Taking delight in life’s little pleasures is often the inspiration for Tony Wilson’s writing. It is all of the many aspects of life, the ups and the downs, the successes and the blunders, where Wilson finds pleasure, humour and inspiration for his work. From his novels, children’s books, sports writing and public speaking, Wilson sees the funny side in even the more stressful moments and likes his writing to have humour and a message that all can understand. We are talking to each other in the Triple R studios, at 9.30 on a Friday morning, where he does his Breakfaster radio show.
Tony Wilson seamlessly blends various projects into his media career. “Well, in the Australian media it’s quite difficult to make a living, unless you really crack it for huge success in one of the different media. So it’s actually quite common, I think, for people to pursue radio, television and writing career paths and hope that one of them will work.”
“For me, they’re all working to some extent but at the same time I’m probably not a household name in any of them. But I’m hoping that in pursuing a few different avenues that I will get my break, I guess.”
Once headed for a football career at Hawthorn, or so he thought, life had other plans and took him on a different route altogether. “I probably was focused on being a footballer during and through the early 90’s and actually did a pre-season at Essendon in 1996,” he says, “and when I realized that wasn’t going to work and that I had to change tack, well, I remember the day I played on a guy called Shaun Wellman, who was an all Australian for Adelaide and a very good player for Essendon and he just slaughtered me,” he ventures. “He was so fast I basically decided I’m never going to be able to play at this level with people who are this quick over the ground.”
Tony Wilson is professional and incredibly talkative. He cuts a striking figure; tall and quite athletically built, but not at all overbearing. You could say he is intimidating, physically and intellectually, but actually he is very polite. He has a high forehead and a lopsided grin and sports the short, blond spiky hair that is common and regularly seen at your nearest maxi shopping centre.
Having said that, there’s nothing common about Wilson at all. Schooled in state schools in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, then at Camberwell Grammar and Melbourne University respectively, he likes to write. He is one part of a fun, three piece that make up the Breakfasters announcers team on Triple R community radio station. He also moonlights as a corporate speaker and MC, which is ironic as he spent some time in speech therapy at the age of ten.
When it comes to life dreams and personal achievement goals, he makes an analogy, “One of the great fallacies of Big Brother and reality shows, is that if you work hard enough and if you commit yourself hard enough to the dream that you’ll make it. Because the sad fact is that if you don’t have enough ability then you won’t make it. And so, I think one of the main ingredients for success in life is to readjust dreams when they’re not quite working out.”
Since his re-adjustment of his own life dream to become a professional footballer, he decided to take a punt on something else he showed talent and promise at. Sport is still one of his passions, but words have come into play and are usually less physically damaging. Sport and writing have combined to form the premise of his first book, ‘Players’, released in 2005 by Text Publishing.
Finding inspiration in Aussie Rule’s own so-called players and string pullers, and Frank Hardy’s ‘Power Without Glory’, Wilson’s book has been named as one of the Top 20 Best Novels, a status awarded by the State Library of Victoria in 2007.
He only just scraped into The Sydney Morning Herald’s under 35’s category for Best Young Novelists of the Year in 2006, at age thirty- four. Tony is no stranger to a camcorder either. In fact, you could say that he got his mini break in 1998, when he won the ABC’s ‘Race Around the World’ program, where he filmed many of his travel encounters, often sprinkled with a touch of black humour and irony.
After that, he was encouraged to give up his life as a solicitor. From 1999 to 2001, he masqueraded as a producer and as a presenter for various television shows that included The Late Report, on Channel 7, and Dimensions On The Move on the ABC.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, it seems. In writing his children’s books, ‘Grannysaurus Rex’ in 2004 and ‘The Thirsty Flowers’, in 2006, I ask Tony if Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl came to mind during the writing process. “It’s interesting that you say those two because I can actually recite those revolting rhymes all those years later, for example…’I guess you think you know this story, you don’t think the real one’s much more gory. The phoney one, the one you know was cooked up years and years ago.’”, he recites. “So, I love Roald Dahl to the extent that at the time I was ten or eleven and now I’m 35, and I’m still reciting him,” he says with a laugh.
Wilson wrote The Thirsty Flowers back in 1999, but it took a long time to get published, “I wanted to have a go at a Dr Seuss type rhyme” he claimed. “There are some really way out rhymes, for example, ‘fact I’ with ‘cacti’. It’s such a forced and dodgy rhyme that it could be good, I guess. Others I’ve had to generally work hard at.”
Only a big child can understand the enthusiasm Wilson has for rhyming words. He is about to release another children’s picture book in August entitled ‘Harry Highpants’, that contains an anti-fascist message for the kids. “People should be able to wear their pants at whatever height they like,” he declares.
When the interview winds up, I come to the conclusion that whether Tony Wilson gets his big break or not, he will be one happy camper. He will always find inspiration for his writing, whether it be a corporate gig or another children’s storybook. Even if things don’t go according to his personal plan, he will re-adjust the plan and always have a laugh. In fact, Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ just could be Tony’s life motto.