The Joe Lansdale interview – The Hemingway of East Texas – Part 1

2 of 3

The Well of Experiences – Robert E Howard – Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Well of Experiences

JL (Cont.): You don’t have to climb a mountain or go around the world on a log but what you should do is be engaged with other people on a daily basis if you want to understand dialogue, people’s actions and their contradictions that’s how to do it. Because we are a bunch of contradictions.

To me, that works. I’m not suggesting that it would work for anyone else or even if they care to try that but for me its connecting to my own life. People say but “my life is boring.” Connecting to that life and your experiences gives whatever you are writing about reality.

There are people who say, “I make up all of my stories,” I tell them I do too. But I go to the well of my own experiences or the experiences of my family and that is something that I think a lot of stories don’t have.

Robert E. Howard was writing about Conan the Barbarian but what he was really writing about was West Texas roughnecks. I am writing about East Texas.

The Art of Discipline

The Art of Discipline – Courtesy of Dark Echo

1428 Elm: You practice martial arts. Does your background in Shen Chuan help you with focusing on your work since it is very rooted in being disciplined?

JL: Absolutely. When I first started getting into it, my martial arts discipline was only directed at martial arts. But as I started to do it more, I began to realize it’s not only about fighting or self-defense.

It’s learning about yourself which I know sounds like a cliché but it’s true! As time has gone on I have learned more and more from martial arts.

Getting in touch and staying in touch is a martial arts idea but it’s also an emotional way of looking at your writing. Get in touch with that story and stay in touch with it. That will help you stay in touch with your readers and that is important.

Birth of the King

Birth of the King – Elvis – Courtesy of Beatlesnumber9

1428 Elm: Let’s talk Bubba Ho-Tep. Knowing that Elvis spent time in Gladewater, were you a fan? What was the genesis for the short story that became one of the most beloved cult classics of all time?

JL: First of all, the genesis for it would be that I grew up with Elvis. Of course, my brother had that loose connection with him. It was almost like he was a distant cousin in a strange way.

In many ways because of him, I discovered all of these different types of music. Without Elvis, a lot of white kids would never have known about black music, country music and folk music because they were all connected to what he did.

That meant a lot to me. So, when I was asked to write an Elvis story, I had this title in my head. Bubba Ho-Tep which I thought would be a funny thing for a mummy story.

A Brave New World with JFK

ST-309-4-63 11 June 1963

President Kennedy addresses the nation on the desegregation of the University of Alabama from the Oval Office, 11 June 1963. Photo by Cecil Stoughton in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Scanned from original 2 1/4″ neg.

JL (Cont.): Then when I was a kid, John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that was a big moment for a lot of us. Because he was the first President that didn’t look like your Grandpa.

His whole family was this unique, beautiful looking group. He wrote things and championed the arts. While he was connected to the old world, (he was a war hero) he was also connected to the new world. He had a new view.

Kennedy was a Catholic which was a big dream back then for someone to be President. He was really more of a philosophical Catholic in many ways. His idea was to try to do good. JFK was also a ruthless politician in many ways too.

He pushed the space age into being and he was one of the catalysts for civil rights along with his brother Bobby. Kennedy helped create a new atmosphere where being young was not just about having fun but it was also about having social awareness. So, this guy was important to me too and that is why he ended up in the story.

I was very interested in having a unique take on it. So, I thought what if you have someone in a rest home for people with emotional and mental problems? Why not have a black man who believes he’s JFK?

Shady Rest Origins

Shady Rest Origins – Bruce Campbell as Elvis – Courtesy of Silver Sphere Corporation

JL (Cont.): The story came from that and it just all welded together. Then my mother had a really bad accident and she ended up in a rest home that had 24-hour care. So, I was there a lot.

Because I was there so much I began to absorb a lot of things around me. When I sat down to write I didn’t know if I was thinking about all of that but it was in the air so I could certainly see where everything came from when I finished the story.

Once I finished it, I thought it was terrible and I had mailed it off. I was going to withdraw it and I got a letter in the mail which said this is my favorite story in the book. I thought well, I think I like it better.

When I read it over, I thought yeah, I did something pretty good here. Don Coscarelli came along and wanted to make a movie out of it which I didn’t think could be done.

I remembered telling my brother when I finished it, here is something that will never be optioned for film. Not only was it optioned but it became my first film.

My son was a big Bruce Campbell fan as am I and he asked me, “Can we get Bruce Campbell in it?” I told him I don’t get to choose.

Then Don and I were talking and he said what about Bruce Campbell for this? And I said ok, I love it! Of course, then we got Ossie Davis who was a hero of mine anyway.

The King of B Movies Becomes the King


JL (Cont.): You know Bruce and I have become friends. Then my son got to meet him. All of my family likes Bruce.  It was exciting for me to meet Ossie Davis.

Don did a terrific job! He did another piece of mine for Showtime, Incident on and off a Mountain Road. We’re still friends and it was a great experience.

My son and I were on the Bubba set for a week and it was wonderful to see the actors interact. Don worked with hardly any budget. So, it was impressive.

1428 Elm: It is serendipitous that your son wanted Bruce to be in the film and then Don suggested that casting!

JL: Well, Bruce and Don came here and they just couldn’t have been sweeter. Bruce was riding around with my son and they were yelling and waving at people. We were in an Italian restaurant and the waiter came up and said, “You look like that guy in Army of Darkness.”

Bruce said, “You know I get that a lot.” We had a good time when they were here.