Do you have favourite characters in comics?
A lot of them actually! For starters Eisner's The Spirit, and his relationship with series femme fatales P'Gell and Sand Saref. Batou in Shirow Masamune's Ghost in the Shell, and Alita from Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita. Red Sonja. The Fantastic Four as conceived by Kirby and Stan Lee in the mid 1960s — the Thing from that period is a standout for me. I love the characters of Batman and Daredevil as they've been fleshed out by people like Miller and Klaus Janson. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are kicking goals with Fatale.
Also, don’t get me started on Hawkeye. It's been an innovative, mesmerizing run — particularly when Matt Fraction is paired with David Aja, although there's been great artwork coming through from Francesco Francavilla and Annie Wu. The colours by Matt Hollingsworth have been a sensational compliment all the way. And Captain America continues to stand tall, from Kirby and Lee and Steranko right through to Brubaker and Steve Epting.
What are your plans for the next year? Any other collaborations on the horizon?
Matt [Kyme] and I have our eyes on more issues of Tales to Admonish and our wee little production house IF? Commix in general — I’m doing an anthology of work with other artists titled Black/White, and Matt has his project titled IF? in which he writes as well as doing the art. Otherwise I’m currently copy editing my fourth novel Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, which’ll be published mid-year.
What are you working on at the moment?
Six months ago I was supposed to have started my next novel, called The Mercury Drinkers—a sardonic noir romp set in contemporary Japan—but as yet that's still just notes on bits of paper, and I lost half of those (along with my diary) on the way to work.
So instead I've written up novel #4, which is titled Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth. It's set in 1986, again in Melbourne, amidst the post-punk/goth set and is a kind of surreal coming-of-age-cum-horror-crime yarn. I finished it in December and it's currently being copyedited by my publishers Perfect Edge Books, and we're hoping for a publication date in around June.
I've also been doing my own comic book in collaboration with fellow Melburnian Matt Kyme — it's titled Tales To Admonish and we've released two issues already, with the third on the way. Achieving that childhood dream was actually one of the highlights of 2013 — and working with Matt is a joy.
What is your writing process like?
Anarchic. There's usually no rhyme nor reason nor strategy, aside from giving myself insane deadlines to abide by as I've been well-trained with these after all the years as a journalist. Supposedly.
Do you write every day?
If I'm entrenched in the writing of a novel or short story, definitely yes. I can't help myself. I eat, drink, choke and dream the story, beating it with some obscure swizzle stick in my brain.
Do you outline?
Yep, although I'm not sure this is in the traditional sense. Usually I come up with a vague concept and make notes on scrap pieces of paper—and then I start writing. Often the story hardly resembles the original outline, but it gives me a rough guide.
Are there any modern comic books/writers you are particularly enjoying?
Actually, I fell out of comic books in the 1990s, in particular Marvel who I felt by that time had stretched themselves thin and expected more money in return by doing stories across several different titles. And the price kept going up. However, there were exceptions I picked up that decade, like Frank Miller's turns with Sin City and300 and, in the early 2000s, his work with Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. I also dug Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s Kick-Ass, and some of the stuff coming from writer Ed Brubaker--Gotham Noir, with Sean Phillips, was very cool, along with Brubaker's run with Steve Epting on Captain America. I absolutely love Matt Fraction's recent work with David Aja and Annie Wu in their reinvention of Hawkeye.
But I've otherwise steered away from the major American publications. Manga was one avenue I pursued in the past 20 years, by people like Katsuhiro Otomo, Eiichiro Oda, Masamune Shirow and Yukito Kishiro.
More recently I've also veered towards indie stuff, much of it sourced from Australia. I'm thinking in particular of practitioners like Bernard Caleo at Cardigan Comics—and all the things he's done like the Tango collection and Mongrel issues—along with Paul Mason (Soldier Legacy), Matt Kyme and Arthur Strickland (That Bulletproof Kid), Craig Bruyn (From Above), Matt Nicholls (Collateral) and Jason Franks (McBlack). Australia seems to be a hot-bed of activity right now, which figures since I've been absent twelve years!
From internationals in the past couple of years, I've really enjoyed Michael Grills' online noir Runnin' With a Gun, Drezz Rodriguez's El Cuervo, Nathan St. John's very cool art on Baja, Denver Brubaker's Tales of a Checkered Man, and Marc Crane and Mike Young's output with LIL.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Anywhere suits me, so long as I have a biro and a shred of paper on which to scrawl stuff—sometimes I end up doing so on the train, on the edge of the gutter, in the middle of Shibuya, wherever. But I get my best writing done at home on the Mac, usually in the wee hours of the morning before the family awakes. Like now. It's a tiny workspace since our apartment is thirty-three metres squared, a real squeeze for the three of us. So in close proximity to the desk I have my 12-inch vinyl collection, my manga, CDs, pics of my daughter as a baby (she's eight now), a framed still by anime/manga pioneer Osamu Tezuka, a clock illustrated by Ed Emberley, and a poster of one of the "Nora Neko Rokku" (Stray Cat Rock) movies from the 1970s.
Where is your dream location for setting a story?
Seems to be Melbourne, since all three of my published novels—and the next one too—are set foot there, to differing degrees. Tokyo and Kyoto have been fun as well, while I loved the artificial construct that was Heropa. I think anywhere is okay, so long as it helps fire up the imagination and offers sufficient fodder to bounce out of. The setting is just that—a set, or a background prop, in front of which you want your characters to shine.