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Friday, June 15, 2012

A novel story: Joe & Kasey Lansdale


“Being first and foremost a country singer, monster stories may not be the first correlated project that pops into one’s mind,” Kasey said about Impossible Monster, “but I am a Lansdale after all!”

Kasey Lansdale

Kasey Lansdale

— Kasey Lansdale is a writer of songs, novels and other story forms. Her long, blonde locks and friends-for-life eyes accentuate what could be a career focused on modeling. Her first love, though, is singing and performing. As she told one music critic, “My true passion is singing. The stage is where I feel most at home. That is where I want to be.”

In most families, such an energetic talent who has opened for country music legend Ray Price, made two European music tours, and in 2012, will release her second full album while writing the finishing touches of a novel would be the star with her parents and brethren living in her shadow. It is a tough sell, however, when her father, award-winning author Joe R. Lansdale, proudly and lovingly says, “We’re in her shadow.”

Joe Lansdale

Joe Lansdale

Acknowledgements for Joe Lansdale’s family read like candidates for a Hall of Fame induction, literally. Joe has written at least thirty published books mostly in the genres of horror, science fiction and fantasy. His novels, short stories, chapbooks, comic books and novellas have earned him multiple Bram Stoker Awards and honors from at least ten other literary conventions. He also founded and teaches his own Shen Chuan martial arts school, is a member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and serves as writer in residence at Stephen F. Austin State University.

His wife, Karen Lansdale, has made lasting contributions to the literary world as well. On March 31 in Salt Lake City, she received the Horror Writers Association’s 2011 Richard Laymon Award in recognition of being one of the group’s founders.

While their daughter Kasey is full-fledged into a career of music, writing and more, their son, Keith Lansdale, has his own resume. The former Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel journalist now operates his own online newspaper, everythingnac.com. He has sold comic adaptations and co-edited Son of Retro Pulp with his father.

“They’re scaring me a little,” Joe, 60, said of Keith and Kasey, both in their mid-to-late 20s. When I was their age, I was still trying to figure out how a sentence is put together.”

Their four careers have lines of demarcation. Despite growing up in the same house with parents who worked from home since their kids’ pre-teen years, Keith’s and Kasey’s respective writing styles vary, Kasey tells us.

“It’s funny that you grow up in the same house,” Kasey said, “and you both have completely different writing styles. I thought that was interesting.”

“And they were smart enough to go their own way,” Joe said of his children. “They naturally gravitated toward writing. They are not trying to compete with me … I want to be in their shadow.”

Each member of the Lansdale clan has a world of experiences. Kasey has visited about as many countries as the number of years she has been on this earth. Yet, the Lansdales proudly call East Texas home.

“Because I’ve done that [traveled all over the world], I really appreciate home because you see what other people live in,” Kasey said. “There’s something I love about East Texas more than anywhere else. I think some of the best, most hardworking, honest people live here, and that prevails all the time.”

Joe is a Gladewater native with what he describes as a love-hate affair with East Texas. More than spending his life in this region, he has used East Texas communities and landscapes for many of his literary works including his famous Hap and Leonard series. Hap and Leonard are two friends – one a middle-aged white working class laborer, the other a gay black man – solving crimes in a fictional East Texas town.

His latest novel, Edge of Dark Water, is a Depression-era tale of a teenage girl named Sue Ellen, her two best friends and her mother. They find stolen money and travel the Sabine River on a raft to reach Gladewater and eventually travel to Hollywood, Calif., to honor their deceased friend, May Lynn. Their journey brings them face to face with racism, violence and guilt.

In April, one month after the release of Edge of Dark Water, Lansdale told a New York Times reporter that he drew on his memories of growing up in Gladewater.

Joe and Kasey have joined together at numerous recent book signings for Edge of Dark Water, with Kasey performing a same-titled song she wrote from May Lynn’s perspective of leaving her small town in search of movie star dreams, all revealed in May Lynn’s diary discovered by Sue Ellen and her friends.

“I felt like Sue Ellen got 300-something pages and May Lynn was dead before the story even began,” Kasey said. “I could relate to May Lynn’s character. As a writer, you want to write what you know.

The Lansdale family works together often despite their separate careers.

One year ago, filming began in Nacogdoches on Christmas with the Dead, a movie based on Joe Lansdale’s short story. Keith Lansdale wrote the screenplay, Joe was among the production team, and Kasey played a role in the movie.

“I just saw the premiere. It is headed for festivals and, hopefully, distribution,” Joe said. “It’s a chance for us to all spend time together and get paid for it. You can’t beat that.”

Of course, for Keith and Kasey, working together is nothing new. At age 12 and 8 respectively, their early writings were part of a Random House published anthology of stories from the children of writers.

The Lansdales’ resumes continue to grow. Joe averages about one novel a year. Kasey is planning a return to Europe for a musical tour. She is also writing the last chapter of a women’s fiction novel while releasing her anthology, Impossible Monster, through Subterranean Press later this year and shopping another anthology around to publishing houses.

“If anyone went into it [her novel] expecting a Joe Lansdale type of novel, they are in for disappointment,” Kasey said by phone recently. But statements she made in a recent short biography reveal that she does not shield herself from her father’s influence.

“Being first and foremost a country singer, monster stories may not be the first correlated project that pops into one’s mind,” Kasey said about Impossible Monster, “but I am a Lansdale after all!”

For those who believe that growing up in the household of a horror/sci-fi/fantasy writer would be a unique, adventurous rearing, both Keith and Kasey have said publicly that their upbringing was about as pedestrian as most families.

“I think the main thing was that my parents were always home,” Kasey said. “We were always like a team. It was not like they went to work during the day. By the time I was 5 or 6, they were working at home, and I didn’t know the difference.”

Joe remembers those times with his young, songstress daughter. Kasey has been a professional performer for better than five years, but Joe recalls their younger days when he would attend writing conventions or book signings and tell organizers that his daughter could sing.

“They would hear me and say, ‘Well, let’s set something up,’” Joe said. Before long, they were performing together at musical and literary events.

The Lansdales have many avenues in which to find their works or track their careers. Updates on Kasey can be found at

kaseylansdale.fanbridge.com or

www.kaseylansdale.com

or find her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook

To learn more about Joe, visit www.joerlansdale.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.



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