A Conversation With Andrew Bergen

I’ve got a chance to ask Andrew Bergen a couple of questions. Andrew (or Andrez) is an Australian author, photographer, journalist and musician, living in Japan. You must have come across his novels with unique titles: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude and Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?. If you haven’t, visit Amazon. His shorter work has appeared online in anthologies and he’s compiled some of his work in The Condimental Op. He’s doing comics, too. He blogs at – Andrez Bergen.

Hi, Andrew – how would you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey, Renato! …um… That’s possibly always the toughest question. I guess I’m a born-and-bred Aussie — from Melbourne — who’s lived a quarter of his life in Tokyo. I’m a dad (my daughter is now eight) and I teach English, while on the side pottering with music (as Little Nobody), novels, journalism and comic books. Oh, and I love sashimi and strong black coffee.

Andrew Bergen

Andrew Bergen

You create in many different areas; there are many platforms for you to express yourself – which one gives you the greatest pleasure?

They all have their plus-columns, which are why I do them, and comics are proving right now to be a heck of a lot of fun. But I think writing fiction, especially via novels, remains the over all joy. Getting the thing finished, after several months (if not years) and being able to explore a story over the course of 200-400 pages is fantastic.

You also do a great job telling stories with pictures – why don’t we see more of that?
Ha Ha Ha — thank you! Actually, this is something I loved doing in high school, and then explored only haphazardly over the years, but recently have returned to — mostly as a writer, but occasionally also illustrating. Hooking up with Matt Kyme, who does the art for Tales to Admonish and with whom I now run indie publisher IF? Commix, was a revelation. Hopefully you will, indeed, see more!

Have you written for film or TV, or thought about it?
Love to. I made my own short films while in university, which I directed and scripted on way less than a shoestring budget, but they were pretty crap. I’m a huge fan of cinema — as a journalist I write about movies and anime — so it would be a logical step. Fingers crossed someone asks.

How do you write? Do you just sit and let your fingers follow your brain, or do you plan the story from the beginning to the end and then sit behind the computer to actually write it?
Mostly via that first option — letting my fingers follow the brain. Freestyle imagination stuff. Sometimes I take notes for particular vignettes on the train, on the street, at school, or in the gutter. And then I cobble these together and tweak them.

Novel or a short story?
Both have their moments in the sun — but the novel does pip its abridged partner.

Where do you get inspiration?
Everywhere? From anything? My daughter is inspiring, my wife, my friends. Living in Japan, and my memories of Australia. From listening to particular music and hearing particular sounds.

How has moving to Japan contributed to your creative work?
I love this place, and looking out the window and seeing Tokyo on my doorstep helps aid a feeling of otherness, of being alien — but the people I know here also make me feel welcome and secure. These diverse stimuli have to have some effect on my imagination!

What does your typical day look like? How much of your time is taken up by writing?
These days I usually wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 am, which gives me a good couple of hours while the family’s asleep to work on something or check leads. I teach between two to eight hours, six days a week, so daytime I don’t have much time to work on projects, although I constantly think about them and scrawl notes if need be. At night I sometimes continue with what I do early in the AM — if I’m not too brain-dead.

What are you working on at the moment? It isn’t a secret, is it?
Actually, I’m about to finish copy editing the next novel — Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth — with Dominic at Perfect Edge Books. I wrote this one late last year and it’s set in Melbourne in 1986… but also isn’t. It should be out in mid-2014.
Otherwise I’m publishing this week my next comic book, BLACK/WHITE, via IF? Commix — it’s a noir/dystopia anthology and has a whole bunch of guest artists on board.
Matt and I are currently putting together Tales to Admonish #3.
I have out a new Little Nobody 12-inch vinyl EP called ‘The Knock Off’, and I’m supposed to be thinking about novel #5… but am taking a break. For now!

Who are your literary heroes?
Easy. First cabs straight off the rank would be Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. They’re my heroes, stuck on overlarge pedestals.
I’m also partial to Michael Chabon, Shuichi Yoshida, Jedediah Berry, Heath Lowrance, Josh Stallings, Nicholas Christopher and Ryu Murakami. I used to love Haruki Murakami… but seem to have moved on.
Comic book wise? Katsuhiro Otomo, Will Eisner, Hergé, Alan Moore’s early stuff (I’m not into any of his material from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on), pretty much everything by Ed Brubaker, especially his run on Captain America, plus Fatale and Velvet, and Matt Fraction’s work with Hawkeye.
If, by “literary heroes”, we want to veer into comic-book artists — well, I’d line up Eisner, Otomo, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko, Steve Epting, Yukito Kishiro, Tarpé Mills, Frank Miller, David Aja, Kazuo Umezu, Joe Kubert, Hayao Miyzaki, Masamune Shirow and Barry Windsor-Smith.

What about Social Media and your work? How important it is for you to promote your work and network with your fellow writers, readers …?
I think it’s extremely important in this day and age. No one else will do the job for you, and if you ignore social media, your pride-and-joy (whatever it is you’ve created) will be equally ignored. That’s okay, but personally I love the process of building networks, finding like-minded people, and being able to get direct feedback from those who read or glance at my work.

Say, you’ve met a young writer – what advice would you give him?
Hang in there. It’ll be tough, the monetary returns may never happen, but if you truly love what you’re doing, who cares? And don’t procrastinate — just do it. Okay?

Thank you, Andrew!
Nah, thank YOU, mate!

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