool and Coolhunter worthy. I’ve laughed and laughed reading his ‘My Life’ books – which are funny, clever, gross and a bit wicked and then my mind was blown by ‘Two Wolves’. This book is without a doubt, in my top five ever children’s/YA books and will remain there always. You can read my full review of it here. Basically? Just buy it – give it to your teens, watch them be engrossed and then read it yourself.
I also highly recommend that you read more about the work that Room to Read does to help fund literacy programs for children in the world’s poorest countries – more details at end of this post.
Ten Things You Need to Know About Tristan Bancks
Tell us about your latest book.
It’s called My Life & Other Exploding Chickens. It’s my fourth book of weird-funny-gross short stories starring my alter-ego Tom Weekly. It features stories about the time when I was a kid that I was attacked by a demented clown, the time I had a book out from the library for five years and was karate-chopped by a gang of Ninja Librarians and the time giant, mutant head lice took over my town. Every story is 100% true.
How did you get started as a writer?
I wrote magazine articles for teen mags when I was 20 / 21, then wrote for an Australian film magazine as a London correspondent for a couple of years. I wrote and researched and presented kids’ TV when I was in the UK. I had always wanted to make films so I wrote and directed a bunch of short films while continuing to write for mags. Then I heard about an educational kids’ book series that Scholastic were doing. I pitched a bunch of ideas and I was on my way. ;)) My first book hit book stores in 2008.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical writing day often starts at 6.00am and I’ll write in my notebook till 6:30 or 7. Then I’ll get ready, eat breakfast, spend time with my family and start again around 7:45 at a cafe then sometimes move on to the library or somewhere outdoors. I’ll write till 12 (trying to stay away from emails, social media and anything logistical – often unsuccessfully). Then I’ll head home, eat lunch on the run, answer emails, book or organise any upcoming travel, blog, tweet, Insta and handle the business side of being a writer. I do that about seven months of the year. Another four months I speak in festivals, libraries and schools, and one month I relax (which is when the good ideas really start to flow.)
Can you describe your workspace for us?
Varied. I move from veranda to desk to dining table to cafe to library to plane to hotel to beach to couch to anywhere an idea strikes me. I blogged about it here in my Writer’s Studio series. I get bored being in exactly the same place every day, but I do find patterns, depending on the book. There is method to my madness.
Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
‘Read like a wolf eats.’ I love this quote from Gary Paulsen, the author of Hatchet. It suggests that you should read with gusto and joy and devour books in an almost ferocious way. It’s a great image.
And writing? Enjoy it. Make it yours. Like reading, do it for the love. Write the thing you must write because it won’t leave you alone. Writing can be an act of anarchy where you turn away from what you should be writing, what people expect you to write and, instead, you write the thing that excites you most. There are lots of writing tips for kids on the Create page on my site.
Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
I love all of Roald Dahl. There are not many writers whose entire body of work is as readable as Dahl’s. (I can’t wait to see Spielberg’s BFG movie.) I love Tim Winton’s ‘The Bugalugs Bum Thief’. Recently, I enjoyed John Boyne’s ‘The Boy at the Top of the Mountain’ and I love ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’, Gleitzman’s ‘Once’ and Michael Gerard Bauer’s ‘Don’t Call Me Ishmael’. In picture books I love Gus Gordons’s ‘Wendy’ and ‘Herman and Rosie’ and Jon Klassen’s ‘I Want My Hat Back’. And Oliver Jeffers’ ‘The Incredible Book-Eating Boy’. In Australian YA I love Scot Gardner’s ‘The Dead I Know’, John Marsden’s ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’ and Markus Zusak’s ‘Fighting Ruben Wolfe’. Classics? I love ‘Huckleberry Finn’, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘White Fang’. In adult books I love ‘The Road’, good thrillers and anything by Helen Garner.
If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
A filmmaker but I’d be a lot less happy because making films is hard. It’s expensive and you need lots of people to help you make the film and lots of people to see it in order to make back your budget. Writing books allows you to be writer, director, production designer, cinematographer, offline editor and to play all the characters. And when you’ve finished writing, the story is done. Whereas a film script is a blueprint for the making of something else. I love movies so much but I would be totally stressed out if I spent all my time making them. I love the freedom of writing books and making my own book trailers gives me a filmmaking outlet. (NB: I have a book trailer-making competition for kids on until August. They can win $500 cash and $500 worth of books for their school. Details here.)
I secretly want to be an astronaut and rock star but maths isn’t my strong point and my singing voice could kill a brown dog so those dreams are, sadly, off the table.
What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I love listening to music while I write. I build a soundtrack for each book. Here is the Two Wolves soundtrack. Music sets the tone for the story for me. If I can find that perfect track or album, the words flow without pain. I like it when it’s not painful. Writing to the right music can be exhilarating.
How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
Lots. But it’s a mash-up. I’m not all that consciously aware of the parts of me that are in the book while I’m writing it but when I look back I can see it. For instance, I wasn’t kidnapped and taken out on the run by my criminal parents like the kids in Two Wolves but Ben Silver ponders lots of things that I thought about when I was a kid and things I think about now.
In the My Life books, Tom Weekly is totally me and most of the stories start off with something that happened to me when I was a kid. Like, for instance, that time I was attacked by a demented clown, the time I had a book out from the library for five years and was karate-chopped by a gang of Ninja Librarians and the time giant, mutant head lice took over my town.
If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
That all kids had access to books. I was born into a family of readers. We had tons of books at home. My grandmother would take us to Dymocks on George St in Sydney and buy us books in the school holidays and she would spend every spare moment playing word games with us. We had a great school and public library service. Some kids in the world don’t have access to any books. So, each year we run the Room to Read World Change Challenge to partner with other authors, schools, teachers and students to buy books and fund literacy programs for kids in the world’s poorest countries. So far we’ve raised over $90,000 through the Challenge and we hope that this will be the biggest year yet. I’d love you to get involved!
THE 2016 WORLD CHANGE CHALLENGE IS GO!
★ Make a donation to our 2016 World Change Challenge | Everyday Hero page here.
★ Raise awareness and engage your community. Tell your friends and share the links via social media.
PLAN A FUNDRAISING EVENT AROUND THESE LITERACY EVENTS:
Children’s Book Week – Saturday 20th to Friday 26th August
International Literacy Day – Thursday 8th September
International Day of the Girl Child – Tuesday 11th October