Tim Harris - Interview (April 2018)
What five words best describe you?
Dreamer. I’m constantly getting lost in random thoughts and ideas. ‘Dreamer’ was even on the back of my Year 12 school jumper. Oh, and it’s one of my favourite songs by my favourite band – Supertramp. ?
Focussed. Yes, this can exist alongside ‘Dreamer’. Once I have an idea I like, I hone in on it and set myself goals. I may get a little distracted on the way, but I make sure things get done.
Sweet Tooth. It’s all about the chocolate.
Organised. I’m very much a checklist setter and folder keeper. My office is organised and I like to know where everything is. My email inbox never gets above five emails at any one time and my desktop has two folders – one for music and one for everything else.
Appreciative. I’m very lucky to be blessed with a wonderful family and a job I love. I’m constantly thankful for this.
How did you get started in the industry?
It all started by accident! I was teaching a Year 1 class of all boys and decided to write a story for them – just for fun. One of the parents, Rachel Greenwood, got hold of the story and contacted me to encourage me to continue writing. It turns out she had studied children’s literature and was involved in the Children’s Book Council. Rachel was very much an early mentor and without her input I am certain things wouldn’t have progressed.
From there I self-published four versions of Exploding Endings, before eventually seeking traditional publication. Harbour Publishing House was only the second publisher I sent a submission to and I was naturally thrilled when they called to discuss a contract.
Is there any part of the creative process you don’t like?
I might attack this question from the other end of the spectrum. My absolute favourite part of the process is the initial brainstorm. It’s at this point where the possibilities are literally endless. I genuinely enjoy most of the creative process, though at times I find structural editing a little daunting. That said, I quite like structural editing once I’m in the guts of it, but getting to that point involves wading through an enormous wave of self-doubt.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to catch the eye of a publisher?
Firstly, work with a good editor. The biggest mistake I made with the self-published versions of Exploding Endings was working solely with proof-readers. Once I realised my writing was suffering, I hired a freelance editor (Jenny Bowman in USA) and she gave the stories the structural edits they needed. It was at this point I became confident enough to send the manuscript to traditional publishers.
Secondly, be active. Create a platform on social media. Write or illustrate as often as you can. Get out there and visit schools.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m very much a plotter to begin with. I meticulously map out every main section of a book (using Post-its – yeah!) and stick it on my office wall. Once I’ve plotted out the main points, I leave enough room in the story to be flexible. I think this works well for me as it gives me enough room to add humour where possible. It also allows new ideas to come in and trump existing ones.
What excites you about the future of children’s books?
I’m excited to see physical books in so many places. For a while it looked as though eBooks would completely wipe out physical books, and bookstores were closing everywhere. The book as an item – as an experience – will continue to thrive, as long as there are enough advocates. This starts at home and continues at school. Parents and teachers hold the key. Throw in a few brilliant independent bookstores (active and connecting readers to authors) and you have the makings of an exciting future. The biggest threat at the moment is the closing of school libraries. Leigh Hobbs (Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017) did a magnificent job raising awareness about this.
What’s the funniest thing a child has even said to you during one of your presentations/talks?
I once had a child call out they’d found a typo in my book – at the book launch!
During a school visit I was randomly interrupted and asked if I had a girlfriend.
At another school talk we were acting out improvised ‘Western Movie’ scenes, and a student clutched his stomach and said in a thick Texan accent, ‘Seems I ate me some bad rabbit.’ #comicgenius
What’s next from Tim Harris?
At the time of writing this, Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back has just hit the shelves! I’m about to embark on a national tour to promote it, which is very exciting.
I’ll also be chipping away on the proofs for the third book in the Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables series, and will begin drafting the fourth shortly.
I’m planning on having a number of meaningful brainstorming sessions this year. Who knows, a new story or series idea might just stand out from the others!