Listen. Just listen, and you might be able to pick up on the quiet passion behind his words. You might not notice him. He may be just another classmate, just another fellow student to you, but he notices you. After all, that’s part of how he writes his stories.
Tristan Jensen, Portland, Oregon, freshman and member of the American Honors program at KC, is a 19-year-old published author. His first novel, Dayrunners, was published in December 2014, and his second, Parallel, in March 2016. He is working on his third and fourth books, one a supernatural novel about a private investigator named Ruby Karr, the other a sequel to Parallel.
“Do people-watching,” Jensen said when asked about the inspiration behind Karr, “because you look at people, and you start to see their kind of weird intricacies and their little habits that they think that you don’t see . . .. I think that helps create your characters.”
His writing style is reminiscent of writers like Douglass Adams and Dean Koontz.
“I like Adams’ comedic styling,” Jensen said. “I like his sarcastic tone that he brings into his stories, and I think that’s influenced my writing quite a bit.”
Despite the fact that he has already been published, Jensen is still hesitant to pin a definitive genre on his stories.
“I’m still trying to find my permanent genre,” Jensen said. “If I had to have a preferred genre, it’d either have to be mystery or adventure, because that’s what I’ve written and that’s what I really enjoy.”
“I know that I like the concept of fiction better than I do non-fiction,” he said. “I like the idea of creating a story rather than telling a previously-lived story. I’m just trying to find my specialty, you could say.”
KC sociology instructor Tina Rushing commented on Jensen’s class participation.
“He was quiet, at first, but he always makes very thought-out responses, and he asks good questions,” Rushing said. “He always brings up things from different points of view that maybe not everybody else has thought about. We do discussion questions through Blackboard, and he’s very thoughtful in his responses.”
“You can see that he does well with critical thinking,” Rushing said, “and he’s thinking not only about the question I asked them to respond to. You can tell that he’s thinking about other things that might be related to this, or if it sorts of sparks off another path for him.”
Jensen confirmed this when asked about the possible future for his books.
“Parallel, that I published this year, is going to be a series,” he said. “I’m planning on making that one a six-book series, possibly seven. I mean, there’s just so many things. I have a binder by my bed that I keep. I wake up in the middle of the night with a good idea and I write it down so I don’t forget it, and it’s pretty much full at this point.”
This creative nature however, does not translate into disjointed storytelling in Jensen’s novels.
“I think he did a good job of immediately bringing the reader in, because he starts right off and talks about the plane crash,” Rushing said about the opening of Dayrunners. “I like when authors sort of grab your attention from the beginning, so yeah, I think it’s pretty well written.”
Jensen plans on expanding into other forms of media, like e-books and audio books, in the near future.
“I feel like even those who are challenged, you know, impaired visually, shouldn’t miss out on the ability to still use their minds in a creative way to see in a fictional story and to create that story for themselves,” Jensen said. “I think that audio books do that very well, so I’d like to get into that media.”
Film however, is more of a mixed bag. Jensen said, “If the opportunity arises I’d be happy to sign a contract to do a movie or something. My only problem I have with [book-based] movies is that they cut out parts. I feel like I’d have to pull a Stephen King and direct it myself, or at least be standing behind the director, going, ‘No, we don’t need to cut that, that’s perfectly fine as it is.’”
Jensen finished with some advice for potential future authors.
“Obviously, don’t force your characters; let them grow as characters. I think that you just need to let the character really flesh out. Let them do what they’re going to do as a character; don’t make a choice that would go against things that you already set up for them. So if your character is stubborn and a thief, they’re going to steal something, whether that’s bad for the story or not; you just need to work around that. You don’t want to break character and break immersion; that’s just not good for the story.”