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Derek Landy

Hallo Mr. Landy. Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

My pleasure.

Until the day Skulduggery Pleasant popped up in your live and made himself comfortable you wrote several screenplays for movies. What's the very special about this character that awakes your interest and carries you away from writing screenplays to the point of writing books?

When I was working on the movies I thought that it would be my career, it would be my fulltime job forever, because I love movies and I love writing scripts for movies. While I did want to adventure write a book, I always had thought it would be years away. But Skulduggery just popped into my head - I don't know why or how, but he did. And for some reason it wasn't an idea for a movie, it was immediately an idea for a book. You know, none of this was planned. There was no strategy. It was just: He arrived and "Oh, okay. Now I'm writing a book". And he arrived completely formed. His name came first. These two completely different words just arrived in my head as a name and he told me who he was and what he was and what he was like. And now I'm writing a book. It was unexpected.

Therefore Skulduggery Pleasant popped up in your mind one day and his name full of symbolism appeared first – not the skeleton detective himself?

It wasn't as if I thought of a skeleton detective and then I searched for an appropriate name or a name that fit. His name came first. And sometimes I guess I like that the characters will appear and they will be instantly fully formed. And Skulduggery was. It's very rare that it happens.
His name appeared, I know who he was, that he has a partner - a teenage girl -, and all the characters like China Sorrows and Ghastly came about because of Skulduggery and because he was so solid in my head.

So he had a complete history from the beginning?

Mostly I know everything about him. You know, it's the same with everything I write. I leave it loosen of to create as I go. But for the overall character and a lot of the first six books are about Skulduggerys history. You get hints as you go along - then in book six, in the next book, you will really get an answer to the mystery of this character. And that was in my head all along.
The nice thing about writing a series - and a long series - was that I could suppose every idea I ever had into this. When I started writing I knew his history, I knew his secrets. So I've been hinting at them as we go.

"Skulduggery Pleasant" is written very pictorially and according to this the pictures do appear quickly in the readers’ mind. Is this based on your work as a screenwriter?

I think so, yes. I do think visually. I don't tend to spend too much time in the characters heads with all their thoughts. I prefer to their actions and dialogues tell the readers what they are feeling about. So yes, I do have a very visual way of writing. I see everything in my head before it's on screen. It's the way it has always been.

Do you have particular rituals which you follow while writing, for example a particular time of writing or a certain number of pages per day?

Most writers do. I think most writers want to write about 2000 words a day and then it's a good day. For me I'm slightly all over the place. A book will take about six months to write. And for the first three months I will be writing a few hours a day. You know, two or three hours a day, then in the second week three to four hours a day. But then I may take a few days of playing videogames, watch movies or ... You know, it's a very casual way of working for the first three months. Because I know once I get into the book I will become obsessed and so the only thing I will think about is the book and the characters. I will wake up in the morning thinking about the book. I will go to bed thinking about the book. It's become entire life. I don't want to do anything else. I don't want to see anyone else for months, because I'm obsessed.
So my ritual for writing is to take it very easy at the start, because I know I will become obsessed by the end. I'm used to write well into the night and I will stop writing about three or four in the morning.

Do you plan your novels down to the last detail before starting to write or do you just write straight on?

It's a kind of a mix. I plan to a certain degree and when you're writing a series you really have to, because a character from the first book will reappear in the sixth book. So you have to have hints like that in your mind. In a broader sense, yes, I have a plan. But at the same time if I plan too much, if I plan every single thing in my head before I actually write, than I would be bored. I would have already told the story in my notes and nothing would surprise me. So the way I work is: I have a loose plan and then I leave it free enough so that I can make it up as I go along. I can invent and create and change things completely. But as long as I have a loose plan I feel save.

Stephanie Edgley alias Valkyrie Cain lived an ordinary life until the day she met Skulduggery Pleasant. Does this character live out the things you were dreaming of at this age?

I would have loved to have had an adventure when I was younger, because I was brought up on a farm just outside of Dublin, a kind of hard working and I never liked the farm. It was really boring. And so I was daydreaming on the farm, I was daydreaming in school - I wasn't the best student ever. I would imagine having adventures. So Stephanie - or Valkyrie as she becomes - get to live out the kind of life I wish I'd had. She is the lucky one. I had to be bored and I had to suffer through years of boredom. But she gets all the excitement so ... you know, it's strange.

A burning question to me: Why must it be a 1954 Bentley R Continental?

[laughing] The Bentley! The Bentley came about because first of all I needed an appropriate car for Skulduggery to drive. I couldn't think of a car that would be suitable. He can't joy a modern car because it wouldn't suit him. My favorite kind of car would be the American cars of the sixties, the Mustangs. But it wouldn't suit Skulduggery. The Bentleys just look beautiful. Originally actually he was driving a 1957 Bentley. When I sign the publishing deal, my UK publishers had a little present. They send me a car, a tiny little toy car - a Bentley. And at the notes was "We couldn't actually find a toy of a 1957 Bentley, so this is a 1954 one. But it's close enough." And I looked at this tiny little 1954 Bentley and that is the car he should drive! I looked it up at the internet and I realized that there were only 208 ever made. Exactly, it's more exclusive. You see, there is a story behind everything.

If you had the possibility to create a second Derek Landy out of your mirror for all the things you don't want to do yourself, what were the things this second person had to deal with?

Wow, wow, wow! [laughing] My reflection would be the one to stay in hotel rooms. It would be the one to stay in airports. It would be the one actually do the travelling. I would turn up for the actual events and the signings and meeting the readers. But it would be the reflection who had to travel all these places. And it would also do my taxes. It would just had to do the boring things: interact to a few members of my family - the boring ones - and I would interact with the others. I would play with my nieces. I've got four of them and they're all below the age of two. So they are absolutely adorable.
I would love to have a reflection to do my taxes. It would be awesome.

You have a blog where you feed your fans with news around "Skulduggery Pleasant" and partly with little stories around your life.


Here on the Frankfurt Book Fair you present the fifth book of your series. How important is the contact to your readers for you?

Derek Landy 02Everyone is always astonished by the level of contact, by the level of interaction between us. The blog ... I make no secret of the fact that I hate writing the blog. I hate it. My publishers made me do this, because "this is a really good idea". But the life of a writer isn't that exciting: we stay at our desks all day. So every week I have to force myself to come up with a new story. The people who visit the blogs, they write their comments and then they start a conversation and whole communities have grown within the blog. So for me it has become something amazing. The blog is now more important than the website, because it's there that I can tell the readers exactly what is going on, where I will be on tour, I will announce the publication dates or extra stories or extra books or ... So it really has become something essential. And the lovely thing about being on tour is that every single tour I will meet people I know from the blog.
There is a girl called Liliana - I just met her -, who has set up a Skulduggery-forum and a website and there they all have conversations. And so I get to meet people I've only spoken to online. It's a wonderful thing that has happened without really the publishers being behind it. It just has sprung up in a very natural way and the readers now are taking over. It's good. Scary, but it's good.

Together with "Mortal Coil" your German fans get an exclusive short story. The Loewe-publisher arranged a contest in which the fans could invent their own exciting character which appears in this story. Was it difficult to work with a character invented by someone else?

It would have been if the character wasn't so good. We have run this kind of competition twice now. Once in the English language und once in German. And the worry was "What if he just get entries of really bad characters, of really awful characters?" But that isn't what happened. In both cases we got astonishing characters. The creativity and the sheer talent are out there and have just been immense. So I picked the winning entry, because it was a good character, it was a character that fit with the Skulduggery-world. It's like that, it's a joy to write, because it's as if I create the character myself. It's so natural. Myositis Terra fits and I'm actually be meeting the creator in an hour or two. It will be my first time to meet her. That will be nice.

The character which Alena Metz invented - Myosotis Terra - has in my opinion wonderful characteristics and high potential. Is there a chance that this character will find its way into one of the coming books?

Well, as I said, we have done a similar competition in English and the character that won was a character called Geoffrey Scrutinus and again I wrote the short story that the winner got, but because he was such a good character he made his way into the books. So I fully intend to have this character and make my guess to pare it as well. Knowing me, she might be killed horribly within the first three pages. But that's not the point. I think it's a nice treats at the winner that she not only gets a short story but the character becomes a part of the world in the proper books.

In English the sixth book "Death Bringer" was recently published. Could you tell your German fans what will await them in this book?

Really the thing that has most people talking is the revelation, the answer to the mystery of Skulduggery. A lot of hints are answered, so that's the pretty big twist that happens by halfway through. The next book, book six, I personally viewed it as my kind of superhero book. You know, every book is different. The first book was an adventure book, the second was like a monster-movie, the third was a mystery, the fourth was a revenge-story, the fifth was my version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" which is a movie I absolutely adored. So the sixth one is my superhero story and it basically got two characters in particular who are flying, which is so much fun to actually write. Flying through the air and punching each other through buildings, that's just fun. But it is also a huge revelations untwists and it's going to shock a lot of people.

The books always have a kind of open end, so your readers have to wait a long time before getting to know how it’s going on. Why do you do this? Do you want to crucify your readers?

My original intention was not to do that. And with the first book ... yes, it was obviously open-ended, but still it was a definite finish. And with the second book it was a definite finish. But then with the third one, when Skulduggery was dragged away through a portal and that was where it ended ... just the reaction I got from readers - waiting for the book be signed - with a look of horror like "How could you do that? How could you? And now we have to wait a year for the next one!" It was just really nice. So once I get a taste of that kind of power, I realized I could end each book and torture the readers for an entire year. And that's what I've been doing. But I didn't start out with that intention. It's just happened that way.

And now you like it.

Yes, it's so much fun! [laughing]

And do you know what will happen in the next book when you finish one?

Well, the big question is "Do I know how it ends?" 'Cause the series will go on for nine books in all. So do I know how book nine ends? And the answer is: No.
I know what the books are about and in the case of book nine I know what the book is about, but I don't know what happens. I leave that free, so I can make it up as I go. And so I will keep interested. 'Cause the only way I can write a fun book is if I'm having fun. And the only way I can have fun is if I'm creating all the time. So I don't know if book nine will be a happy-ending or a sad ending. I don't know who will live or die. Maybe Skulduggery will sacrifice himself to save Valkyrie, maybe Valkyrie will sacrifice herself to save Skulduggery. Maybe they'll both die, maybe they'll be happy ever after and they'll go on at to have that's more adventures. I don't know. I hope - and I absolutely mean this - they live, because I love these characters. They have literally changed my live. So obviously I absolutely adore them and I really hope they survive. But sometimes the characters and the story it takes over from the writer ... It would be horrible everyone might die at the end, but it actually might be happen.

Altogether there will be nine books with the detective and his rebellious companion. Until then the story will have accompanied you lots of years. Will the farewell be difficult?

Yes. I started writing in the summer of 2005 and the first book was published in English in 2007. Basically I have been with Skulduggery since 2005 and it's now coming to the end of 2011, so that's six years in which Skuldggery and Valkyrie have changed everything. You know, I no longer work on the farm, I no longer live with my parents - I have my own house and I'm now a grownup, I'm an adult, a kind of ... not really ...
But they have changed my life absolutely. The end of book nine - no matter what happens with the book, the final book itself -, will not be easy. Whether they live or die, I will be saying goodbye to them. I'm not looking to that at all. You know, I write Skulduggery with a smile on my face and it's not gonna be a good moment when I write the final word. That's not gonna be fun at all.

Do you have plans for the time after you will have finished “Skulduggery Pleasant“? Or don't you also think about this?

I sure think about this. That's the thing. When we realized Skulduggery was selling and I could write my book-series, my original intention was to write Skulduggery for the first three years and then keep it coming out every year but also have another book out, you know, so I wouldn't just be the Skulduggery Pleasant-writer. I haven't really worked out like that, because my time has been taken up with Skulduggery and a lot more that I hadn't anticipated. Yeah, it is a kind of my fulltime-Skulduggery so I don't' know what the next book will be. I don't even know if it will be for younger readers or adults. I haven't a clue basically. I just do whatever is fun.

Thank you very much for this interview! Enjoy the Frankfurt Book Fair!

Here you can watch the complete reading on the Frankfurt Book Fair:






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