Book Talk: Derek Landy lauds the skeleton who stormed his life

CANBERRA Wed Oct 6, 2010 7:22am EDT

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - As a fan of horror movies, martial arts and detective stories, Derek Landy thought he was set for a career writing screenplays until a skeleton detective stormed his imagination -- and children's bookshelves.

The snappily dressed Skulduggery Pleasant popped into Landy's mind while he was traveling, and within months was down on paper in the first of the Irish writer's best-selling fantasy novels, "Skulduggery Pleasant," that was published in 2007 and was this year voted Irish Book of The Decade.

Landy, from County Dublin, has just released the fifth book in the series, "Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil," which follows Pleasant and his teenage sidekick Valkyrie Cain as they try to protect a known killer from an unstoppable assassin.

Turning his hand to children's books was quite a shift for Landy, who had written two films since being thrown out of art college, one about zombies called "Boy Eat Girls" and the other a thriller in which everyone dies called "Dead Bodies."

Landy spoke to Reuters about his life with a skeleton:

Q: You released both the fourth and fifth books in the series this year. How did you fit it all in?

A: "I stopped having a life. I had been promising myself a break for about a year or two, a break between Skulduggery books when I could do something different, but it hasn't worked out according to plan. But as it is, it is still fantastic and I am really enjoying it and nowhere near the start of burn-out."

Q: You have said this will be a nine-book series.

A: "Absolutely. I don't know what will happen afterwards. If I get to the end of the nine books and the characters are still alive then they may come back in two years' time but I don't know how the last book ends yet. They could be dead."

Q: So you aren't fed up with Skulduggery yet?

A: "I am kind of wary of it and I expected it to hit me certainly by now but it hasn't and I am hugely thankful for that. But it is important for me to do something completely different in between the Skulduggery books while still sticking to the Skulduggery schedule."

Q: You say he just arrived in your head one day?

A: "It was kind of weird. Ideas don't really come like that. Writers might get a hint of an idea that you expand but with Skulduggery, his name came to me and it told me who he was and what he was and what he was like. I don't know why his name popped into my head but it told me everything I needed to know and suddenly I was writing a book."

Q: Is it true that a Skulduggery film is under development?

A: "Those are scurrilous Internet rumors that should never be believed. In 2007 we sold the rights to Warner Bros and we have spent the last three years working on scripts of varying qualities. I am looking forward to the day when I get all the control back as the option should be up soon. Even though I adore films and would like to see Skulduggery as a film I would prefer never to have it made than to be disappointed."

Q: What other kinds of projects are you planning?

A: "I have tried to do something literary and worthy but then I get really bored. It is kind of annoying but I know I am writing books that put a smile on my face and I think of the literary folks swamped in darkness and their own pretentiousness. So humor definitely but I don't know what genre or age group."

Q: Do you have a daily writing schedule?

A: "I have dogs, so I have to be up early to let the dogs out of the house. I realized I can get a lot done in the morning in terms of emails and phone calls and actual business, which leaves the afternoon, evening and night free to write. I don't know if I am disciplined, but I do know that when I am roughly halfway though a book I become obsessed and you make up for any time you missed as all you want to do is to write."

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: "You pretty much have to please yourself. You can't really afford to look at what is selling now because by the time you get it out there it will be over. My whole approach was that as long as I was having fun writing it, the reader will have fun reading it. My advice has always been to have fun. Fun is contagious."

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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