Posted on June 8, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
I was recently given the opportunity to take a crack at legendary “Mojo” author Joe R Lansdale’s latest books, a new collected short stories anthology and a newly collected version of all three “At the Drive in” series-featuring never before seen art from the un-produced film of the same title and on top of that, I got a wonderful Email from Matt asking if I would like a chance to interview Mr. Lansdale for Flames Rising, well of course I jumped at the chance so here, without further ado and good sense, is the interview:
MR. Lansdale, first off let me say thanks for agreeing to do the interview.
Let’s start with “The Drive Inn” series, you’ve said that, at the time, you hated writing the series, even though it seems to stand as some of your best and definable work, was there something in specific about that process or those pieces of work that made them difficult, or was it something else?
Joe R. Lansdale – I was worn out when I wrote it. We had two kids, and both were little, and Karen was working, and I was a house dad and writing between diapers and ass wipings, spending time with the kids. I had two contracts, both close together, and yet I had this idea I really liked and it was pushing me. I think I relate to writers like Philip K. Dick, Phil Farmer, in that there’s a kind of inner passion that drives me, but it also can be very draining. I was trying to go out on a limb, and carry the book less on plot and more on style and pace and satire; I felt it should have the randomness of life, plus this feeling of intervention after the drive in started that did nothing but put obstacles in a person’s way. So it had the conflict of two views going. I was making fun of a lot of things, and making fun of horror films, while loving them at the same time. At that time, low budget films of horror were the most interesting, and they would really go off the rails at times, and I was trying to write a book that did that, but still held the reader. The second book I wrote later, but felt the same way. The best writing experience was the latter, and it seems to be the most personal. I tried to make the novel a character as much as the people in it, and in fact, tried to let the novel itself, the world, the events, become the character as the people were diminished
In the “Drive in” series as well as a great deal of your work collected in the new best of by Tachyon your work is always infused with a bleak and black sort of tongue and cheek humor , do you find that humor and horror go hand and hand?
I think they are often the same thing. Mark Twain said there is no humor in heaven, because humor is primarily based on the misery of others. I think one enhances the other, but there’s a difference in just funny, and darkly funny. I don’t care much for a lot of humor I read in horror. I like it stranger and rawer and darker.
As an author that has one all the major awards and has seen his work on both the large and small screen, what is next for Joe R Lansdale?
New novel, a young adult novel, comic books, and a film script. And so on and so on.
In the introduction to your best of collection you go on to talk about Batman, and superhero’s and comics in general, do you like working in that medium as much as you do working on a novel, or are they completely different forms of expression for you?
I prefer prose, but I enjoy scripts and comic books as well. I can do more with prose than the other. And you can control more of it.
How did your work on Batman : The Animated Series come about?
Batman the animated series was first shown to me by Bob Wayne who worked at D.C. comics. I was visiting the place, and he showed me the opener. I told him, wow, I’d love to write for something like that. My short stories about Batman also had something to do with it, maybe the novel CAPTURED BY THE ENGINES. Time has made it a little vague. Anyway, one day I got a call. They had an idea, and they gave me the idea to develop. I wrote a script titled PERCHANCE TO DREAM, and then I did others. It was a great experience. I love animation and would love to work in the field again. I do have a short Jonah Hex piece coming out soon on a DVD, UNDER THE RED HOOD, I believe was the one advertised, which is a Batman DVD.
Your work deals with a lot of different subjects you’ve done “Steampunk,” and “Splatterpunk,” and “Horror.” Comics and film, and have done brilliant work in all the genre’s –so I will ask, how does Joe Lansdale come up with all those ideas?
I love all kinds of things. I’m a reader of books and comics, and not just popular work. I like underground stuff, mainstream stuff; it all depends on who does it and how well they do it. I’m influenced by films and newspapers and by true life experience. I have a hard time not coming up with ideas.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote that Louisville was like this great oddity, not southern and not Midwestern but that the city was imbued with a sense of both cultures- you’ve alluded to that same sort of stance when asked about Nacogdoches TX. Do you think that your environment is something that is key in your work?
I think the East Texas environment has been essential to my work. I don’t mean to imply that I replicate it exactly, but I believe I replicate certain aspects of it pretty accurately. Since I write crime or horror, those are the elements that seep in. I write about other places, but even when I write about other places, I’m often writing about East Texas. Lately, I’ve done a few things not of East Texas, and hope to do a few more. I’ve also kind of been on a nostalgia kick, meaning I’ve been writing stories that are more pulp and fifties paperback in flavor. It’ll change, though. It always does. A story I’m fond of is THE STARS ARE FALLING, a short story of mine in the forthcoming anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It is East Texas, shortly after World War 1.
My editor and readers would never allow me to write any longer if I didn’t ask about Bubba Ho-Tep, how did the story come about, how did the movie come about-and were you satisfied with the movie or would there have been something you personally would have changed?
I really loved the movie. I would have done something’s differently, but I loved what was done. I couldn’t have made the movie work at all, actually. Don could. It was very close to my story, and that’s the most amazing thing about it. It came about through my love of Elvis’s music, my growing up during the assassination of JFK, and my mother being in a rest home for awhile after a bad accident. It all sort of blended together.
I know you’re one of the scheduled authors at the Horrorfind weekend 2010 convention in Gettysburg, PA. Do you like doing the conventions and getting out with fans? Are you planning on doing any others this year? And do you have any crazy moments that you could share?
I go fairly often. At least two conventions a year, and book tours now and then, here and abroad, mostly here and in Italy. I love meeting readers. I’ve had a few odd moments, but most of them were sane enough.
This is more of a personal question, from me to you, Godzilla’s twelve step program is one of my favorites from your new best of collection, was there any specific inspiration behind that story, other than the obvious Godzilla movies?
You know, I think it was the twelve step programs for everything. Sometimes I think that stuff is just silly. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but some of it is, well…Maybe you’re just an asshole. So, I wrote the story using Godzilla. He had a really bad habit and he couldn’t shake it. It was also a satire of a number of things. I had great time with it. It wrote itself, fell out of the typewriter, and its been reprinted many times. It’s one of my favorites of my stories. It’s a good story to read.
As an author that is so well respected and honored, who has achieved a level of success that most new writers dream about I was wondering if you have any advice for writers trying to break into the business right now.
Read a lot. And not just what is current. And read outside the field–a lot. Making money at writing is the game, of course, but to do that, to be proud of what you do, write what you love. Mainly, read, put your ass in a chair and write.
Mr. Lansdale it has been a pleasure to do the interview with you and I just wanted to say thanks again for the opportunity.