By Sean Tuohy
Joe R. Lansdale is a writer’s kind of writer. I don’t think there’s a storytelling medium he hasn’t worked in. He’s penned 30 novels, most of them taking place in his home state of Texas. He’s also worked on comic books, television shows, films, and newspapers.
Lansdale’s stories are filled with strange, yet relatable characters. His stories are original and fast- paced. Lansdale grabs his readers quickly and pulls them into a world created by a master storyteller.
Recently his novel Cold In July (a personal favorite we featured in “Books That Should Be On Your Radar” in March) was produced into an award-winning film starring Don Johnson, Michael C. Hall, and Sam Shepard. His long-running Hap and Leonard series has also been turned into a TV series.
Lansdale took a few minutes to chat about the craft of storytelling, how he works in so many different mediums, and his new publishing house Pandi Press.
Sean Tuohy: When did you decide you wanted to become a storyteller?
Joe R. Lansdale: I was four when I discovered comics. I wanted to write and draw them. By the time I was nine, I realized I liked writing, but didn't really have the talent to draw. Stories, novels, and TV shows, movies influenced me as well. So pretty much all my life.
ST: Who were some of your early influences?
JRL: Jack London, Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Edgar Rice Burroughs are a few. Burroughs really set my youthful imagination on fire. I wanted to be a writer early on, but when I read him at eleven years old, I had to be.
ST: What is your writing process like?
JRL: I get up in the morning, have coffee and a light breakfast and go to work for about three hours. That's it. I do that five to seven days a week. Now and again I'll work in the afternoon at night, but that's mostly how I do it day in and day out. I polish as I go and try to get three to five pages a day, but sometimes write a lot more.
ST: You have written for TV, film, and comics. Does your process or writing style change between the three formats?
JRL: Well, the format is the change, but you always write as well as you can, and you write to the strengths of the medium. Each as different, but you try and do them all as well as you can. I find I sometimes need a day to get comfortable doing something other than prose, but then the method comes back to me, and I'm into it.
ST: Your novel Cold in July was turned into a film and your long running Hap and Leonard series was turned into a TV show. How does it feel to see your work translated into another form?
JRL: It's fun, but always a little nerve-wracking. You always see stuff they left out, or changed, but my experiences so far have been really good. Enough things get made, I'm sure to have one I really hate. But again, so far, way good.
ST: Recently you opened Pandi Press with your daughter Kasey (a talented singer). What is the goal of this new publishing house?
JRL: To publish some of my work that's out of print, and to make the money that the publisher would end up with if they reprinted. It's an experiment as well. We'll see how it turns out. I plan to do some original books there as well.
ST: Being from Texas the Lone Star State plays a big part in your stories. What is it about Texas that makes it such an interesting backdrop filled with interesting characters?
JRL: You said it. It's full of interesting characters. But the main reason is it's what I know well, and I can write about it with confidence.
ST: What is next for Joe Lansdale?
JRL: More novels, short stories, films, and comic adaptations of my work by others.
ST: What advice do you give to first-time writers?
JRL: Read a lot, and put your ass in a chair and write. Only two things that really work.
ST: Can you tell us one random fact about yourself?
JRL: I have been studying martial arts for 54 years.