Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anatomy of a Novel: Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space

Anatomy of a Novel: Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space
Guest post by Tristan Bancks

My new book Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space required tons of research. I’m glad that I didn’t realise this before I set forth into the dark. Here, I share some of the influences on the writing.

Virgin Galactic Animation
This was the video that first inspired me to ask the question, ‘What will it be like for the first children in space? And how long will it be until they go?’

Real-Life Civilian Space Travellers
Regular people, non-astronauts, are going into space and spending ten days on the international space station (NB: regular people with $20-35 million).
I voraciously consumed the blogs, videos and images of real-life civilian space travelers like Dennis Tito, Richard Garriott and Cirque Du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte who hosted a circus live from the International Space Station. Articles and Videos on Civilian Space Travel
There is a fantastic article on about the challenges faced by millionaire space travelers when they train at Star City in Russia. They stay in cramped conditions, eating dodgy food and are subjected to grueling physicals and medicals for around eight months. This video from also gives a good sense of the extreme challenges of civilian space travel: 

The French Fighter Pilot
I met Alexis, a French fighter pilot, while writing this book and he 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 punishing selection and training process and the dangers of flight. Many of his insights have made their way into the book.

The Googleplex, Skywalker Ranch and Pixar HQ
I took lots of photos in airports to build the world of my spaceport in the book. It had to be fun and amazing but realistic and believable. I researched cool HeadQuarters’ like the Googleplex where they get around on scooters and Pixar HQ where each office is uniquely designed and Red Bull HQ in London where they have a giant slide in the middle of the office.

Kennedy Space Centre
Words and images from my visit to Kennedy Space Centre in Florida were useful to me. I declared in a travel journal ten years ago that it was the most inspiring day of my life to that point. A big call but I have always been fascinated by space travel.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
On the morning of my first day of year six my family gathered around the TV to watch the space shuttle Challenger launch. Less than two minutes into the journey the shuttle exploded. I was eleven years-old and the experience has always stayed with me. That moment definitely informed the writing of this book. Here is a 2-minute clip of the launch. I still find it moving.

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 seemed to tap the mythical aspects of the story.

The Right Stuff
This film, based on the book by Tom Wolfe, taught me so much about the bravery of the very first astronauts and the kinds of characters who are drawn to a pursuit where it is highly likely that they will not come out alive. The desire to do something never achieved before, to bust through fear, is what fuels Dash Campbell in Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space.

More on the book and process at

Thanks Simmone!

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