Talking Tales: Tension (Episode 5.5)

illustration of men talking

Interviews with Canadian children’s and YA authors on the subject of tension and how to make a reader turn the page. With guest authors Kate InglisLisa DalrympleDavid McArthurJeff Szpirglas, and Marty Chan. Hosted by Catherine Austen. 40 minutes. All ages. 

Listen right here or from your favourite streaming platform.

Author Interviews about Tension (Cabin Tales Episode 5.5)

Read the full transcript of this episode.


[0:00] Intro

[1:15] Interviews on adding tension to fiction

[2:10] Kate Inglis on showing characters

[4:30] Jeff Szpirglas on creating a tense atmosphere

[6:50] Lisa Dalrymple on asking your character questions

[8:50] David McArthur on planting clues

[10:55] Marty Chan on leaving answers hanging

[13:10] Commentary on tension as a balancing act

Think of a story as a character facing a problem that’s in the way of what they want. Envision a scale with the character on one side and the problem on the other. Increase tension by adding to the weight of the problem or reducing the weight of the character. Isolate or burden the protagonist. Move the danger closer in time or space.

[16:20] Interviews on drafting and revising for tension

[16:45] Marty Chan on revising multiple times

[19:10] Jeff Szpirglas on drafting quickly

[20:50] David McArthur on editing as he drafts

[22:30] Kate Inglis on irresistible revision

[25:15] Lisa Dalrymple on over-editing

[27:30] Interviews on plot twist dos and don’ts

[28:20] David McArthur doesn’t twist fully

[29:45] Lisa Dalrymple sticks to the rules of a story

[30:40] Jeff Szpirglas builds up the danger

[32:35] Kate Inglis’s favourite plot twists from television

[34:25] Marty Chan’s favourite plot twist from film

[36:15] Write your own tale

Outline or draft a scene, then ask how you might enhance the tension.

[37:30] Thanks and coming up on the podcast

Thanks to today’s guests. Next week’s episode, “Picture a Story,” will feature interviews with great Canadian illustrators – Katherine Battersby, Farida Zaman, Peggy Collins, Christine Tripp, and Chris Jones. Then on October 30th, I’ll have a special Halloween episode of Cabin Tales featuring weird tales from student writers. (Submission guidelines on the website at

Thanks for listening.

Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use). 

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Guest Authors:
Marty Chan

Marty Chan writes books for kids, plays for adults, and tweets for fun. He’s best known for Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, which won the 2007 Diamond Willow Award. His newest book, Haunted Hospital, launched October 29th. He works and lives in Edmonton with his wife Michelle and their cat Buddy. Find him online at, on Twitter @Marty_Chan; on YouTube MartyChanAuthor; on Instagram @MartyChanWriter; and on Facebook @MartyChanAuthor.

Lisa Dalrymple

Lisa Dalrymple is a wandering, wondering, dabbling, babbling, addle-brained author and mind-muddled mum. She has written 11 books for young readers, including Fierce: Women who Shaped CanadaA Moose Goes A-Mummering and Skink on the Brink. Lisa has taught kindergarten in South Korea and Thailand, caught and eaten piranha in the Amazon jungle and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She now lives in Fergus, Ontario with her husband and their 3 highly-energetic children. Find her online at; on Facebook: @LisaDalrympleBooks; on Twitter: @DalrympleWrites; and on Instagram: @lisa_dalrymple.

Kate Inglis

Kate Inglis is an award-winning author for adults and children. She writes about pirates and giants and mermaids and all the ways we love each other. Kate’s novels, non-fiction, and poetic picture books are infused with the salt, woodsmoke, and fresh air of the North Atlantic coast. Kate is also a photographer and a corporate writer. Find her online at; on Instagram @kate_inglis, on Twitter @kate_inglis; and on Facebook @kateinglisbooks.

David McArthur

David McArthur is a graphic designer and creative writer based in Victoria, BC. He struggled with reading and writing as a child, and those struggles are part of the reason he created a series of books which give children confidence to read. The “What Does…” series started as a simple game that David played with his son as they were driving to daycare. Seeing the way his son joyfully reacted to the story was so wonderful that David turned the story into a book. The rest, as they say, is history! Find him online at

Jeff Szpirglas

Jeff Szpirglas is the author of over 20 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction, including entries for Scholastic’s “Countdown To Danger” series and Orca’s “Tales From Beyond the Brain.” He has co-authored two books about film soundtracks, and is a regular contributor to the award-winning horror magazine Rue Morgue. Jeff has worked at CTV and he was an editor at Chirp, chickaDEE, and Owl Magazines. These days, he spends his non-writing time as a full-time parent and full-time classroom teacher (and part-time werewolf). Visit him online at and find him on Twitter @jeffszpirglas or on Facebook

Published by Catherine Austen

I am an award-winning Canadian author of books for all ages, including Walking Backward (Orca), My Cat Isis (Kids Can Press), 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer) and All Good Children (Orca). I live with my family in Gatineau, Quebec.

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