We caught up with children's author Tristan Bancks to talk about reaching this exciting milestone, his writing process, and what fans can expect from him next.
It’s not every day that an author reaches an impressive milestone. So when Tristan Bancks reached 100,000 copies sold of Two Wolves we knew it was cause for celebration!
Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks
Not only has the book reached an incredible level of popularity but it also remains a firm favourite in classrooms and libraries across the country. With a fast-paced plotline, emotional depth and tricky moral questions, it’s easy to see why young readers just can’t get enough of Two Wolves.
To celebrate this exciting milestone, we sat down with the author to learn more about the book, how it feels to reach 100,000 copies sold and what fans can expect from his next book.
About Two Wolves
Two Wolves, which was first published in 2014, tells the story of a boy named Ben and the mischief that ensues after two police officers show up at his house one day. Minutes after the cops leave, Ben’s parents bundle him and his little sister Olive into the car and tell them they’re going on holiday . . . but is that the truth?
As the events unfold, it becomes clear that the ‘holiday’ is a cover for something else and that Ben’s parents are in trouble. All his life, he’s wanted to become a detective, so Ben takes the opportunity to try and figure out exactly what is going on. But as he learns more, he will also have to wrestle with a few moral dilemmas. Should he dob on his parents? What does it mean to protect those you love? And what really is the difference between right and wrong anyway?
Though it’s been out for almost ten years now, the book is as important as ever and continues to enamour young readers today. Whether they encounter the book in their school curriculum or on their own, children are fascinated by Ben’s story, propelling the book to continuous sales so long after publication.
When Tristan goes to speak at schools, the enthusiastic reception delights him to this day. ‘I will get questions from kids who are reading Two Wolves, and then I will see their copies with all these post-it notes coming out, dogeared pages and bits highlighted,’ he says. ‘Quite often, the kids will know more about the book than I do.’
Though Two Wolves wasn’t Tristan’s first book, it did mark a pivot in his writing career. While his previous books had been light and funny, this was the first time the author dove into a darker topic.
His initial dream as an author was to have a book that sold 30,000 copies, but while writing Two Wolves, Tristan decided not to worry about the market and instead just focus on telling a story that he found compelling. He was unsure if the book felt too dark or too literary for young readers. ‘I thought, “I’m just going to write it anyway and see what happens,”’ says Tristan. ‘And it ended up being the best thing I had written up to that point.’
Now, Tristan has far surpassed his goal of selling 30,000 copies, and in branching out, he also learned a valuable lesson about writing. ‘The key is really creating the thing that you love, and then interesting things happen as a result. Worst case scenario, you end up with a thing that you love, even if nobody else quite understands it. And if it does work out well, you have a book that sells 100,000 copies and opens the door for you to write more stories like that.’
The writing process
It sounds like simple advice, ‘write a story that you want to write’. But anyone who has ever written knows that it isn't so easy.
Tristan has spent years honing his craft through reading, writing, and sheer practice.
‘A lot of what I use is instinct, but a lot of the craft skills are buried in all the years I’ve been writing,’ the author explains. ‘While I’m writing, I’m not thinking about nouns and verbs and grammar and things like that. I’m doing it instinctively, but if I were to really break it down, there would be a lot of craft informing my instincts.’
In addition to refining his writing skills, Tristan also looks to reading as a tool for becoming a better writer. ‘Reading is such a great way to instinctively learn what works.’ Good writing keeps readers interested through using variation in sentence structure, vocabulary etc., and reading allows you ‘to get a natural sense of how that variation should happen.’
In addition to helping him understand the craft of writing, reading also plays a role in inspiring his stories. While writing Two Wolves, for example, Tristan revisited old classics like My Side of the Mountain and Hatchet to help inform the survival aspect of the novel. While the struggles that the protagonists face in each of these books are different from the experience of Ben in Two Wolves, their problems come down to the same basic question of right versus wrong and an element of survival. ‘I think even though you wouldn’t read Two Wolves and immediately know it was a child of those two stories, if you read it with that in mind, you could see it,’ says the author.
The book’s title, Two Wolves, is also a reference to the allegory of the two wolves. As the legend goes, a grandfather tells his grandson that two wolves are fighting inside of him, one good and one bad. When the boy asks which wolf will win, the grandfather answers that it will be whichever wolf he feeds.
Like Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain, the allegory ties into nature imagery, but it is also a seamless fit for Ben’s internal struggles in the book. ‘I was at about the fifth draft stage when I found this allegory, and it just captured so much of what Ben was about,’ says Tristan. ‘It was really late in the process. I was probably working on the book for four years before I finally had that title.’
In the end, Tristan’s writing skills, instincts, and all the references he drew on created a book that’s now a mainstay in Australian children’s literature. ‘It feels so good . . . the thing that I love too is that it has continued to sell and resonate with young readers,’ says the author.
And he’s not the only one celebrating the milestone. Fellow author John Boyne also wished his friend congratulations in recognition of the accomplishment.
‘Congratulations to Tristan Bancks on reaching an incredible 100,000 sales for Two Wolves. He’s one of Australia’s finest and most committed writers for young readers and it’s fantastic to see that this brilliant, thrilling novel has found such a wide audience. Ben Silver, a resourceful and exciting character, has remained with me since first reading the book.’
Fans of Tristan’s high-stakes, morally tough, nail-biting reads can rest assured that his next novel will deliver.
Scar Town by Tristan Bancks
Titled Scar Town, the book follows a group of friends who discover a safe full of money and human bones in an old house that has recently been exposed in their town’s rapidly-receding lake. As in Tristan’s other books, the kids will grapple with questions about what to do, who to trust and why the past has been deliberately buried.
A passion project of Tristan’s, the book has been in the works since before he even picked up the pen to write Two Wolves. The author first explored the concept with a short story in 2009, then shortly after began working on the novel. ‘I was thinking, “Well I really like the short story, so the novel’s going to be easy,"' says the author, ‘and I’m just finishing it now after fourteen years.’
Currently, he’s working away to ensure that every detail is perfect before the book goes to print. ‘I am just trying to plot it and get it right – trying to have richness and history of the town as well as an engaging thriller story.’ Meanwhile, he continues to write other projects while also speaking at schools, writing festivals and events about Two Wolves, Scar Town, and the writing process.
If you (and your classroom/children) loved Two Wolves and simply can’t wait for Scar Town to come out, we suggest checking out one of Tristan’s other suspenseful titles below.
Cop and Robber Tristan Bancks
Nash Hall's dad is a criminal who just can't seem to go straight. He wants Nash to help him commit a robbery. A big one. The trouble is, Nash's mum is a cop. And the robbery is at Nash's school. But Dad owes a lot of money to some very dangerous people and if Nash doesn't help him do the job, it could cost both their lives.
The Fall Tristan Bancks
In the middle of the night, Sam is woken by angry voices from the apartment above.
He goes to the window to see what’s happening – only to hear a struggle, and see a body fall from the sixth-floor balcony. Pushed, Sam thinks.
Sam goes to wake his father, Harry, a crime reporter, but Harry is gone. And when Sam goes downstairs, the body is gone, too. But someone has seen Sam, and knows what he’s witnessed.
Detention Tristan Bancks
Sima and her family are pressed to the rough, cold ground among fifty others. They lie next to the tall fence designed to keep them in. The wires are cut one by one.
When they make their escape, a guard raises the alarm. Shouting, smoke bombs, people tackled to the ground. In the chaos Sima loses her parents.
Dad told her to run, so she does, hiding in a school and triggering a lockdown. A boy, Dan, finds her hiding in the toilet block.
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