In light of the recent review of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, I bring you a hilarious interview with author Andrez Bergen in that strange foreign language…British/Australian (heheh)
I know this book didn’t jump out at most of you, and I want to give you a chance to get to know the writer and even win 1 of 2 free eBooks of it and give it a try. I promise it will be just like my review of it! I haven’t lied to you before and I’m not about to start not.
MEET ANDREZ: Writer, Musician, Photographer, Dad.
Thanks, Amber! Absolutely chuffed to be able to do this with you. I threw in “chuffed” because I know now that you like the word, and it’s nice to do small favours for nice people. Oh yeah, and your North American readers may notice I spelled “favour” with a “U” in it, British/Australian style. Old habits die hard. Like rambling—which is really what I’m doing right now.
And to be honest, luckily this isn’t face-to-face, Amber, as I just got up, it’s 5:00 am here in Tokyo, obviously I’m bleary-eyed and my hair is awry, and I’m about to get stuck into one very, very strong cuppa coffee. Ye gods, why did I wake up so early?
Sorry. What was the question again? Oh yeah. There wasn’t one.
Thanks for joining me.
And straight back at you—ta for asking me on board!
The title of your book Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is, well, it’s certainly different. Can you briefly explain how you came up with it and why you chose it?
When I was a kid, just a wee tacker in primary school, I vividly recall staying home sick from school one day and watching the midday movie on the TV. I loved Bob Hope at the time (still do, I guess), and this was one of his lesser known and less respected films, a 1956 romp called That Certain Feeling. It co-stars the great George Sanders, who at one stage watches a dirty-looking dog run through his swanky home, and he says “Get that tobacco-stained mountain goat out of here” in that suave British dialect of his.
I had a bit of a minor debate with my editors early on in the piece about using Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat as the title of the book. At the time they didn’t feel it was appropriate, but I think during the course of the editing journey since then they got attached to TSMG too. By the end we were just arguing about whether or not we should put a hyphen between the words tobacco and stained. The hyphen won. We’re thinking of entering the little bugger into the Grammar Olympics.
You quote a lot of old movies, and reference a lot of movie characters in the book as well. Can you tell me what is your all time favorite movie and why?
Being a rabid film aficionado, it’s an excuciating task to hold up just one particular movie; I’d prefer to throw dozens into the ring, dependent on my mood and the genre. But in relation to the novel, there are a few particular noir films that stand-out.
Taking pole position in that context would be the Howard Hawks’ version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1946), John Huston’s take on Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1941), and two films by British director Carol Reed: Odd Man Out (1947), and The Third Man (1949), for which Graham Greene did the script. I adore The Maltese Falcon in particular—everything about the way it’s written, the cinematography, the wry quips, the ensemble cast. I think I’ve seen it over a hundred times. Really.
But there’re other influences at play in the book, a lot of them (thankfully) far from serious and hardly noir in style at all—comedies like That Certain Feeling and Catch-22, a bit of Japanese anime and cinema, American ‘60s TV series like F Troop, Star Trek, Time Tunnel and Department S, swords-and-sandals epics from the 1950s-60s, old musicals, even classic horror like The Thing from Another World. The sci-fi influences are pretty easy to read, too: Blade Runner, Brazil, The Running Man, THX 1138 and Rollerball (though the 1975 version, not the crap 2002 reboot). The irrespressible romantic in me is also probably drawing from Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.
Basically I reference things that I love, and every morsel that’s ever moved me gets a swing of the cat in the subtext of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.
Does this actually answer your question, or am I waffling again?
What is your writing process like? Are you what they call a planner, and lay it all out there or are you what they call a “pantser” where you just fly by the seat of your pants and write what comes and when
I’m a hack, as simple as that—a claim to fame that I openly wear on my sleeve. It’s the same way that I DJ and make music on the side (as Little Nobody). I don’t like planning stuff out too much. I prefer to let myself roll, kick, shove and rant in contrasting directions, then see what works. I guess that’s the pantser in me; I like hanging onto my trousers while flying blind. Sometimes there’s an overriding game-plan somewhere in my noggin, but it’s loose and flexible. That’s the only way I can create stuff.
How long were you writing TSMG?
This little yarn started out as just that—little. It was a short story I wrote in about 1987 or ’88, about six pages in length. In 1992 I took the story back out, carefully unfolded the dog-eared pages, and hammered out the first novel version. Back then it wasn’t called Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (it was lamely titled We Are Not Afraid, We Serve) and I was scared at the time of giving the surviving city a particular location.
Then the manuscript collected dust until I moved to Tokyo in 2001, decided to place the action in my hometown (Melbourne), and I did another version… and forgot all about it again until 2007.
The current version is directly related to that 2007 reboot, although it got edited and tweaked a great deal over the subsequent three years.
Might I add here that TSMG sounds a lot like a really horrible jaw condition, so I might stop referring to it as such from here on out…
It does, doesn’t it? Something that pretentious doctors might lob at you at posh dinner parties over foie de baudroie à crème fraiche. “Oh, I say, a patient I met today was suffering from a rather acute case of TSMG.” That kind’a thing. Cool!
Tell my readers if you will, where the inspiration for Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat came from
Sandwiched inside the story are references to experiences I’ve really had, characters loosely based on friends and family, and the indirect influence of film makers like Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Peter Jackson…
The overwhelming inspirations? Real life and cinema, conjoined with books and music that play close second fiddle. And all of these are roped together with an essential sense of humour, which makes things more insightful, lighter-hearted and fun. Because it has moments of darkness in the story, I guess Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat needed the humour, and I think some writers take themselves far too seriously. It’s not about laugh-out-loud comedy, but you can be light-hearted while telling a meaningful story, right?
It seems you are quite the words smith, a particular thing I really loved about the book in fact, do you have any favorite words you try to sneak into conversation now and again?
Ha Ha Ha—you’re a sweetheart. I think you should take on that title yourself, Amber, but thanks for flinging the crown my way this morning; it goes well with my second cup of coffee. I have particular fave words that a like to sneak in, like “perpicacious” (another one courtesy of actor George Sanders in the comedy A Certain Feeling), “vituperative”, “chuffed”, and “bamboozled”. I’m still not sure if I use “discombobulated” correctly, but who really cares?
Let’s get to know you a little now, using only 5 words, describe yourself
Er… um… five words? Finished
Can we expect anymore novels from you in the future?
I’m trying to take a bit of a hiatus at the moment—I think my wife and five-year-old daughter are probably sick to death of me spending so much time on the computer and/or with my head in the clouds nutting plot-lines out. But I’ve already dug up something I was working on about three years ago (shh!) which relates to identical twin geisha who live to be 100. I’m not sure if it’s something that will work, per se, but I have ideas… hopefully the ideas unravel themselves into something vaguely interesting
Thank you so much for stopping in, I hope my readers enjoy your novel as much as I did!
Thank you, mate! I’m just grateful for the positive, open-minded approach you took here, and all the support you’re giving the novel. I hope other people get the time/inclination to do so also. This isn’t just a sci-fi/noir novel with a funny name and a silly cartoon cover. I like to believe there’s a lot more too it than that, but I figure I’m terrible biased…
Now for another cuppa. Yum. Did I tell you I love my coffee?
And now for that giveaway I promised you!
Win one of TWO eBooks of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat – now that you know that it’s not about cigarettes or goats…lol.
all regular contest rules apply, must be 13 + and all that jazz.
Contest runs through June 3rd