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Sam De Brito at Waverley Literary Festival: The Lost Boys Author on His Writing Style and Cross-Dressing

Published by Roscoe Reiners

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One would think pumping out a couple of books would be a breeze for as seasoned a writer as Sam de Brito, with a CV spanning a cadetship at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, celebrity-hunting for US magazine Star, 10 years as a newspaper journalist, film and television script writer, and now blogger.

But back in 2004 and 2005 he wasn’t as confident as he is now with four books and two successful blogs to his name.

Boredom at Work Leads to Publishing Deals

It was his Sunday Telegraph feature column that morphed into his first book No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty, a small book of advice for his unborn children published in 2006.

Worrying over the correct spelling of names and the next scoop was feeling “a bit empty”, so Mr. de Brito’s friends encouraged him to write. The Lost Boys was the result, a novel published in 2008 about a Bondi man who hits 35 and realizes he is still doing the same things he was in his teens.

Mr. de Brito said he wrote it for his friends and in the language of the people he knew and saw around Bondi.

“It’s not pretty sometimes, but…I felt a lot of Australian literature is very polite…there’s no f***s or c***s and that’s how the people I know speak.”

Mr. de Brito used his life experiences for the characters in his books because he didn’t have the imagination of Tolkien or Steve Larsen. “That’s exciting in that you get to deconstruct your friendships and the people who you know and you get to take revenge on the dick heads.”

This approach posed problems occasionally when people recognised sketches of themselves in his writing.

The Lost Boys was published in mid-2008 and the sequel will be about helping the lost boys deal with their issues.

My Weekend as a Transvestite

One of the biggest influences on Mr. de Brito’s writing was a weekend spent dressed as a woman.

In his Sydney Morning Herald blog All Men Are Liars, a woman accused him of being a misogynist.

His response was: “I don’t think I’m a misogynist, I think probably I’m a sexist”, and he decided to indulge his feminine side with a weekend of full make-up, dresses, deportment classes, and womanly grooming that included a Brazilian wax.

The epiphany came as soon as he stepped out in full kit into Sydney’s CBD.

“My hair was getting in my face, my handbag was flopping around, and the wind was blowing up my dress, and my legs felt all naked cos they’d just been waxed, I felt vulnerable…and then there were people just staring at me.

“Guys were saying things and people felt like they could say whatever they wanted to me, and that had never happened to me before, when I’d walk down a street and men thought they had the right to pass comment on my looks.”

It didn’t help that he looked obviously like a man dressed in women’s clothing, but there was one point in Kings Cross when a group of men passed comment and he thought: “F*** you mate, you know, my entire outfit cost more than your home, probably.”

It was a “though the looking glass moment” to cross a street to avoid a group of men for the first time in his life and to see the world from a woman’s perspective.

Mr. de Brito’s reminiscences of cross-dressing were told with tongue in check, but he was serious about its impact on him and his writing.

How to Build a Better Life

The Lost Boys was deliberately misogynistic, while Building A Better Bloke, released in 2008 was the book he felt the lost boys should read.

It is about how to get out of a rut and includes sage advice such as about diet and exercise; he told the small group gathered in the bookstore’s comfortable fug that if they wanted to make something of their lives and weren’t independently wealthy they had to have more energy than the next person, “ simple as that”.

“You’ve gotta get up at four in the morning or five in the morning to write or to work on your songs or to, you know, read your lines and then you’ve gotta go to work, you’ve gotta earn your living just like everybody else, and then you gotta have a little bit left, a little bit of energy left in the evening to push your life forward.”

Advice for Budding Authors

Mr. de Brito’s advice for the budding writers in the audience was to write in chunks, be it a chapter or paragraph at a time, and simply get the words on paper. Editing could be done later but to start with writers had to “let themselves write shit” and to do it every day to maintain their motivation.

“Write the pieces and the puzzle will solve itself.”

Emotional truth was essential and he told people that if what they had written made them cringe, it was probably really good.

He calls The Lost Boys “short attention span literature” with some chapters only a page or half a page long. He urged new writers to use the first person active tense as a good way to get into the action quickly, despite it being confronting that readers may think the character’s thoughts are also the author’s.

Battles With Editors

Mr. de Brito agreed to take out the first chapter in The Lost Boys about a wedding where the bride’s uncle was standing on the roof with a “hose up his arse”, on the basis that it may put people off.

But he refused to change the title of the ‘Elle Macpherson’s Shit’ chapter, because if readers were going to be put off by that, “then they probably won’t like the book”.

His blog allows him to push editorial boundaries too; the Sun Herald turned down a piece on famous people on the toilet because it was too crude but it was very successful on the Sydney Morning Herald blog All Men Are Liars.

No Sex With Your Ex is his latest book, published this year, and a sequel to No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty.

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