Interview with Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale is author and has written novels and stories in many genres, including Western, horror, science fiction, mystery, and suspense. His stories have been adapted into feature films the most notable being “Bubba Ho-Tep” directed by Don Cascarelli. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Joe about that film as well as his upcoming projects.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get the tag name “Champion Mojo Storyteller”?
Joe Lansdale: Actually, my Webmaster, the great Lou Bank, came up with that tag. It’s worked quite well, but, I’m not so immodest to call myself that.

MG: What is your process when working on a story, does it differ for novella vs. comic vs. film?
JL: It is a different way of thinking, in the sense of how you put it down. You also have to understand it will be interpreted differently, through art, actors, etc. I prefer prose to film and comics by a long shot, even though it’s harder to do, but I love it all and wouldn’t want to have to write only one thing. I like variety. It keeps you interested. I do think comics and film are more designed for someone, where a novel, with exceptions, doesn’t have to be. It might do better on the market place if you do have a certain audience in mind, but I find that’s no fun for me. I became a writer for me, and then I hope the readers like it and follow. With film and comics you are directing it more squarely toward a certain audience, at least most of the time. Short stories and novellas are my preferred form of story telling. They allow more variety, I believe. For me, nothing is as wonderful as a good short story.

MG: Tell us about working on the series “30 Days of Night: Night, Again”
JL: Steve Niles is the man, there. He came up with an amazing concept. It’s the sort of thing when you come across it, you slap your forehead, thinking, “I should have thought of that.” But you didn’t. Niles did. It’s a flexible format as well, and I really enjoyed him letting me visit in his universe. My approach was more akin to the old movies “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula”. I brought different problems into the story beyond the vampires. We’ll see how it works. I think it’s going to be good. Sam Kieth’s art is awesome.

MG: Tell us about your latest novellas, “Hyenas” and “Devil Red”?
JL: “Devil Red” is not a novella, it’s a full blown novel from Knopf. “Hyenas” is a novella from Subterranean Press. They are both about my characters Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. I love those guys, and it was great to write about them. I went nine years, then wrote two novels, “Vanilla Ride” and “Devil Red” about them back to back, and then “Hyenas” and a short story was done somewhere in there about Hap, called “The Boy Who Became Invisible.” The short story is also contained within Hyenas, and it’s brief, but a favorite of mine. I have another novella about Hap and Leonard forthcoming next year titled “Dead Aim”. Film keeps nibbling at the boys, paying me money, hiring me for screenplays, but nothing has yet been done. I remain hopeful.

MG: Tell us about how you came with with the idea for “Bubba Ho-Tep”?
JL: My mother was in an accident and had to spend some time in a rest home. I grew up during the time of Elvis and then the Kennedy assassination. They were all important events to me, and then there was the fact I grew up on Universal Monster movies, as well as others, and I had always wanted to write at least one story about all the different types of monsters I enjoyed seeing in film. This was one of those, combined with the aforementioned elements. I had no idea, however, that it would resonate so well with readers, and then viewers of the film. I didn’t actually realize the story’s worth until some time had passed.

MG: What was your involved with the movie adaption?
JL: Don asked me to adapt it, but I chose not to. I thought it couldn’t be done, and there wasn’t a lot of money in it. When I read his screenplay, except for a couple of minor suggestions, I really liked it and I was amazed he had been able to pull it off. I was still skeptical of the film, but, he made it work, and a lot of people have responded to it positively, so it seems to have something going for it.

MG: You worked with Don Cascarelli again with “Masters of Horror”, tell us about that experience?
JL: Don had optioned the story, and Stephen Romero worked with him on the adaptation. I think it’s a very good adaptation. I was on the set for both films. Not for the entire shooting of either, but for extended stays. My son also visited with me, and he has since gone on to write the screenplay for the forthcoming “Christmas with the Dead”, based on my story of the same name. I think his screenplay is better than my story, actually.

MG: Any word if we will ever see “Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires”?
JL: I have no idea if anything is happening there. Don is working on that, and except for it being a sequel to my novella, I’m not involved.

MG: Tell us about upcoming film projects, “Christmas with the Dead” and “Cold in July”?
JL: “Christmas with the Dead” is a low budget film shooting here in Nacogdoches, Texas this summer. Yes, a Christmas film in summer. That’s part of the script Keith came up with. That’s not how it was in my original story, but that’s a very nice and funny touch. It is directed by Terrill Lee Lankford and stars Damian Maffei. Supporting actor is Brad Maule, and my daughter Kasey even has a small part in it. Other actors are being cast. I think it’s going to be a hoot. With film, just like any artistic project, you never know, of course. But you always go into with all guns blazing, hoping you hit something. “Cold in July” is still being produced, but I don’t know what the current status of it is. I don’t have a lot to do with that one at this point. I like the screenplay they did on it. We’ll see what happens.

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