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Joe R. Lansdale Interview

Joe R. Lansdale certainly needs no introduction. His work on Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series delighted fans both young and old. More recently he wowed the viewers with his screenplay for DC Showcase: Jonah Hex. Joe has worked on numerous comic-related tales and graphic novels, producing edgy storylines as only he can do. Lansdale is perhaps best known for his work in novels and short stories in the horror genre, which has won him numerous awards, including The Lifetime Achievement Award from The Horror Writer's Association in 2011. The cult classic Bubba Ho-Tep is his best known work to reach the screen, with the much anticipated third film, Christmas with the Dead, to be released some time in the future. His latest novel, Edge of Dark Water, is crime fiction with a twist. Said to be reminiscent of Mark Twain, the book has been met with high praise from critics everywhere. Joe's work also appears alongside Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, F. Paul Wilson, Laird Barron, and others in the non-themed anthology, Horror For Good, by Cutting Block Press, with proceeds from sales going to amfar.org (The Foundation for Aids Research.)

By Tina Hall

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What have you been up to since we last spoke?

I've pretty much have been up to the same thing. Writing, teaching martial arts, and traveling a lot, promoting Edge of Dark Water.

What led you to write Edge of Dark Water?

It's hard to say exactly. Sometimes I'll have an idea that's been with me a long time, and suddenly it gets written. Now and again, this is primarily with short stories, I'll write a piece of it, not have time to finish it, and will go back to it off and on until it's written. That isn't common, but it does happen, and maybe a little more these days than before. I've done that with a couple of novels, as well. But this one, I got up one morning and it seemed to be laying there, so I picked it up and brushed it off. Or rather, wrote it. It seemed to write itself.

How do you feel about your work being compared to Mark Twain? Did you intend for that to happen or is just a coincidence? Are you a fan of the work and the man?

I love Twain, but I prefer not to be compared to anyone. That said, there are nods to Twain here, and it's only natural it should be mentioned. Also nods to The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, and a number of other writers. But no doubt Twain is a big influence on this novel, and frankly, on a lot of my work.

Are you surprised that the book has been met which such positive reviews and such by the media?

I've been fortunate in the past to have a pretty good run of good reviews, but this one has been amazing. It's also helped that Mulholland got it out there to be reviewed and pushed it because they had faith in it. Most publishers are of the sink or swim school, and even a good novel can get lost in the masses that way. Mulholland has made a hard effort. I'm hoping it pays off. I love this book.

It has been called your best work to date. Do you agree with that?

I do. I may feel different six months from now, but right now it is my favorite. Before Edge it was a toss up between The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line. Before those books, it was The Magic Wagon , one of my "lost" novels.

What about Christmas with the Dead? Do you know when it might be released?

I finally, with the family, saw a near final version of the film the other day, and for the money, and considering what we were trying to do, I'm so damn pleased. The director, Terrill Lee Lankford did a great job, as did the screenwriter, my son, Keith, and everyone in it, from the stars Damian Maffei and Brad Maule, to the supporting actors, Kasey Lansdale and Adam Coats and so on did fine. It looks good too. The DP, Bil Arscott did a wonderful job. And he spells it with one "l." So, it was a good experience. I plan to repeat it, perhaps with a more ambitious picture. I've also thought about an anthology film.

As someone who has a very close knit family. What do you think the key is to having a good relationship with those who matter most?

Loving them.Respect. Knowing they are more important than yourself.

Speaking of Christmas with the Dead, just out of curiosity how is Bosco the Bear doing these days? Have you heard any updates in regards to that?

Once the movie was properly cut, the bear was pretty happy. So, his mood has changed. Glad to see it. He got a lot more screen time.

What do you think you would be doing if you hadn't of became a writer?

I would have done martial arts, which I already do. I think I might well have become a teacher at a university. Actually, I do teach at a University, but only one semester a year as Writer in Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University. But I never got the degree. I can't really imagine doing anything else other than what I'm doing. Lately, I've had some interest in directing films, and maybe I would have done that. But it's hard to imagine being anything other than a writer.

You also help other writers along the way when times are tight it seems. Do you think it is important to help others when given the opportunity?

When you can, not always when you're asked. Sometimes you can't do it, and sometimes the writers need to dig their own way out. But I do believe you have to help others, and care about others, and do what you can, within reason, to help others. Not be a martyr, but be someone with a heart. Why I vote Democrat, I guess. Not a big believer in this every person for themselves, because sometimes things are beyond your powers. Age, poverty, sickness. You don't get to choose.

You are also an avid animal lover. Is that something you acquired at an early age? What are your feelings on the role of humans in caring for the animals?

Lansdale in Leather
Photo by Karen Lansdale
I love dogs especially, but as I've grown older I've become even more of an animal lover, and I wish I could quit eating the poor bastards. I don't eat that much meat these days, but I do eat it, and now and again nothing makes me happier than a good steak. My friend William F. Nolan chastised me for wearing leather, and I told him, "If I'm going to eat them, I might as well wear their discarded clothes." My wife and I give a lot of money to animal rescue and wild life funds. How do you feel about your ever growing status as iconic author? I don't know that I am. I hear that, but I don't know what to think of it. I think it just means I'm getting old.

What are you feelings about aging?

In some ways getting older is great. Wiser. More experience. Less concerns about the little things. But then again, it isn't the same for everyone else. The worse part about getting older is getting older; closer to the finish line, and it's a race you don't have any choice about, and it's great, but all games in. That's the tough part about being older, realizing your time is getting less and you can't waste it.

Other than Edge of Dark Water, what projects are you most excited to bring your readers next?

All of them.

Among other literary endeavors, Tina Hall interviews the most interesting figures producing underground and mainstream horror, crime, true crime and pulp fiction.