Publisher Rogue Blades Foundation recently announced the upcoming release of the book Robert E. Howard Changed My Life. Below is an excerpt from author Joe R. Lansdale’s essay for the book.
You can feel so lonely, out there in the wilds.
Oh, I had my parents’ support. They were great. But it isn’t quite the same. I wanted to know other writers, meet an editor or publisher. As for an agent, I thought they worked for the CIA.
I knew this, though.
I loved books, and I wanted to write them, and I had figured out when I saw names on comic books, Bob Kane and Gardner Fox, that real people came up with this stuff, but I was told, by someone who didn’t know his butt from a hole in the ground, that everyone who wrote comics, or novels, or stories, lived in New York or Los Angeles.
I had never been to either.
Growing up poor in the back woods of East Texas in a little town called Mt. Enterprise, later a somewhat larger one, Gladewater, an old oil boom town that went big and then went bust, both of those places might as well have been on Mars. And considering I had read Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels about John Carter of Mars, Mars would have been my preference then. It hadn’t occurred to me that I wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds on the worlds Mr. Burroughs created. I would have been cut up or eat up or died of thirst on Burroughs’s Martian desert. I wasn’t considering any of that back then as a kid. I just wanted to go there. I wanted to go someplace where the color of raw imagination and adventure bled into the landscape.
At the time, it seemed to me, when I looked out the window, I saw black and white and jittery movement, but in books, colors exploded and bled all over my eyeballs. I wanted more of that in my life. I wanted to create those kinds of worlds. I wanted to be one of those who made something that others could read and have the colors I created bleed into their eyes and minds.
But how was it done?
In time, I read about an author here and there, but I didn’t read about East Texas authors. There were some, for sure, but at the time I didn’t know of them. There was no internet to look up such things, and there were few publications, and less available to me, that explained how one went about the business, as well as the craft, of writing.
I had no idea how to even submit a manuscript. I wrote long hand originally, though I had learned to type in high school. Later I would tell people the most important classes I took in high school were typing and journalism, and one English class where the teacher taught that the Beatles wrote poetry and called it song lyrics. She expanded my thinking. She took us to see Romeo and Juliet. It gave me a broader view of my world.
They fired her, of course.
Journalism taught me to write directly and to meet deadlines.
But, if I had to choose one class that was life changing, it would be typing class. Learning to type was the most valuable skill for me if I wanted to be a writer, but the problem remained. How did I go about becoming one? Typing was one thing. Writing was another.
Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over fifty novels, four hundred short pieces, film, TV and film scripts. Find out more at his web site.
Ty Johnston is vice president of the Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit organization focused upon bringing heroic literature to all readers. A former newspaper editor, he is the author of several fantasy trilogies and individual novels.