It seems the writing’s on both the body and the book rather than the usual wall of doom, as Brunswick writer Andy White has just released two new children’s books My Daddy’s Got Tattoos and My Mummy’s Got Tattoos, telling the tales of inked parents who raise their kids like any normal parent would. It’s a really clever morality tale for children to understand that they should not judge people by their looks, and I was very lucky to meet him at Code Black Coffee and discuss these books with their intriguing author.
You started off as a DJ. What Melbourne nightclubs have you played at?
I haven’t been active recently because my tinnitus has been playing up. I haven’t known silence since 2001. I’d play ’90s big beats, soul, ’60s garage. If the sun goes down, the beats sort of step up and the beats get psychedelic. The dream venue would be Howler up the road from here. Will more likely start at the Brunny though, it’s smaller. We got the name locked in, we got the crew, we’re doing it right. I’m sick of playing those crappy bar gigs where there’s people in the bar and because of my tinnitus and all that, it’s sort of like we’re selective about what time we do. I’ve also DJed a bit in the UK, probably the highlight was playing London Fashion Week one time, having Dona Versace on the corner of my eye, thinking “I recognise that quite leathery shade. Oh yeah, it is Donatella”. She was with her huge entourage, much more fun when they’d see what record I was going to play. But yeah, I love DJing, I love writing, I also work in advertising as a copywriter. Clothes, words and music are my three main obsessions.
You’ve had quite a varied career from being a DJ to being an author. What got you interested in writing?
It’s just something I’ve always done, ever since I was a kid. I much prefer writing to reading. It’s not that I can’t read, it’s just that I prefer actually writing something. I’d like to be known as a fusion between Hunter S. Thompson and Roald Dahl, very not suitable for children’s adult books. Two very interesting heroes to have.
Tell me about your books My Daddy’s Got Tattoos and My Mummy’s Got Tattoos. What are they about?
They’re about celebrating diversity. It’s all about getting people to read to their kids and have an interesting story that the offspring of the inked can really appreciate as their own. I initially came up with it to have a kids book to read if I have kids. The Daddy’s one came out and a lot of angry tattooed women were like, “Where’s the mummy’s book? Why didn’t you do the mummy’s one first?” I know I live in Brunswick and everything, but I’m more likely to be a daddy before I’ll be a mummy. I wrote My Daddy’s Got Tattoos back in 2008 and there were three illustrators that were supposed to work on it, but didn’t. The first of which was Dan Gold from London Ink, he really wanted to do it, but he was too busy being the famous Dan Gold to get it done. I eventually got Anita [Lester] to do it and she’s done a fantastic job. Luckily, she was able to do My Mummy’s and we got that out much quicker. My Daddy’s was a six year project; My Mummy’s was an eight month project. It was easier because I knew what to do this time with self-publishing.
Is self-publishing a hard process?
Not really. The hardest part is really raising the cash, and getting over that creative insecurity about if it’s good enough. If you have a third party publisher, you have that endorsement straight away, which I imagine would boost your confidence a bit more. But doing it yourself, it’s a bit like, “Is this as good as what I think it is?” and fortunately yes it’s as good as I think it is. I’m looking forward to continuing with self-publishing. It’s not that difficult to do these days; there are companies like Vivid who I use, and with their assistance, I’ve been able to set up a print on demand all around the world, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository. I’ve been getting feedback from people in Europe and the UK. The fact I’m selling globally now with minimal investment, I highly recommend it. The publishing industry is very much in the state the music industry was ten years ago, freaking out and are like “How do we do this?”
You must have found it quite surprising that there were no children’s books at all about parents with parents. What do you make of that?
When I wrote it, there were none, but now there are three other books. The daddy in My Daddy’s Got Tattoos is a top notch dad. I gave a copy of the book to my dad for Father’s Day and I wrote in it that the father of this book is based on the father I had and the father I would want to be. It’s all about showing having tattoos doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy. I know a lot of guys with ink who are top notch dads.
It’s funny how in some cultures tattoos are a rite of passage into adulthood, like in Indigenous cultures, whereas western cultures are more likely to frown upon tatts. Why do you think that is?
The way the different cultures developed and the attachment they have for imagery and symbolism. Especially in the west where there’s a bikie slash criminal or sailors, rough nut type of thing. But at the same time, because so many people are getting them done, the discrimination is being broken down and western appreciation for other cultures has developed. My father is an Anglican bishop, and that’s why I choose not to have any hand or neck tattoos, so I can wear a long sleeve shirt and go to church and blend in and not cause friction for anybody. That’s not to say that everybody in the church frowns upon tattoos. I know priests that have tattoos. It’s a cultural thing, and it is evolving. I can’t give an exact answer to why different cultures would have a different opinion though.
And what is the appeal of tattoos to you? Out of your own tatts, what’s your favourite?
That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. Each one has a different meaning and connection to me, and I feel they help tell my story. Since I was a kid, I liked tattoos and saw the appeal of them. I love the Celebrities Anonymous one, that’s my DJ name. The hula girl because I can make it dance, it’s something the daddy in the book does for his kid. I got “son of a preacher man” on my back, that was my first one. I suppose if I had to pick a favourite, it would be that one. You never forget your first one, I had that done my 25th birthday, so it’s 14 years old today. They’re like kids, you got to look after them while they’re healing, and I just love them.
What are your future plans for writing? I heard you have a trilogy of novels and a screenplay coming up. What are they about?
They’re about what it’s like living in London, having a bishop for a father, and my mother was for a time the Sheriff of Victoria. The future is to release that trilogy of novels, they’re a fictionalised autobiography mashed up for realism. Maybe a few other books after, but as long as I get those three novels out, and more kids books I want to do. The first novel’s a 21st century version of the prodigal son, the middle one’s about the return home and about stepping back into family life after being on a crazy bender. And the third will be the prequel and conclusion to those two about my life growing up and the journey my father took to be a bishop. I’m writing a screenplay with another writer that’s under wraps. It’s set in Brunswick in 1990, a bit like the movie Death In Brunswick.
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Thursday 18 December 2014