How do you classify Joe R. Lansdale.  The simplest is saying he writes horro, but that is not strictly true.  Joe’s books belong in a genre that I would call gonzo.  His books are comedy slash horror slash mystery slash ironic slash a couple of other things.  I have been reading Joe’s since Savage Season and am proud to say I have a limited edition signed copy of The Magic Wagon.

Reading one of Joe’s books is like stepping into a parallel universe where many things are not quite the same any more.  Situations that are not likely to occur in the normal world are more likely to occur in his world.

My early favourites are The Drive In novels, but the Hap and Leonard books are a riot as well.

So, on to the interview with Mr Lansdale.

What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?


1. I think I’ve covered most of the genres I like, and mostly the books since the 1990’s have been harder to classify as any one genre, with a few exceptions, and I like it like that. I don’t think in terms of genre. I just think what book I want to write, so for me that’s not really something I’m concerned with. It’s not a contest to see how many genres I can write in, it just works out that I try and write the books I want to write and I get what I get. Other people can spend time classifying. I know if I’m writing for a crime publisher it has to have those elements, for example, but I still write the book I want, and it will often have many other elements that may or may not fit a specific genre.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?

2. Ideas are everywhere. There really is no one way I acquire ideas. I just soak up things, like a sponge. Sometimes it isn’t really the idea that matters, but the writer’s spin on it. A way of looking at things. Ideas are easy. I have more than I’ll ever get to write before I die. Not that I’m planning on going anywhere any time soon. But anyone can have an idea. It’s what you do with it. I hate it when people stand in front of me and lay out their ideas or plots. Just write it.

When you start a new story, do you have a title for it?  Does that trigger the story?

3. Titles often come first for me, but not all the time. Frequently, however. Sometimes I write a story or book under one title, and at some point it changes, but not often. Sometimes the title is some kind of subconscious solidification of an idea, and that causes me to write the story. Some titles have been roaming around in my head for years, and have developed into stories, and on some occasions a good title fit a story that I wrote with no title in mind. A title like “On The Far Side Of The Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks” started a story that I got hung up on and put aside for awhile, and then I was asked to write a zombie story for BOOK OF THE DEAD, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector, and that filled in the rest of it. A recent story, KING OF THE CHEAP ROMANCE, had been in my head for years, and I was writing a story with no title, and thought and a line in the story I was writing reminded me of that title, and it became the title. Guess that title has been with me nearly thirty years.

So, yes, titles are important and they often come before the story and inspire the story’s creation.

Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright?  If so, which authors are driving it?

4. I do see it as bright, and I think there will always be new authors driving it. There are all manner of S.F. and Fantasy stories. I for one am not in love with what is commonly called “high fantasy” and I sort of played out on what is commonly called Sword and Sorcery in my early twenties. I love contemporary fantasy, or sort of day to day fantasy, and with that said, I might write anything if it appealed to me. So for me there is no one or two or even ten writers driving it. Readers drive it.

What themes are being overused?

5. I’m tired of vampires and zombies. I’m not saying stories about them shouldn’t be written, but really? We have far too many, and the largest part of the stories are ban wagon stories. I’ve written in both genres, especially the zombie genre, but there’s just too much of it. I’m sick of romantic vampires, or clever stories about vampires who are actually dominatrix, chefs, or dog trainers. They can be fun, but most of them have a gimmick and nothing else. The gimmick is fine if there’s more meat on the bones to that, and I’ve found that’s rare. I might read one of those, but not two.

Are movies of books ruining the book?

6. A bad movie can hurt a good book, but a good movie can make a writer a star. I’ve seen the latter happen often, but the former happens now and then. I think its better to have one made than not made, however, just because readers see movies, and non-readers see movies, and sometimes a movie, good or bad, will turn a viewer to a book. I can think of many writers who became successful because of the movies, or a TV series. The forms are not necessarily in competition, other than the fact it’s easier to watch a film than read a book, and people go for the easy. They can also sit on the couch and enjoy a movie experience with family and friends, and a book is more personal. You can pass it on, but the experience is personal. I like both experiences and wouldn’t want to do without either, though I admit I’m prejudicial toward books.

Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?

7. Ebooks are threatening the existing way of publishing, but that doesn’t mean it’s all a bad thing. It gives a lot of authors a chance to survive and even thrive in an industry that had grown more and more bestseller driven. They did it to themselves, slowly pulled the knife across their own throats by trying to turn an inexpensive entertainment into something akin to the movie business. Also, past sales on one book can harm you on all your books in the traditional book industry, but this isn’t necessarily true in the ebook field. It’s more a pick and choose, and is not as pre-picked for you as in traditional publishing.

I prefer real books, and always will, but I like ebooks. I think the down side is the same as the upside; anyone can be published without being vetted in any kind of way. I think that’s fine and no one should stop them, but it makes it harder to pick the corn kernels out of the crap pile. Traditional publishing misses a lot of good books, but at least the books generally hold together as books. They can be wrong, but if anyone can publish, you have to accept you will have a harder time wading through product. The problem there, however, is that traditional publishers are looking for block busters, not steady sellers.

That said, I think ebooks are a wonderful change and put more power in the hands of writers, less in the hands of editors and agents. I’ve been lucky in the latter, having had some good editors and some wonderful agents. My current literary agent is wonderful, and I am pretty fond of my film agent, though our relationship is still in the dating period, but I also like having more and more of the control in my hands, especially for older stuff and short stories, two areas where agents and editors often have less interest and usually don’t do much with. Short stories especially. You really don’t need agents for that sort of thing, and depending on how much work you want to do, you don’t even need editors. You can form your own company.

Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?

8. If the book looks interesting, I’ll give it a try. I do have established authors I like to read, and I do a lot of re-reading as well.

What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?


9. I don’t think of myself as a fantasy author, actually, just a writer who often deals with fantasy, but I’ve written a lot of non-fantasy work. I think the appeal, however, is that you can go anywhere, cover any subject, and you’re not bound by the common rules of order, though the best fantasy has some rules that you provide yourself. If anything can happen, no one cares. There has to be limitations to your fantasy, or a set of rules you establish and stick to so you can have readers care what happens.

Can I get an autographed book? (lol)


10. If you send the book with return postage, yes.

Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?


11. No. I write it and send it to the market. My wife sometimes reads the galleys when I’m going over those, but not always. I write for me.

Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?


12. I try to write at least three to five pages a day. I often do more than that, but that’s my goal, and if I get that I feel like I can quit for the day. I feel like a hero everyday and writing books and stories are fun that way, not a chore. I write carefully and try to make what I’ve written publishable when I’m writing for publication. Then when the book or story is done, I start at the first and go over it, do a polish, then the editor gets it. Sometimes they have suggestions, and if they are good ones I take them. Mostly it’s spelling errors or typos, but now and again it’s something else. I write the book I want, not the book the editor wants.

Do you have a target each day?


13. I feel like the previous answer covers this question.

Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?


14. I take off sometimes. I don’t have a set plan for that. I usually work five to seven days a week, but now and again I go on vacation and don’t write, although sometimes I write while on vacation, or business travel. I finish a project I might roll right into another, though sometimes I’ll take a day or two off if I feel like I have time. Thing is, I like to write. I’m not someone that likes having written. I like writing as well. I get the itch to go back at it after a couple of days. I took a summer off once, but didn’t like it. Also, the longer you take off, the harder it is to get back in the swing and find your voice. I once read where Peter Straub said he took some time off, a year I think, and then when he came back he had a very hard time getting into it. In fact, his whole style changed. Which can be good or bad, depending. For him I think he felt it came out okay, but he had that period where he had to battle it. I’ve found when I’ve been away longer than usual it’s hard to get hold of things as well, and I struggle a little. I like being in the groove all the time. It may be like riding a bike, but I always fear if I get off the bike too long, I might remember how to ride it, but not nearly as well.

Do you have characters running around your head?  Do they dictate events and their histories to you?


15. The characters do run around in my head, but all of them are me on some level. I know that. But it sure seems like most stories, the best of them, are just dictated to me.

After so many books, how do you keep them unique?


16. I try to write what interests me. That’s it. I also know that I have ideas and themes that will constantly resurface. I try not to fight it. That’s what makes me who I am, but I do try to find different approaches to those themes. In the last few years my writing has changed a lot, but it still has most of the features it had before, only I think I’m better now.

What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?


17. I don’t waste a lot of time. I do Face Book in the mornings, try to hit Twitter, but I can do those when I take a break to get a glass of tea, or when the story stops for a moment. It doesn’t get in the way of my work at all. I am a really good time manager, but I don’t make notes or charts, or turn it into a job. I just have a knack for it. I write. I have a family that I spend time with it. I visit and talk and discuss, and I don’t think of that as a time waster as long as it’s fun and relaxing, or it can be stimulating. I practice martial arts, though less than I did just three or four years ago. I teach a private martial arts class once a week. I teach one semester a year at Stephen F. Austin State University, where I am Writer in Residence. I am also working on producing films, and hope to direct one. We’ll see if that comes to fruition. My wife and I travel a lot. Italy is a favorite place of ours. I read. I go to movies. I stay busy, though I have decided I need to cut a few things, I’m just not sure what and when. One of the main things I’ve cut over the years are people who waste my time for no good reason.

Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?


18. Yep. Each time I see it in a shop it’s just the same. It never grows old.

Do you read other people’s writing?


19. I do in the class I teach, and I read some for friends and family who are writing. I even read a number of stories for a contest I put on my fan page, but I do it less and less. As you grow older your time gets thinner. People who ask you to read something don’t realize there are a hundred others asking the same thing and that runs into hours, days that you are giving to people that you could spend doing the things you want to do. I like to choose what I want to read when I want to read it. I may miss something wonderful, but I still like my time to be mine. And as I said, as you grow older it seems more and more valuable. So as of this year I’m reading a lot less material. I don’t mind offering advice on writing, if someone thinks it might help, but I’m just about through reading manuscripts, except in the classes I teach.

Would you read mine?

20. Nope.

My latest book is EDGE OF DARK WATER from Mulholland, and my young adult novel, ALL THE EARTH THROWN TO THE SKY comes out this fall in paperback from Delacorte.

Joe can be found here:

And on Twitter: @joelansdale