Video transcript
NSW Premier's Reading Challenge 2017 - Author interview - Tristan Bancks

Back to video Back to NSW Premier's Reading Challenge (PRC) 2017 author interviews

[intro sting]

TRISTAN BANCKS: Hi, I'm children's and teen author Tristan Bancks. And I just wanted to say congratulations to the Premier's Reading Challenge, and happy birthday, 15 years. That's amazing. And to everyone out there who's taking part in the challenge, happy reading. I hope you find some amazing stuff to read. And I used to love readathons and challenges to read as much as I could when I was a kid. So I hope you're enjoying it too.

And I just wanted to give a big shout out to 3 of my teachers. In year 4, 5, and 6, I had some great teachers, Mrs. Bannister, Mr. Spence, and Mr. Ridgeway. And all three of them were so encouraging of creativity, and writing, and reading. And they just used to make storytelling lots of fun. And I feel like if I hadn't had those three years, I probably wouldn't be a writer now because I wouldn't have sort had that spark. So thank you very much.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Hi, everybody, and welcome to our awesome Premier's Reading Challenge event. Today, we've got the fantastic Tristan Bancks with us. Thank you so much, Tristan, for being here.


YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: It was super cool. Obviously, we've got lots to talk about, lots of books to cover, lots of crazy ideas that you have. And I want to start with your new book 'The Fall,' which is very close to being released.


YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And there's a really interesting backstory to this particular book. Can you tell us a bit about 'The Fall' and how it came into life?

TRISTAN BANCKS: Well, one of my favourite movies is 'Stand By Me,' and it's based on a novella called 'The Body' by Stephen King, which I used to read in sort of early high school. There's an early line in 'The Body' that says I was 12 going on 13 when I first saw a dead human being. And for me, I think that age group, that middle grade age group, is really interesting for looking into morality and mortality, what's right and wrong, and death, and what does that mean?

And I started to think about this time when I was on work experience with Channel 10 News when I was in high school. And we went to a crime in Kings Cross in Sydney where someone had stolen a woman's handbag, run through a park, jumped over a fence at the back of the park. And in actual fact, the fence at the back of the park was on top of a multi-storey car park that was built into the side of a hill. And he fell. And we filmed from up top looking down. And there was ambulance, and forensics people, and police.

And then we ran down this hill down the side. And I was carrying the tripod. And the cameraman was carrying the camera. And we set up to film.

And I started to think, oh, what if a crime reporter had a son or a kid and the kid sort of saw-- at the crime scene, they sort of saw like a receipt on the ground and picked that up and pocketed it, and then saw maybe a tooth, or the arm of a pair of glasses, or something and pocketed these things. And then afterwards sort of got them out and then started to unravel a much bigger crime themselves. So it wasn't just a handbag being snatched. But it led to this thing and then on to that thing.

And so that was the beginning of the story for me. I loved this idea of a sort of kid of a crime reporter and how that might bring you close to some really big and interesting stories.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: With mysteries and particularly writing mysteries, is it different to writing your other styles of books, your Tom Weekly stories and the other books that you've worked on?

TRISTAN BANCKS: Yeah. It's along the lines of 'Two Wolves' in terms of being a thriller, crime mystery. But every book is different. If you look at the covers, they're quite sort of similar. They've used similar fonts and things. But you can't use the same tricks you used in the old book to write the new book strangely. I wish you could because I would have used them, and it would have been a lot easier.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: So when you're writing something like 'The Fall' and you're really in the zone, are you writing every minute of every day or how does it work for you?

TRISTAN BANCKS: So I tend to-- from about September till February, I try to keep those months fairly empty so that I can just write. And I think you need to-- I think if you're going to make a living as a writer, you really need to learn to write not only in those big slabs of time but in those little cracks in time because that's-- I did a 5-minute writing exercise in a workshop today at the school that I visited.

And in that 5-minute writing workshop, we listened to a piece of music by Ennio Morricone. And I think I cracked something that's going to help me write a book that I've been wanting to write for years. And it just happened to be in that 5-minute thing.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: One thing I just sneakily might ask you, are you able to tell us anything about the new book you're writing?

TRISTAN BANCKS: I've actually been working on the 'Two Wolves' screenplay as well.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Tell us about that. What's happening?

TRISTAN BANCKS: It teaches you things about writing. In screenwriting, you've got to be lean, very lean. Don't overstate things. Don't be overly wordy. Pare things back. And I think it can teach you good things for writing novels too in terms of not having the language overly adorned, not letting language get in the way of the story.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Let's talk about Tom Weekly and his new adventure. Where does he come from? And is he partly you?

TRISTAN BANCKS: He is partly me. He is mostly me, and he's also partly Gus Gordon. And Gus Gordon says that he-- I just interviewed Gus for my blog. And he says that he takes the stories. He reads them through.

And then he tries to do a pass as though he is Tom Weekly. And then he says that the pictures just emerge from him. They just fall out of him onto the page. And so he's kind of-- Tom is part me and part Gus Gordon, which is kind of a scary combination. You don't want to spend that long in the headspace of someone who's part me and part Gus.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Were you always this kind of creative soul? Were you always writing when you were little?



TRISTAN BANCKS: Yeah, always.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Definitely had like a notebook, carried it around, listened to other people's ideas, conversations. Is that something that you still do?

TRISTAN BANCKS: Yeah. And I think I always wanted to escape reality. Reality always seemed very mundane to me. And I was slightly suspicious of people who bought into reality too much or something or into society.

And I still feel exactly the same way. I feel not quite right just living an everyday life of waking up, and you have your breakfast. And at this time, you go out. And you go to work. And you do this. And then you come home. And then you do-- and doing all the things I'm supposed to do. I kind of always want to go this way and do something different.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Were you always creating stories straight out of school? What are some of the other things you've done before you went into writing full time or have you always been just dabbling away?

TRISTAN BANCKS: I mostly wrote to begin with in order to perform. Like I'd write little school plays, and then I'd go and perform them. Or I'd write short horror movies with my friends when I was a teenager. And then we bought a video camera. And we'd shoot these little horror scenes and things.

And a friend of mine was really good at doing sort of severed hands, and severed heads, and things like that. And then I started out as an actor. I used to act in theatre. And then my first job was actually as an actor. And I worked in TV for a couple of years and started out in 'Home and Away' when I was like 17.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Oh, you look so familiar to me.

TRISTAN BANCKS: And I was, from about 17 till when I was about 19 or 20, I worked on 'Home and Away.' And then I lived in England for about four years, and I presented TV. But whenever I was acting or writing and presenting, I would always be asking the directors lots of questions, and asking the camera people lots of questions, and sitting up in the control room and wondering and edits and things, and always interested in the construction of stories.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Can you give us some pointers for maybe writing a story or even finishing a story? Some people find it hard because they get to sentence 2, and they're stuck.

TRISTAN BANCKS: Yes. I reckon don't open a Twitter or Instagram account is one thing because like every 20 minutes when you're writing, you go and check those things. And that takes up half your day. So that's my first tip. And once you've shut down all your social media accounts and it's just you and the screen, get outside to write, I think, is actually something that really works for me, so I think like walking and writing and walking and writing.

I know like Steve Jobs, the ex-head of Apple, he used to do walking meetings. And I think a lot of heads of business now, they do walking meetings because you're flowing, and you're moving. And the ideas are falling out of you.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Maybe next challenge when we next meet is to do a walking interview.

TRISTAN BANCKS: Yes, let's do a walking interview.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And we'll get a GoPro or something. But maybe that's something the readers could do as well.

TRISTAN BANCKS: I think so. I get out on the beach, and I just walk along the beach. And I write on my phone in pages or in notes. And I'll email myself the note. Or sometimes I even just transcribe. I mean just voice memo some ideas. And then if you click the microphone button on your phone, it'll write it up for you.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: So nature is essential for you getting out and thinking. Keeping the blood flowing is a good one. This is something that I ask all the authors who come and talk to us. Are you somebody that plots every single thing that happens?

TRISTAN BANCKS: I used to plot meticulously. I come from a screenwriting background. And so you're always taught you've got to make a step outline, and a treatment, and everything before you go and write. But that's because a screenplay is really just a blueprint, a document so that somebody else can go and make a thing. It's not a pretty thing to read. So just working out the story first makes sense.

But with a novel, the language and the accidents, the happy accidents that happen along the way-- I find now I tend to just write maybe 2 or 3 drafts before I think about the outline. And I just see what's in me, what will fall onto the page. And then I think-- but there are good things in it. And I say, OK, I'm going to make an outline now.

And then I'll get my A4 piece of paper, and I'll cut it into quarters. And I'll put Blu-Tack on it. I'll put it up on the wall. And then I'll go, oh, you know what, this would be a really good scene when the explosion happens. I'll make that happen first. And then down here where this car crash is, maybe I should make that the second-- and I'm moving it around.

And then I go back in and write again. And I try to then semi forget about the outline. You don't want to be too stuck on the outline. But you also don't want it to be so just you meandering around in your thoughts, and the story goes like that, and it has no narrative drive.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Do characters come to you fully formed or do you have to go and investigate who they are? Or do you have a jumping off point like say with 'The Fall' that it's something that's happened and you go from a plot point?

TRISTAN BANCKS: The characters never come fully formed to me apart from Tom Weekly who I just know who he is. I know his decisions. And I've never really questioned, hmm, what would Tom do in this situation because it's just what I would do. And he's sort of my alter ego.

Whereas with someone like Ben Silver in 'Two Wolves' or Sam Garner in 'The Fall,' I have a paper thin version of them. And I put them in a situation. And it's the decisions they make in that situation that tells us who that character is and tells me who they are.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And you were telling us about writing the screenplay of 'Two Wolves' and how different that writing process is. Is it something you prefer or are they both just different experiences because I'm--

TRISTAN BANCKS: Different experiences, I think.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: --thinking with a screenplay, you've got to see everything so visually. Or is that how you write anyway?

TRISTAN BANCKS: I try to write like that. And that's why I gather together lots of pictures. And I gather together videos. And I look at Google Maps and Google Maps Street View and things to gather together. And I build the world of the story so that I then-- and I draw. I'm terrible at drawing.

But I sketch like the locations and sort of maps of, well, if the house is here and the lake is there, and then they're around here and they walk that far around-- and I want to really know the world of the story. In 'The Fall,' he's in-- there's an apartment block on the front cover. And so I wanted to know that apartment block. So I took photos of apartment blocks. And I took photos out of rear windows of apartments when I was travelling with my family.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And have you got a last piece of advice maybe for them while they're creating or thinking about writing down a story or drawing a story?

TRISTAN BANCKS: Yeah. A really good way to generate character ideas is to just go and sit on a busy street corner or up in a window where you're looking down on the street and watch people go past. And you'll see someone walking past. And they'll be hunched over, and they'll have a suitcase. And they'll look over their shoulder and then keep going. And you'll think, huh, that was kind of a bit sketchy.

And then someone's walking along with a pram, but it's got a blanket over the front. And you think, I wonder what could be inside that, what weird thing? Is it like an alien they're trying to hide and smuggle through into daycare or something? And you sketch down all the details of all these characters.

And suddenly stories start to emerge. And you think where have they come from? What's their house like? Where are they going to? What have they possibly done? What are they trying to hide? And for me, that's a really good way to generate lots of character ideas. Like you, you're looking at me kind of suspicious right now.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Thinking, what's the story with this guy?

TRISTAN BANCKS: And you're like who is this weird dude?

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Thank you so much for the insight into your creative brain. You've really shared so much with us today. I know there's a lot of us that are going to go away and try and write some stories now. So thank you so much, and we wish you all the best with your books this year.

TRISTAN BANCKS: No problem. Thank you.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: And thanks for being involved with the Premier's Reading Challenge.

TRISTAN BANCKS: Good to be--



End of transcript