Interview with Joe R. Landsdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty 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 the web. 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 Ho-Tep 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 and he himself adapted his short story “Christmas with the Dead” to film. The film adaptation of his novel Cold in July was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

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.

Joe Lansdale
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What books are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been reading a book by Sydney Lumet on directing films, and one by Michael Cain on acting. Prior to that I read a book about working on the oil rigs. I don’t have it in front of me right now, but the title is something like DON’T TELL MUM I WORK ON THE BIG RIGS, SHE THINKS I PLAY PIANO IN A WHORE HOUSE. Pretty dark and funny, and it’s a memoir. I’ve started several other books that didn’t hold my attention, and I’ve given up on those. I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, but right now I seem to be reading non-fiction and memoirs mostly. But that’ll change. I like to shift it around and keep it interesting. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is on my hit list coming up, as well as a few books of short stories.

How does a typical day in the life of Joe Lansdale go?
I wake up and take care of the dog, actually my wife and I trade out on who wakes up first, and then I have coffee and a granola bar, do Facebook, and write until I have three pages to five at least, and sometimes more; usually about three hours. By noon it’s lunch time, then I read or watch films, exercise, usually walking and light weights these days. I teach martial arts once a week, private classes, and my wife and I travel quite a bit when I’m not practicing that schedule. I work on the road as well, though my writing schedule might be a little different. I nearly always read on the road. Reading fuels writing.

Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in the production of Sundance TV’s adaptation of Hap and Leonard?
I am Co-executive producer with Lowell Northrup. We have some say in what happens, but not definitive say. So far, very happy with it. It depends on how much they try to keep it like the books are try to jerk it into a TV format. I hope they let it flow as it should. So far, so good.

What would you say is the most important tool for a writer of any status to have? Life experience, patience, being naïve, or is it something else?
All those things. And endless curiosity and a constant desire to read and write. I’ve sort of lost interest in those who ‘’want to write someday”. Do or do not. I also think being naïve is good in the beginning, bad in the long run, but you should never become cynical, but it’s good to know how the industry works. I buck it a lot, but at least when things don’t go the way I want, I know why. Mostly. Some things are beyond figuring in publishing. Or life.

Are you intentionally trying to write more books than Stephen King?
I only write because I love to and it’s how I pay my bills. If I had all the money in the world I’d still write, however. I don’t keep score with anyone. I’m sure Stephen writes for the same reasons.

How do you take your coffee?
A variety of ways. Depends on mood. And frankly, who cares.

Did you ever want to be an astronaut-cowboy or something like that or did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer and a martial artist, and in that order. I did both. Thank goodness. I got my wish and I’ve loved the results.

Have any advice for authors, screenwriters, etc., trying to make a living at their craft?
Quit talking about it and do it. Sit down and apply ass to chair. And when you’re not writing, read and live life. You don’t have to sail around the world on a log to have experience, just day to day life. But live it. Being in the moment is hard for some folks, but I think it’s a key. Family first, work second.

Is there a specific person you would like to collaborate on a project with?
No. I collaborate with my kids on a few things, but I’m not great on wanting to collaborate. Some film projects where I am involved, but that’s a kind of different thing. It’s designed for a lot of hands to handle an idea. I prefer prose overall, and me doing it and not collaborating. I have too much of my own style and way to be a great collaborator. My kids get me, though, and we find a way and it’s more fun than with anyone else.

Can you share a couple of your guilty pleasures with us?
No. Because I don’t feel guilty about any of them.

Have you ever had to bust out your martial-arts moves on anyone?
Yes. But long ago when I was younger. I used it for self-defense, but now that I’m older I might could have avoided that stupidity.

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