As an actor, Tristan Bancks is best known for playing Tug O’Neale on the popular tv series Home and Away. But that was way back in the 1990s. These days Tristan is an author and he’s had two books released this month — Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space and My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up. So I thought now would be a good time to have a chat with him about his change of career and about his new books…
Welcome, Tristan, to Literary Clutter. Can you tell us how you came to have your first book published?
I was writing lots of freelance articles on the Australian film industry, interviewing actors, directors and so on, while making my own short films. I heard about a publisher looking for authors for a new educational children’s series for Scholastic. I had worked a bunch in kids’ TV in the UK and I can easily tap into my childhood, so I pitched the publisher lots of ideas. They asked me to write four short non-fiction books of around 1500 words each. That was my ‘in’ and I loved it!
You have a background in acting. How did you come to switch from acting to writing?
I have always written alongside acting. Even at school I acted and wrote and made little films with friends. After school, writing was a constant sideline while I pursued acting and filmmaking. Finally, once I wrote my first children’s book, writing became my focus. I like the lifestyle of the writer more than that of the actor. When writing or performing you are always looking for that moment when you forget the world and forget about time and you are totally immersed in the story. So, at bottom, I think the two are quite similar.
Has your acting background been a help to your writing career?
I’m sure it helps me when writing dialogue and trying to understand a character. I also think it’s handy when editing because actors are always trying to interpret a story so you hone that ability to ‘read’ a story. I think writing short screenplays and material for TV has helped a great deal in editing my own work as a writer. In film anything that doesn’t have to be there must be cut. I take that approach when writing books, too. It keeps things lean.
Yes! But, while writing, I started to wonder if I would really have the guts to do it — to actually leave our atmosphere, to head out into the great unknown. So the book began to be about breaking through fear. It came to be about whether you are prepared to overcome enormous obstacles in order to achieve your dreams. I can relate deeply to this. Creative careers are all about walking steadily forward into the dark, having the courage to keep moving forward. I have spent much of my adulthood trying to live the dreams I had when I was a kid.
How did you go about researching astronaut training?
This book involved TONS of research, including:
Reading about all the civilian space travellers who have been to the International Space Station. I read their blogs and watched videos of their journeys and their training. I met Alexis, a French fighter pilot, who provided lots of insight into what it’s like being a young boy with serious dreams of flying aircraft. He gave me insight into what first sparked his interest right through to the grueling selection and training process and the dangers of flight. I went to a friend’s place in the hills and used his high-powered telescope. I went to Sydney Observatory. I flew in many planes and took notes. I read books on space travel and I thought a lot about my own feelings, fears and desires. I collected hundreds of space travel images and pics of space stations past, present and future. I gathered images of the Mojave Desert where the book is partially set. I researched cool HeadQuarters like the Googleplex and Pixar HQ when I was creating the world of my spaceport. I listened to music by Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks, French band Phoenix and UK band Keane as I wrote. The energy of their music dictated the high-energy pace of the story. I also listened to Tibetan chants, which somehow tapped the mythical aspects of the story.
Wow, that’s a lot of research! I’m exhausted just reading about it. But research is such an important factor in writing a novel — especially one that is set at least partly in reality. It can make the difference between an average read and an engrossing one.
My thanks to Tristan for sharing his insights on Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space, which hits the bookstore shelves today. Interestingly tomorrow will see the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, in what will be the final launch for the space shuttle program.
Tune in next time for part two, as Tristan talks about nits, stuff he made up and working with fellow author/actor Tempany Deckert. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about him and his writing, check out his website.
Catch ya later, George
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