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NUTS & BOLTS: Interview with Author, Songwriter, and Actor Kasey Lansdale – Horror Writers Association

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By Tom Joyce

Think it’s difficult to self-edit, or to create characters? Try writing a satisfying narrative that clocks in at three minutes. Or standing in front of a roomful of strangers and convincing them you’re somebody else. Those are the kinds of challenges facing songwriters and actors.

In this month’s edition of Nuts & Bolts, author, songwriter, and actor Kasey Lansdale discusses what Horror writers can learn from the fields of songwriting and acting, both in terms of craft and marketing.

Q: Are there any techniques regarding storytelling, wordplay, etc. that you think Horror fiction writers can learn from songwriters?

A: I think writing is writing, but there is something to learning to keep a sentence tight. In a song, you have three minutes to tell your whole story. You have to be precise with each word. This skill is valuable in writing, but short stories especially. I try to think of each sentence or chapter as a song, and a paragraph or a book as an album.

It has to have theme and flow, but each piece stands alone.

Another thing about songwriting that both formats can benefit from is avoiding using certain words like, “beautiful.”

Why? Because you don’t say they’re beautiful, you show it.

This was also very helpful when I started adapting comics and scripts. I think the saying of “if it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage” is also helpful. We keep so much in our head and expect the audience to know what we are thinking. It’s important to be sure you’re telling what you think you are.

Q: How about from actors, regarding characterization, dialogue, etc.?

A: It’s important to write how people talk, not how you think they talk, or they talk in a perfect world. There’s a freedom in sharing the truth. I’ve seen actors’ step on set and their bodies transform, and that sets the stage for them to become that character. They allow themselves to tap into something they feel is honest based on their research and interpretation.

I think when we write, we do the same, psychologically. We aren’t always the people we write about, especially in Horror fiction, but we have to be allowed to explore those parts of us, even when they’re ugly. Even when someone else may have had the same experience, the takeaway from each individual is always going to vary. It’s not our job as writers to write what someone might want to hear. It’s our job as writers to tell the truth as we see it, even when that truth is uncomfortable.

There has to be honesty, or what’s the point? 

Q: Can you recommend any marketing techniques or resources you’ve used as either an actor or musician, which you think would be useful to Horror writers?

A: This is a much longer topic to explore, but I think if there was one thing I would say to anyone looking to market, it’s focus on your mailing list. Social media platforms are poison, and they change with the wind. The mailing list is much more sustainable.

If I’m being specific about a technique, and everyone is going to hate this, but it’s telling people what you’re doing. The old Lansdale adage of, “Toot your own horn, or your horn go untooteth.”

And for the introverts, engage in your community in a way that feels safe for you. If you aren’t comfortable with peopling, write a blog or a newsletter. Something that keeps you engaged but isn’t subject to everyone’s opinions like certain social platforms. We can spend our lives worried about others, or we can just go write something. 

Q: What are the advantages of using writing to get a story across, as opposed to other forms of storytelling? 

A: Fundamentally, storytelling is an artform and a part of human nature. However you want to tell that story is up to you, but I think if you write your story like you’re talking to a friend, you will find your most honest voice. If you’re exploring longer fiction, you get to peel back layers and granules of a story you may not even realize exist. It’s like when you call your best friend to say hello and end up sobbing about something you didn’t realize was bothering you.

It’s talk therapy on the page…

I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t have energy to put things into a neat little package for everyone’s approval. Life is ugly and messy sometimes, and everyone deserves a chance to tell their story no matter how they decide to share it. 

Q: Do you ever suffer from a musician’s version of writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

A: NO! Just kidding.

I wouldn’t say it’s writer’s block so much because you’re engaging different parts of storytelling when you write songs, one of those being the musical component. I think if I am not finding the lyrics, then sometimes it’s because the melody isn’t right. I guess looking for the melody could be another form of a block, but that feels more internal to me. It’s like when you read a sentence over and over again and you don’t know why you keep reading it, but you know it means there’s something wrong with it.

Same in music.

If you’re writing or singing and you find you “lose” your voice in that moment, something is wrong. I try not to use the phrase writer’s block, because it feels like a cheap term and psychologically, I need to feel like it’s a delay or a detour, not a block. 

Q: Do you have any projects in the works you’d like HWA members to know about?

A: Thank you for asking.

There is a comic book forthcoming co-authored with my father, Joe R. Lansdale called, THE CASE OF THE BLEEDING WALL.

It comes out May 28th from DeadSky Publishing. It’s a collected work of 4 comic issues based on our short story collection titled, TERROR IS OUR BUSINESS.

I also just completed my first novel, more in the thriller genre, though some of the content is pretty horrific.

There are some film projects forthcoming that I am PUMPED about, but can’t publicly share yet.  

Q: Where can people follow you online?

A: I can be found in most places under my name, Kasey Lansdale. If you are interested in learning about our publishing company, you can find more on PandiPress.com.


Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-300×449.jpeg” alt=”” width=”121″ height=”181″ https://freegames.schoolpk.org/category/horror/”>Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-300×449.jpeg 300w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-800×1199.jpeg 800w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-768×1151.jpeg 768w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-513×768.jpeg 513w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-1025×1536.jpeg 1025w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-191×286.jpeg 191w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale-95×143.jpeg 95w, https://Horror.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Headshot-Kasey_Lansdale.jpeg 1367w” />Kasey Lansdale has been in the fiction world since birth as a writer, editor, audiobook narrator, and creative professional. Based in Los Angeles, Lansdale is an active voting member of the HWA and currently serves as executive editor at Pandi Press. As an author and editor, she has released numerous short-stories and anthologies from publications such as Harper Collins, Titan Books, and more. Lansdale’s fiction has been optioned and adapted for television as well as comic books. She has just completed her first novel.

 

 

Tom Joyce writes a monthly series called Nuts & Bolts for the Horror Writers Association’s blog, featuring interviews about the craft and business of writing. Please contact Tom at TomJHWA@gmail.com if you have suggestions for future interviews. For more about what he’s looking for, see Horror.org/about-nuts-bolts-practical-advice-for-Horror-writers/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here.

 

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