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Derek Landy FBM 15 1

Hello Mr. Landy. Thank you for taking time for this interview. Our last interview already dates back four years ... 

Oh my God!

Since then Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain have experienced many adventures, but it absolutely was a thrilling time for you as well, wasn’t it?

Yes! I mean my life changed completely since I first had the idea for Skulduggery. Since then I've just been learning, I've been growing as a writer. All these wonderful, wonderful things that happened. When I first got the idea I was living at home with my parents, working on the family farm, and then Skulduggery came along and changed everything. I'm still feeling the repercussions of that, I'm still feeling the ripples of that. It changed my life, it takes me to amazing places, so: yeah!

One could say that an era comes to an end. Last month the ninth and final volume of the series has appeared in Germany. Will you miss the figures which have accompanied you during the last ten years?

Yes, I will miss them greatly! [laughs] It's been really weird, because when you do a series – especially a really long series like this one – um … that anxiety about releasing your book is lessened, it gets smaller, because I know there's an audience and I know there are readers out there who are waiting to read this book, so I don't have that anxiety. So all the way along since the first Skulduggery book my anxiety about releasing the material books has been decreasing, because I will write a book and I will publish it and I'll be happy. I'll be excited and I won't have that worry and I won't have that anxiety. But now, after all this time, once we reached the end, that anxiety it just springs up again, because I no longer have that audience waiting to read. Hopefully they will read “Demon Road”, the next series, but there is no guarantee of that. So I don't know how they'll react to the characters or the situation or the story. They might like it, they might hate it. So you have that anxiety again that for so long I didn't have.

But even apart from that, I'm gonna miss Skulduggery and Valkyrie, because they've changed my life utterly. Every time I wrote those books is like meeting up with old friends. And I don't have them anymore. I've said goodbye to my friends. And I know I have to make new ones.

So you will not only miss to let them suffer? A side effect of being an author you have enjoyed obviously very much ...

Yes, yeah. Every part of being a writer is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It really is. You know, I worked on a farm - I know what work is and it's working on a farm. Writing books is not work. If you are a writer you love writing, you love words, you love characters, you love story. And our job as writer is basically to daydream, to fantasize and put those fantasies on paper. That's not work, that's fun! That's the kind of thing you would be doing in your spare time. I realize that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people out there who would kill to have the problems that I do. Because they are not problems - for God's sake! -, they are little annoyances. So yeah, I love being a writer. That rocks!

During the series some figures have died. Is there someone it has been particularly difficult for you to kill?

Yes. I'm not gonna say who, because it might spoil something for someone who hasn't reach that part yet. But you know, I'm known for killing characters. I am and I completely accept that. I have a reputation for making the readers love a character and depend on a character and look for to when the character appeared and then killing the character. And I think that's just funny. But even though I'm the one that's doing the killing I also feel the pain of missing this character as much as any reader does. But sometimes the story tells you that it needs a sacrifice and you've got to be willing to kill people. On paper! On paper, not in real life. That would be bad!

I've never regretted killing anyone. I missed them when they're gone, absolutely, but I've never regretted killing anyone. I've never said: “Uh, that was a mistake, I wish I hadn't done that.” That doesn't happen. I missed them, but I don't regretted.

Derek Landy FBM 15 3Talking about characters: Did they follow your plans or did they surprise you every now and then?

Some of them followed my plans, most of them didn't. The wonderful thing about of writing, the wonderful thing of being a writer is that there comes a point when the story takes over. And the characters will take over, the characters will start to live and breathe and they will tell you about assorted things that you didn't know about them. Secrets and history and opinions … All of these different parts that you would never have anticipated they will tell you. And the thing is you, as a writer, pretty much have to let that happen. You have to listen to your characters and if you find that you reach a point in your plan –you have planed that your character will betray a person -, but if you reach that point when you are writing it and the character says quite “No, I would never betray that person, because since you made the plan we have grown really close. We are now friends!” You can't ignore your character, because if you changed the characters growth to fit your idea of what the story is from years ago than you're changing the character to suite yourself and that's a lie. It's dishonest. You've got to work around that, you've got to adapt your story to the new character, relationships or dynamics or revelations.

Did you know how this series ends right from the beginning - and especially how Valkyrie would develop along that way?

I knew how she would develop, absolutely, it was always the underline theme of the series: a hero who realize his halfway through the story that she is destined to become the villain. That was the core of the idea, that's all I want to tell the story. So her developments was always there. I knew what the last book was about, but I never knew how it ended. So I didn't know if she would emerge victorious. I didn't know if it would be a happy ending or a sad ending or a tragic ending or a funny ending or a lovely ending or … I didn't know! I knew a lots of all the things that would happen, but the final few chapters I didn't know and I left them until last to write, because .. um … open to most of the book I wanted the readers to wonder and to be curious and to speculate: What might happen? Uh, I don't want this happen, but I do want that to happen ... And I wanted them to feel that. And in order for that to happen I had to feel that. I had to be going on the journey with the reader. You know, I want to know how it ends. I want to know if they live happily ever after or if one of them sacrifices himself to safe the other or if they both die. To have that curiosity the entire way through, I know only when all of the rest of the book was written. And I sat down and wrote the final four chapters that I realized how it ended.

Darquesse is a part Valkyries. Do you also have a dark side? Do you also suffer from "mood variations"?

[laughs] Um … I think we all do, we all have a nasty side. I've got a bad temper, but it very rarely emergence. It's emerged in the past and the whole idea behind Darquesse. The whole way I approached writing her, it was related to my temper. Because when I lost my temper … um ... I loved it. I loved that anger, because when you are really angry, you care about nothing else and you are just angry and you let the anger consume you. And it's the most wonderful freeing experience, even though you've got little voices in your head saying “Come down, come down.” You have that anger and it's a wonderful, wonderful thing and it's so powerful! It makes you indestructible. And that's how I approached Darquesse. That's how I approached everyone who has a dark side. The dark side is very attractive, because you are free. Being nice to people you have so many rules. How to interact with people, you know the things we say, being polite, being civil. And when you are angry you don't have any rules and so that is Darquesse. She has no rules.

So yes, I have that, but I haven't lost my temper in about three years, because when the temper is gone than you feel bad. And you: “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that. That was mean.” Because than the rules come rushing back in again.

As we don't have any Jitter-Girls: What brings out your mood variations? Would you like to tell us?

Um … No … [laughs]
I'm very protective. So if anyone or anything tries to harm or intimidate or threaten anyone that I love than I get angry. It's that protective side that comes out, but that's pretty much the only thing that will get me angry.

Fowkes takes energy away from his readers by hidden symbols in his books. How did you come up with the idea? Wishful thinking?

[laughs] That came about, because for so long I've been getting questions “Why did you kill this character? Why did you kill that character? Why you're so mean? Why did you do this? Why did you do that?” My answer was always: “Your suffering makes me strong.” And I said it as a joke, you know. “That is, why I torture you. I torture you, because it makes me happy and it gives me strength and I draw on your pain.

And then, when I was writing that short story, I decided to actually take all my jokes and I put it into this actual storyline. So it's writers who deliberately torture their readers to draw on their sidekick suffering and give themselves everlasting life. Oh, that's nice!

Now the series is completed, can you finally reveal, with which figure you have wrote yourself in the books?

[laughs] When I wrote the first Skulduggery book I took a name. You know, Skulduggery took a name and Valkyrie took a name, I took a name. And I wasn't gonna tell anyone, because I knew that readers would take their own names. And they would ask me do I have a taken name and I would need to be honest and say "Yes". I wouldn't have to tell them what it was, but I would say "Yes, I did." And that was fine, I had my taken name and didn't tell anyone. But then, as the books went on and I was writing about The Dead Men and I needed another name, because I had Dexter Vex, Ghastly and Skulduggery and Ravel and all of these people, but I needed one more character, one more name. He has to be cool, he has to be good, he has to be strong and ... oh, I know: I will loan him my name! So Saracen Rue is the name I took and so I loaned it to the character. He has the power - I'm not gonna tell you what it is, but because of the power he knows things. He knows certain things. In the same way that I know things, cause I'm the writer. I see everything. I know things and Saracen knows things as well. So he is my eyes and ears on the page.

I would like to ask you some questions beside „Skulduggery Pleasant“, because in August the first volume of your new trilogy has already been released. Can you tell your readers what waits for them in "Demon Road"?

"Demon Road" is about a sixteen year-old girl called Amber, who has been chased to cross America by her parents who are demons and who want to kill her. So it's a lovely, lovely family-friendly story about love and family and friendships and demons and horror and parents who want to murder their kids. It's sat in America, because I realized it's a road trip, so they get in a car and travel to one place and the meet people, they have a story there, than it move on: They travel to another place and they have another story there. They move on. It's a road trip and I was originally going to sat it in Ireland like Skulduggery, but I realized you can't have a road trip in Ireland, because there a five minutes to another small town. In America you can drive for weeks and not see anyone else. So I said "Okay, it's a road trip in America." And it's horror, it's for an older audience again and I realized the three books of "Demon Road" will be all about American horror: Stephen King and slasher movies and "Blair Witch Project" and ... you know, all of these American horror ideas. Every stop they make, they meets another American horror idea, because American horror has influenced me so much. So the "Demon Road" trilogy is basically a love letter to American horror.

Your parents are much more friendly, I hope?

My parents are really nice. They've only tried to kill me like twice and both times they've said: "Aahh, we gonna let you live, Derek."

Yeah, you know, everyone is different and everyone's home life is different and everyone's circumstances are different and not everyone has been as lucky as I am in terms of my family. But the idea, that a parents want to harm their child, that was because to me, um ... in Skulduggery they talk about immortality and living forever, but in real life the only way we live forever is to pass on our genes to kids or to people we love. I don't have any kids and I don't want any kids, but I have nieces, so I pass all my love to my nieces. [laughs] So the idea that parents want to harm and kill their kids is completely horrible, it's completely abhorrence and disgusting. So that's the story.

Again a girl is in the center of the story. It is claimed that it is easier to write from the perspective of a same-sex figure. It seems that this isn't true for you, is it?

Whatever I write next, I want to have a male protagonist, a male central character. I'm gonna have to write about a guy. But up until now it has been the complete opposite. I find it easier to write from a girls point of view. I think if I would write from a boys point of view there would be too much from myself in there, too much of my own opinions and too much of my own ideas of what is a man, what it takes to be a man ... And I don't want the character to be me. I want the character to exist on its own. So with girls, up until now, I've been able to separate myself from the character and allow her to become her own person and to interacts with people on her own terms and it's been essential. So yeah, that rule has never applied to me at all.

Even "Demon Road" is a love letter to American horror: Can we enjoy your special kind of humor in this series again or do you strike a grave accent this time?

When I wrote the first draft of "Demon Road" there was something wrong with it. I didn't know what it was. It was funny, it was sparky, it was ... and then I realized: "Oh my god it's too funny, it's too sparky." Because it's like Skulduggery. The thing that separates horror adventure from horror on its own is the characters reaction to it. Valkyrie and Skulduggery are in a terrifying situation: They are gonna joke and they are gonna punch and they are gonna make more jokes. And that sets a barrier between the reader and the horror, because they are your shield. So when you take away the jokes and you take away that attitude you no longer have a barrier. So the horror that you see on the page affects the characters and the readers at the same time.
I took out a lot of the jokes, I took out a lot of that kind of conversation. Obviously there are jokes, there are plenty of jokes, because I can't write something seriously, I just can't. But I did have to stop myself making it too like Skulduggery. That was always the danger. So I made Amber more unsure and more nervous and more real than Valkyrie. And you know, Skulduggery is wise, cracking and genius and talk so fast and he never shuts up. But the male character of "Demon Road" is Milo and Milo is very, very quiet. Milo does not like to speak - he speaks, he talks, but he is quite happy to drive for hours without speaking. He doesn't like talk, he doesn't like music on the radio, he just wants to drive in silence. And that difference takes away the shield, it takes away the barrier and it allows all the horrible things that happen to affect the reader a little bit more. But there are jokes.

The following volumes should appear in a interval of six months. This is a short time to write a book – or do you have the manuscripts already written?”

Noooo [laughs] No, I don't have them written. It's very short time to write a book ... In fact on three quarters on the way through the second book right now and my deadline was last week. So I'm late [laughs] I'm late, but to write an publish three books six month apart is huge, especially because I wanted "Demon Road" to be a short book, a much shorter book than the "Skulduggerys" have come. The "Skulduggerys" are massive. I wanted "Demon Road" to be shorter, but it just kept on going. Now the second one I'm determined to make it shorter ... um ... but it's a lot of work. Yeah, it seem like a good idea at that time. [laughs]

But now this put you under immense pressure?

Yeah, yeah! The pressure is there. I feel the pressure. I mean I missed my deadline ... I've never missed the important deadlines, I've never missed the deadlines that would actually prevent the book being published, but at this level ... yeah, I'm feeling the pressure.

Derek Landy FBM 15 2
Do you know when your German fans may be glad about a translation of the book? Since the fact that "Demon Road" also appears in Germany might be unquestioned ...

Yes, "Demon Road" will be out here in autumn of 2016. It's being translated now. I met my translator for the very first time last night. She is awesome. So yeah, it will be appearing.

Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you furthermore many ideas for thrilling books!

Thank you very much!


Copyright der Fotos: Sven Trautmann





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