Originally from Long Beach, CA, Andrew Hilbert now calls Austin, Texas home. Owner of a terrific beard, Andrew has been writing poetry and fiction for some time. His work has appeared in numerous journals and websites. He is the author of the novella ‘Death Thing’, ‘Bangface and the Gloryhole’, ‘Toilet Stories from Outer Space’ and more recently, his novel published through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing called ‘Invasion of the Weirdos’, which let me tell you is quite excellent.
You can read my review for it here.
Andrew stopped by recently for a yarn about writing, life and ‘Invasion of the Weirdos’. And in keeping with the weird theme, I’m going to ask some pretty weird questions…
TGR: Good day to you, Andrew. Splendid to have you here. You are originally from Long Beach, California but now reside in Austin, Texas. Is there a long beach there? Why did you move from California to Austin?
AH: I didn’t ever plan to leave California but I was pretty depressed and didn’t have a job I felt attached to so when my uncle called me up and told me he needed help with his business, I jumped at the chance for a change. It was a big jolt to my life and started out pretty damn depressingly lonely but I ended up finding my way around Texas. I met my wife in Texas and life is generally good. There is beach in Texas. It’s just too far away from me to go to regularly.
TGR: How do the writing scenes compare between Long Beach and Austin? Do you have a good network of author friends or are you more of a lone-wolf?
AH: I do my best to be a community person. I was heavily involved in the Long Beach scene and had my own zine called Beggars & Cheeseburgers. Right around the third issue is when I decided to up and go to Texas. It was just as Beggars & Cheeseburgers was picking up steam. I love the Austin scene. There are just a bunch of groups of folks that do amazing stuff. Austin has a little more of a performative literary scene. Readings take place in bars and are a little more raucous than the readings I’ve been to in other cities.
TGR: Why write? What does writing mean to you?
AH: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. My first book was called Fat Legs and it was about a lady with fat legs. I was probably four or five when I “wrote” it. My sense of humor hasn’t changed. I enjoy writing. I enjoy making myself laugh even if it doesn’t make anyone else laugh. Hopefully other folks are laughing.
TGR: Do you write as and when you can or are you one of those guys that “must do” so many words a day?
AH: I write something every day. I don’t give myself a goal. Some days are more productive than others but the goal is to have just written something. I keep a notebook in my back pocket and I email myself frequently.
TGR: I’ve read ‘Death Thing’ and more recently ‘Invasion of the Weirdos’. Your stuff is pretty out there. Where does your inspiration to write these kinds of stories come from?
AH: They usually start from just a weird idea. Death Thing started with the title. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Invasion of the Weirdos started with a dream. The dream is actually a chapter in the book when the unnamed narrator gets his brain blasted with a drill in the elevator. I have a long list of one sentence synopses for a lot of stuff that may never see the light of day. I also eavesdrop constantly. I have a scatterbrain sometimes so I try to write down as much as I can.
TGR: If somebody asks what ‘Invasion of the Weirdos’ is about, what do you tell them?
AH: It has a lot of main characters and different story threads so it’s harder to whittle down into a sentence. It follows a bunch of different folks around Austin. One is kicked out of an anarchist art collective for defending McDonald’s but that gives him the inspiration to commit to a masterpiece: a vending machine robot that gives hugs instead of toys. It follows a former government assassin in his quest to rejoin the CIA and do what he loves most; killing high profile targets. It follows the last living Neanderthal. A sex cult leader. Interdimensional beings who are hellbent on not caring about humanity.
TGR: Are any of the (more realistic) characters in the book based on people you know or have come into contact with?
AH: The characters are definitely based on certain aspects of people. They are amalgamations of people I’ve met or known. I work at a bar and before that, I worked at a bookstore, and before that, I worked for a contracting company, and before that, I worked for Costco. I’ve met a lot of weirdos and I’ve eavesdropped on a lot of conversations.
TGR: I guess your books sit nicely in the Bizarro genre. What are some of your favourite Bizarro books?
AH: MP Johnson currently ranks pretty damn highly with Sick Pack. My entry into the bizarro genre, though, was Shane McKenzie’s Toilet Baby and Gabino Iglesias’s Gutmouth. Recently, I really dug Pedro Proenca’s Benjamin.
TGR: How long did the book take to write and what is your approach like to writing? Do you outline or just go with the flow?
AH: Invasion of the Weirdos started out in pieces and was written in between short stories, and after Death Thing. I focused on it fully for about a year. I don’t outline but I take a lot of notes about where I want to go. I tried outlining but it’s never been my thing. I hate documenting structure. It works for some people, it doesn’t work for me. If I make a blueprint, the wind gets knocked out of me and I don’t want to write anymore. I have ideas about where I want to go and keeping it fuzzy and blurry in my mind helps keep my writing fresh.
TGR: Who do you think would win in a fight between Max Booth III and Ridge Forrester (played by Ronn Moss) from The Bold and the Beautiful? And Why?
AH: Here’s the thing about Max Booth III. He fights dirty. I caught him at the San Antonio Book Fest shaking down a vending machine for a can of Coke. Ridge Forrester’s nose is coming off in a fight between those two.
TGR: You recently hooked up with Max and Lori from PMMP at the San Antonio Lit Fest. How did the day go?
We spent the day people watching and making mean comments about things. There were moments of silence when we contemplated that the reason we were so mean was because we hated ourselves. I excused myself to find a restroom during one of these silences and, instead of using the toilet, I locked the door and cried on the floor. It was actually a really fun day. We spent the whole day in the sun selling books. I sold a book to a guy who was obviously a father (his kids were running around reading the backs of books they shouldn’t be reading). I guess he thought my book would be appropriate for kids. I only realized this after I signed his book and he said, “We’ll read this together tonight!” Then, I posed for a photo with him and his kids. Do I feel bad that that’s an extra non-refundable sale? No. He read the back of the book and had he read the very first page, he would realize that this was not appropriate for storytime. But what do I know? Maybe he’s the cool dad.
TGR: Your book ‘Bangface and the Glory Hole’ was self-published. Any particular reason you self-published?
AH: I wrote it in a month after I finished Invasion of the Weirdos. In that time, Death Thing’s original publisher crumbled away and I just wanted to something out and see what it was like to get royalties.
TGR: Somebody asks what the hell ‘Bangface and the Glory Hole’ is about. What do you tell them?
AH: It’s about a P.I. who stumbles upon a government conspiracy for high speed transport solutions involving portals in glory holes. It’s told entirely through Bangface’s perspective and goes off on a lot of tangents. It’s short and sweet.
TGR: What has Andrew Hilbert got planned for the rest of 2017 and beyond?
AH: I’m finishing up my next novella, The Pasternaks, and trying to write more short stories. I’ll be doing some readings here and there to support Invasion of the Weirdos and Weird Meat Buffet.
TGR: Is Donald Trump for real, or is it like that scene from Men in Black where the guy’s face opens up and there is a little alien inside of his head controlling him?
AH: I think we’d be giving Donald Trump too much credit to believe an intelligent life form exists in his head. I think he’s more of a teratoma that was cut off during a surgery. It fell through some drain somewhere in New York and grew into the President.
TGR: On the subject of aliens. The New Alien movie, Alien: Covenant is out soon! Do you think it will be any good?
AH: I don’t hold my breath for anything. One of my favorite movies ever is Alien and subsequent movies have eroded my faith in the possibility of good sequels.
TGR: Where can folk stalk find you on the interweb?
Andrew’s Amazon page is also here.
TGR: Andrew, thanks for your time. Rock on!