East, central, and west Texas: Joe Lansdale, Terry shames, Tricia fielding.
(Editor’s note: Scott’s the one in the hat.)
If you’re a Joe Lansdale fan, then this is the month for you. His newest novel, The Thicket, is out now. And, for as added bonus, he wrote a story in the wonderful anthology of weird tales edited by his daughter, Kasey Lansdale, Impossible Monsters. We’ve been talking about them a lot this week on the blog because we’re excited to have both Joe and Kasey at BookPeople tonight to speak about and sign their new books. We caught up with Joe to ask him a few questions.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: The Thicket is a western, but you chose a unique time period. The book is set at the turn of the last century in East Texas. What interested you about that era?
JOE LANSDALE: That period of transition has always fascinated me. My grandmother straddled both centuries and was a bit of both. The modern age, at least then, came in pieces, and sometimes it took years for those pieces to come together. Technology was for them just as dreaded and appreciated as it is now. We love it, we fear it. But the country was, as now, going through huge defining changes.
MP: What was fun about going back to that genre?
JL: I love that genre. I was once asked to make a list of favorite books, and was surprised how many westerns were on it.
MP: In the book, the main character Jack has some curious allies: a circus dwarf, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave, and a prostitute. They’re outcasts like many of the characters you write. What’s the appeal to outcasts?
JL: Misfits are the interesting people. Its that simple. And, surprisingly, a lot of people think of themselves as misfits.
MP: It takes skill to write a period piece. What would you say is the most important thing to remember when writing in set period of time?
JL: You should know the era and feel the voice. But, mostly, you are there to tell a good story.
MP: Many of your protagonists are teenagers. Do you find that challenging as writer or do you enjoy it?
JL: Everyone has been young so they understand how life can surprise in good and bad ways. We can all relate to those moments, because we have all been through it.
MP: You have a story in Impossible Monsters, an anthology edited by your daughter, Kasey. Did she keep you on task?
JL: She was pretty much a nag, actually, but it was fun.
Joe R. Lansdale will be dropping in tomorrow, Thursday, April 5th at 7pm, for one of his lively discussions and signings. His latest is Edge Of Dark Water, a Depression era coming of age tale that is being lauded as one of his finest. Joe was kind enough to answer some question about his writing, influences, and interests.
MysteryPeople: Edge Of Dark is one of those books that seems to be a mix of genres or not really any one genre. Was there anything that gave you the idea for this one?
Joe R. Lansdale: I think a lifetime of reading and experience came together in this one. The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, mythology and Huckleberry Finn, this and that. I wasn’t consciously mixing or not mixing. I just wrote the story that came out.
MP: You use a female protagonist in the book, which you also did in one of my other favorites, Sunset and Sawdust. Is there anything you have to keep in mind when writing for the opposite sex?
JL: I think you try to be observant. You try to pay attention to memory about women you know or have known. That’s what I did. I tried to keep in mind how kids acted when I was young, and how they acted now. In some ways, they stay the same. I, of course, used the language of that time and of someone less educated. But Sue Ellen seemed to present herself to me and say I have this story to tell, so sit down and listen. I did.
MP: It seems like you use The Great Depression most often when you choose to go back in time. What does that period do for you?
JL: My parents were adults then. It had an impact on them, and I heard their stories growing up. It was a time when people were truly on their own, and not a good time. No social security, no veterans rights, no Medicare, and no money for when you got laid off from a job. You were just out there on a wish and hope. Scary times, and anyone that lived through those times will tell you that. People were desperate, and often hungry and pushed to the breaking point. Bad times, but it does make for an interesting back drop to fiction.
MP: Both this novel and your last, All The Earth, Thrown To The Sky, have teenage main characters. What do you get to do with kids as a writer that you can’t do with adults? Do did you bump into any limitations?
JL: I like that they are discovering life, and you get to go back and remember how it was when you were coming up against things for the first time and seeing them as new. It’s about the excitement of thinking you could go out and conquer the world, even the world of the Depression era. And it’s about loss of innocence, learning just because you want something, you may not get it. It’s interesting to live through young eyes, because it allows you to remember how you felt about things when you were young, even if those things and the events vary. There’s a freshness to it.
MP: Edge Of Dark Water seems to take some inspiration from The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, and you crossed that character with Cthulhu mythos in a recent short story. What makes that book important to you?
JL: I like it because it’s so anti-racist, and Twain was such a brilliant writer and storyteller. He created American literature, or at least was the most important creator of it.
MP: You’ve done, horror, crime fiction, western, sci-fi, even young adult books as well as comic books and scripts. Is there a genre or form you haven’t tackled that you’d like to?
JL: I don’t know. I guess time will let me know. Right now I just get up in the morning and write. I love writing. I love doing it, and I love having written as well. It’s a wonderful life.
Joe R. Lansdale will be here at BookPeople Thursday, April 5 7p. His publisher, Mulholland Books, has a short story of Joe’s up online right now, free to read. And the Austin Chronicle has a great write up of the new book and Joe’s career this week.
Congratulations to Joe Lansdale, who has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Bram Stoker Awards, put on in conjunction with the Horror Writers Association.