Q&A with Skulduggery Pleasant author Derek Landy

Derek Landy

Derek Landy. (Photo Chris Bellew)

Derek Landy is the author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series. The following is his interview with Cracking the Cover in conjunction with the series rerelease in the United States.

Why do you write?

I write because there is nothing else I would ever want to do. I get to daydream all day, and then put those daydreams down on paper. And I do that as a job, and people pay me money for it. It’s ridiculous, but there you go.

Why write specifically for young readers?

Some ideas are for older readers, some are for younger readers, and some are for everyone. I think Skulduggery Pleasant is for everyone. This means I have to make it suitable for as wide an audience as I possibly can, but I’ve discovered the very simple truth that whether you’re nine or ninety, you can still get a kick out of the same things.

Where did the initial idea for Skulduggery Pleasant come from?

Skulduggery’s name popped into my head in the summer of 2005, and it told me everything I needed to know about him. I knew instantly that he was a skeleton detective, that he wore nice suits, that he was witty and intelligent and a little arrogant. Everything else grew from there — the other characters, the world, the plots — and it has yet to stop growing.

Sum up your series in 10 words or less.

Funny. Full of action. Unafraid to kill your favourite characters.

Did you ever imagine how popular your series would become?

I hoped it would sell. I hoped people would like it. I hoped I’d be able to write more books in the series.

There was a lot of hope, a lot of crossed fingers, but you never actually believe your book will be a hit until it actually happens. What I didn’t plan for was the sheer level of enthusiasm that Skulduggery readers bring to the process. They’re responsible for any success the series has had — not me.

What is it about the world you’ve created that makes you want to revisit it time and time again?

The characters make the world, and the characters are the reason I write. They stopped being imaginary a long time ago, and now they live full lives in my imagination. The fact that this is long-running series means that I can pop in to visit them whenever I want, and share what they’re doing with others.

Why do you think readers have become so invested in your stories?

When I become invested in a story, it’s because I see something of myself in the characters — whether it’s a quality I possess or a quality I’d like to possess. I think that’s what has happened with Skulduggery Pleasant. Readers respond to the humour, and they respond to the action and the mystery and the horror and the fantastic — but most of all they respond to the characters. I try my hardest to write characters that are real, no matter their background or circumstance.

Or maybe they just like the punching.

How has your writing evolved over the years?

I think I’ve gotten better at telling stories. I wish I could go back in time and rewrite the earlier books, applying everything I’ve learned, but on the other hand, I doubt I’d take the opportunity… It’s important to show a progression, so that all future writers out there understand that every writer is learning as they go.

What are you working on now?

Little things. Big things. Secret things.

Is there a book from your own youth that still resonates today?

Every book I’ve ever read has been an inspiration to me. Every comic and every movie. Every song and every TV show. They all resonate, because they are a part of who I am. It’s my job to take that inspiration, that love of stories, and spread it to as many people as possible, in the hope that maybe, someday, one of my books will resonate with someone else somewhere in the world, and they’ll be inspired to come up with their own stories.