Monday 23 May 2011

Terrill Lee Lankford interview: Shooters

Shooters by Terrill Lee Lankford
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Terrill Lee Lankford is a novelist and filmmaker. His crime novels include Shooters, Angry Moon, Earthquake Weather and Blonde Lightning. He is currently directing Joe R. Lansdale's Christmas With the Dead.

Can you sum up Shooters in no more than 25 words?

Horny guy gets his balls stuck in a pink bear trap. News at 11.

What was your motivation for writing it?

The greed I witnessed during the 1980s. When Reagan started what we're still paying for today.

How long did it take you to write?

It started as a screenplay in 1985. That probably took about two months to write and it eventually provided the spine for the novel. I think I started writing the novel in 1993 during a personal financial crisis. And it's the fastest book I ever wrote (but also the shortest). Probably about six months of writing and a year of rewriting.

What's the book's publication history?

It was published in 1997 as a hardcover and then in 1998 as a mass market paperback by FORGE. It was never a trade PB, which is probably the medium for which it would have been most suited.

Were you tempted to make any changes to the original text?

I did make changes. Primarily I returned the book to a very specific time: late October 1993.

How are you enjoying being the decision maker when it comes to unfamiliar territory like design, production, pricing, etc?

It's fantastic. And far easier than the publishers would have you believe.

You're a film maker. Where's the book trailer?

I'm too busy trying to make a movie right now. Maybe later.

Who designed your cover?

JT Lindroos. He did a great job, didn't he?

How much difference does a good cover make?

The world.

How important is a good title?

Not as important as a great cover, but it's important. I'm not sure SHOOTERS is a good title for that book. But it's been part of my writer's DNA for so long I couldn't possibly change it.

How much difference does an editor make?

Big. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You have to be careful working with an editor. They can save your ass – or fry it. But we didn't do much to SHOOTERS because my editor liked it as it was. One thing he did ask me to do that I now regret was to strip away a lot of events that locked the book into a specific date. I've changed this back in the eBook.

How important is a book's central character?

It depends on the book. It can be everything. Or the character can be a window to more important characters, like Nick in THE GREAT GATSBY. But even then it is his voice that tells you the story.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Write every day. (Do I heed the advice? No.)

What's the best piece of business advice you've been given?

Try to find a way to get into the oil business.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

Getting lost.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I don't even want to think about this question. It would paralyse me for life.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I like the really good stuff.

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?


What was the last good eBook you read?

What crime book are you most looking forward to reading?

T. Jefferson Parker's The Border Lords

What are you reading now?

A great book about film editing called In The Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Freshness. If it's a stale room, I step out.

What do you look for in a good book?

Same thing.

Where do you find out about new books?

From people like you.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

Water seeks its own level.

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

The blank page.

What are the greatest opportunities facing writers these days?

The eBook revolution.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Yes. The disastrous results are everywhere if you know where to look. (Not all of it is under my own name.)

Ever tried your hand at poetry?

Yes. Back when I was a drunk.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

It must be taken very seriously by the writer. It's a lot of power so it has to be used wisely. Writers need to function as their own publishers in ALL ways. Not just pushing a button and putting crap out there. They need to work with talented editors, cover designers and formatters before releasing their work into the world. It's risky to completely be your own boss. But I also think it's a great thing that should have happened twenty years ago. The written word is always late to the party. Digital technology has been no exception.

Which author should be much better known?

Scott Phillips, Joe Lansdale, Kem Nunn, Newton Thornburg, Duane Swierczynski, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, James Reasoner, Al Guthrie.....

Do you read outside of the crime genre?


Do you enjoy writing?


Do you enjoy the editorial process?


How do you feel about reviews?

I like 'em when they are good. Don't mind the bad ones when they are accurate, but despise the bad ones when it's clear the reviewer didn't actually read the book or is just talking out their ass.

How do you feel about awards?

Writing should not be a competition. On any level. Awards are a bit poisonous. They function as a promo tool, but not always as an accurate indicator of quality.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

About fifteen. Will I finish any of them? I don't know.

You walked away from a very decent traditional contract for a new book on the basis of the net profits split for eBook royalties being unfair. That takes some balls. Are you planning on sitting it out until we see greater parity offered from the big publishers? Or are you going to forge ahead yourself with new titles?

If I can finish new titles I will probably just publish them myself. The publishers won't be offering a proper e-split for years, if ever. Their current 75/25 split is not just outrageous, it's also a ploy so that when they move it to 50/50 writers and agents will think they are getting a good deal. It will still be a rip-off. There's a lot I like about traditional publishing, but a lot I don't like as well. This e-split makes all decisions simple for me because not only is it unfair it is also forever. Unless you build in a kill clause to your contract (which  publishers strongly resist), you will be giving away your books for the rest of your life under the current “standard.”

Shooters by Terrill Lee Lankford
Amazon UK, Amazon US


  1. sweet book. Can't wait for Christmas

  2. Some good points there from Terrell. Gonna go look at Shooters. Great Cover.

  3. Shooters is fabulous. Check it out.