An Evening with Derek Landy
Following the phenomenal success of his Skulduggery Pleasant series, Derek Landy has just released the second book in his Demon Road trilogy: Desolation. And (much to my fangirlish delight), his pre-publication tour brought him to Liverpool. Excitement ensued.
In the words of the man himself, Demon Road focuses on ‘the relatable troubles of a teenage girl who wakes up one day to find out that her parents are demons…the kind that want to kill (and eat) her.’ When asked about the conception of his gory premise, Derek recalled how it began as a ‘homage to American horror’ and grew from there. ‘It nods to a lot of my favourite horror films,’ he claimed. ‘Demon Road is about an American road trip. And at each new location, there’s a new horror to face. Every place has a sense of history, and Amber and Milo [the trilogy’s main protagonists] arrive right in the middle of every adventure, into a story that’s already unfolding. If they had never turned up, I’m sure that there would have been another hero to save the day.’
The development of Demon Road‘s characters, meanwhile, was a sort of reaction against those in Skulduggery Pleasant. ‘I had to scrap the first third of Demon Road.’ Derek explained. ‘Amber was too confident, and Milo was too chatty. They were just Valkyrie and Skulduggery [the main protagonists of Skulduggery Pleasant] driving around in a new car. And I couldn’t repeat myself. So, Milo became the strong silent type, and I took away Amber’s confidence. She immediately became much more human (even though she can transform into a demon). She’s not classically beautiful, and she’s full of the doubts and insecurities that affect teenagers of all genders.’
Derek then explained the addition of Glen, the down-on-his-luck teenager who eventually joins the duo on their trip. ‘Glen was needed. Amber is too shy and uncertain – she hasn’t found her voice yet. But with Milo as the strong, silent type, I suddenly had a book about two people sitting in a car not saying anything. So, I brought in Glen as a humorous voice to alleviate the gloom. He’s innocent, he’s annoying and he talks too much – kind of like Fletcher Renn [of the Skulduggery Pleasant series]. Sometimes, if you take a caricature and spend enough time on them, they become a character you can care about.’
Derek clearly has fond memories of writing Skulduggery Pleasant, and could tell us where several of the characters are today. ‘Of course, China is supreme mage of the world,’ he laughed. ‘She rebuilt the fallen sanctuaries after the war and put her own people in – so she’s very happy. Scapegrace and Thrasher are running a bar and still bickering. Valkyrie has been suffering from PTSD – after the war, she cut herself off from all she knew. She’s still traumatised, but now she’s slowly stepping back into her life.’
Demon Road was just one of many options that Derek considered after the end of his beloved SP series. ‘I was going to start a sci-fi series,’ he remembered. ‘But while spaceships are cool, describing them is just so boring. My second idea was a time travel series. I was actually approached by the BBC to write an episode of Doctor Who, but I said no because I like to kill people, and I didn’t think that would go down very well. Readers never trust me. We have a kind of unspoken pact – the moment that you start to fall in love with a character, I will probably kill them.’
Derek was then asked how he settled on Demon Road. ‘It was the story that resonated,’ he answered. ‘It was the one that would draw the human response, and not just the “geek” response. The idea of parents who want to kill their child makes readers think “what would I do in that situation?” and they begin to empathise. People have children to continue their bloodline – it’s their attempt at immortality. But Amber’s parents did it to stay young, strong and powerful. Bill and Betty [Amber’s parents] are a love story; any children they raise are just fodder.’
Of course, the big question of the Skulduggery Pleasant film came up. Much to my relief, Derek assured us that it should/will happen…eventually. ‘I’ve written the script and it’s good,’ he said. ‘And when American Monsters [the third book in the Demon Road trilogy] is finished, that’s when we’ll start pushing for the film again. If I was directing, I might consider putting fans in it, as extras…it depends how much they’d pay me!’
Speaking of American Monsters, here’s what we can expect from the final instalment, straight from the source: ‘So Demon Road was a road trip, and Desolation is an adventure that takes place in one spooky town – Desolation Hill in Alaska. American Monsters is…a road trip with a twist. The start of it will basically be Gremlins – furry little monsters in tennis outfits. The rest is pure trauma.’
So there we have it. Derek Landy is an author who covers talking skeletons, ruthless mages, serial killers, child-eating demons and gremlins. How can anyone not be a fan?