Meet Tristan Bancks, Australian children’s and YA writer

Meet Tristan Bancks, whose latest book is My Life and Other Exploding ChickensMac Slater

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Tristan.

It’s fantastic that one of my favourites of your works, Mac Slater Coolhunter is available again.

Your books have won awards and are also extremely popular. Which of your books or series is most popular and which do you consider your finest achievement? (What awards have you won?)

Two WolvesTwo Wolves and My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up are the biggest sellers, I think. As a complete novel, Two Wolves is the best book I’ve written. It’s the most layered and took me five years to write. In terms of awards it was a CBCA Honour book, won the KOALA and YABBA kids’ choice awards and was nominated for the PM’s Literary Awards, all of which were an extraordinary surprise.

Where are you based and how involved in the children’s and YA literary community are you?

I’m based near Byron Bay but I’m very involved in the community in terms of festivals, good relationships with other authors, publishing folk, librarians and illustrators. The web makes it possible, and kids’ authors have so many opportunities to connect at festivals and events throughout the year. It is a genuinely fine bunch of humans.

What correlation is there between having been an actor and now a children’s book author?

There are quite a few of us – Aaron Blabey, Felice Arena, Judy Nunn and many more. I think it’s useful when writing dialogue and also in terms of imagining yourself into the character’s situation as you write. You need to be able to see and hear and feel and taste and smell the predicament a character is in and render it authentically on the page. An actor’s imagination and improvisation can help with this. Actors learn to play against emotion, too, in order to avoid melodrama. I’m sure that acting helps when bringing the story to life in front of an audience, too.

Do you spend more time writing or in front of an audience?

I spend about four months of the year speaking, seven months writing and a month off (covert writing time when all the best ideas flow).

How have you developed your craft?My Life

A good editor is the best writing mentor. I have learnt so much from great editors. That and maintaining a daily freewriting practice alongside my work-in-progress. I’ve read lots of books on writing to understand structure and process. One of my favourites is John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel, a series of letters he wrote to his editor while working on The Grapes of Wrath. It’s such a comforting, intimate insight into the daily meanderings, aspirations and doubts that plague the mind of a writer.

As well as that, you’re a director. Could you tell us about something you’ve directed?

I made a bunch of short films in my mid-20s and then some TV. Learning to analyse scripts and find a personal ‘way in’ to a screen story taught me a lot. The most successful film was Soar about sitting next to the most annoying person in the world on a plane. It was screened at some great fests in the US and Europe and on the Sundance Channel.

Now, I make my video trailers for my books and videos for Room to Read, the literacy charity I’m an ambassador for.

Exploding ChickensTell us about your new book My Life and Other Exploding Chickens. (Do you know any exploding chicken jokes? Do you have any great props?)

Exploding Chickens tells some chilling true short stories from my childhood about an evil dentist, a killer clown and a ninja librarian (who wrought revenge on me for having had Fungus the Bogeyman five years overdue from the public library. [It was a very good book.]). The stories star my alter ego, Tom Weekly, and a regular cast of characters, illustrated by the brilliant Gus Gordon (Herman & Rosie).

I don’t have an exploding chicken joke handy but a kid told me a joke in a school visit yesterday and wrote it on the back of a paper aeroplane for me to put in my next book:

‘Have you seen the movie ‘Constipation’?’

‘No. It hasn’t come out yet.’image5[1]

Could you share your latest book trailer with us? (I was smiling all the way through when I watched it and then laughed out loud at the end.)

Yup. Here it is

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnA1nWCpgps

And tell us about the Exploding Chickens competition.

Kids can make their own book video about My Life & Other Exploding Chickens. Top prize for the best video is $500 cash for the filmmaker and $500 worth of books for their school. Click the link in the sidebar at www.tristanbancks.com

What else are you enjoying reading?

ProtectedI recently finished Claire Zorn’s YA novel The Protected which was very good. I’m super-keen to read Robert Hoge’s Ugly and I recently picked up a YA novel called Wolf by Wolf which looks great. I’ve also been re-reading Wonder and listening to David Walliams’ Ratburger as an audio book. 😉 In my writing and reading I drift between serious and funny stuff.

What are some books that are really important to you?

In terms of serious stuff, Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Markus Zusak’s Fighting Ruben Wolfe taught me a lot about writing. The Catcher in the Rye and The Road are the two books that have had the greatest emotional impact on me. They knocked me sideways, unable to move after putting the book down. Stephen King’s The Body made a real impression on me as a teenager – a book with a strong spine and high stakes with well-drawn characters and big ideas.

In terms of kid comedy, Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, Paul Jennings’ Unreal, Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas and Tim Winton’s The Bugalugs Bum Thief.

What do you dream of achieving or doing in the future?

I just want to write great stories. Stories as powerful and humorous as those above. I want each book to be better than the last – each My Life book to be funnier and more true, each book for older kids to be more honest and brave. Someone once said to me when talking about the many facets of a modern author’s life, from writing to touring to social media, ‘The best thing you can do is write a stunning manuscript.’ I place this quote on the title page of every manuscript now. Ultimately, that’s all that matters. Write a better story than the last. That’s my goal.

Tristan with some other popular authors
Tristan with some other popular authors

Where can people find you on social media?

www.twitter.com/tristanbancks

www.instagram.com/tristanbancksbooks

www.youtube.com/tristanbancks

Thanks very much, Tristan. 

Brisbane Writers Festival Dazzles

Analogue MenThe  2014 Brisbane Writers Festival had an inspiring launch on Thursday night when author/publisher Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What – about the lost boys of Sudan) told a full tent  about the genesis of McSweeney’s publishing company and its 826 Valencia Writing Centres. The tutoring behind these pirate, superhero and other themed storefronts has helped countless children with their writing. Groups doing similar work in Australia are Sydney’s Story Factory with its Martian Embassy, Melbourne’s 100 Story Building, and Book Links in Queensland is working towards its own centre.

My next session was ‘Dangerous Allies’ where Robert Manne interviewed Malcolm Fraser in front of a capacity crowd. The insights about Australia’s alliance with the US were provocative and chilling.

‘Zen and the Art of Tea’ was a light-hearted exploration of tea by Morris Gleitzman and Josephine Moon. Josephine’s tip about brewing lavender, garlic or basil to make teas sounds worth trying and Morris – a literary Geoffrey Rush – was hilarious. He personified coffee as a bully, and tea as a whispering lover.

David Hunt was in fine form discussing his Indies Book winner, Girt which is a retelling of Australian history with a comedic eye.

It was fun to cross paths with David Malouf (for the second time in two weeks), Jennifer Byrne, Will Kostakis, Pamela Rushby and Tristan Bancks. If only there was more time for more sessions … I would have loved to see YA writers such as A.J. Betts, Isobelle Carmody and Jackie French but they were either offsite or clashed with my events. Andy Griffiths was so popular he had his own signing area after the other children’s writers’ part of the program had finished. Chairing Andy and John Boyne (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) a few years ago was one of the funniest times of my life.

Forgotten Rebels of EurekaThis year I was privileged to moderate sessions with Clare Wright on The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text) and Nick Earls on Analogue Men (Vintage). Clare must be the world’s most informed person in her field of women at Eureka. Her book deservedly won the Stella Prize this year. It is compulsive, engaging reading, notwithstanding its 500+ pages.

Nick was as funny as expected and revealed a secret about Analogue Men. We learned that his favourite Dr Who is Jon Pertwee and his favourite tech device Bluetooth. I explained how I laughed out loud repeatedly over one scene that I read on instant replay and Nick implied that my brain is like that of a goldfish. But no – it really was the skilful writing. It was wonderful to hear the laughing throughout this session and see the animated audiences in both these events.

Many thanks to the authors involved in the Festival, particularly Clare and Nick, and to the incredible BWF staff and volunteers led by Kate Eltham.

Bancks and Bongers

Two authors from the creative arc which encompasses northern NSW and SE Qld have had YA novels published recently.

two wolves

Tristan Bancks’ Two Wolves (Random House Australia) and Christine Bongers’ Intruder (Woolshed Press, Random House) both look at teens who have family problems and are struggling because of their parents and yet are able to work through these issues and strengthen their own characters.

Thirteen-year-old Ben Silver in Two Wolves has parents who are culpable. They have allowed him to grow up spending hours watching screens and to eat so poorly he is overweight. Their business dealings are suspect and the novel begins with Ben and his seven-year-old sister Olive being thrust into their car and on a ‘holiday’. Ben wants to be a detective and he is dubious about what’s going on, especially when he finds a bag of money in the cabin where they are staying.

While keeping the narrative exciting and fast-paced, Bancks poses moral dilemmas and choices which increase the depth and literary worth of the novel. Should Ben be a detective or thief? Should he warn his family when they are at risk? Should he run or surrender? Should he capitulate to the bad wolf of pride, jealousy and greed or follow the good wolf of kindness, hope and truth?

 intruder

Set in a Queenslander (Qld’s quintessential timber house) in Brisbane, Intruder explores a difficult situation where Kat’s musician father must leave her alone at night so that he can work. Her mother has died from cancer and neighbour, Edwina (who Kat seems to despise) looks out for her. Like Two Wolves, Intruder opens with a bang – Kat is awakened by an intruder. Whilst remaining in the same geographical location, this novel embarks on a literary journey as Kat makes friends at the dog-park and untangles and resolves the secrets of her past.

Both books refer to other literature: Kat has her selection of Roald Dahl books Matilda, The BFG and James and the Giant Peach. The protagonists in these books seem to resemble Kat because their parents are either not present or uncaring. Ben’s adventures remind him of Sam Gribley, the protagonist of Jean Craighead-George’s My Side of the Mountainbut he feels inadequate about his survival skills, especially when compared with Sam’s achievements.

In spite of traumatic situations, Ben and Kat make good decisions which will place them positively for the future. They are flawed, realistic but positive role-models for their teen readers.

Reviews – Ripping Mid-Grade Reads Two Wolves & Little Chef, BIG Curse

Mid-grade readers, tween fiction, early YA; call themLittle Chef Big Curse what you will, but books for 8 -13 year-olds must satisfy vital criteria. They require substance, humour be it belly-busting or cloaked as parody, and a completely honest rendering of imagination, no matter how fantastical the premise. Little Chef, BIG Curse and Two Wolves fulfil on all counts. Both are heftier reads for mid to upper primary aged kids (in excess of 200 pages). And ones I could have gleefully gobbled up again immediately I reached the end.

 Little Chef, BIG Curse is the debut work of Tilney Cotton and possibly one of the most exuberant reads I’ve enjoyed in ages. I’m not sure if it’s because of the foodie in me or the zealous, ribaldry with which Cotton writes but Little Chef, BIG Curse is utterly delectable and insanely moreish.

It’s an off-beat taTilney Cottonle about hapless 11 year-old, Matty Swink who dreams of being a famous chef. He is practically enslaved by the foul-tempered, mean-spirited Fenella as her live-in dishwasher. With no means, family or support, Matty’s future seems confined to sleeping under the sink in Fenella’s diner. But dreams as big as Matty’s cannot be suppressed forever and when the King of Yurp announces a grand Cook-Off and the chance to break a 500 year-old curse on his only daughter, Matty finally forges his way to fame and freedom.

This is a zinger of a tale tickling with intrigue, bubbling with soul and simmering with an underlying sinisterness that kids will find electrifying. Cotton’s brilliant mix of colourful characterisation and original one-liners like, ‘roll with pumpkins’ produces a story that is full of punch, flavour and fun. Peppered with a generous helping of comical metaphors (‘breath like dog poo’ is a favourite), sprinkled with danger and seasoned with revenge, Little Chef, BIG Curse has all the humorous and gross ingredients of a Morris Gleitzman adventure and some. Top notch nosh! That gets 10 out of 10 from me.Tristan Bancks RH

Scholastic Press February 2014

Tristan Bancks’ junior adventure books including the My Life, Nit Boy, Mac Slater Cool Hunter and the Galactic Adventures series rival those of Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman and Michael Gerard Bauer. Like kids 8 – 13 years-old, I can’t get enough of his quirky, comedy-loaded, layback style. Two Wolves however is a decisive departure from previous offerings aimed at the slightly older reader, demonstrating more drama, stronger conflicts and more thought-provoking themes. It blew my breath away.

Using the Cherokee Indian allegory that we all have good and bad (wolves) dwelling within us as the catalyst for conflict, Two Wolves explores moral dilemmas, innocence versus experience and family blood being thicker than water. Which wolf ultimately wins the internal battle depends on which one we feed, as thirteen year-old Ben Silver discovers.

Ben aspires to be a detective but naively lives in a world of limited resources and shaky real-life experience. He re-lives much of his life through the lens of an internal camera, ‘playing on the cinema screen at the back of his eyelids’.

This movie-making processing of events allows him to deal reflectively and safely with some pretty confronting issues, the most recent being the inexplicable, unplanned retreat into wildness with his parents.

Life on the run with them and his young sister, Olive, soon deteriorates into a painful battle of survival and family ethics. Ben is desperate to figure out what his parents are fleeing from and why but is uncertain of what to do with the truths he may uncover.

Ben’s most daunting concerns, apart from remaining alive with Olive, are the choices he is confronted with; right vs. wrong, family loyalty vs. honourable action. How Ben decides to end his movie makes for a gripping novel heaving with adventure and mystery.

Bancks’ delivery of Two Wolves is tight and crisp. Fragmented internal thought and observation are favoured over rambling descriptive narrative which keeps the reader firmly in Ben’s moments of extreme agitation. Ben is a believable hero. His naïve, almost tongue-in-cheek humour works beautifully against the darker aspects of this story resulting in a novel tweens can and will relate to even if they have never been in Ben’s situation.

Can money buy happiness? What scruples do you possess when it comes to family, or having to confess to a crime? Does deceit ever pay dividends? Two Wolves is destined to keep kids pondering over questions like these for months. Sensational stuff.

Random House Australia March 2014

 

Guest Post from Tristan Bancks – Stuck in Head. Forget You Have Body

Story Safari Tristan Bancks Feb 2013‘All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.’

Friedrich Nietzsche

A few years ago, on a stopover in Singapore, I had reflexology on the fourth floor of a haphazard shopping mall on Orchard Road. The man charged with the unfortunate task of reviving my crusty, travel-worn hooves asked, ‘What your job?’ I replied, ‘Writer.’ He clicked his tongue several times as he continued to punish my feet. I eventually asked why he was so disappointed by my occupation and he said, ‘Tch,’ again. ‘Stuck in head. Forget you have body.’

Story Safari Tristan Bancks CliffI wasn’t overjoyed with this, but the feet don’t lie. Indeed, much of the time, I am stuck in head, forget I have body. I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who said that he looks at his body exclusively as a vehicle for transporting his head around and, once upon a time, I agreed but, apparently, this approach is a killer. Australia’s recently released Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines link inactivity with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Not great news for writers. (Especially the bit about doing 300 minutes of physical activity each week.)

Ernest Hemingway, famously, wrote standing up. So, too, did Lewis Carroll, Nabokov and Thomas Wolfe (although he died at age 37. Sadly, standing up is not a cure for tuberculosis.) And, since that fateful reflexology session I have tried to inject more activity into my writing process.

Tristan Bancks Writing Safari 10Most of my latest book Two Wolves was written outdoors. It’s a crime-mystery story about two kids who are kidnapped by their own parents and taken out on the run to a woodsy cabin. Connection with Nature was an important part of the story and over the five years of writing the book I spent many weeks on the beach in Byron, jotting Notes on my iPhone or capturing ideas in Voice Memo. Something about being grounded, shoes off, breeze on skin, with the white-noise roar of the ocean, allowed the words to flow more freely and honestly. In the space of four hours I could write 2500 words – far more productive than my indoor, desk-bound efforts. And writing on the beach has the added advantage of not feeling like real work. An iPhone Note doesn’t look like an ‘official’ manuscript page, which relaxes the inner critic and allows you to get on with the business of sketching a draft (while simultaneously staving off cancer, obesity and depression, it seems.)

Like many writers, I still sit for too long most days, I still get trapped on the Web, but I believe in the mental, creative and physical benefits of activity, whether it’s beach-walking or yoga, a treadmill desk or simply setting an alarm every hour as a reminder to stand up and walk to the fridge. I like to think that my best work is ahead of me and it would be nice to be alive in order to write it.

As I type these words I’m in a restaurant with durian fruit, bananas and chickens hanging all around. I’m on another short stop in Singapore, and I have a good mind to track down that smarmy reflexologist guy with the clicking tongue, and thank him for potentially adding years to my life.

Tristan Bancks is a childrens and young adult author. Two Wolves is released in March 2014 by Random House Australia. www.tristanbancks.com

9780857982032

5Q Interview with Tristan Bancks, author of Two Wolves

bancks, tristanTristan Bancks is a writer and filmmaker. He has a background as an actor and television presenter in Australia and the UK. His short films have won a number of awards and have screened widely in festivals and on TV. Tristan has written a number of books for kids and teens, including the Mac Slater, Coolhunter series, It’s Yr Life with Tempany Deckert, and My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up. Tristan’s drive is to tell inspiring, fast-moving stories for young people.

1. Can you remember the first story you ever wrote and, if so, what was it?

I think it was a rip-off of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which kids could gain all their essential nutrients by eating ice cream flavoured like meat, pumpkin, brocolli etc. When I visit schools now and run workshops with younger grades I notice that kids are still writing that story. I am considering suing several of them because their work is way too close to my version. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

 97808579820322. How many novels did you write before your ‘first novel’ was published?

My first novel Mac Slater, Coolhunter was published but I had written lots of short films, a couple of un-produced feature film screenplays, hundreds of articles and a number of Educational fiction and non-fiction titles prior to having that book published.

 3. What sorts of books do you love to read?

I seem to love page-turning reads with unadorned prose and strong characters that explore an idea. My favourite adult books include Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Jack London’s White Fang. My favourite children’s and middle-grade reads include Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Markus Zusak’s Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Tim Winton’s The Bugalugs Bum Thief.

 97818647181714. If you were forced to co-write a novel with someone (as we’re not presuming that you’d want to co-write with anyone necessarily) who would it be?

I have co-written a novel, it’s yr life with Tempany Deckert, which really brought the writing process alive for me. I also love collaborating with illustrators. These days, I think I find it difficult to co-write but I would love to collaborate with a Web / Gaming person to build interactive elements into the story as I write.

5. What are you working on now and next?

I am working on my third book of weird-funny-gross short stories in the My Life series and, in the background, I am exploring another darker middle-grade crime-adventure book along the lines of Two Wolves.

Author website: www.tristanbancks.com

Twitter: @tristanbancks

 

A chat with Tristan Bancks, part 2

Last time around, Tristan Bancks talked about his transition from actor to children’s and YA author, and one of his new books, Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space. Now he’s back to tell us a little about his other new book, My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up, as well as some of his older books. Welcome back…

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up is a short story collection. But the stories are linked by the character of Tom Weekly. Can you tell us a little about Tom and how you came up with the character?

Tom is, essentially, me. His experiences in the stories all began with something that happened in my life or that felt close to me. Those things are then heightened and embellished in the stories but they carry the seed of me. I didn’t have to write many ‘character notes’ on Tom because I knew him. I was a little boy, too, and, in some ways, I still am. Gus Gordon, the illustrator, also felt very close to the character so, together, we are the two halves of Tom Weekly’s brain. It’s quite a frightening image, actually.

What was it like collaborating with fellow actor/author Tempany Deckert on the YA novel It’s Yr Life?

It was fun. The book was written via email between Byron Bay and L.A. It’s about two high school students, total opposites, forced to email each other for a school English assignment. Tempany would email me from L.A., in character. I would get her email in the morning and email her back in character, and on it went. We discovered the story through these interactions. The first draft was fun. The consecutive drafts were more challenging because every change by one writer would have ramifications for the other author down the line. But I often get positive comments about the book. We’re currently re-working it and re-packaging for a North American ebook release.

You’ve written a couple of books about Nit Boy. What made you want to write about nits? Personal experience perhaps?

I had a deeply disturbing, nit-addled childhood and I needed a place to vent my harrowing experiences. Just kidding. I only had them once or twice but they’re all the rage now. You’re nobody in the playground if you don’t have nits. It was particularly enjoyable to write a non-human hero. I scratched for an entire year while writing those books.

You’ve written both short stories and novels. Do you have a preference?

Short stories are deeply refreshing after writing a longer book. They often arrive in one lump. Not that they are perfect at first draft, quite the opposite. You spend much more time polishing and refining with a short story rather than trying to tie disparate story threads together. But I wouldn’t want to only write short stories. A balance of the two is perfect for me.

Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment? (Or is it Top Secret?)

Top Secret. I could tell you but I’d have to kill you and I don’t want to do that. You’re a nice guy. OK, I’ll tell you. It’s a story about a kid on the run, forced to become a detective as his life falls apart around him. I think it feels different to my other books and the writing process is vastly different, too.

What sort of stuff do you like reading and what book are you reading at the moment?

I read lots of stuff — children’s and YA fiction, books on Buddhism and creativity, biographies and adult fiction. I am currently reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a book on happiness and the creative process. I’m also reading The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi (Spiderwick Chronicles author), which is fun.

George’s bit at the end

Tristan is about to set off on a literary tour with the Get Reading! programme. For a full list of his events around Australia (as well as other Get Reading! events), check out the Get Reading! website. Also, don’t forget to take a look at Tristan’s website as well — it’s packed full of info, writing tips and videos.

And tune in next time for some Doctor Who.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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A chat with Tristan Bancks, part 1

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.

Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space is about an Aussie kid attending Space School and learning to be an astronaut. Is this book the result of a personal dream to go into space?

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.

George’s bit at the end

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

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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Book Trailer: My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up by Tristan Bancks

Have you ever been kissed by a dog? Ever had to eat Vegemite off your sister’s big toe? Have you had a job delivering teeth? Has a bloodthirsty magpie ever been out to get you? Ever woken up to discover that everything hovers? And have you eaten 67 hot dogs in ten minutes? I have. I’m Tom Weekly. This book is full of my stories, jokes, cartoon characters, ideas for theme park rides and other stuff I’ve made up. It’s where I pour out whatever’s inside my head. It gets a bit weird sometimes but that’s how I roll. Illustrated by Gus Gordon.

Book trailers

Film trailers have been around for a long time. They are advertising for an upcoming film, showing some key scenes to interest watchers in parting with their money in order to see the complete film. In recent years, thanks to the popularity of YouTube, we have seen the rise of the book trailer — a short video advertising an upcoming book to potential readers.

But what do you put into a book trailer? It’s not like a film — you can’t just edit together a few of the more exciting scenes. You need to actually create content. In effect, make a short film from scratch.

Book trailers vary greatly in content – and quality – from simply presenting the book cover with a voice over, to fully dramatised scenes from the book. Of the latter type, here’s one of the best I’ve seen, for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

I’m willing to bet that this trailer cost a pretty packet. But what do you do if you don’t have a rich publisher willing to throw around bucket loads of money? Well, you could always find a friend or family member to make a trailer for you. Or, if you’re handy with a computer, make one yourself. Of course, this has lead to a glut of really bad trailers being uploaded onto YouTube. But fear not, I have waded through the dross and can now present for your entertainment, some of the better trailers I’ve discovered.

Here’s the trailer for The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, the upcoming fantasy series from Rowena Cory Daniells:

This is a beautifully animated trailer based on the cover of the first book, and it was put together by Rowena’s husband, Daryl Lindquist. Here’s what Daryl had to say about the creation of this trailer:

“The concept for the trailer came to me fully formed out of the blue, as most creative ideas do. We had copies of the great cover done by Clint Langley for the first book. This was the inspiration for the book trailer. Having come up with the concept, the next step was to pitch it to the publisher and editor. They were enthusiastic, so the next step was to approach Clint for permission to use his artwork. He was also most supportive. Clint forwarded his layered Photoshop files of the cover image for us to use in the trailer. This allowed us to isolate the main character from the background. The process was to build a 3D environment, a portion of which matched the cover from the camera perspective, then work out the camera moves that lead up to the final shot which is the cover image.  The main character was then hand-animated, while the background is 3D rendered. Once the background had been rendered, the main character was then composited in to give the final cover image. Once the clip was finalised, we moved onto the creation of the soundtrack. All completed within two months.”

To find out more about Rowena and her writing, check out her website. To find out more about Daryl’s animation and book trailer production check out the R&D Studio’s website.

Here’s the trailer for the Nit Boy, a series of kids’ books by Tristan Bancks:

Here’s what Tristan had to say about the trailer:

“I love making trailers and bringing the world of my books to life. On the Nit Boy book trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed Peter Leary, the very talented animator, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie. I then wrote a script. The animator made suggestions. I cut the script down. He made a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (essentially, ‘wire’ frames in the computer). I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer. I then started working on the music with Charlton Hill and the post sound and voiceover with Murray Burns. Peter then supplied the final animation the day before the book launch.

The trailer has been an incredibly useful tool for promoting the books. I would say that the key to a good trailer is in nailing the essence of the story in the script, and working with excellent people who know what they are doing.

A producer has optioned the Nit Boy books for TV and my next vis-lit adventures will be trailers for my 2011 releases, Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space (UQP) and a funny shorts collection for Random House.”

For more info about Tristan and his writing, check out his website.

Tune in next time for more trailers.

Catch ya later,  George

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George

September Book Giveaway

SEPTEMBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Let this month’s prize pack take you on an unforgettable journey – globe-trot with Joel Magarey, get lost among the desert elephants of Namibia, pig out in northern Spain. Relax and soak in William McInnes’ reflections on his father, and unleash your inner-child with the hottest children’s releases. The pack includes:

A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby by William McInnes SIGNED

Ivory Moon by Sally Henderson

Exposure: A Journey by Joel Magarey

Everything But The Squeal by John Barlow

Schooling Around: Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths

Looking For Flavour by Barbara Santich

It’s Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Gone by Michael Grant

The Greatest Blogger In The World by Andrew McDonald

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close September 30, 2009.

Ivory Moon
Everything But The Squeal
Gone

SEPTEMBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

The Pheonix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Big Stories From Little Lunch by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson

Tales From The Labyrinth/The Stone Ladder by Peter Lloyd

Jetty Road by Cath Kenneally

Chinese Cinderella: The Mystery of the Song Dynasty Painting


Big Stories From Little Lunch


Scatterheart


Allie McGregor's True Colours


Tales from the Labyrinth / The Stone Ladder

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Hachette, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Tempany Deckert

As a kid growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, children’s books were my sanctuary.

They were the closest group of friends an isolated girl could ask for. They provided me with reassurance and inspiration whenever loneliness got the better of me. The Magic Faraway Tree gave me hope that sheep, snakes and chooks weren’t my only friends. If I looked hard enough, I could find magical lands, pixies, sprites and a cavalcade of fun friends. Came Back To Show You I Could Fly taught me all about city kids and the harmful affects of drug and alcohol abuse, So Much To Tell You showcased bravery and finding your own voice, and The Secret Seven surrounded me with the close-knit group of friends that I’d always pined for. To Kill A Mockingbird transported me to a faraway land called America that as an adult I now call home. 

So, not surprisingly, the books I’ve written all deal with isolated kids trying to find connection in the world too. I hope they provide kids with warmth, comfort, and a trusted friend when there’s no one else to turn to. The Fashion Police are two shy teen girls who manage to generate new friends and acceptance when they design cool clothes for their peer group. Radio Rebels are a bunch of kids in a small country town who challenge the status quo when they start up a youth radio station. But my new young adult novel, ITS YR LIFE, portrays two teens from vastly different worlds that discover that friendship knows no bounds when push comes to shove. 

If it weren’t for children’s books, my childhood could have been a very lonely one. But instead, I was surrounded with a slew of positive and inspiring peers. The fact that they were fictional made no difference. In my child’s mind those characters were possibly even more authentic than the real people that surrounded me. For that reason, I love children’s books and I feel very lucky to be able to create new ones.

TRISTAN BANCKS – Behind the scenes of the new NIT BOY trailer

As an author, I’m extremely interested in seeing how publishers use the Internet to promote books for children (and obviously, I’m making notes on what works and what doesn’t). Lots of publishers have tried to tackle Youtube trailers, and honestly, a lot of them involve a swirling book cover and a really horrible voiceover. After watching them, I feel less inclined to hunt down the book. That said, someone recently pointed me in the direction of the new Nit Boy trailer, and it is, hands down, the best original trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. It’s fun, it’s 3D. So, I tapped Tristan Bancks on the shoulder and invited him around to talk about how the trailer was put together.

TRISTAN BANCKS
Click here to visit his official site

I write quite visually. I see a movie unravelling in my head as I type, so I think book trailers are an amazing way to bring that motion picture alive for the audience.

The two books in the series, Lift Off and Bug Out tell the story of blood brothers – Lewis, a kid with the worst case of nits in world history, and Ned, a nit that lives on Lewis’s head. They’re a great way to have a laugh about our favourite blood-sucking mini-beasts. And there’s a nit quiz in the back of each book.

With the trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed the animator, Peter Leary, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

I then wrote a script. The animator cut the script down, did a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (‘wire’ frames in a computer).

I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer and then a final. I was amazed by how much of the animation comes together in the final render. And, when it was done, it was even better than what I’d seen in my mind’s eye as I wrote the books.

A producer has now optioned the Nit Boy books for television and my next visual-literary adventure will be a live-action trailer for the US release of the first Mac Slater book in April next year. Wish me luck!