Tony 'Baloney' Williams is an author, comedian, poet, director and filmmaker. He is the author of over 50 published books and is a highly entertaining educator and speaker. He has visited over 700 schools in New Zealand – about one third of all the schools in the country. He is eager to visit the rest, entertaining and empowering students with the knowledge and ideas contained in his books, such as The Gods of Story: How to Write or Tell any Story and Demystifying Maths. Tony 'Baloney' Williams is available for school visits as part of the Book Council's Writers in Schools programme, and can lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Williams, Tony (1960 - ) is an author, comedian, poet, director and filmmaker.
He has written on subjects as diverse as children's fiction, murder, sport and war. Most recently his non-fiction books have concentrated on the topic of 'success' and his No Baloney Guides arm people with knowledge.
Tony's first book was the children's fiction title, Fizz the Wildest Boy in the Universe (1996), about an alien that has to go to school on earth after he is thrown out of every other school in the galaxy. Fizz is full of 'bellychuckles and kneewobblies.' At the schools that Tony Williams visits, many of the young children admit to having an alien in their garden shed.
Williams followed this with a selection of rugby books that are very popular with boy readers, especially reluctant readers. These books include the 'Awesome' series of rugby player biographies, featuring All Black legends Sean Fitzpatrick, Zinzan Brooke, Michael Jones, Ian Jones, Frank Bunce, and Carlos Spencer. His 'Super 12' rugby books, published in 1998, profiled the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, and Hurricanes.
His other titles include: Justice Without Fear or Favour (1997), for which he was ghost writer for Kevin Ryan QC; Frank Confessions (1998), ghost written for Frank Bunce; The Bad, The Very Bad and the Ugly: Whos Who of New Zealand Crime (1998); Unsolved Murders of New Zealand (1999); Tales from the Shearing Sheds (1999); The Rise, Fall and Flight of Brierley Investments (1999); text for the Penguin NZ Atlas;100 Great Moments of NZ Cricket (1999); 100 Great Moments of New Zealand Rugby (1999); Anzacs: Stories from New Zealanders at War (2000); Case of Murder (2000);contributor to Bateman New Zealand Encyclopaedia (2001); The Murder Files (2001), Kirsty (2001)co-authored with Jill Bentley, and Hard Case Kiwis (2001).
'Williams... is such a good writer. I found myself taking car registration numbers and descriptions, checking out strangers doing unusual things in odd places. I just couldn't help it, [because of] his ability to set the scene and draw in his readers'. Daily Post review of Unsolved Murders of New Zealand.
Tony Williams wrote a series of children’s fiction titles for Sunshine Books, Magda the Mammoth Hunter, Erik the Viking Raider and Odysseus the Warrior (2001).
Written with the intimacy of a novel, Cassino (2002), is Tony Williams' s non-fiction account of New Zealand soldiers in the 1944 battle for Italy.
101 Ingenious Kiwis: How New Zealanders Changed the World was published by Reed in 2006 and reprinted twice. The follow-up 101 Incredible Kiwis: How New Zealanders Lead the World was published by Reed in 2007.
In 2007 he wrote and performed War God: The retirement party of the God of War, ‘…Sometimes delivered in deeply human and hushed tones, and at others in the full savagery of barbarian bloodlust.’ Opunake and Coastal News
In his book, Questions You're Not Supposed to Ask (New Holland, 2009), Tony offered enlightenment on life's taboo subjects, with a healthy dose of laughter.
From 2010 Tony Williams mainly concentrated on his family comedy film The Big Fat One set in the independent republic of Whangamomona, which elected a goat as president. His play Clone Love (then called The Power of Love) premiered at the Courtyard Theatre, London (2010). He completed the third edition of his book Rugby Skills Tactics and Rules (2012) that was described in Amazon reviews as the best beginner’s rugby book.
He also wrote a young adult novel Shade, about a half android bounty hunter. It was originally released as a series on Amazon (2013) and later released as a full volume (2014). Tony collected together many of his poems about love and identity in Cold Feet (2014).
His No Baloney Guides were released in 2014, arming people with knowledge on key subjects such as money, storytelling, language, and maths and more, for which Tony also gives speeches, seminars and workshops.
Tony Williams intends to follow the advice of one young fan who wrote, ‘Mr. Williams, should NOT, I repeat NOT, ever stop writing such exquisite stories.’
WRITERS IN SCHOOLS INFORMATION
Tony Williams participates in the Book Council's Writers in Schools programme. He is able to speak to children of all ages, and he can talk about being an educational writer, a writer, storyteller, poet, teen fiction writer, novelist/adult fiction writer, non-fiction writer and screenwriter/playwright. He can conduct a wide range of sessions, including specialty workshops based on literacy, how to write, how to learn, how to be a genius, the history of maths, drama, and how to create great rhetoric. He can talk to groups of any size and he is able to participate in tours outside of his region. As the North Waikato News put it, he ‘…had students and staff in stitches with his livewire antics, funny voices and jokes.’ He can also lead Professional Development sessions for teachers.
KAPAI : Kids Authors Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
At the moment I am in Auckland, writing in an office at the back of a garage where birds scrabble over the roof and when the cat walks across it, it feels like someone walking over your grave. But as a friend said, I am a ‘nomad with a laptop’ so by the time you read this, I might be standing right behind you…
What sorts of books do you like to read?
I read with ravenous curiosity, generally on subjects I am writing about or researching. I find that I learn a lot from biographies and autobiographies. Mostly I read non-fiction. When I read fiction it is generally classic novels by great writers. With non-fiction I am mostly interested in the material, seeking a wide variety of lives, incidents and stories in my endless quest for knowledge.
Do you have a favourite author?
Not really, because there are so many great authors, with so many differing strengths. Again most of them are classic stories and I have compiled a list of about 600 of the best fiction stories ever written, so let me give you a brief, guided tour. The best twists I’ve ever read are in The Arabian Nights. The best writer of characters was Charles Dickens. Best plot: Macbeth by Shakespeare. A story that always lingers with me is Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Hobbit by Tolkien is an excellent children’s fantasy. I loved Animal Farm by George Orwell. I love JK Rowling’s plotting, twists and humour in the Harry Potter series. Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the tense thriller writing of Ira Levin, the imagination of Paul Jennings…and so many more great writers.
How do you think up your ideas?
Ideas pour out of me because I am curious about life and view it from a different angle. I also keep my imagination healthy by not reading newspapers or listening to the news (too much negativity). I don’t listen to gossip and I don’t watch TV. I only read good books, watch good films and informative documentaries. Exposure to good quality material and living life sparks ideas.
What is the best thing about being an author?
You are creating your own world. You are also creating a better world for others.
Some Questions for Primary School Students
Do you have any pets?
Not really, though I always seem to have spiders around wherever I work. They are writers too. They weave webs and I weave stories.
Do you have a favourite colour?
The reddest red you can get.
Do you have a favourite food?
Yes, my very own smoothie drink - the Masterblaster - sometimes known as the Supersludge. The recipe is to throw into a food mixer: eggs, protein powder, brewer's yeast (full of vitamins), multivitamin powder, spirulina, natural yoghurt and a banana. Add an old shoelace for flavour (that bit's a joke). Then mix and drink after exercise. Yummy!
Do you have a favourite film?
It changes, but right now it’s a French film called Wages of Fear in which four men have to drive two trucks filled with explosives that might blow up at any moment.
Do you play any sports?
Every chance I get, though I’m not part of any team. I generally play whatever sport I am invited to. I have some friends who like to wrestle me, so they attack me. I exercise almost every day…swim, walk, run, or dance etc. My favourite sport is elbowing my friends.
What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Creating. Sometimes you start writing and you think, ‘Why am I hungry?’ You look at the clock and suddenly realise hours have flown by, because you have been enjoying yourself so much.
How to you make books?
It starts with a clever idea, followed by research, usually in the library. I work out the story, including who is going to read it, before I sit down at the computer and write it.
Where do you go for your holiday?
I don't. I work every day, but as my work is fun and involves travel, that’s like a holiday.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I once pushed the teacher’s pet (a girl favoured by the teacher) off the path on a rainy day and she fell in the mud – whoops!! But it was good, clean mud!!! Ha ha!
Some Questions for Secondary School Students
How did you get started?
I got a book out of the library which told me how to get paid for writing. I did what it said in the book and wrote a letter of enquiry to a magazine and that's how I got my first paid commission.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Nobody around me, but lots of great writers.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Read, read, read. Use dictionaries to build your vocab and master language. Collect stories. Keep you imagination fit by not filling it with junk (news, gossip, negativity, useless trivia etc). Fill it with great art – music, great paintings and pictures, beauty, magic, poetry, inspiring information, friendship etc. Observe life and always keep your own individual viewpoint. Never let yourself be swayed by the masses. Write, write, write. Get feedback from others. Keep writing and improving. And you must do my Gods of Story seminar!
Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
It’s a small market, so you have to be flexible and creative. You have to treat it as a business and in business the most important thing is always selling, which is what brings in more work (and therefore more money). The great thing about NZ is the people who are upbeat and communicative. So this is a good breeding ground for talent. It gives you the opportunity to work hard and develop your skills. To make the really big money, inevitably you have to get it from overseas (as in the case of Lorde, Peter Jackson etc).
What were you like as a teenager?
I didn’t like being a teenager because it was half way between being a child or a man and I wanted to be one or the other. Much later, from my research, I found out that 'teenagers' were invented in about 1950. Before that, many people were so poor that they started work at an early age. And a lot of them were very successful, like Andrew Carnegie who became the richest man in the world. I will be covering this in a No Baloney Guide about Education. What sets a child and an adult apart is taking responsibility. The younger you start taking responsibility - acting on your own initiative and contributing, instead of just being contributed to - the quicker you achieve adulthood and bypass any confusion of the teen years. There are many good things about the teen years such as sport, adventure and the comradeship of your friends, so enjoy all that, but heck, don’t hang around waiting. Set clear goals for your life early and get on with it.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
You are unique and special. Never lose sight of that.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Watch the trailer for Tony Williams's feature film The Big Fat One
Updated January 2017.