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An Interview with Isaac Adamson

Isaac Adamson is the author of "Tokyo Sucker Punch," "Hokkaido Popsicle," and his most recent release, "Dreaming Pachinko." (review here) The books detail the various adventures of Billy Chaka, an international reporter for a teen pop magazine, who repeatedly finds himself in the strangest and most twisted situations during his visits to Japan. Isaac Adamson was born in Fort Collins, Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in film studies. With such a hybrid style of Japanese culture and American pulp fiction novel, one wonders what experiences inspired Adamson to write such entertaining novels. Fortunately after reviewing his newest book, I was able to get a little insight into exactly that question.

When did you first get into writing?

I've pretty much always been writing something or other. In college, I was studying film, so I was always writing little bits of dialogue and starting lots of abandoned screenplays. Billy Chaka was born in a goofy three-page vignette I wrote in my junior year. I dropped out of college for about a year and during that time started writing on a more or less daily basis, working on what would eventually become "Tokyo Sucker punch." I abandoned that several times too, but finally forced myself finish it around 1997.

Was there any place specific you would say you got the inspiration?

Mark Leyner-- (another CU guy) wrote this insane, hilarious book called "Et Tu, Babe" featuring this ubercool, ridiculously hip and incredibly egotistical tough guy writer-genius named 'Mark Leyner.' No real plot to the novel, just lots of really funny post-modern media satire type stuff, some of which already seems a little dated. Anyway, I read "Et Tu, Babe" I don't know how many times and was always quoting it and reading bits aloud to other people. There's lots of the Mark Leyner persona/character in Billy Chaka's attitude, especially in Tokyo Sucker punch. Not so much left anymore, as the books have gotten progressively less wacky, though.

Raymond Chandler-- He was one of about two or three guys who pretty much invented the hardboiled detective genre. But of all the pulp mystery writers, I think he was the one who really defined the prose style. Plus, Philip Marlowe has to be one of the greatest, most enduring characters created in the 20th century. Anyway, I came to Raymond Chandler in a kind of roundabout way. I got into noir fiction in college, but was really more into crime writers like Jim Thompson and David Goodis, also Elmore Leonard.

Then I read Haruki Murakami's "Dance Dance Dance" and it just blew me away. So I read everything I could about Murakami and found out he was a huge fan of this book called "The Long Goodbye", and had read it something like twenty-seven times. If it's good enough for him, I figured...So yeah, after I read it I became a huge fan of Raymond Chandler, and really modeled my prose style after his when I was starting out, as I'm sure countless writers are still doing. He also came up with the single piece of writing advice that's saved me more than any other -- he said basically whenever he got stuck he would just have two guys burst into the room with guns drawn. I love that. Makes for some pretty nonsensical plots at times, but what the hell...

Would you say you found yourself purposefully placing all the bits of Japanese culture in your book or did you just find yourself writing them in naturally?

It started to flow a lot more naturally when I learned a lot more about the culture. The first one that I started, Tokyo sucker punch, I didn't know much about Japan. I think I knew more about Iceland at the time. But along the way I've been able to find out quiet bit about Japan. It's a little easier now, especially in the last book.

Was it your intention to have the reader learn something about Japan?

Um to a certain extent, dreaming pachinko had so much background information necessary to the story that I had to kind of give a little history lesson of pachinko, you know a lot of people in America don't know what it is. And I guess for Hokkaido Popsicle it's also a little bit true for all the background around Japans underground rock music scene.

Since this is the third set in the series, would you say you see your character growing as you grow as a writer?

Um yeah I think so, a little bit, you know the last one, felt like the tone was quiet a bit different then the first two. With Tokyo sucker punch especially, I always went for laughs, sacrifice anything for laughter. That was pretty much true with the second book as well. I concentrated a little more on Billy Chaka and also on some of the other characters as well, slightly more character driven this time.

Would you say you've had any challenges writing in this on going serial style?

Um yeah, working on the fourth one now, and its getting harder. I thought it'd get easier but, I don't know, I always feel that way in the middle, that when I'm done I'm never going to write another. There are some things that are easier, because you know who your character is. I don't know, I guess the hard part is just making sure you don't repeat yourself and that you don't change the character too much so that he's completely unrecognizable.

Would you ever see yourself turning your character in your books into a movie or is that something you'd stay way from?

No I'd welcome that, I mean I don't know if I'd be the one to write the screen plays necessarily. That might be too hard. Fox searchlight actually had an option for a while but they let there option lapse. There's been some interest right now but it's kind of been remote so well see what happens. It's pretty hard making a living writing with books so if they want to make a movie by all means.

A lot of people say that you have a very action anime style in your books; do you feel like you write in that style?

For me it doesn't come into mind just because I don't watch that much Anime. I realize a lot of people who like the books are pretty into anime. Seems like the reviewers kind of harp on the whole anime thing as well, but umm that's fine, I like some anime, but I don't really know much about it at all. But I can see sorta where they get that just because it is kind of hyper real and it's over the top.

Why do you think America seems to have this obsession with Japanese culture?

I think a lot of it has to do with just because Japan is so different but yet somewhat the same. They're the second richest country in the world after us. A lot of things seem so exotic but in a lot of mundane ways it's pretty similar. I think it's also the most accessible eastern culture compared to places like Korea and China, which people don't know as much about.

Did you yourself ever play pachinko?

Yeah I did and I was horrible at it. I wasted 20 dollars in maybe 5 minuets.

Is it pretty Addictive?

Not addictive for me. I couldn't figure out what I was doing, there was like this serious pachinko guy next to me, trying to show me how to twist the knobs just right because there is just a smidgen of skill to it, which I didn't have. I wandered through a lot of pachinko parlors for fun when I went over there on a research trip, and there just crazy places. That's one thing there is no American equivalent too, because it's not like an arcade and it's not quite like a casino, it's a weird environment.

For more fun, visit www.billychaka.com.

Jesse L'argent

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