Introduce Yourself is back!
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Please help me extend a warm welcome to Andi Brooks.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Andi Brooks. I am originally from England, but I have lived in Tokyo for the last 15 years.
Nice! What would your perfect writing room look like?
That’s an interesting question as I was thinking about that only last week. I would love to have a desk in the bay window of a Victorian house overlooking the sea. A rugged, stormy coastline would suit me very well. I love to walk along the beach alone in winter and search the black waves for inspiration.
Yess. That sounds soo relaxing. Let’s talk about when you published your first book? What was that like?
My first book was a collaboration with the American writer Frank Dello Stritto. “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” was originally published in 2000 and reprinted as an updated and expanded second edition in 2015. A biography of the famous Hollywood actor forever associated with Count Dracula’s role on stage and in the 1931 film, the book was the culmination of a decade of research. It was very exciting to see it in print and gratifying to have it universally praised by critics and readers.
Before working on the book, I wrote articles on vintage horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films for magazines in the UK and America. After the book was published, I put together a Bela Lugosi blog (https://beladraculalugosi.com/) to share the research material and wrote a silly poetry book, but I mainly devoted myself to writing music and promoting live shows in Tokyo.
Apart from one article on the love affair between Bela Lugosi and Clara Bow, which won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in 2017, I wasn’t really involved in writing much until I threw myself into Ghostly Tales of Japan.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult aspect of being a writer for me is trying to overcome a lack of faith in my ability. I generally know when an idea is good, but I can’t overcome my doubts about my skill as a writer. If I hadn’t been firm with myself, I would still be revising the stories in my latest book, but there has to come a time when you have to say that enough is enough and put your pen aside. As it was, the stories in Ghostly Tales of Japan went through endless rewrites. I agonized over every choice of word and punctuation. It is good to strive for perfection, but you have to realize that there is really no such thing. Being always dissatisfied is a good motivator always to try harder.
The best thing about being a writer is hearing back from readers who have enjoyed reading your work. It makes all of the pain that goes into writing worthwhile.
We do tend to judge ourselves harshly but hearing feedback from readers makes it worthwhile for sure. Andi, who is your favorite writer?
It depends on my mood, but H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft were firm favourites for many years. The scale of their imaginations is astounding.
Wait, wait, wait. I gotta ask you about the TV show real quick. Lovecraft Country, did you watch? Like or Nah?
I’ve never heard of it!
Living in Japan, you can miss an awful lot unless you watch Netflix and the like, which I don’t. I always tend to hear about things long after the fact.
Lovecraft is great for radio adaptations, but tends not to do so well on the screen. I did love the Reanimator films, but I haven’t seen many over good adaptations. I did a quick search online for Lovecraft Country and watched a clip. I can’t really tell if it’s for me or not, but you have sparked my interest, so I will give it a go.
And give it a go you should!
I also love the ghost stories written by M. R. James. I don’t think he has ever been better. At the moment, however, I am completely immersed in the writing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all-time favourite novels. I have reread it so many times. Although I said that there is no such thing as perfection, this book is as close as it comes. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s skill was breathtaking. It is such a tragedy that he died so early. The world has been denied the many wonderful books he could have written, but what he left behind is something to be very grateful for. I have literally just put down The Angel’s Game, the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven, to pop through my letterbox.
I love it. What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Perhaps Oh! The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss. I read it to my son many times when he was small. The truth in that wonderful book will always be relevant. It made me reflect on the ups and downs of my life. Things certainly haven’t always gone to plan, but the disappointments resulted in me taking a different path, which led to where I am today, which is not a bad place to be.
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was at school, a career advisor told me that I should forget dreaming of being a writer, an artist, or a musician and get a job in a factory because it was regular work. I have ignored the advice of his like ever since.
I don’t blame you! Like, whaatt.
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Music has been a big part of my life since my teens. I can’t imagine a day without music. I’ve been in many bands, either playing bass, guitar or singing. About three years ago, I put the guitars aside and decided to start making electronic music. It was something that had been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I regret not trying earlier because it has given me total musical freedom, but better late than never! You can find my electronic musical misadventures on my Bandcamp page (https://airstripone1.bandcamp.com/).
I love it. Musical Therapy is a real thing for sure. We love music on the PBS Blog. In fact, today’s Throwback Thursday! What kind of music do you like?
I listen to a very wide range of music. I like to have something to suit whatever mood I am in. My first music love was the 1970s British band T. Rex. They inspired me to try my hand at making my own music. David Bowie was also a big influence in the 1970s. Then along came punk rock, which was the perfect soundtrack for my teens. Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-ray Spex, and, of course, The Sex Pistols had a deep impact on me.
Towards the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, I loved British electronic music. Along the way, I’ve listened to everything from folk to jazz. I must give a special mention to Christmas music. I love Christmas and its music, both traditional and popular. I think I have around two hundred CDs of Christmas music!
Sheesh, Andi. Lol
Today, I have listened to underground Japanese electronic music, Nina Simone, the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, some solo albums by Mick Karn, and David Sylvian of the band Japan. I have an insatiable appetite for music, and I am addicted to buying CDs and records. I try to find something new to listen to almost every day.
What songs have you completely memorized?
My memory is absolutely dreadful! There are some song which I have been listening to for over forty years, and I still don’t know all the lyrics. It’s bizarre! The only song, apart from ones which I have written – and I’m not sure that I can remember them, which I think I know all of the lyrics of is, like many people, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It’s not a song I usually listen to, but somehow it has wormed its way into my brain. If you only know the words to one song, it’s not a bad choice. I remember lines from movies more but often forget the plots. I love movies as much as music. One day I would like to make my own.
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
I’m not sure that I would like to live in any of the movies I watch, being a lifelong horror fan.
Even the non-horror films I like tend to have elements of darkness that I wouldn’t want to experience. If I’m forced to choose, perhaps it would be Lost Horizon – the Frank Capra original, not the musical remake. I don’t think I would hesitate to accept the offer of escaping the madness of this world to spend my days in the utopia of Shangri-La.
If you could, would you visit the past?
I would love to. There are so many great periods I would like to visit, but wherever I decided to go, I think I would stop off in 1979 first to give a few words of advice to my teenage self. I’m not sure that he would listen, but there are two facts of life that I wish he had known!
Thank you, Andi, for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Andi Brooks is a writer of English and Irish descent based in Tokyo. He began writing on vintage horror and science fiction films for American and UK magazines in 1991. With Frank J. Dello Stritto, he co-wrote “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” (Cult Movies Press 2000), a critically acclaimed biography of the Hollywood legend forever associated with the role of Dracula. In 2017, he received the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for ‘Dracula and the It Girl,’ an article which recounted the short-lived love affair between Bela Lugosi and silent screen star Clara Bow. In 2020, he published “Ghostly Tales of Japan,” a collection of thirty original ghostly stories set in various Japanese history periods. He is currently writing a second volume of ghostly Japanese stories and a guide to the terrifying sites of Tokyo.
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Note: We pushed this week’s feature back to today, but we will get back on schedule for the next feature. Author interviews post on Mondays.