Friday, January 10, 2014

Interview with Tristan Vick.

Full Name:
Tristan Vick

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?

Billings, MT

Current hometown:
Kumamoto, Japan
Well, that’s interesting.  How did you wind up in Japan?
One of my degrees is in Asian Studies/Japanese history.  As a history major, and humanities in general, you’re required to take a foreign language.  I went out of my mind and decided to learn Japanese.  And I knew that two years simply wasn’t enough to be conversant, so I came to Japan in the fall of 2003 on a student exchange.  I attended Kumamoto Gakuen Diagaku (a private university) for one year doing an intensive language immersion course.  That was when I met a Japanese woman who would later become my wife.

Favorite city and why?
Probably the one I live in now.  Otherwise, why would I be here?  Also, it has a rockin’ ancient Japanese castle.
Please tell me that it’s haunted by the ghost of Toshiro Mifune!
No, but it was built by the Japanese daimyo Kato Kiyomasa in the Edo period.  It’s also famous because the most renowned vagabond samurai (ronin) of all time, the double sword wielding Mushashi Miyamoto, lived at the foot of the castle.  There is a shrine dedicated to Mushashi Miyamoto there.  Check out the manga series called Vagabond to learn more about the guy.
Oh, I’m well acquainted with Mushashi Miyamoto.  But if anyone reading this isn’t they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Birthday / Age:
March 1st, 1980.  I’ll let you do the math.
I’m bad at math.  But I’m going to guess 33.
Correct!  You get a gold star.

How would you describe yourself physically?
Out of shape.

How would someone else describe you physically?
Really out of shape.

The first thing people notice about you is…
My smile (or so I’m told).  Then my intelligence, which is flattering, but makes me an egoist just even mentioning it.

Religion, if any?
Was a fundie Xian for three decades; now I am an atheist.

Are you superstitious at all? Any phobias?
Not especially.  No.
Okay then.   Make one up.
There is something I refer to as the “gaijin effect” that is noticeable here in Japan.  Gaijin is the slang for ‘foreigner’ in Japanese.  What the *gaijin effect is, is basically the sudden attraction of Japanese girls to a foreign looking man.  If you’re tall, have a light color, green or blue eyes, there is a certain type of girl who simply falls head over heels for that sort of thing.  I don’t know if it’s entirely true or not, but I have had no trouble talking to women or getting phone numbers (when I was single) whereas back in the states no girl would ever give me the time of day.  Since I’m not allowed to flirt however, as my wife won’t allow it, you’ll be surprise to learn that I’ve been asked out three times… not even trying!  It must be the *gaijin effect.  Right?  Maybe it’s just all in my mind.  But that’s the closest to a superstition as I can come up with.
My friend Josh has a Chinese friend named Lee, so I guess that makes him my friend too.  He said that someday we should all go to China and hang out.  But he wouldn’t go to Japan with us because if he showed up with two Americans he’d never get laid.  So, yeah, I look forward to visiting Japan someday.

Do you smoke / drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
I drink way too much Coca Cola, that’s for sure.  My wife is telling me to cut back because she’s worried I will get early onset diabetes.  I don’t know if it’s that bad, but I could probably benefit from cutting back on my overall sugar intake.

Current occupation / Dream job:
Privately contracted ESL Instructor.  My dream job is writing full time and being able to make enough of an income to support my family.
Are they hiring?  And do they pay for relocation?  I’d love to teach English in Japan!
It never hurts to look! You could start by checking out the website… it’s dedicated to helping foreigners find jobs in Japan.
It sounds like a Japanese variant on the “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Watch television and read books mostly (serials… with a pen and notepad at the ready to take notes).  I read philosophy and popular science books (I rarely read fiction unless it’s to support a fellow Indy author) and love music, movies, and playing with my daughter.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
Use the trains.  They will plow through zombies like nobody’s business, get people and supplies around safely, and are mobile, so there’s practically little to no threat of ever getting overwhelmed.

Weapon of choice:
Samurai sword.

Do you have any special skills?
I can play 7 different musical instruments and I speak fluent Japanese.
At the same time?
No. Don’t be silly. That’s impossible!
You’ve apparently never heard of the Internet.

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
I have degrees in Asian Cultural Studies with a focus on Japan, and English Literature from Montana State University.

If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans?
I paid off all my debt, yes.

Any pets?  If so, what are they and what are their names?
Two toy poodles (they’re actually the grandparents’ animals but my daughter has adopted them for her own).  Their names are ViVi (girl dog) and Monjiro (boy dog).

What is your favorite animal?
Robot Tigers with laser equipped tails.

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
Lots of them.  People who interrupt me while I’m talking to tell someone something non-essential, with no regard to the conversation, for starters.  People who talk on cell phones overly loud at airports for no other reason than they think their conversation is so important its worth sharing for everyone . People who text on their phones while you’re trying to talk to them.  Christian apologists.  Reality TV.  Anyone who watches reality TV.  Probably more than I can hope to list here.
I’ve had a problem with Christian apologists on the blog.  If someone just drops their religion as Christian or some off-brand variant I try to let it lie.  But if they mention God more than once in their interview I tend to mix it up philosophically, or meta-philosophically with them and it usually ends with an awkward agreeing to disagree.  I thought about taking the “Religion, if any?” question out of the initial interview survey, but I backed off of it because it sometimes results in some interesting answers.

Favorite / Least favorite Food:
The Japanese food called “oden” is my least favorite.  It tastes and smells like things fermenting in boiled toilet water.  Not the fresh bowl of toilet water either.  My favorite food is Tex Mex.  Tacos and burritos, baby! Woo!
Is it tough to find good Tex Mex in Japan?
Unbelievably hard.  I have to buy from Amazon or the foreign food buyer’s association.  The international food shops carry some basic mixes, salsas, and taco shells… but if you want anything else you have to make it from scratch or import.  And it’s freaking expensive.  Making tacos for the family cost over $60 when all is said and done.  That’s a lot for just one meal.  So hard, and rare, and expensive.  I often have cravings, and I can’t just out to a local Taco Bell.  It’s a tough life for a Tex Mex junkie.  But the sushi is great!
Wait, they don’t have Taco Bells in Japan?  I might have to rethink this whole “Japan” thing.  If it’s any consolation I got talked into going to a sushi restaurant in Indianapolis and it was awful fusion sushi.  Jalapeno peppers and sushi don’t mix.

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
Again, far too many to list. But currently I am enjoying the French Freethinker D’Holbach’s book Good Sense.  Many excellent quotes in there.
Among them: “Let men’s minds be filled with true ideas; let their reason be cultivated; and there will be no need of opposing to the passions, such a feeble barrier, as the fear of gods.” – D’Holbach (Good Sense)
And: “To discover the true principles of morality, men have no need of theology, of revelation, or of gods: They have need only of common sense… Let us persuade men to be just, beneficent, moderate, sociable; not because such conduct is demanded by the gods, but, because it is pleasant to men.” – D’Holbach (Good Sense)

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
It may sound cliché, but the birth of my daughter.  I guess that only makes sense if you’re a parent though.  Many people gawk and roll their eyes, because it’s a very common answer.  But it’s true.  The emotional bond you have with your own child is stronger than that of a lover or a parent or even a sibling.  It’s that whole blood is thicker than water thing.
And I really hate to see it when there are crap parents who neglect or mistreat children, because children are such a big part of life—and ultimately they grow up to be people—and they become us.  So there’s never any reason to mistreat children.  None.
Going back to the pet peeves thing… people who get weirded out by children bother me to no end.  It’s a psychological hang up that I just don’t understand… just like people who have a phobia of antique furniture.  Fear of children and antique furniture are two things that shouldn’t even exist, as far as I’m concerned.
I never gawk or roll my eyes at that answer and it is a common answer.  But as long as it’s the honest one, I don’t mind it.
As for being weirded out by children, I am one of those people.  But I think it’s because people tend to over-value children once they have them.  I don’t hate kids, although I often say I do.  If I’m out in public and a kid waves at me I wave back.  I’m not a monster!  But when people want me to hang out with their kids I’m usually not interested just because they’re not very interesting.  Call me up when your kid starts getting into skateboarding and punk rock music and I’ll be willing to drop some music on them and teach them how to do a kickflip.  But for the first ten years when they’re sticky-handed half-formed humans I’ll take a rain check.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
My father committing suicide last year.
Do people often ask how he committed suicide?  Or do they have the restraint to not ask.  Because whenever anyone tells me someone committed suicide, my knee-jerk reaction is to want to know how they went about it.
Nobody asks that because I think they are afraid that it would come off as horribly insensitive.  It really depends on what the person coping with the loss is going through and where they are at emotionally.  I’ve been fairly open about it though, so if you want to know what happened you can go to my blog and read about it (here and here).

Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
See the previous answer to the question above.

Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
Once, perhaps.  My first serious girlfriend back in college was deeply, madly, in love with me and I had no real feelings in return.  It was a hard break-up because I knew the only outcome was me being honest - and honesty makes assholes of all of us.
I find that if you dilute your honesty with some common sense it stings a lot less.  It’s not about being dishonest, but you can certainly pick your truths.  I am unflinchingly honest always, but I am also excellent at answering a question other than the one I was asked.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
Depends on who’s asking.
I’m asking.
Indeed, so you are.
Whelp.  That settles that.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Again, depends.

If you could kill one person, who would it be, and why?
I’ve already met and killed everyone I wanted to. *wink, wink… nudge, nudge*
Say no more, squire, say no more.

What do you do?
Is this like the occupation/work question above?
It’s open to interpretation.  Savvy interviewees use it as a prompt to talk about whatever they’re working on that they’re participating in the interview for the purposes of promoting.  I just interviewed someone who works as an EMT and writes part-time on the side.  Every answer centered on his work as an EMT and I finally had to do an interrupt and redirect and ask, “Is being an EMT really what you want to promote with this interview?”  No love lost.  It just happens sometimes.  My wage slave job is working as a security officer, but it’s about the last thing I’d claim as my profession unless asked directly what I do to pay the rent.

How did you get started doing what you do?
Japan has limited job opportunities to non-native residents of Japan, so it was pretty much the only thing available when I arrived.  But I don’t mind it.  I enjoy teaching children and I enjoy Japanese culture, so it all works out in the end.  Although it’s not really a career plan, so I will be going back to grad school in 2016.
If you mean writing, well, I sat down and started writing.  It really is as simple as that.  And don’t stop until you’ve completed a story.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
Just Google “English teaching Jobs in Japan” and apply to the one’s that look good.  I originally came over on JET Programme, but there are others too, such as Interac, Owls, and Coco Juku just to name a few.
Of course, if you mean the writing thing, as I said above, just start writing.  It helps to know grammar, and it helps to read lots to see how others plot and handle characters, and I think all good writers constantly read anyway, because writing and reading go hand in hand.  Also, avoid writing-fan fiction.  If you want to succeed, you have to push yourself, because that’s the only way you’re going to get better.  Fan fiction doesn’t allow you to expand your horizons because it holds you to a format, a genre, an already preconceived world.  If you’re not developing these things yourself then you’re probably not gaining the necessary skills to become a great writer.
After that, it’s simply a matter of practice makes perfect.  Learn by doing.  But if you need help, ask.  There’s no shame in realizing you don’t know how to do something — go out there and learn!  Do research.  Try new things.  Don’t be afraid, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and heck, we learn from making mistakes.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past?
Give us a little history if you will.
  What projects are you working on now?
As per writing projects, I’ve published two zombie novels (Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller and Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead) and a comedic pulp mystery (The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston: Rough Justice — which my beta readers have all said was a laugh-out-loud read… hopefully some people will pick it up and leave a friendly review) and I am currently working on a short Steam Punk story for Tonia Brown’s online steampunk talent showcase Celebration Station tentatively titled Little Red Gauntlet and the Cult of the Wolf.
I am currently writing Bitten 3: Kingdom of the Living Dead, an operatic space saga called The Daughter of Sol, and numerous non-fiction projects.
As for my non-fiction works, I’ve compiled and edited several volumes of Freethought works, including Seasons of Freethought, which collects together the Freethought publications of G.W. Foote (founder of the world’s first secular magazine The Freethinker), and Reason Against Blasphemy, which collects together G.W. Foote’s blasphemy case and his prison memoir and the trial of C.B. Reynolds and Robert G. Ingersoll’s brilliant defense which ultimately led to the legal standing the blasphemy laws were unconstitutional in the U.S., a stark contrast to G.W. Foote’s case in England (at the same time) in which a gentleman and a business owner writing for the free press was sentenced to a year in prison for supposed insults to an imaginary, and apparently thin-skinned, deity.
I have also published a slim introduction to Ignosticism, and the philosophical consequences, in a book aptly entitled: Ignosticism.  For those that are curious as what ignosticism entails, it basically is the philosophical premise that most definitions of God are confused, if not downright incoherent, and takes the theological stance of theological noncognitivism which states that those who posit belief in God inevitably assume too much about God.  Of course, that’s the simple version.  My book explains in more detail how it works in relationship to belief and how we define terms and imbue them with meaning — it’s closely related to the theory of language and constructivism.
I am also finishing up an anthology of deconversion stories due to be published through Onus Books in England, which contains stories by ex-religious believers who have gone beyond an absence of faith, thus the title of the book: Beyond an Absence of Faith. I have people sharing their stories, some harrowing escapes from cults, several ex-Christian ministers and pastors, a pilgrimage from spiritual yogism to secular agnosticism, among many others.
At the same time I am writing a counter-apologetic response to a well known Christian apologist.  My book is meant to be a companion piece which offers relevant contra-arguments to the common variety of Evangelical Christian apologetics commonly rehashed by today’s Christian apologists.  The book will be called The Swedish Fish, Deflating the Scuba Diver, and Working the Rabbit’s Foot. It’s due for a February 2014 release.
Needless to say, my plate is full for the next year.
I usually have to ask follow-up questions and harass the interviewee to get them to promote their work, but you handled it pretty well.  I thank you for knowing how to be interviewed.
Thank you.  It’s not my first time.  *Brushes conceited chip off shoulder.*

What are you watching?
Currently I love the new Sherlock television series… both of them.  Sherlock and Elementary.  Both are genius re-interpretations of the character set in our modern day world.  I would give Elementary the edge, because it has that serial quality I like whereas the Sherlock episode feel more like mini-movies to me.  But really, I love both.  As a matter of fact, I just watched the new episode of Sherlock “The Empty Hearse” last night, and tonight I will watch the mid-season premiere of Elementary.  I’ll definitely have my Sherlock fix by the end of the week!
I also enjoy Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Continuum, The Big Bang Theory, New Girl (absolutely hilarious), and I’m trying to get into Almost Human.
In the past, my favorite shows have included such series as Fringe, Spartacus, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Columbo, Arrested Development, The Cosby Show, Scrubs, and many others.  I am a major TV junkie.

What are you listening to?
Brett Dennen’s new album Smoke and Mirrors, Imagine Dragons album Night Visions (they’re like the American Cold Play), and Def Tech’s new album 24/7.  I also downloaded Avril Lavigne’s newest, but haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, so I can’t comment on whether or not it will be a great album, but it’s looking promising.

What are you reading?
Good Sense by D’Holbach, The Christ Myth Theory by Robert M. Price, The Best Argument Against God by Graham Oppy, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, and Melanie Karsak’s steampunk adventure novel Chasing the Star Garden.

Favorite author / book?
Hard to choose just one, but for fiction it’s Lewis Carroll and his Adventures in Wonderland closely followed by the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft.
For non-fiction it would have to be Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (well, anything by either of them is brilliant, to be honest).

Favorite band / song?
Favorite band is probably a tie between Dave Matthew’s Band and Green Day.  And although I can’t pick just one song, I’d say anything from either of their albums Busted Stuff or 21st Century Breakdown; as both are completely fabulous.  If Imagine Dragons keep being awesome they will fast win a spot in my all-time favorites list.
Pink is probably my favorite solo artist.  I doubt I could pick a favorite song, but her last album The Truth About Love is phenomenally good.  After her Brett Dennen.  I love his stuff.  He’s like a modern day Bob Dylan, but who can actually sing (although I’ll always love Dylan’s raspy and scratchy vocals).

Least favorite band / song?
I don’t hate anything in particular because if I don’t like it I simply turn it off and don’t listen.  So I never grow too much disdain for anything specifically.  I mean, I’m not singling anyone out… *cough* Kanye West sucks *cough*.  Excuse me, had an itch in my throat.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
I think I answered this question above relating to my dream job.  As I said, I’d write … or … become a Time Lord and travel through space and time to fight aliens in my Tardis.  You know, if you were speaking hypothetically.
I don’t see why not.  Time Lord it is then!

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
You get three choices: Alive.
Dead. Fictional.
Angelina Jolie (because she’s a super smart and classy lady, a great humanitarian, a talented actress, and… my first ever crush… and I would totally let her seduce me, if she wanted).
Dead: Mary Shelley (I totally want to meet the mind of a young teenage girl who could think of something so morbid and genius all at the same time as to practically birth the genre of modern science fiction as we know it.  That’s the kind of teen I want to hang out with).
Fictional: Ooh, that’s a tough one.  Oh, so many to choose from.  Captain Kirk, Wonder Woman, or Princess Dejah Thoris from John Carter of Mars would be my top picks.  Probably Dejah Thoris though.

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
Best would be a landscaping job I did during college, because I loved the physical labor, making things with my hands, such as beautiful gardens, and just being out in the fresh air everyday was invigorating.  As for worst job, also the landscaping job, because nearly all the guys I worked with were ego inflated, narrow minded, sexist assholes who made an otherwise rewarding job cringe worthy (my boss and the manager of the outfit included).

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Not really.  This was pretty thorough, and I feel that I’ve talked far too much already.
You can never really talk too much.  I had an interview that went for 45 pages in Word.  19,904 words.  It’s a novelette unto itself.

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
Yeah.  Jason Letts.  I worked with him on JET Programme and he became an Indy author like me.  Has a couple of hit series and novels.  Co-authored a novel with the famous Amanda Hawking.  So he’s worth keeping on your radar of up and comers.
You handle the introductions and I’ll handle the follow-through.

Got any questions for me?
Not at this time. Thank you.

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!
Hey, no problem.  Thanks for the assist in helping spread the good word.

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote. All of them.


About the Interviewee:
Tristan Vick is the Author of the zombie/survival/horror series Bitten which includes the full length novel Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller, Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead (available now), and the upcoming Bitten 3: Kingdom of the Living Dead.
He is also the editor and publisher of numerous non-fiction works including Ignosticism, Seasons of Freethought, and Reason Against Blasphemy. His upcoming collection of religious deconversion essays Beyond an Absence of Faith is due out sometime in February 2014.
Tristan Vick graduated from Montana State University with degrees in English Literature and Asian Cultural Studies. He speaks fluent Japanese and lives in Japan with his wife and daughter. When he's not commuting on the train or teaching English, he spends his time reading, writing, blogging, and eating sara udon.

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
He is currently working on ten novel-length book projects which will be released in 2014.
He also publishes themed collections of interviews from his interview blog You Are Entitled To My Opinion.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
He is the Assistant Program Director for The Arkham Film Society and produces electronic music under the names Master Control and LOVECRAFTWORK.
He is currently working on a novel-length expansion of a short-story titled, "The End Of The World Is Nigh", a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, post-apocalyptic, zombie epidemic project.
Check out the blog for the book here:
Check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here:
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Follow him at GoodReads here:
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
And here:
Check out his electronic music here:
And here:
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Follow his Twitter here: or @TheLefebvre
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Join the group for The Arkham Film Society here:
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