Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Monday, 21 November 2011

Joe R. Lansdale interviewed by Glyn Morgan

Joe R. Lansdale was born in Gladewater, Texas, now lives in Nacogdoches and is the writer in residence at Stephen F. Austin State University. He also teaches at his own Shen Chuan martial arts school and is a member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He is the author of numerous novels and short stories which can be described as being horror, westerns, science fiction, mystery and suspense, or more commonly a mixture of those genres. He has also written for comics and cartoons such as Batman: The Animated Series. Over his career he has won eight Bram Stoker Awards, a British Fantasy Award, and had several novels listed as New York Times notable books of the year, not least his novel The Bottoms which is by far his most acclaimed, picking up the Edgar Award for best novel amongst other accolades.

You can find out more about Joe and his writings on his website:

GM: Let's start at the beginning, which authors and books did you read that made you want to write, and in particular make you want to write the kind of material which you produce today?
JRL: There are so many. Early on it was comics, comics, comics. I loved DC comics the best, and almost as much, Classics Illustrated, which were comics based on classic literature. They led me to reading so many books I might not have read, though later. There was not a library handy when I was really young in Mt. Enterprise. That came a little later. There was a book mobile, and I read what I could get there, including classics. Kipling, Stevenson, Twain, London, all of those great writers. I loved Homer’s The Iliad and Odyssey, and anything associated with Greek and Roman mythology, Norse was also interesting to me. Later I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and I went from wanting to be a writer to having to be a writer. He hooked me through the gills. I also loved Algernon Blackwood, and Arthur Machen. Later I found many other writes of horror, but before that, these were the guys. Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, first through The Twilight Zone, and then the stories. Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, a little later. Robert E. Howard, and then when I had the small amount of college I had, I was introduced to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and many others. Later it was Flannery O’Conner, Carson McCullers, well, the list goes on and on.

GM: This interview is a tie-in to our Weird West event based on the Gutshot collection. How did you find yourself writing weird westerns and did you even imagine you would find yourself considered one of the primary figures in the genre?
JRL: I’m surprised by it, and pleased by it, but Weird Westerns are not new. Robert E. Howard wrote them, and others, and when I was growing up there was a horror western trend. My favorite of those was Curse of the Undead, which was a vampire western, and one of the influences for my novel Dead in the West.

GM: The publication of Gutshot is just one example of the weird west that's surfaced in recent years. With films like Cowboys and Aliens, the Jonah Hex adaptation, and video games like Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare receiving massive mainstream publicity do you think Weird West is finally coming to the fore of the popular zeitgeist?
JRL: I think it’ll have a moment here and there, but I doubt there will be a big trend. It’s just more common than before, in comics, film, stories and books. I think it’ll always be a sub-genre of a sub-genre, but a healthy one from time to time.

GM: A lot of the Weird West material I've encountered has mixed horror with the western, but there's also been a healthy amount of humour - either tongue-in-cheek genre self-consciousness, or something a little darker. This is also certainly true of your own work which has never been afraid of injecting some humour. How do the two to ideas of horror and humour play together? Do you find they are opposing forces that need to be balanced or are they more complementary than we might first think?
JRL: Humor comes to me naturally, but certainly it was Mark Twain and Robert Bloch that gave me permission to do it by reading this approach in their work. Others like Fred Brown also influenced me. But mostly I sort of see the universe that way, as sadly humorous. The older I get, the more satirical that humor has become. I was influenced heavily by genre writing, but by the time I began to write, I was also influenced by more mainstream literature, much of which used irony and satire more securely. I think it all just ran together, like spilt paints. And I do find one balances out the other, but it’s harder to do than some might think. Just having a humorous moment or a humorous line is not the same as blending the two ideas. If you just put in a funny moment without consideration of how it weighs with the rest of the work, you can tilt the entire thing over.

"Two Gun Mojo" one of the
Jonah Hex titles Joe worked on.
GM: You expressed your early love of comics and years later you would find yourself writing some, particularly relevant here DC's cowboy Jonah Hex, how different do you find writing comics to writing novels and short stories, does your process differ depending which you're working on?
JRL: It’s a different mindset. I find it easier, but saying that doesn’t mean I find it easy. It’s just an easier form for me than writing stories and books, but each of those things requires a certain knack and mindset. I know a lot of writers who have tried comics and failed miserably because the mindset is so different, and the same could be said for film. It’s a different way of thinking.

GM: Sticking with comics. If you could have absolute free reign with any established character in the vast pantheons of comic book characters, who would you want to write stories for and what might they entail?
JRL: Jonah Hex again. Batman. Hawkman. Tarzan. John Carter of Mars. The last two are not thought of as comic properties, but they have been so many times, I’d love a crack at them. Also, David Innes of Pellucidar.

GM: A lot of your novels feature homosexuality, or homosexual characters, not least the character Leonard Pine who along with Hap Collins is a principle character in many of your novels. It goes without saying that this is a big issue in the USA at the moment, and the push for improved rights and recognition for homosexual couples in the States has been likened to the African-American or Feminist Civil Rights movements. Is this an issue which you would say is particularly important for you?
JRL: Fairness and common sense are always important. I have gay characters in my work because I meet and know gay characters in life. Same as blacks and hispanics and so on. I’m trying to represent the people I know. I also think that even if I am writing entertaining books, that it’s fine if I have social and political views in them. Some readers and writers disagree, and I say, that’s fine. I don’t always think a work has to have that, but it’s a natural outgrowth for me. I’m a professional writer, and I’m serious about it. I was born in the fifties and grew up in the sixties, which was a time of change as far as Civil Rights went, so it’s imbedded in me.

Bubba Ho-Tep
GM: The only film adaptation of one of your books or screenplays that I've seen is Bubba Ho-Tep [a retired Elvis and "JFK" fight off an Ancient Egyptian mummy who attacks their retirement home] but from what I can tell a number of your other works have been optioned, are we going to see any other full-length films based on your work in the near future?
JRL: A number of films look possible. A film of my short story, with screenplay by my son Keith, was filmed this summer, and should be out by next summer. It’s called Christmas with the Dead. Not sure when it will actually go into main distribution. It’s very low budget, but its fun. I’ve been working on a film with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman of my novel, The Bottoms. Still hoping. The Drive In is possible right now, as is Cold in July. There are others optioned, but those look the most likely right now, but in film, that can change overnight.

GM: And to finish off, what upcoming projects have you got that you'd be willing to tell us about?
JRL: My novel Edge of Dark Water, which may be my best work, is coming out in March from Mulholland Press, and I think it’s a humdinger. I have a young adult book out now, All the Earth Thrown to the Sky, and am currently writing another one, along with a few short stories.

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