Q&A With Joe R Lansdale
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Q&A With Joe R Lansdale
To start off this week is a Q&A with Joe R Lansdale. Joe has written over thirty novels and many short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections as well as comics, television, film, newspapers, and internet sites. Some of Joe’s novels are The Thicket, More Better Deals, The Bottoms, Savage Season, & The Donut Legion coming soon on March 21st 2023. On top of being an author he’s a martial arts instructor. Joe was a contributing writer to Batman the Animated Series, his first film adaptation was Bubba Ho-Tep. His crime novel COLD IN JULY was turned into a film starring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, and Sam Shepherd. His series of Hap and Leonard novels became the basis for the TV show, Hap and Leonard. Three of his stories have been adapted to Love, Death and Robots, Creepshow, and he is the screenwriter for the animated feature, Son of Batman. He’s the executive producer of the film The Pale Door.
Q: Would you please tell me and the readers what your upcoming novel, The Donut Legion is about?
A: Always a loaded question, as you fear giving too much away. The simple answer is it is about a flying saucer cult. What has always surprised me is how many of these there are. Most of them weld religion to Star Trek ideas and then there are personal flourishes by the leader. I’m astonished at how easily so many people, otherwise intelligent people, fall into this business, think aliens are monitoring us and preparing us for this or that. And that someday we’ll take a ride in a cool flying saucer with blinking lights and a coffee bar to a perfect world way out in the cosmos.
The Heaven’s Gate cult comes to mind. They went out with suicidal poison in their bellies, plastic bags over their heads, wearing new tennis shoes to better walk the deck of the massive space craft coming to gather their souls and take them away.
The book deals with the Garner Brothers, Charlie and Felix, who become involved in trying to find Charlie’s missing ex-wife, Meg, who is a member of a saucer cult. It combines the idea of conspiracy theories with a real conspiracy. It’s about those who control the flying saucer cult, and what they are willing to do to maintain its existence, a well as it’s cash flow. You got a killer chimpanzee who seems to be into cosplay, as well as the possibility of ghosts, relentless murderers, and a terrible person named Cowboy.
There’s also has a cool intrepid female reporter who is called Scrappy, as well as relentless lady lawyer who is nicknamed “the Shark”. There’s also a dog, Tag, and for me he’s my favorite character, and was great fun to write about. Second to him in that respect is the sheriff of the small town where the cult runs one of its popular donut shops, Saucer Donuts. The donut business provides the cult with income, as well as a way to launder money.
The story is loaded with fun moments, interaction between two brothers who couldn’t be more different, and the idea that you can indeed blame the people who coerce people into this kind of foolishness, but the fools who follow don’t get a pass because they’ve been misled, at least not completely. I always think you can find all number of excuses for being an idiot, except the fact that in some cases you put your common sense on hold on purpose to embrace something so obviously stupid to the point of total immersion. These days we give everyone a pass. A bit of shame, guilt, and embarrassment are sometimes positive tools. I can feel sorry for that person, realize we can all be misled, but really, this kind of thing is your jam?
Q: When in your life did you realize that your calling was to be an author as well as writing for TV, film and short stories?
A: At four I wanted to write and draw comics, and tried. I kept at it but it wasn’t until I was nine that I completed something. A poem about my dog. I love dogs. I wrote stories, a play, and most of a novel between the ages of eleven and twelve. None of it was primo stuff, but I was always after it. When I was twenty-one, I sold my first short article with my mother under her name, and I was off to the races. By the age of twenty-nine I was a full-time writer, and have been one ever since. The idea of writing screenplays came later, when I realized I might be able to do it. But prose is so much more satisfying, and harder. I’ve been a selling writer for fifty years now, and full time for over forty-two years, I believe. I did a lot of jobs before I was able to go full-time, by the way.
Q: Is it fair to say the characters and places in your novels are based off of anyone you know or places you’ve been? I love it when authors can create fictional worlds and people by using real people and places.
A: It is indeed based off real things, but only based. It’s not literal. I love East Texas, warts and all, and it’s interesting to take the things you see, things that people think you make up, and turn them into fiction. But reality is still there, tucked behind a shadow and a box of hot wings.
Q: The genres you write in are Western, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery and Suspense. Are there any genres you haven’t written in that you would love to explore in the future? What is your advice to anyone on how to write great Western, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery and Suspense?
A: The only real advice that is helpful is read a lot, and I mean a lot, and not just in the field you want to write. That’s how I learned that I liked so many different things, and that I could learn better ways to write by having greater curiosity than who killed Bob in the library with a candle stick and stole his shoes. Read, and write, and do it daily. Have a set time, and write. You don’t need to write eight to ten hours a day, though some do. Not me. I’m lazy. I write about three hours a day and have a minimum I try to meet. Three to five pages a day, and I polish as I got. Some days I get more than five pages, sometimes a lot more. I write seven days a week, for a day off for some folly or another. It adds up. Polishing as you go makes the final polish easy. I don’t do multiple drafts. That way for me lies madness, boredom and constant disappointment.
Q: How do you juggle being an author, a writer for TV and film and being a martial arts instructor? It’s all so impressive.
A: Simple. I show up. It’s been said if you want something done ask a busy person. That’s because they know how to get things done. I am good at compartmentalizing.
Q: What was it like being a contributing writer for Batman The Animated Series? Did you ever meet the voice actors Mark Hamil, Tara Strong and Kevin Conroy?
A: It was wonderful. Michael Reeves was my story editor, and he was great. I met him and Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Loved those guys and loved the show. That is my favorite version of Batman, and not just because I wrote for the show. But no, never met the actors in the show.
Q: My mom and brother love the movie Bubba Ho Tep. Knowing Hollywood they don’t always stick well to adaptations of books, novellas, games etc. Did they do a good job of following Bubba Ho Tep?
A: Coscarelli did a perfect adaptation. Stuck to my dialogue and scenes for the most part, and Bruce and Ossie knocked it out of the park. I never thought that story could be turned into a film, but it was. It kept the humor, the absurdity. It’s not absolutely literal, but damn close. It spoiled me for film. It doesn’t always work that way. Don had the advantage of being a producer, director, and screenwriter.
Q: Can you spoil what novels, short stories, and screenplays you’re writing right now?
A: I was working on a big novel titled Martian Nocturne, but it went far afield of what I intended, and I realized it would take more time than I was willing to give it right now. But I like it. I hope to return to it. But I switched to writing a new Hap and Leonard novel. I’m also writing a memoir and a few odds and ends. I would love to write another adventure for the Garner Brothers.
Q: What’s your advice to new authors on how to deal with negative reviews, online trolls, and family and friends who don’t support their writing goals?
A: My family supports my writing. Always have. I don’t pay attention to trolls, and sometimes a bad review I write. Believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones. You can learn from both, but shouldn’t become that enamored of reviews. I like to read good ones and share them and use them for promotion, but beyond that it’s always just one person’s opinion. I think reviews matter, but they are not the end all to what makes a book successful.
Q: Any more of your works being adapted into movies and shows soon?
A: I’m going to answer that with a maybe.