Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Thommy Waite

Ey up, it’s been a while since I’ve done an interview, partly because life getting back to normal, partly because of just how good the books I’ve been reading lately are, so easy to get caught up in things but mostly because the Nobel Prize committee continue to ignore me…well that changes now!  One of those damn good books I’ve been distracted by recently was by today’s victim/interviewee, Thommy Waite, his book Any Day You Can Die was a right good yarn, full of great characters, tonnes of sex and plenty of partying. If you want to see what he looks like (maybe you’ve seen him lurking in the shadows) then check out this little VIDEO about his book.

Q1: Hey Thommy!  For the first question lets get covid out of the way, how have you been handling the pandemic? 

I was living in Medellín when it kicked off, and like everyone else I was initially unperturbed, thinking it wouldn’t directly impact my life. But then things started getting hot and heavy in Colombia in terms of lockdowns so I made the difficult decision to relocate temporarily back to my hometown of Perth. I got back to Australia in the nick of time, just before all the international flights started getting cancelled.

It was a good call. Covid barely reached Australia, and Perth has been the least impacted of all the Australian cities. So I’ve been ridiculously fortunate. The long haul flight to get back to Australia was pretty harrowing. But everything else has been gravy, which is a bit embarrassing to be honest. The goddmann spicy cough has caused a lot of pain and turmoil all around the world and I’ve managed to avoid all of the malarkey through complete dumb luck.

Q2a:  Tell us a bit about your book.

Any Day You Can Die is about a group of digital nomad gringo bros who live together in Medellín. They are all a bit lost in their own ways, and this leads them to getting mixed up with a drug hustle on the dark web.

Q2b:  I noticed a recurring theme in your book, the positive portrayal of Colombia, you show it is safer and more beautiful than the movies make it seem, was that your intention or was that just a natural part of your writing seeing as you were living there?

I was based in Medellín from 2017 to 2020, and the city got under my skin, which is a very common story. The landscapes are breathtaking, but what really makes the place special is the people. Colombians are incredibly kind and friendly.

Pre-Covid, Medellín was becoming a hotspot for digital nomad expats. These are people who work online remotely, and they place a high value on entrepreneurship, freedom and independence. The vast majority of digital nomad expats are lovely people with good intentions. But like any group there’s a few bad apples. And bad apples make great fodder for naughty stories. The standard Latin American drug story involves gringos getting corrupted by shady locals into doing nefarious shit. With Any Day You Can Die, I wanted to write about gringos who arrive in Colombia already corrupted.

Q3:  How did you come up with the story?  Whilst reading it I kept getting the feeling that things could possibly be true, Is any of the book based on real events?

The emotional spine of the story is the sense of ennui I felt in Medellín. On paper my life was perfect. I had a very comfortable existence that afforded me a lot of freedom. Yet I felt caught between two worlds. Before Medellín I lived in New York for 7 years, and New York is a hard place to let go of. I knew in my heart it would be years before I truly felt at home in Colombia due to various cultural barriers, namely the language.

When I was living in Medellín there was a story on the news about a guy from Perth who was hiding from the narcos and the police somewhere in Medellín. He was roughly my age too. So that’s the real Tony Fletcher, the protagonist and narrator of Any Day You Can Die. I used a lot of my personal shortcomings to flesh out Tony’s personality. All of the other characters are garish composites of real friends, acquaintances, and infamous strangers.

As for the events in the book, I drew on my real experiences e.g. partying in Poblado, going to the fútbol, spending time at coworking spaces, but I  supercharged everything for comedic and dramatic effect.

Q4:  My blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and one thing I felt was missing from your book was Gnomes, are there no Gnomes in Colombia?

There are tons of quaint little hippie towns in the mountains surrounding Medellín. One of my last trips before Covid was out to this beautiful finca with a few friends. We took mushrooms, vibed to the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood soundtrack and stared at the surrounding valley for hours.

There had to be gnomes on this property. I didn’t see them but they definitely saw me.

Spot the gnome competition

Q5:  Music plays a big part of the main character’s life, hundreds of songs get a mention, have you made a playlist?  If not do ya fancy picking the 10 best songs to listen to whilst reading your book?

There is indeed a PLAYLIST

Brilliant, I haven’t heard that song by Pulp is such a long time. 🙂

The song Oedipus Race by the NYC band Native Sun was one of the biggest behind-the-scenes musical inspirations when I was writing the novel. I wanted the book to be as fun and aggressive and wild as this tune. The lead singer of the band Danny Gomez is Colombian-American too, so it kind of ties in.

Good song, never heard of them before.

Q6:  Who is your main influence? (thought I’d ask this one seeing as Bri Bri was such an awesome influencer)

Probably the comedian Bill Burr. I love the way he sees the world. I dig his no bullshit approach to creativity. Listening to his podcast over the last decade has improved my life immeasurably.

Q7:  Have you ever grown a beard?

Never on purpose. Sometimes out of laziness I won’t shave for a few weeks and there will be something on my face, but it’s always too patchy to call it a legit beard. Find an example below – me and the missus drunk on a boat in the Philippines from a few years back.

Q8:  Your book is self published, why did you decide to go in that direction?

Impatience. I was worried that other people were writing similar books about Medellín’s digital nomad subculture. I wanted to get mine out first. Fucking around with the trad publishing process would have slowed me down.

Who knows about the future, but so far, self-publishing has been great for me.

Q9:  I’m sure it is only a matter of time before (I always say Netflix but they always ignore me…as bad as those bloody Nobel people) Hulu pick up your book and make it into a movie,  In the book it gets revealed who should play the main character, so tell me….who would you like to direct it?

I would say the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. He did an amazing job with the recent flick Another Round, which is a very similar tale to Any Day You Can Die – four troubled men, lots of drinking, plenty of terrible decisions. Plus, he could probably coerce old mate Mads Mikkelsen into the production to cameo as Tony Fletcher’s father for a flashback scene. That would be sweet.

Q10:  During my stalking of you I noticed that you have a podcast, what’s it about and how long you been doing it?

I believe I started in 2013, so I’ve been doing it on and off for 8 years now. The current iteration is called Thommy Waite’s Square Record. Most of the episodes are me just ranting by myself, Bill Burr style. I use those episodes to test ideas I’m looking to explore with my writing.

And I’m gonna start doing a lot more interviews with other writers. There are plenty of wonderful blogs such as this one where writers can get their books reviewed. But there are limited opportunities for writers to talk free form about their own work and all that comes with being a scribe, so I plan to do more of that.

Q11:  What ‘s next for you?  Any plans for a new book?  Will you return to Colombia when safe to do so?

I’m working on the sequel to Any Day You Can Die. It will be out for Christmas 2021. 

And yes, I hope to return to Colombia when I’m vaccinated at some point in 2022. I left Medellín in a hurry – my cat Hilsy is still over there. She’s living her best life at an amiga’s apartment. I don’t know how long I’ll stay, but next time, I won’t be leaving Colombia without my goddamn pussycat.

Practical task:  Nobody gets out of this part, I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 

Of course. I’d like to introduce you to my old mate ‘Gnome-aste’.

Massive thanks to Thommy for taking part in this and for doing me a great piece of art for the Gnome Gallery. If you want to stalk the man or even buy a copy of his book (which you should def give a go) then check out the links below.

Listen to Thommy Waite’s Square Record on Spotify

Follow Thommy Waite on @thommywaite

Subscribe to Thommy Waite on YouTube


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