Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

John Boyne on Mac Slater

A few months back I had an email from Irish author, John Boyne. John has an excellent writer’s blog at and he wrote a wonderful book in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. (I loved the film adaptation, too.) John is a voracious reader and he had read a book of mine, the first in my Mac Slater series (US April 2010). He had some nice things to say and he kindly wrote a blurb on the book. I loved what he had to say so much that I thought I’d share it with you...

‘Reading Tristan Bancks is like jumping on a rollercoaster– it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a bit dangerous, too. In Mac Slater he turns all our ideas of what’s cool upside down and tells a story that combines classic storytelling with 21st century teenage anarchy. Where were books like this when I was a kid?’

Merry Christmas. It's been a big year! I hope you’re safe, well and happy.



Monday, December 14, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

I loved this movie. I'm so happy that I live in a time when it's possible to experience stories this way.

For me, it's about the idea that we're always trying to make things perfect, and the fact that they never will be.

Max’s perfect snowcave that he builds is destroyed. The world that Carol and Max dream of – the fort where everybody is happy and your enemy’s brain explodes when they go inside – doesn't work out so well. Max's dream of being a king with a double re-cracker that busts through anything only lasts so long.

They are all Ideal Worlds and the story seems to say, ‘Keep going for those ideals, keep dreaming, keep trying, because interesting things happen along the way, but nothing will ever be perfect and, if it is, it will only be for a moment.’ I guess this is what all good stories speak of. This is, perhaps, the basic truth underscoring life. ‘Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world’ and all that stuff.

This sheds light on my current story, too. Better go write it.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Mac Slater On Stage

This week, my character Mac Slater will be brought alive onstage courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. They're working with a director and actors to bring scenes from the second Mac book, I NY to the stage. I can't wait to see what they do with it. I love it when someone takes something you've created and puts their own spin on it. And I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days in Melbourne, too. It's a fine, fine city and I always get inspired.

I'll be meeting with the producer and animators bringing my Nit Boy series to life while I'm down there, too, so it should be a fun adventure. We're talking about a background look for the animation so I'm sourcing lots of visual references right now over at

And I've just blogged Crocodile Tears the eighth Alex Rider book by Anthony Horowitzat . To WIN a copy, just leave a comment on the post.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nit Boy Art Exhibition

The Teacher-Librarian at St Joseph's, Bracken Ridge, in Brisbane recently read my first Nit Boy book, Lift Off! to her students without being shown the cover. Students were then asked to create their own covers based on the story they'd heard. I thought there was some amazing, hilarious and tasty work in there and I wanted to share it, so welcome to the exhibition. I only wish I had time to scan them all! Perhaps there'll be a sequel?

Oh, and here are a couple of recent kids' reviews of the Nit Boy books:
Nit Boy 1: Lift Off!
Nit Boy 2: Bug Out!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Characters Who Just Won't Die

I'm 30,000 words into a new book. Just a zero draft (a term I first encountered here on Carole Wilkinson's blog and which she discovered via Scott Westerfeld). I know what I'm writing is mostly crud but I push on anyway, knowing that the story and characters don't truly exist when they're just a pile of notes or an outline. A draft solidifies them in some way. They start to live.

So I'm letting the characters speak and letting unexpected things happen and trying not to force them to fit into my evil plan. But it's hard. I had hoped to blow at least one character up in an unfortunate accident but they all seem to want to stay in the story. I can't think of a polite way to decide which one of them gets it so I'm going to have to jump in late, start the chapter at the penultimate moment and use the element of surprise. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Writing Process

So often writers are asked to break down the writing process and share secrets in workshops and talks but I believe it's almost impossible to honestly describe the actual process of writing a book.

Sure, there are marker posts along the way – outlines or freewrites or zero drafts etc. Those things can be described and disseminated but the other stuff, the magic, the stuff that really makes you love a book, cannot. Fiction writing is such a mash of influences - the things you're reading now, dreams, the things you're struggling with in your own life, every person you've ever met, bits of video from Youtube, the breaks you take to read Twitter conversations, the movies you watch at night, the mix of caffeine and green tea in your system, the perfectly timed nap, an interruption by an AAPT salesperson, and all the other happy and not-so-happy accidents.

Even a piece of chocolate eaten at the right time in the afternoon can stimulate the writing of a chapter that never would have happened without that half Cherry Ripe. (Thanks, Cadbury.) It is truly a mysterious process and I will continue to talk about writing and try to share thoughts with kids and emerging writers but, really, it is unbreakdownable, the truth of what happens on that journey.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Books for Boys Blog

I'm still resident blogger over at Boys, Blokes, Books blog. You can catch my recent interviews with Australian authors:
David Metzenthen (The Really Nearly Deadly Canoe Ride - Win a copy!)
Sherryl Clark (aka Captain Blood. An interview on her obsession with pirates!)
Gus Gordon (The Undys, Wendy)

There's an upcoming interview with Specky Magee author, Felice Arena, too. We both started out as actors and we've followed a similar trajectory, working in TV in Australia, then in the UK, and now writing children's books. We spoke at Perth Writer's Fest earlier in the year and I was inspired by his high-energy show that brought his writing alive for the audience.

The Power of Time Off

Back from a week-long break and it was a life-changer. I haven't had any time off all year and, 
with three book releases very close together, it's been a period of strong focus and intensity. But then I stopped. For a week. Holidays are underrated.

Earlier this week I found a TED talk titled The Power of Time Off by Stefan Sagmeister. He's a New York designer who, every seven years, closes his studio and goes on a year-long sabbatical. He goes to Bali or South America and re-discovers design, plays with new materials and ideas and starts to think freely again.
I think everyone needs this. Creative work starts to feel samey when you work too hard for too long. You forget why you love it. As a writer, I'm also a business person. I have to make a living doing the thing I love but sometimes I become so stuck in my thinking and so mesmerised by the rectangular box of my laptop screen and that blinking cursor in the TwitWindow asking me what I'm doing now that I don't even know what I'm doing.

Long live the holiday. Feeling loose and the words are flowing freely. I remember why I'm here and I'm trusting my gut again, rather than being owned by thinking.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mac Slater Exhibition


Here are some cool drawings based on my Mac Slater series, created by the students at St Ita's in Brisbane.

And a shot of author James Roy and I at the MCG watching Sydney Swans v. Richmond a few weeks ago. I could watch anything at the MCG and enjoy it. (Toad racing might be difficult without some kind of zoom lens.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making Stories

I found the image above on this blog: A Beautiful Mess (Super-cool chick and her boyfriend's music is great, too. She found the image here). The sign captures just how I feel right now.

Here's a thought that occurred to me yesterday while I was thinking about my story, driving through the hills, looking over the beach. I came home and jotted it.

'Sometimes when you’re writing, you become lost in fragments of thought and then, all of a sudden, it feels like these broken, scattered bits merge together to make something whole. And, for a moment, it feels as though you have something that’s perfect. A story that feels as much a part of you as your ear or your arm or nose. 

This doesn’t last long and you end up smashing it again and, at some undefined future date, it comes back together in another form. It’s still the same parts of you but they slot into different spaces and make something else (im) perfect.'


Monday, September 28, 2009 Top Ten

Here's my top ten at I vote TED the best site on the superhighway. The coolest free video and audio talks ever. I download them for long drives.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and it's a conference that happens in California each year with the most amazing speakers on earth... from Michelle Obama to Al Gore to Richard Branson to Bono and loads of others you've never heard of, but who are equally as fascinating.

Not a TED talk but such a really interesting idea.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brisbane Writer's Fest Highlights 2009


I recently spoke at Brisbane Writer's Fest which I loved. The beautiful State Library of QLD, sunshine, the river, coffee, telling stories, lots of sessions, lunches, breakfasts and parties. Too good. Here are some pics and, at the end, a few fest highlights.

Nit Boy audience in the Breezeway

They were a fun and wild crowd.

Brisbane's State Library by night.
Photo by the multi-talented Amber Melody.

Griffith University students performing scenes from my book, Mac Slater, Coolhunter 2:
I Love NY

The audience in the Mac Slater 2: I Love NY book gig.

Some Fest Highlights

* The incredible audiences across the board, especially the four-hundred kids each morning in the Breezeway tent between the Library and the Gallery of Modern Art. They were so juiced.

* Getting tips on research and fascinating pirate facts from Sherryl Clark.

* Meeting the affable Scott Monk and the lovely Melaina Faranda.

* Catching up with James Roy. He's a funny man with an encyclopedic rolodex of one-liners at the ready. He was a hit at the fest.

* Hanging out with all the cool publishing people, editors etc. who support the festival. Kids' book folks tend to be good humans all-round.

* A funny session with Jack Heath and Charlotte McConaghy where we spoke about the perils of starting out as storytellers at a young age.

* Skyping with Tempany Deckert on the big screen from LA in our it's yr life session

* Seeing Belinda Jeffrey and Rebecca Sparrow in a Fest Fringe battle-of-the-writers event. I heard Belinda's session at BWF was a scream, too.

* Some thoughts on a zen approach to my upcoming US release from Andy Griffiths.

* The grapes in the green room.



Buzz, Ganesh, Research and Writing

I'm back in the writing seat after six weeks book touring (will blog those adventures soon). I'm currently drifting from outlining to freewriting chapters and back to the outline. 

It’s a fairly research-heavy book that I'm working on. The most research I’ve ever had to do. This makes it harder to just dive in and start writing the entire book until I’ve reached a certain level of mastery over the material. I’m building the world of the story in images, turning my office into that world so that ‘the walls become the world all around’ (in Where the Wild Things Are parlance). I want to dive into the jungle and be inside the story when I’m writing. I don’t want to come out until it’s done. But I have to. Every afternoon. Each time I step back in, though, I know I’ve come home.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brisbane Writer's Festival

Brisbane Writer’s Fest next week! Should be fun. Great hotel on South Bank, lots of sessions in the State Library of QLD. A tennis grudge match with Pat Flynn, James Roy and others. Hope you make it along! If not, I’ll be giving a tweet-by-tweet account over at

BWF is also the end of six weeks of book-touring around the country for me so I can’t wait to dive into writing the week after. 


9:45-10:15am Nit Boy: All Creatures Great and Small

10:45-11:25   Mac Slater 2 Live Performance and Q & A

12:15-12:55 It’s Yr Life with my co-author, Tempany Deckert, skyping her part of 

the session in from Los Angeles.

1:15-1:55 Get a real job..... the cost of cool – A panel with authors Jack Heath and Charlotte McConaghy


9:45-10:15am Nit Boy: All Creatures Great and Small

10:45-11:25  Mac Slater 2 Live Performance and Q & A

12:15-12:55 It’s Yr Life with my co-author, Tempany Deckert, skyping her part of 

the session in from Los Angeles.

1:15-1:55 Online Literature Festival


12:00 – 1:00pm Great Barrier Reef Foundation Whiteout eBook digital fiction project Launch



Monday, August 17, 2009

Best Boys' Book Ever at Boys, Blokes, Books


I've just published the first post of my three-month residency at Boys, Blokes, Books and Bytes. Some fantastic Australian authors have contributed their suggestions on the best book for boys ever. I'd love you to submit your own contenders at


Twitter, New Blog and Books


I seem to be diving deeper into the electronical webiverse. I'm unsure if this is a good thing but it's slowly slurping me in.

* I've relaunched and renamed this blog. It'll be more personal, rather than straight news stuff.

* I'm on Twitter and I've been connecting with some interesting peeps.

* I'm blogging over at the State Library of Vic's Boys, Blokes, Books and Bytes for three months from now through to November. Love you to join me there to share ideas on incredible books for boys:

* About to embark on a blog tour with it's yr life co-writer, Tempany Deckert, guest-posting and doing interviews on some cool YA blogs. Will let you know which.

* Been developing a brand new website, 'The World of Mac Slater' ahead of the release of Mac Slater Hunts the Cool in the US next year.

After my current book touring comes to a close with Bris Writers Fest in mid-September, I'll be diving into a draft of a brand new book which I'm really looking forward to. I snuck a couple of hours in today and remembered why I love writing.

Hope all this web action doesn't tip me over the edge. Must remember to breathe and not get too twitchy. Dreaming in 140 characters or less can't be healthy.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Byron Bay Writers Fest 2009 Highlights

* ‘Only begin.’ Tom Keneally’s advice to writers. I try to do this every day (sometimes unsuccessfully). Start writing, be consistent, don’t make excuses.

* Sam Cutler telling me that Ben and Jerrys ice cream is coming to Australia. You haven’t lived till you’ve tasted New York Super Fudge Chunk or Cherry Garcia.

* Judith Lanigan busting out her hoops for a crazy hula at the end of our sessions.

* The near-brawl when the locals got involved in the Byron: Magic or Tragic session.

* Nick Earls’ tale of his big break ... as a storytelling armchair. Nick’s was basically a stand-up routine. He’s an inspiring speaker.

* Mistaking Stephen Dando-Collins for Stephen Spielberg at the Random House dinner. (From back and profile, identical.)

* The audience in the kids’ tent on the Saturday. So keen and engaged, and with great ideas to offer. Very cool.
* Most writers seem to agree with those old chestnuts that, ‘You have to write the first draft to find out what the book’s about,’ and ‘Books are not so much finished as abandoned’. These sentiments were echoed by authors throughout the fest.

* Tom Keneally and Marele Day’s advice on organising your research notes: Place vaguely-related pieces of paper in piles either on the floor or on an unused pool table. Nice to know that such fine writers share my filing approach.

* The suggested nit-cures in my Nit Boy / Mac Slater session: mayonnaise, orange juice and toothpaste are apparently at the cutting edge of edginess in head lice treatment. Remember where you heard it first.

A new venue for the fest this year. Less grass, but plenty of blue sky, scorching sunshine, good coffee, cool people, big ideas and lots of laughs. Giddyup. Bring on 2010.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Death Adders, Turtles and Moonbows

Have you ever heard of a moonbow? It's a night rainbow - a white rainbow, lit by the full moon. And I saw one. In the same week, I rescued a turtle (tortoise?) from imminent death on a road and came within a metre or so of a death adder on a family property. 

The track.

The almost invisible Death Adder's lair. Almost bitten on nose while going for macro shot.

The turtle and adder were captured for your viewing pleasure but I missed the moonbow. Nuts. You can see one below courtesy of


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