Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Joe R. Lansdale

Where did the idea for “The God of the Razor” come from?

I don’t know exactly, but it came to me in the late seventies, and in 1980 I began to write The Nightrunners. I had finished Act of Love that year, as well as Dead in the West, and neither had found a home yet, and I started this one. I began to imagine the character and I don’t know exactly where it came from. A multitude of sources. Perhaps I wrote something about it earlier, but at this point I no longer remember.

The characters in this story seem to have little or no say over their fates. Could Richards have done anything differently to change the outcome?

That’s the noir influence, about how a character gets on the railway and can’t stop the train. But, I think Richards might have made different choices, and maybe they would have helped, and maybe not. But it seemed he was pretty much on one of those noir trains, only when it went off the rails it tumbled down into something dark and strange. I always felt the people “The God of the Razor” appealed to were standing by, ready and willing, at least on some level, to board that train.

What drives the God? Does he have any metaphorical significance?

I think he has a lot of metaphorical significance, and some of it is about choice. You can choose to ride the train, and once on it seems impossible to get off, or you can turn away from the depot. But the God also represents the darker desires of humanity, a kind of built in self-destruct. From what I can tell, we don’t learn much from history, or at least we seldom learn.

You write in many different genres, but what is it about horror, in particular, that interests you?

I love horror for the tone and the mood, but I really don’t like it any better than the other things I write. It appeals to me on a gut level, but I also love crime, which is a close cousin. I’m really fond of historical and Western-influenced fiction, but if I had to write just one thing I’d go crazy. I need the variety.

Can you tell us about your process? Do you write a certain number of hours or words per day? Work on multiple projects at once?

I sometimes work on multiple projects, more frequently lately, but mostly one thing until it’s done, or at least nearly done, before I start another. I write in the mornings, usually it takes about three hours, but I go by pages. I try to do three to five pages a day and seldom do less, the exception being on the first few days I start a novel, and I may not do as much then until I get the handle on the characters and the voice. I don’t think much about the plot, as that develops out of the tone and the character, and sometimes a singular situation. As I start to write I may get more pages naturally, and often do. I may, on rare occasions, work in the afternoon or at night. I often find when I work the other shifts, it’s usually on something different than the main project.

I write like this five to seven days a week. I take a day off now and then, but it’s not unusual for me to work on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning, my birthday, what have you. I get through in a short time, the three hours, acquire the three to five pages, and I’m off to do whatever. Rarely do I take a lot of time off. Lately, I’m in one of those rare circumstances where I have taken quite a bit of time off after three years of writing an unnatural amount of material. But, this week I started a new novel, which at this point I’m still playing with, to see if it’s really there, or it’s a false dream.

What are you working on now?

Well, I pretty much answered that question. A novel. But I have a few small projects in the background, including a novella that I plan on writing once I get the novel going well. But I don’t talk about what I’m writing at this stage. It’s still taking shape.

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Erika Holt

Erika Holt

Nightmare assistant editor Erika Holt lives in Calgary, Alberta, where she writes and edits speculative fiction. Her stories appear in several anthologies including Not Our Kind, What Fates Impose, and Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead. She is also co-editor of two anthologies from EDGE and Absolute XPress: Rigor Amortis, about sexy, amorous zombies, and Broken Time Blues, featuring such oddities as 1920s burlesque dancers and bootlegging chickens. Find her at erikaholt.com or on Twitter as @erikaholt.