Derek Landy dreads parting with the skeleton
SYDNEY, Sept 6 ― Irish author Derek Landy, author of the best-selling Skulduggery Pleasant series, says he dreads the day in a couple of years when the series will come to an end and his main character ― a skeleton detective ― will leave his life.
But until then he savours the reception he gets from his readers.
“It’s a trade-off; the reaction by younger readers is so much warmer than it would be for an adult writer,” Landy said during a visit to Australia to promote Kingdom of the Wicked, the seventh book in the planned nine-book Skulduggery Pleasant series.
Landy spoke with Reuters about writing and his latest book.
Q: What’s the age group of your audience?
A: “Officially it’s between 9 and 15 years of age but I was doing a signing in Ireland and there was this huge ‘biker’ guy with a big belly and beard and tattoos on his arm in his 40’s and he said, ‘I love your books, they’re so funny’. Then he moves away and behind him stood a little eight-year-old girl who could barley reach the table. An eight-year-old girl and a 40-something-year-old biker quite happy to stand in line together, that’s great. So I guess the official age is there more to protect the publisher from angry parents.”
Q: How do you compete with television on demand and iPods?
A: “Reading a physical book has still retained so much power. The Harry Potter series alone made reading acceptably cool. You have to read the Hunger Games, really because everyone else is reading them, that sort of thinking. You have to hope you are one of this core group of books that appeal beyond anything else.”
Q: Has anyone ever told you, your book covers scare the living day lights out of adults. So why is it that they attract kids?
A: “That was a pretty big discussion point when we were starting out. Anything extreme appeals to young people ― like the images of a skeleton detective in a smart suit, wearing a hat on the cover of my books. It worked well in Ireland, Britain and Australia. However, the US was more hesitant and as a result it suffered for it. It wasn’t so much that it would frighten the children, it was the notion, the granny who buys for the grandkids might not pick it up. The end result being, the series didn’t take off in America.”
Q: You’ve mentioned the success of Harry Potter books, its author J K Rowling is one of the ‘big girls’ in the children’s author’s playground’. Does she scare you?
A: “If she was still writing the Harry Potter books I would be staying well away from that time of the year when her books are released (pre-Christmas). It’s bad enough being kept off the No. 1 spot by Twilight, which is beyond bad, but it has that ultra-fashionable fan base. Thankfully she’s stopped writing the Harry Potter series; it’s given the rest of us a chance. We’re No.1 in the children’s charts in Australia and New Zealand and we’re being kept away from the No.1 spot in the adult section by Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Q: Australian children are considered reluctant readers, yet you’ve managed to convince 700,000 kids otherwise ― how?
A: “I’m very persuasive; I’ve got a winning smile. Seriously though, that’s come as a bit of a surprise to me because everyone of them that I’ve met have been voracious, passionate readers. I know around the world reading levels are probably dipping, e.g. in the UK I think, one in three kids doesn’t even own a book and that’s not nice. In Ireland the reading levels are much higher, which is a relief.”
Q: You said originally you would produce nine books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Kingdom of the Wicked is no. 7; do you have two more books left in you?
A: “My readers wait a year for a book and the excitement level builds in the months and weeks leading up to a release. Then when they finally get it, they read it in a day and they have to wait a year for the next another year. I wish I could write a longer book that would last them a year.”
Q: What’s in store for readers in your latest book?
A: It hasn’t been released in the UK or Ireland yet so I can’t give too much away. The series has been three sets of trilogies and this is the first book of the last and final trilogy. It’s about three normal Irish teenagers who are suddenly infected with an astonishing amount of magic and they’re not nice people and that’s the only thing I can say about it as there are another two massive elements towards a surprise. Basically this is the beginning of the end. I have another two books to write after this and it’s going to be heart breaking to finish it and not going to be a happy time in my house. Skulduggery and Valkyrie have been with me since 2005 and will finish in 2014 so that’s nearly ten years of my life.” ― Reuters