Joe R. Lansdale is a legend in the Weird West genre and beyond. An internationally-renowned author, he has written over thirty novels–including the iconic Hap and Leonard series–and countless short stories, as well as pieces for comics TV, film, and more. He’s the recipient of numerous awards and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System.
Learn more about his career and extensive body of work at his website: https://www.joerlansdale.com.
Interview with Joe R. Lansdale
Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out?
I’ve been interviewed so many times, I have no idea what might be surprising to my readers. I really don’t. But I have a memoir I’m working on, and that might include things unknown. I have been a martial artist for sixty years is one thing, but even that is pretty well known. I teach private classes. I once ate fifty raw eggs, but that was stupid, not astounding.
What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this Under-appreciated genre?
I like both Western and horror, so that’s part of it. Growing up had a wave of Western Horror films, and that’s a big part of it. I love non-horror Westerns even more, I must admit, but I do love the other. I think it was natural to put the two loves together now and then.
Many believe the Weird West genre is on the verge of a resurgence. Would you agree? How is the genre different today than you when first started writing?
There was no Weird West genre when I was young. There were a few books here and there, and had been a bit of it in the past, but it was never a commercially viable genre; still isn’t. Not in the larger scheme of things. At the time I wrote DEAD IN THE WEST, no one was paying attention to the weird west. I sort of jumpstarted the genre again, and maybe even fueled it more than before, though the seeds of that book and stories to follow took a while to become as influential as it became. Even people who never read me are often influenced by someone who has. I’m either ahead or behind trends.
What would you like to see more of in Weird West books? (Any particular settings, characters, themes, etc.?)
That’s up to the writers. Surprise me. The trick to having the books popular is good writing and dialogue and interesting characters. Plot is important, but not as much as the other things.
For readers new to the “Weird West” genre, what books or comics would you recommend they start with (yours and others)?
Of my own, the collected Jonah Hex series from DC that I did with Tim Truman. DEADMAN’S ROAD is available from TACHYON BOOKS, and has a large number of my stories about the supernatural fast gun Reverend Mercer. THE HOODOO MAN AND THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN is unrelated to that, but is a favorite of mine. Also, in FISHING FOR DINOSAURS there’s SIXTY EIGHT BARRELS ON TREASURE LAKE. Possibly as much a personal favorite as HOODOO MAN. I plan to write more about the hoodoo man.
If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be?
A school teacher.
Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why?
Sentimental favorite weird western film is CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. It’s pretty dated now, but I really enjoyed that one. Currently, I don’t know I have a favorite in book or film, but I like a lot of different ones. THE SIXTH GUN by Cullen Bunn is a favorite comic.
What are you working on and reading right now?
I’m reading an autobiography by the man who wrote a lot of the original Hardy Boys. I just read SIMPLY HEMINGWAY, which is a breakdown of his most popular works, and a kind of skimming of his life. Meaning it’s not in detail. It was good, though. I read a book on Liver Eating Johnson before that. Next up is Paul Newman’s autobiography. I have stacks of books here I’m trying to get to. I read several a week, but I’ve been slower as of late, maybe one or two a week, as opposed to my usual of three or four. Used to be more than that.
What advice would you give to new writers in the Weird West genre?
Know your Western history. That comes first. You can make mistakes, know I have, but that comes first. Read extensively in the field. There’s a lot of it now. Mostly from small publishers. I don’t know if there’s a boom, but there is certainly a rise in Weird Westerns. It’s not a commercially viable genre in the broader sense, and may never be, but it does have an undercurrent popularity.
Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West?
Just enjoy yourself.
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