Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His story “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road” was adapted to film for Showtime’s “Masters of Horror.” He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero. He is Writer In Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University, and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.
It is an honor to chat with you today i want to start by asking you, which Authors and novels have had the most impact on yourself and inspired you to write?
Joe R. Lansdale:
There are so many. When I was young Edgar Rice Burroughs was my favorite. I also liked Jack London, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others. In time I read Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and then Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Conner, who was a big influence, as well as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Neal Barrett, Jr. and the list goes on. Those were writers who influenced me, but not all the writers I was reading, and not all the influences. I might also add in there Theodore Sturgeon, Cyril Kornbluth, and Henry Kuttner , and Fred Brown.
Is writing a daily part of your life? What times of the day do you do your writing?
I try and write five days a week, and sometimes seven. It’s my morning schedule. The time varies in the morning, but after I get up and take the dog out and have coffee and a Zone bar, I got at it for three to five pages. If I get more, fine, but that’s all I plan for. Today I’m catching up on odds and ends, which means this interview, arranging things so my wife can send them via computer to where they need to go—meaning a story, and then this interview. I will most likely work a bit on a novella I have going, and then tomorrow will be back into full swing, having gotten a lot of other things out of the way today. Phone calls. Arrangements for a book tour and so on.
Edge of Dark Water is to be released soon how would you describe this novel? Have you achieved what you wanted in this novel?
I always write as well as I can, but I think this story is tremendous and feel like I was really on my game. It’s a Great Depression era novel, though I didn’t really define that directly in the novel, as I wanted to give it a kind of timeless feel. It has one of my favorite of my characters, Sue Ellen, and I think her voice is exactly what I was looking for. It’s a kind of crime-suspense novel, but more of a coming of age story and an adventure, and I’m really proud of it. It has mystery and murder, humor, and I hope a lot of fine surprises. It’s me trying to create a kind of Myth.
The Skunk Man a character from this novel, is there any truth behind this character what’s the inspiration behind the character? How long did you take on writing this novel?
I made Skunk up, but I’m sure he’s inspired by a lot of different villains. I think it took me about three months to write it. When it hit me, it was pretty easy and fun to do. The advance response to it has been amazing.
I don’t know if it’s my Magnus Opus, as I don’t really think like that. I just write. I think it may be my best novel. But I always like to think there’s an even greater one to be written.
Have met your own personal yardstick? Have you achieved all that you have set out to accomplish in life? Is there something still that you want to write about passionately?
I never meet my personal yard stick. That would be the death of me. I have two or three projects I really want to do, but I don’t want to talk about them least I leak out all their energy.
When you look back at your novel and short stories which piece of work you enjoyed writing the most and hold dear to you?
I enjoyed most of them. Now and again there were some I didn’t enjoy, and some of those I hold most dear. The Complete Drive-In
was very difficult, but I still think it’s one of my best, and certainly one of my most imaginative. THE BOTTOMS, A Fine Dark Line, Sunset and Sawdust, All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky, Edge of Dark Water, and the new one forthcoming, FENDER LIZARDS, I loved writing. There are lots of short stories I loved writing. There again, there are some I didn’t love so much, but I find that isn’t always an accurate measure as to their worth. I do think mostly when I have fun the reader has fun. But some of the things that were not as much fun to write, but I was driven to write, or had a professional obligation to write, have turned out to be among my best. You just have to show up and do it.
You have many short stories to your name. I love short stories, have these short stories of yours been popular or has it been hard to get readers into short stories?
I have had a very good following for my short stories. They don’t sell like novels, but they just keep selling, over and over and over. Short stories have been very good to me, as have the collections. The base readers of my work seem to love them. I know I do.
Let me take you back to the date November 3 1985 at the Fantasy Convention held in Tucson Arizona. This was a meeting led by Robert McCammon, yourself and your wife Karen. How was history made back then?
In 1988 the first Annual Bram Stoker Awards banquet took place in New York City. The Bram Stoker awards is coming around again this year, I read recently that Dean Koontz felt there was a need for an award of achievement and so the Bram Stoker Award was created is this true? Any thoughts on the significance of this award?
Dean and Robert McCammon and myself didn’t want awards, but Dean suggested if they had to have them, they should be about achievement, not the Best, as that’s debatable. I agreed with that, and still do. I think the awards are fine, but I don’t think that should be the sum and total for an organization, and I think that’s what happened. I dropped out for years. It’s a significant award if you respect the field and the people who give it, and I do. Does it affect your career? I doubt it.
Horror what does it mean?
That’s up to the individual, but it has many faces.
With the eBook format now truly here to stay. What are your thoughts on the eBooks?
E books are the new paperback. The only problem, they’re easier to steal. I’ve nothing against them. I think they are perfect for a lot of modern readers. I’m kind of an old fashioned book guy, but we do have a Nook.
Hapkido is only one of many arts I studied. It’s not my major art. Shen Chuan is. Hap is not named after Hapkido. It was a name I encountered somewhere and liked, so it became the character’s name. The Collins is after my friend Nancy Collins.
There are quite a few authors with martial arts expertise, one of them Jonathan Maberry also skilled in Japanese jujutsu and hapkido. This got me thinking you and Jonathan and maybe few other writers should put together a sort of martials arts and writing boot camp for a weekend. I am sure loads of bookworms would love to learn to defend themselves and write. What do you think?
I’d be up for that. Get Jonathan and some others on board, and I’m in.
Recently a TV show that was talking about kids and books said that research done in the U.K has shown that 1 in 3 kids own a book (it used to be 1 in 10 due to movie adaptations its grown) and 1 in 6 have read a book in a month. With the flood of media, Internet, videogames and movies how can we get them into books?
Actually, that sounds like pretty good odds. I don’t think there have ever been many readers. There are causal readers, but serious readers, it’s always been small. I think you start early, and that’s the secret, and that’s not definitive.
How important a moral story or lesson in life can one learn from reading fiction?
I don’t think like that, though I’m often considered a writer who writes about ethics. But not all of my characters are good people are ethical people. The world is full of a variety of different kinds of characters. I think as I grow older, though, my books deal with ethics more.
I have heard recently that your daughter Kasey Lansdale is also an writer of the musical kind, how is she getting on with that it? Does her song writing have signs of the old Lansdale magic?
She is very good. She continues to perform and write and she can do something I can’t do. Write songs. My son Keith is also a writer. He has written a screenplay for a film that was filmed this last summer, CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, based on a story of mine, and he has written comics, and is working on a novel.
If you could travel back in time and could change a time in history, what would you change and why?
You can’t change one thing without changing many, and what may seem like a good change could make bad changes. I’ve read too much science fiction to feel comfortable about trying to change the past. There are a few moments in my own history I’d like to change, but I won’t say what they are.
Who are your greatest villains from novels and great good-hearted characters?
Skunk may be my greatest villain. I really love Sunset from Sunset and Sawdust. She’s tough and resilient, and a good person. But she has had to make some tough decisions and do some tough things.
The Bottoms and Edge of the dark water could be adapted into great
movies. Any plans of adapting them to screen?
Finally are there any Novels out there you recommend others to read and why?
TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD by Harper Lee. It is the perfect Southern story, and a near perfect novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain for the same reason. True Grit by Charles Portis, and Lonesome Dove: A Novel by Larry McMurtry, The Grapes of Wrathby John Steinbeck, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, any of Raymond Chandler’s novels, with maybe the exception of PLAYBACK, and when you’ve read others by him, read that one. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O’Conner, and all of her short stories, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCuller. I could go on and on, but I’ll quit there.
It really has been an honour to chat with you and pick at your brain and pry into your heart.
(Click on the book covers to go to the amazon.com page)
Connect with Joe R. Lansdale @ http://www.joerlansdale.com/
My review of Edge of Dark Water
My review of Savage Season (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine #1)