I am tremendously pleased to post the inaugural installment of my author interview series. Joe R. Lansdale is perhaps best known as the author behind Bubba Hotep. Can I get an Elvis impersonation here? But he’s also written dozens of short stories, books, comics, and screenplays, including some of the best known novels in horror fiction, such as The Nightrunners. All that, and he’s a darn nice fella. So, let’s take o’ bidness.
TH: Of course, Bubba Hotep made a big splash, and you have a substantial body of work developed over the years. You’re also credited by some with helping organize the Horror Writers of America. How did that come about?
JL: I was involved in the HWA early on, but nothing since then, though I’ve renewed a few times to help and to contribute to HWA projects. Actually, I dropped out for years. Rick McCammon came up with the idea for HWA, then called THE HORROR, OCCULT WRITERS LEAGUE, or HOWL, and Karen, my wife took over and made it an organization, and then Dean Koontz made it a broader more professional organization. So, in a way, my wife is the founder of HWA. I held an office in the HWA early on, and I don’t even remember what it was.
TH: What is The Story of Joe? Is it a novel? A short story? A poem? A limerick?
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
JL: When I was very young I liked to write. I think I was nine when I finished a complete story and some poetry. But I wanted to do it for as long as I can remember.
TH: Most established writers seem to have a stack of writing somewhere that will never see the light of day, like the five novels or dozen short stories he or she had to write before they could get to the good one. If you have a stack of this stuck away somewhere, what’s it like?
JL: I have a few things put back, or stored in libraries, and they’re not worth bothering with. A few short stories that might be fun, maybe, but that’s it.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have a bestseller or make some sort of artistic or literary impact, but you have already won â€œumpty-umpâ€ awards for horror and mystery writing. Is there some accomplishment that you’re still striving for?
JL: I just try to get better and write different kinds of books, and also write better books in the Hap and Leonard series, or at least consistent books. I’m also working in film more, and comics a bit more as of late. My all time favorite work is short stories.
TH: What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work?
JL: The thing that’s worked best for me for promotion is word of mouth.
TH: Is this word of mouth something you have encouraged in some ways, or do you have a strictly â€œhands-offâ€ approach (put it out there and let people do what they will)? There might be other authors out there with a small handful of sales, but haven’t considered some of the things that go into being a writer/author as a career. Do you actively try to build a readership or just let it happen?
JL: I’ve always done interviews (as you can tell) and have established a website, but the truth is I probably should have, and may yet, take more control of this sort of promotion. But word of mouth and the Internet site have been the most important tools for promotion. I’ve always felt uncomfortable about too much up front promotion. But it’s a changing world, and the publishers only do so much.
TH: Was there a point at which you realized that you had “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances? Do you recall how that felt?
JL: I don’t know if you ever feel like you’ve made it, as things are so changeable, but I think when I sold MAGIC WAGON, DEAD IN THE WEST, “Tight Little Stitches In A Dead Man’s Back,” and edited BEST OF THE WEST, as well as a BANTAM non-fiction anthology all in one year (this came out years later from another publisher in two volumes with a companion editor, Tom Knowles). It all hit so that it got me ahead, and though there have been some down moments here and there, I felt pretty good from then on, and things have generally just gotten better and better.
TH: I know that you are heavily into a variety of martial arts. As a martial artist myself, I can appreciate the allure. How do you think martial arts have influenced your fiction?
JL: Economy of motion. Simplicity of form. Balance between elements. I’m not always successful in trying to manage these, and other concepts and principles of martial arts, but many of them transfer directly from one art to the other.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
JL: I’m working on a new Hap and Leonard novel right now, and this fall, there’s a kind of Cornell Woolrich novel coming out called LEATHER MAIDEN. I think of it and COLD IN JULY and WALTZ OF SHADOWS as cousins. Also, looks as if I’ll be writing a screenplay based on THE BOTTOMS if all goes well.