Ep 201 How to teach your kids to write a good story. And meet Tristan Bancks, author of ‘The Fall’.

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In Episode 201 of So you want to be a writer: How to teach your kids to write a good story, why social media advice for authors can be tricky, and why freelancers should sample office life from time to time. Meet Tristan Bancks, author of the thriller book for kids, The Fall.

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Show Notes

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Links 

Community feedback on ‘So you want to be a writer’

Story Writing For Kids: How To Write A Great Story

Social Media for Authors: The Toughest Topic to Advise On

I Quit Freelance Writing for a 9 to 5. Here’s Why It Didn’t Work for Me

Writer in Residence

Tristan Bancks

Tristan Bancks is a children’s and teen author with a background in acting and filmmaking. His books include the My Life series, Mac Slater (Australia and US) and Two Wolves, a crime-mystery novel for middle-graders. 

Two Wolves won Honour Book in the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. It also won the YABBA and KOALA Children’s Choice Awards.

Tristan’s latest books are My Life & Other Weaponised Muffins (February 2017), a fifth book of weird-funny-gross, semi-autobiographical short stories and The Fall (May 2017)a new thriller novel for ages 10+. Tristan is a writer-ambassador for world-changing literacy charity Room to Read. He is excited by the future of storytelling and inspiring others to create.

(If you click the links in this bio and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

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Interview Transcript 

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us, Tristan.

Tristan

No problem. Thanks for having me.

Valerie

I have in my book – not in my book! I have in my hand your book The Fall. Now for any listeners who haven’t read the book yet, can you tell us what it’s about?

Tristan

It’s about a kid who is 12 going on 13, who witnesses a crime through the rear window of his father’s apartment one night. And the perpetrator of that crime knows that he’s the sole witness and comes after him.

Valerie

I love it. It is a page turner. You are hooked in from page one. Now, I’m a woman in her 40s, a far cry from being a teenage boy, and yet I was in this boy’s shoes. I think this is an excellent book, Tristan. Tell me where did the idea come from?

Tristan

It comes from something… My favourite line from a book ever is, or the one that sticks in my mind is, “I was 12 going on 13 when I first saw a dead human being.” And it’s from Stephen King’s novella “The Body” that was in Different Seasons, and it was turned into the movie Stand by Me. And I think something like that is the opening line of the movie, too. And I just loved that movie when I was a teenager. I loved the book. I have re-read and reviewed those over the years. I still do now. I think it’s just recently on Netflix, actually, Stand by Me. And it’s just great story telling.

And I recently, or a few years ago, I was sort of thinking, have I ever seen a dead human being? And I thought, no, I don’t think I have. And then I remembered when I did work experience with Channel Ten news when I was in high school. I was in year ten or eleven and I got to follow a news cameraman around Sydney for a whole week. And we went to big sporting events, the Australian Open Golf, and we went to crime scenes, and it was the greatest week of my life to that point.

And we went to this crime scene in Kings Cross where a man had grabbed a woman’s handbag, run off through a park, jumped over a fence at the back of the park to get away, and what he didn’t realise was that the fence at the back of the park was actually on top of multistorey carpark built into the hill. And he fell to, what I think was his death. I don’t know for sure. But that’s my memory of it. And I can’t find the story because they’ve deleted all the tapes from that era. But I think that’s what happened.

And I remember we shot from up on top of the park looking down, there were police and ambulance people and there were forensics and things. And then we went down and we were shooting this piece to camera with Harry Potter, who was the Channel Ten crime reporter. And when I tell this story kids are fascinated by the fact that his name was Harry Potter. And he was invented before Harry Potter was invented.

And I just wondered, so the big question for me was, what would it be like if your parent was a crime reporter and you got to go to scenes like this all the time, and you as a kid got insight into crime scenes that most kids would not. And that started me thinking about a kid that was in the situation whose father was a crime reporter.

Valerie

Wow. So that’s really interesting. Now you’ve told us kind of the genesis of this idea and how it started. I’m curious to know whether you thought about everything that you just said then in a matter of seconds or a matter of months?

Tristan

Years. Years. It took me, you know, it was actually five years from my zero draft, or my exploratory draft, right through to the publication. So initially I wrote a draft that was set in Sydney. It was about a kid who was on work experience with Channel Ten news, and followed this news person around, the camera operator. So it was very autobiographical.

And then I went travelling with my family for about six months to Europe, and I saw Rear Window again on the plane, the Alfred Hitchcock movie. And I thought, well, it feels quite diluted the story at the moment, where he’s travelling all over the city. And I thought, how can I contain it? And I thought what if he was staying in his father’s apartment and he saw this crime in the rear window? And perhaps he’s never met his father before. Maybe his parents broke up before he was born, and his mother thinks his dad’s irresponsible, never wanted him to meet his dad.

But then finally he’s had an operation, his mum has to work, and finally she has given in and she’ll let him go and stay with his dad for a week. And that’s when he witnesses this crime of someone pushed, actually, or sent over the balcony of the sixth-floor apartment.

Valerie

In the middle of the night.

Tristan

Yes.

Valerie

So it’s from the point of view of this 13-year-old boy, or soon to be 13-year-old boy. And it’s written in first person. So you really do, the reader is really very much in this teenage boy’s world. How do you, what did you need to do to get into the mind of a teenage boy?

Tristan

Part of it was that I gave him an operation that I had when I was 12 going on 13. My left leg was about 4 or 5 centimetres shorter than my right, and so I was slightly slanted, tilted to one side, kind of thing. And so I had an operation where I had six metal staples put into my right knee in order to slow down the growth of my right leg so that my left leg could catch up. And I thought, I’m going to give Sam Garner, this kid, that operation. And that’ll help me to get into what it felt like. It also gives a reason why he’s gone to stay with his dad. But it will help him feel like me.

And I also sometimes in my early drafts, my zero drafts of exploratory drafts, I’ll call the character Tristan as well, in order to feel as though they are me in some way.

Valerie

That is fascinating, that you gave him that same operation to get into, well, your mind as a 13-year-old, I guess. Wow. There’s lots of little details in this, and I’m not giving anything away. The reference to his mother getting him to take magnesium, which I had to laugh out loud because everyone these days tells me to take magnesium.

Tristan

Really?

Valerie

As the solution to all ills. And just little things like 85% cocoa in the chocolate. There’s these little things that you add to the story that seem to me the result of just incredibly astute observation from your part. Just about human behaviour and about things that humans do and things that we experience. Do you consciously… Well, first of all, do you agree that it comes from observation? And if so, do you consciously make yourself do that? Write stuff down that you observe? Or is it just something that comes naturally to you?

Tristan

I do tend to, in the morning I’ll wake up and I’ll do morning pages. Which is a sort of lag from having read The Artist’s Way twenty years ago, or something. And I’m a big fan of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, as well. I try to meditate whenever I can, which I guess is about getting down into where you are at that moment. So I guess all of those things help you to be an observer of what’s around you.

But I also, I’m very conscious when I’m writing fiction, that I’m trying to make it feel as real as I possibly can. And I think maybe because I’m not 12 going on 13 right now, I really try even harder to imbue it with details of the real world in order to make this fiction seem like fact.

Valerie

One of the things also about this book is the pacing seems to be spot on. As a reader I have that sense of, I’m clutching the top of my chest at the moment to give you an indication. I have this feeling right there, and I’m almost short of breath, as I just want to know what’s happening in the next scene. What do you do, consciously, or what do you do from a technical point of view, to keep the reader feeling that?

Tristan

I write a lot of drafts over a very long period of time. And the first draft is terrible pacing, and it’s all over the place, and it goes and shoots off in a million different directions. And then the first draft, and the second, and the third and the fourth, all of those drafts are very, like the pacing is all out. I either deliver too much information right up front, and you know exactly what’s going on, or I make it too cryptic and no one knows what’s going on.

So I keep all those drafts to myself until I get to about a fifth or sixth draft. And they’re drafts that sometimes will take between two and – if I’m out in the world talking about the books and things – sometimes they might take up to four months or five months or something to write the 50,000-word draft.

Valerie

Each?

Tristan

Each. Yeah.

Valerie

Each time. So what are you physically doing in, like, when you move from draft two to three or three to four or whatever, what is in in your head of this is what I need to do or change? What’s your barometer or benchmark or whatever of what you need to take away or add?

Tristan

I’ll print it out. Or sometimes as I get further into the draft I will record, voice record the entire draft. I’ll just read it. I’ve put it aside for a month or two months. Or sometimes I’m just about to read a draft of something that I wrote six months ago. And so when you come back, you’re pretty fresh on it, and you know exactly what stinks and what bores you. And so you, you know, when I first read it back, I’ll just have a pencil in hand, but I won’t write extensive notes. I’ll just put a dot or a question mark or a smiley face. Very very…

And then I’ll stop each quarter of the manuscript. So when I get to these major turning points, inciting incident or midpoint or second act turning point, I will stop and I will write notes on that. And I will go, terrible, stinks, boring! But there is that one scene that is kind of interesting in the bathroom. And then I’ll read the next quarter, and then I’ll just write notes at the end of that quarter. And again, oh gosh, what am I doing? This is the worst thing I’ve ever written!

And so I do that for three or four drafts, and it’s only about the fourth draft that I’m writing possibly more positive notes than negative. Or starting to see that it could really be something.

Valerie

Now, is this process, this doing this every quarter of your manuscript, is this process something that evolved over the years for you? Or something that you learned somewhere?

Tristan

I just thing that if I save it all up to the end, I will have a bit of a messier idea of whether it works or not. And no one’s ever going to read the whole book necessarily in one sitting, or not too many people are going to read an entire book in one sitting. And I also think if I think of it in kind of units of action I can know that, wow, the opening, once I get into a few drafts, I’m like oh wow, the opening is really working well. It’s only those second and third quarters that are really lagging, and I’m literally falling asleep when I’m reading it back. And then it comes home really strong. So at least I can isolate which parts of the manuscript aren’t working and which are.

And I think it’s a bit of a lag from having learnt to write fiction by writing screenplays, as well. So I still very much think in terms of first, second and third acts, and I think in terms of a midpoint. And I think in terms of those waypoints within the story that are just going to give you something to hang on to. Something to…

And I don’t think too much about that when I write my first one, two, three drafts. It’s about a third draft when I’ve just dived in and I’m just writing what comes to me, and I get to the third draft and it’s still a mess, and it’s frustrating me, and then I start to really think, okay, well, what’s the structure of this thing? Why is it not working? And then I make a bit of an outline and start to consider that structure more.

Valerie

So you do have a background with screenwriting and the acting world. So when you approach a book like this, The Fall, and you say that you do have that tendency to go to that three-act structure, have you mapped out that three act structure and the various plot points before you write the bulk of it? Do you know what’s happening?

Tristan

Not in the first and second, maybe third drafts. No. I tend to now… I used to. I used to map it very tightly and put step outlines up on the wall and know exactly what every chapter was going to be. And then I’d think, well, if I just write to that, then I’m going to have a book. And that was in the first few books that I wrote because I wanted to know that I could get to the end.

Whereas now, I feel like I’ve written enough books to know I will get to the end, I am going to follow through with this, I don’t doubt myself as much. Well, I do, I doubt myself in many other ways. But in terms of finishing the thing, I know I can, and I can sort of trust in my structural understanding on those first few drafts without being too explicit about that, without tying myself down too early. Because all those discoveries, and all those dead ends lead to perhaps just one little interesting scene or interesting detail, or a strange turn of phrase that you wouldn’t have come up with had you been writing too specifically to an outline. That’s the way it is for me, anyway.

Valerie

So when you are writing and you’re not off on the promotional trail, or visiting schools or doing your author talks – I know you’re very active doing those sorts of things. But when you’re in the depths of your writing, what’s your typical day like?

Tristan

I will try to wake up at 6:00 if I can, and get half an hour to an hour’s writing done. First up, just morning pages, three pages flat out. I might try to do some meditation, maybe five minutes, ten minutes.

Valerie

With the morning pages, can you just clarify are you writing anything to do with your manuscript? Or are you just writing whatever is in your head?

Tristan

At first, it’ll be whatever’s in my head. And it might be the sounds of the birds, or it might be that I’m really cold and tired and hungry, and I wish I had a regular job with superannuation and holiday pay. Or why have I done this? And I’m in the middle of the draft of this book and I know it’s never going to turn out. Or I may have woken up really positive and I’ll be, wow, I’m so lucky to live this life. You know, it’ll vary.

And then at some stage towards the middle, or a couple of pages in to the three pages that I write, I’ll sort of say, so what is this story about? And I’ll start telling myself the story. It’s about this kid who witnesses this crime. But what is the crime? And how does his dad have something to do with it? And I’ll start to free associate ideas. And by the end of that page or two of writing the actual story, it’ll send me off into the manuscript. And it may not be exactly where I finished yesterday; it may send me back or forward in the manuscript, and I’ll just start writing that scene or chapter that I have the most energy on at that time. I don’t worry, I tend to write scenes out of order if that’s what I’m excited about and that’s what’s flowing most easily.

Valerie

And do you aim for getting to certain milestones when you’re writing a book? I must achieve by this chapter by this time, or anything like that?

Tristan

I used to. And I used to be much more structured and organised, and I was much more afraid of having a messy first draft. So the step outline made sure that my first draft was not atrocious. Whereas now, I tend to just dive in. And so you end up with a really messy first draft, but I can cope with a greater level of chaos in the manuscript now than I used to be able to. I can be okay with it.

And so now, I’m probably not… You know, I used to say, right, 2,000 words a day. Gotta do 2,000 words a day. Be very strict on it. Now I find that the books tend to, especially the novels that are a bit more layered, and they’re mystery sort of stuff that I’m really trying to work out the pacing of, they tend to want to be written more at 1,000 words a day, rather than 2,000.

Valerie

Interesting. Okay. So now I’m very jealous of you Tristan.

Tristan

Why?

Valerie

Because, in your Instagram feed, you’ve got these photos of this thing which I assume is your writing studio. Which looks like it is straight out of a magazine. Like, it really is. And not only that, because it’s all really white and gorgeous and there’s these windows that are just beautiful that look out to the outside world, and in the foreground there is this absolutely gorgeous retro typewriter. So I have so many questions on this, believe it or not. Let’s first talk about the typewriter. Do you actually write on it? Or is a prop for Instagram?

Tristan

I do actually write on it. And the reason I got it from Charlie Foxtrot, the typewriter specialists in Australia, I got the typewriter because I get incredibly stale and bored opening up the laptop every day and staring into this bright screen that kind of glows back at me. And I’ll do anything to avoid months and months of doing that. So I’ll hand write parts of the manuscript on notepaper, and then I’ll photograph it, and then I’ll airdrop those photographs to my computer, and then I’ll drop those photos of the written pages into my growing manuscript.

And then I’ll also do that with typewritten pages. Some days I’ll just want to bash it out and hear the ding and sometimes the ribbon needs replacing or whatever, and you get the ink on your fingers. And you know, you’re physically doing stuff. And it feels so much better sometimes. So then I’ll photograph the typewritten pages and I will paste those into my manuscript.

And so the zero draft manuscript, my first crack at it, is a sort of – of the new one that I’m just about to read again after six months of being away from it – is this Frankenstein’s monster of laptop, handwritten, and typewritten pages.

Valerie

Oh wow.

Tristan

So I’ll just print that out and I’ll read the Frankenstein thing. Because I mean half the stuff that I typewrite probably isn’t going to end up in the manuscript anyway, so there’s no point transcribing it too early, I don’t think.

Valerie

Yes, you’re right. I love that. So sometimes just the physicality of bashing at the keys is strangely satisfying.

Tristan

Yeah.

Valerie

Now, I have to ask about the studio itself. Because I have this fantasy, right, because I watched this movie – I don’t know if you’ve seen it – called Tamara Drew.

Tristan

No.

Valerie

It’s set somewhere in the English countryside. And one of the characters is a writer with a writer’s studio in their sprawling country lawn or something. And when I was living in the Yarra Valley on 14 acres I thought, I want a studio just like Tamara Drew. So I went down this path to attempt to do that. It was a complete disaster.

Tristan

Why?

Valerie

It was a complete disaster. We ended up burning it.

Tristan

How? Why?

Valerie

Because you think your manuscript was Frankenstein, this studio was Frankenstein. I don’t know. It was just the wrong, wrong, wrong idea from the start. I started off with the shell of a studio – it had a nice idea in theory – which the local TAFE students had built and wanted to discard. I said, I’ll have it and I’ll make it into my studio!

Tristan

Yeah.

Valerie

Well, that was just stupid, because I can’t hammer a nail or anything like that. So it sat there for, I don’t know, a year or so. Just as a facade, or as a shell, and never got made into anything. And eventually we realised it was never going to be made into anything. And it was really an eyesore on the property. So it turned into…

Tristan

You burnt it to the ground?

Valerie

Mm.

Tristan

Oh really. That’s funny. Did you hear that Kate DiCamillo, the amazing children’s author who wrote The Tale of Despereaux and Edward Tulane and lots of amazing stories, I think it’s her that I heard on a podcast who actually physically burns her first draft manuscripts. And then just starts again on the second draft but just with that in the back of her mind. But without, in a pot belly stove, it’s gone up in smoke.

Valerie

Oh my goodness. I don’t think I could do that.

Tristan

Yeah, I know, it’s brave, isn’t it?

Valerie

I could burn a building, but not my words.

Tristan

That’s funny.

Valerie

But tell me about the studio. Do you find, now, you previously told me that you built it, or that you got it built some months ago, because you didn’t have one before. Has it changed the way you write or anything? And why did you decide to build it? This is presumably in your backyard.

Tristan

Yes. And I’ve always dreamed of having a writing space. I have carved one out of the house every now and then, but then a child would grow larger and needed to take it over. And I sort of discovered that actually when I have a writing space I don’t use it, and I tend to go out and I walk around and I go to cafes and I go to libraries. And I tend to get annoyed by being in one place at one time.

But I did do 50 blog interviews with lots of different writers, from John Boyne who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, to Toby Riddle, the amazing illustrator, to lots of different people, on their writing studios, and the association between their writing space and the work they do. And I was so obsessed with it. And so I sort of stole some ideas from all those different spaces.

And then my wife is, I threw my hands and said, look, it’s never going to get built if I have anything to do with it. And so my wife who is an amazing designer, and she takes a lot of the shots that appear on my Instagram, the best shots are hers, and she did have the stick-to-it-ness to design it and to work with the builder and to work with the many tradespeople. Whereas I would have sort of said, oh yeah, nah, whatever you want to do. And yeah, don’t worry about that. And oh that’ll be okay. Just to make it easy. She was happy to work through challenges and make it the way she wanted it.

And so we ended up with this amazing space with a loft and all this light and these old windows that are from a recycling place. And then, I don’t know, it’s been quite life changing in terms of just our life as a family. But in terms of writing it’s such a nice place to be in early in the morning. But I still, to tell you the truth, I still don’t write in it all the time. And I’m quite often just as likely to be found at the dining table, or out in a cafe or sitting in a hotel or motel somewhere in a place that I’m speaking. So I use it as a writing space, but I’m not locking myself in there, because I just get bored. I just get bored of one place.

Valerie

This is the reason I’m very jealous. But let’s move on because we mentioned that you are often doing author talks, schools, appearances. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Firstly, why do you do them? Secondly, what kinds of things do you do most of? Are they school visits? Or do you do general author talks at libraries and festivals and that sort of thing? Maybe you can tell us the split or the proportion? And about what proportion of the year do you do that?

Tristan

I do probably between three and four months of the year I am speaking. And I write for about seven to eight months of the year. And I take a break for about a month of the year. And I’ve worked out this over several years of trying and doing too much speaking and not enjoying it, and then doing too little speaking and thinking I could have done a bit more. And then finally sort of getting a mix that seems to work for me. And so I do quite a lot of school visits. I probably do between 90 – 100 days of speaking in the year. Which I know sounds like a lot.

Valerie

Wow. It is.

Tristan

It is a lot. But you know what? There’s no point writing a book and then nobody knowing it exists. And even though we have really – I’m with Penguin Random House and their publicity team is fantastic and amazing and they do heaps of work and they get you out there in lots of publications and TV bits and radio bits. But I just feel like everything is so fragmented, that the number of people that will see that newspaper bit, or the magazine bit, or the radio bit or whatever is so small, that it really helps to go directly to your readers and tell them about the story, and try to bring it to life in fun ways using video and images and music and maps and all that sort of stuff.

It also helps, as an author for kids and teenagers, to be constantly having a conversation with them and trying stuff out. Like, the first chapter of The Fall, I was up in a school on the Sunshine Coast, it was Friday afternoon at about 2:00, and I had a group of year nines, about 150 year nine kids. And I was like, oh no! It’s going to be a disaster and they’re going to riot, and what am I going to do?

And out of desperation I thought, oh, well I’ve got that chapter that I’m writing for that book, and I’m going to read that. And I sort of thought it could go either very badly. But actually they sat there and listened to this story and they were totally leaned in. And it was the reading of that first chapter that actually gave me confidence in the rest of the book. I thought, all right, okay, if I can capture that notoriously difficult group then perhaps I’m on to something and I should dig in and keep on writing this book. So it’s a useful thing.

Valerie

So you decided to read the first chapter of The Fall for that one. Do you normally just tailor some kind of bespoke thing to each visit? Or do you have a set presentation that you would use? How does that all work? What do you actually think or map out when somebody says, hey, can you come and talk here?

Tristan

Well, I try to change the talk every year based on a new book coming out. So I don’t want it to be that people who have seen me speak before go, oh yeah, I heard him speak four years ago and it was exactly the same thing.

With every book, each book has a different process, and you learn new things, and you gather together different images, and I create a soundtrack for every book that I listen to over and over again as I write. So I tend to play a bit of that when I speak. So all of those things change with each book.

So one thing is that I, for each book I develop new material and new anecdotes and things. And it takes a while. It’s really hard, I find it very difficult to develop a talk in a vacuum kind of thing, when you’re not in front of people. You’re just sitting in a room going, okay, what can I talk about? I find it very difficult. So not each talk will have a bespoke thing, but I’ll have a keynote that I generally use for each talk. But then this morning, for instance, I spoke to a group of 150 kindergarten to year six kids in one room all at once for an hour.

Valerie

Like live?

Tristan

Yeah, yeah. So usually I’m speaking to say, year 5 to year 8 kids, which is right in the core for all of my books. I can talk about all of my books in that age group. But because you’ve got kindergarten kids there, and they’re wriggly, and they’ll ask you random questions about whether you’ve got a pet guinea pig and stuff, which is fun, because they keep it alive, there are certain things… I tended to veer towards the younger books, which are the My Life series of short stories that Gus Gordon illustrates. So I know that that’ll work for 5 – 12 year olds across the various ages.

So I’m telling anecdotes, I’m pulling out every funny thing that I know gets an audience. I’m showing them pictures of illustrations, I’m showing them pictures of when I was a kid and embarrassing things that I did.

But then if I gave a talk to that year 9 group directly afterwards, it would be a much different talk. I’d lean towards The Fall, and I would do a reading of the opening chapter of The Fall, which I would never do for kindergarten kids because it’s a bit too scary for them.

Valerie

But let’s take those two examples. I’m interested to do this because you’re quite the master at the author talk, because you’ve done more than anyone I know. Let’s take those two examples, kindergarten and year 9. With the kindergarten, do you kind of have a storage spot in your brain of different stories you can pull out and have an hour’s worth for younger people? And do you decide that before you even get there? Or do you just read the room and wing it?

Tristan

I read the room, but I know in my presentation I have material that will skew younger and material that will skew older. So I will either begin at the beginning, which is the youngest stuff, or I’ll queue it to begin in the middle where I have four or five slides chosen from the younger material, and then I go straight into something like The Fall and Two Wolves, my other book for ten-year-olds and up.

So, yeah, it’s a bit like that. I just know that there is older and younger stuff. And I know I can get an hour out of the younger stuff and I know I can get an hour of the older stuff, and I just do a mix. So it’s partly winging it, but within the world of things that I have tried before and that I know work.

Valerie

And typically, are you talking about your journey? Or your characters in the books? Or the writing process? As in, for them, giving them tips on the writing process?

Tristan

A bit of all of that. But I try not to be too didactic. Most of all, I want to give them a fun time around books. I want them to be coming in going, oh, this author, I’ve never seen an author talk before or I hate reading or whatever. Because I guess you assume that. And then it’s a real bonus if the kids are book freaks and they love reading and they’re really happy to have you there.

But for the sceptical kids, I want them to come in and go, grr, and then go, oh, actually, that was really fun. He just told us a whole bunch of stories, he told us what he was like as a kid, he read us bits out of his book that were fun or interesting, he showed us some video bits that he’d shot that seemed interesting as well. And then at the very end he said these are my top five writing tips. And they sort of connected the dots between a bunch of the other things that he’d mentioned.

And I think the teachers like that bit at the end, that you wrap it up by saying, hey I’ve showed you how I use images, how I use video, how I get outside to write, how I rewrite and rewrite. I’ll show a screen capture of all my drafts of the book, a list of them. I’ll say, this may be devastating to some viewers. Because I know… Who here loves rewriting? And only two kids put, and who hates it? And they all put up their hands. And I’ll say, well, just so you know, we get told to rewrite all the time, too. It doesn’t just come out perfectly.

So I’ll slip in educational bits but I try not to be boring about it. Because my job is to give them fun time around books and not to just be teacherly.

Valerie

Sure. So, what’s next for you? What are you working on now? What’s the next book we can expect?

Tristan

My next book is, I’m writing the next book in the My Life series. This is the sixth book in the series, and they’re 25,000-word books of short stories, illustrated. And they’re fun, and they’re based on things that happened to me when I was a kid, but then I exaggerate those stories and kind of fictionalise them. And they’re really fun to write. Especially in between drafts of a novel. It’s great to just go and write something that its only purpose is to be entertaining and fast paced and engaging.

So I’m writing, I’m finishing off the last of those stories and getting them to my editor. And that’ll come out next year. And then over the next six months I’m hoping to push from a zero draft of my next book, which is about a lock down in a school, through to maybe by say February I hope to have written maybe a first, second, third draft. So I’ll be at the point where I think that I should just give up and never write again. And then the fourth draft, hopefully, I’ll bring it home.

It’s pretty consistent. I say that sort of thing with kids. But it really is consistent, that that fourth draft is the time when the characters actually start to feel like, you know, they feel a bit more human and you know who they are.

Valerie

So it’s worthwhile pushing through to the fourth draft.

Tristan

Yes.

Valerie

All right. Well, can’t wait for that to come out. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome in the same way, as well as the My Life book. The Fall is fantastic. Everyone should go read it. It’s not just for young boys or girls, for that matter. I was riveted. I thought it was really, really well-written. So congratulations on the book and thank you so much for your time today, Tristan.

Tristan

Thank you. Thank you for being so kind.

 


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