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Each week Lone Star Literary profiles a newsmaker in Texas books and letters, including authors, booksellers, publishers.
Kay Ellington has worked in management for a variety of media companies, including Gannett, Cox Communications, Knight-Ridder, and the New York Times Regional Group, from Texas to New York to California to the Southeast and back again to Texas. She is the coauthor, with Barbara Brannon, of the Texas novels The Paragraph Ranch and A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
JOE R. LANSDALE, with more than forty books to his credit, has been called “an immense talent” by Booklist; “a born storyteller” by Robert Bloch; and The New York Times Book Review declared he has “a folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace.” Lansdale has won numerous awards, including sixteen Bram Stoker Awards, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, a British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Critic’s Choice Award, and a New York Times Notable Book Award.
KASEY LANSDALE, first published at the tender age of eight by Random House, is the author of several short stories and novellas, including stories from Harper Collins and Titan Books, as well as the editor of assorted anthology collections, including Impossible Monsters. She is best known as a country singer/songwriter who has opened for artists like Ray Price and Wynona Judd.
Award-winning author and “Champion Mojo Storyteller” Joe R. Lansdale (Hap & Leonard, Bubba Ho Tep) and his daughter, author / country singer Kasey Lansdale, have joined forces on a short story collection showcasing the new dynamic duo of supernatural sleuthing, Dana Roberts and her sidekick Jana in Terror Is Our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors. On the eve of Father’s Day, Lone Star Lit talked to the dad and daughter duo via email about what it was like to write together.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: So, Joe and Kasey, I’ve read that the two of you have been collaborating on writing since Kasey was eight years old. What sorts of things have you written together?
JOE R. LANSDALE: My son Keith and I worked on a story when Kasey was eight, and he was twelve. It was for a horror collection involving writers and their kids. We did a story titled “The Companion.” It was fun. I came up with the basic idea, Keith the general plot, Kasey a lot of the dialogue and nasty moments. One moment she came up with was so strong they said, Okay, we like the story, but we can’t have the character hanged. It’s a children’s anthology. Kasey went along with it, but she was heartbroken. She said, it just wasn’t the same.
KASEY LANSDALE: We’ve mostly written short stories for other people’s collections, and a few standalone novellas. We put out our first collection of only our stuff together this past May in Terror Is Our Business.
How did you decide to write Terror Is Our Business?
JOE: I had written a few stories about the character of Dana Roberts, and then Kasey and I ended up writing a short story about a character she invented named Jana. We had fun with that, and I liked Jana’s voice, so when we had the opportunity to collaborate again, I thought, hey, let’s combine characters. I was trying to capture the old-style “Told at a club,” “Old School Tie” kind of short story, but it was really outside my normal free-wheeling approach, but I thought Jana would be good to reclaim that, make it more fun. Kasey took the lead on Jana, who reminds me a lot of Kasey, and the novellas just wrote themselves.
KASEY: Because we already had most of the stories already written about the same characters, or the same universes where some of our characters crossed up, it was only natural to collect them together in one place. We wrote a new story to include for anyone who may have already read the other works. We have written other things together that don’t include these same characters, but we have yet to put them into any sort of collection.
How would you describe the book for our readers?
KASEY: It’s a fun, quick read with some nods to various influences on each of our parts. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Sherlock Holmes and Watson, with a twist of Lovecraft, topped with a Twilight Zone cherry.
JOE: It’s fun horror. More creepy that horrifying. It has a lot of humor in it, especially in all the stories Kasey and I wrote together.
What was your creative process like--working together?
KASEY: When we can be in the same room is better, but typically we just write a few pages and email them back and forth until it’s finished. Its a fairly simple process, but it works for us.
JOE: When we wrote together, Kasey came up with the premise them, and took the lead with the narrator, which was Jana. I contributed to the story then, went back to Kasey, she contributed some more, and gradually we got it written. She would take out the cool stuff I wrote, and then I would take out the cool stuff she wrote, and then we put in new cool stuff, and sometimes found the original cool stuff again. Anyway, by going back and forth we got them written.
Kasey, you’re a recording artist/singer/songwriter/performer. How does writing lyrics and music compare to fiction?
KASEY: I would say writing lyrics is no better or worse, just different. However, I tend to be longer-winded, so writing a story that needs to boil down to three minutes and have a rhyme essence throughout is a unique challenge. When writing a story you can develop and elaborate on characters and other aspects of the story. Each has their advantage. They both have a flow, or musicality to them. And in each expression, once you find the rhythm, figuratively or literally, it sort of just flows out of you.
This one’s for Joe. I have read that you find it challenging to collaborate with other writers, but with Kasey it’s seamless. Why do you suppose that’s so?
JOE: Generally I don’t care for it [collaboration] all. Even though Kasey and my son Keith work well with me, I’m not nuts about collaborations. I write by the seat of my pants, the subconscious. It’s hard for me to work with others, because they have their own ideas and they collide with mine, and vice versa. I hate outlines and don’t use them. But when you write with someone you need to have some idea how it goes so you don’t continue to step on each other’s toes, though you end up dong that some anyway. I find knowing what will happen uncomfortable, but collaborations you kind of have to. But I’ll never be crazy about that method, but my kids and myself work well together. I’m still not a lover of collaborations, but I don’t mind working with them.
Kasey and I work on other projects, then we kind of dip into the stories we do together, mostly by email and add a bit and go back and forth until it’s done. We also work together when we get the chance. My son and I mostly write scripts for comics and scripts. We sit down together to work, as he lives close by. Kasey and I blend in prose really well. Sometimes we can’t tell who wrote what when it’s finished.
Joe, since you’ve had some experience with your books being taken to television or movies. Do you think Terror Is Our Business would translate well to the screen? What sort of production would you envision?
JOE: Absolutely. This is a TV series, hands down. It would be something in the Buffy or Midnight, Texas vein, a kind of supernatural Sherlock Holmes feel, and yet, not be like either one of them. It has tremendous potential.
Kasey, I understand that you also have an anthology coming out next year. Can you tell our readers about it?
At this point, the release date isn’t set, sometime in 2019, but it will be a collection of about a dozen stories that I and co-editor Steve Diamond have gathered by authors that we love and respect. It’s going to be a great anthology, and it’s all themed around our own nightmares, real or imagined. That’s about all I can share at this time. Dad will of course have a story in it, if he can meet the deadline. :)
How would you two compare and contrast your writing styles, and how do they complement each other and serve the writer?
KASEY: I think our styles are very similar. Partially through osmosis and cultural surroundings, and of course being father and daughter. We also have a similar sense of humor. Different mostly because we come from different eras, so the culture we are around and our takes on them can vary by our experiences as the social and political climates have changed. I think that’s a good mix and blends our characters and their shenanigans nicely.
JOE: I think Kasey’s freshness and female point of view are part of the stories charms, and I bring experience to the project. Our styles are similar. I’m normally a little more hardboiled and dark, but these give me a change of pace, and Kasey thinks of herself as “Lansdale lite,” which I think is fair.
Do you have future co-authoring projects planned?
JOE: We hope so.
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