Bad Good Guys

Last week I began my blog post by reciting an age-old quote from the bible. For those of you who don’t remember, this was it:

‘A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the God of Writing said “there shall be character arcs!” and thus character growth and development was born, turning those drab two dimensional characters into something three-dimensional and fabulous.’

#TrueStory #TotallyLegit

This week I would like to start my tenth blog post with another well know passage from this bestselling book…

Ahem.

‘The God of Writing also said unto them, the lowly creative writing students, “that when you create character arcs, you can also write them in reverse, instead of having villains turn into heroes, you can have heroes turn into villains”, because nothing more pleases the masochistic human brain than watching a nice guy turn into a complete knob.’

You probably shouldn’t try looking either of those quotes up. They occur somewhere towards the back. You should probably just take my word for it.

But I digress. The point I was trying to make was that for all the bad guys out there turning into good guys, there are an equal amount of good guys turning into bad guys. And here comes the science bit! Again!

(Let the HUGE spoilers begin…)

There are two types of hero-to-villain character arcs:

#1 — The Born-Again Villain:

This is your character who was a classic hero all along who, either by their own devices or through no fault of their own, becomes the villain of the story.

Example: Valkyrie Cain becoming Darquesse — Valkyrie was the lead protagonist through the first eight Skulduggery Pleasant books, and then in the final book, through no fault (well, a little bit of fault) of her own, she become the evil Darquesse, hell-bent on destroying the world.

darquesse

#2 — The Undercover Villain:

This is when the character was really a villain all along, but they were undercover as a hero. They usually aren’t outed as the bad guy until the last moment, and 90% of the time the audience won’t know this secret, so it’ll make a good plot twist.

Example: Saruman The White — He’d secretly turned to the dark side but he led Gandalf to believe he was good until he outed himself later on as a baddie.

gandalf

Whether the character has a type one or type two arc, we the audience (because we readers can truly appreciate good writing, plot twists, and character development…!) will start salivating with delight when we see goodies go bad. Whether it’s Professor Quirrell ripping off his turban and revealing Voldemort glued to the back of his head, or it’s Skulduggery Pleasant revealing that he used to be the infamous Lord Vile, we love a good hero to villain story.

And here, in traditional Olympic Medallist style, are my top three good guys gone bad. Prepare for AWESOMENESS.

Ahem.

BRONZE MEDAL: PETER PETTIGREW (The Undercover Villain) — THE HARRY POTTER SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING:

pettigrew

Peter Pettigrew, born a wizard to Mr and Mrs Pettigrew, he started attending Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the age of eleven where he was sorted into Gryffindor. He met Lily and James and they became friends. Later on, he and his good buddies James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin created the Marauders Map.

After Hogwarts, Pettigrew joined the Order Of The Phoenix, but became a double agent when he joined Voldemort’s army as a Death Eater. He betrayed James and Lily, handing them over to Voldemort to be killed. He then faked his own death and framed Sirius for they betrayal.

Using his animagus powers to hide away as a rat that ends up being adopted by the Weasley family, he spends the next twelve years as Ron’s favourite pet, Scabbers.

Of course, the audience doesn’t find out any of this until the third book, The Prisoner Of Azkaban, where the truth all comes out. Scabbers turns back into Pettigrew, and Sirius’ name is cleared (well, only to Harry and Co.), and we learn that Pettigrew was really a bad guy all along.

So why does this work? Because it’s a plot twist none of us saw coming. We were all so fixated with the idea that Sirius was the villain that we could never even begin to entertain the idea that someone else could have done it.

Pettigrew manages to escape and he becomes a recurring villain through the series (who eventually gets his well-deserved comeuppance), and we have a brand new hero, Sirius Black, to fall in love with. Everyone’s a winner!

SILVER MEDAL: PEETA MELLARK (The Born-Again Villain) — THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES, WRITTEN BY SUZANNE COLLINS:

peeta

Poor Peeta Mellark. He was just a simple baker’s boy from district twelve who minded his own business, crushed on a girl way out of his league from afar, and who couldn’t hurt a fly.

And then that all changed. After surviving the Hunger Games twice — yes, twice — he was captured by the evil Capitol, forced to become President Snow’s own personal propaganda puppet, and was eventually tortured into complete madness.

All through this he remained a hero. He didn’t give in. The games didn’t turn him into a murderer. The torture didn’t turn him into a traitor. No matter what they did to him, he persisted as a protagonist.

And then they brainwashed him. Yep, poor Peeta gets brainwashed into hating/fearing the one person he loves most in the world — Katniss Everdeen. When they’re finally reunited, she goes running to him for a hug, and he runs to her for what she thinks is a hug… and then he tries to kill her.

He spends a large portion of the last book trying to kill Katniss, and as we’ve learned before, if you’re trying to kill the main character, you’re probably the bad guy.

Why does it work? Because it was unexpected. Because we readers were foolish enough to believe that Katniss was finally going to be happy for a moment, and this is our punishment for being so stupid.

Stupid us.

And lastly we’ve come to our gold medallist (and my personal favourite)…

GOLD MEDAL: TANITH LOW (The Born-Again Villain) — THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY:

tanithaw

Ha ha ha. Anyone else remember that time Derek Landy took one of our favourite characters, a perfect heroine, a strong, funny, brave, intelligent character, one half of our Ghastly/Tanith OTP (one true pairing) and destroyed her? Ha ha. Anyone remember that? Ha. That was so funny. Good times. Good times…

Except it wasn’t good. Because he took Tanith Low, tore her from her friends, ruined her relationship with Ghastly before it even began, stamped all over our hearts, tore our souls in two, and stuck an evil Remnant inside her body that would possess her forever more, and make her an evil mastermind. Anyone else remember when he did that? Yeah, me too.

And suddenly Tanith Low, one of the huge heroes from the first five books, gets transformed (against her will) into an evil super-villain in Mortal Coil. And this one hurt especially badly because it wasn’t just her life who was ruined, it was all her friends lives that were ruined too. Valkyrie lost her best friend, Skulduggery lost a valued ally, and worst of all Ghastly lost the love of his life. Tanith becomes the bad guy, assumes her new role with relish, and thus the entire Skulduggery Pleasant fandom was thrown into despair.

Why does it work? Because it was sudden. Now, as Skulduggery fans, we know better than to assume that any character is safe, but when you see a character like Tanith, who literally gets tortured in every book and comes out the other side still smelling like roses, you just don’t expect her to her get taken down properly by anything, especially not something as stupid as a pesky Remnant. Least of all do you expect someone who is pure goodness through and though like her to became the one everyone is suddenly against. It was sad, it was painful, and it was heart-breaking.

It was brilliant. And that’s why she’s won the top spot for my favourite YA hero to villain character arcs. Enough said.

If you liked this blog post then leave me a message in the comments section below. If you didn’t like it then, um, you’re really weird.

Bye now!

Seriously though, no one was even a little suspicious of Ron’s pet rat lasting for twelve years? Isn’t an average rat’s lifespan four years? What were the Weasley’s thinking??

plot twist

Laura, out!

Good Bad Guys

‘A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the God of Writing said “there shall be character arcs!” and thus character growth and development was born, turning those drab two dimensional characters into something three-dimensional and fabulous.’

I’m pretty sure that’s a direct quote from, like, the Bible, or something,

A lot of people hear the phrase “character arc” and they go, “That means how the character changes right?” Well yes, but there’s a little more to it than that.

(And here comes the science bit! Don’t worry it’s really short!)

A character arc is the status of a character’s personal development as they continue through their journey in the story. Some people confuse character arcs with the 12 step hero’s journey — however, the hero’s journey is the arc of the storyline, not the actual character. What needs to be remembered is that to create a good arc you don’t need a rags to riches character who has an epiphany halfway through the book. The arc we’re talking about here is about actual changes happening within the character that change them as a person.

The important thing to remember is that if you’ve got your arc right, your character should be able to carry the story, rather than letting the storyline drag them along. Good character arcs make your storylines character-driven! And that’s what you want.

Now if you Google “character arc” you’re going to get a bunch of images come up like this:

character arc

But this isn’t always necessarily the case. It’s not wrong, not by any stretch, but it’s not the only kind of character arc out there. In fact there are three defining arcs…

#1 The Change Arc — This is a good old-fashioned hero’s journey. You’ll see an unlikely protagonist turn from zero to hero using some kind of inner strength that was within him all along. Example: Harry Potter — a scared, lonely little boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs, steps up to the plate and kills the world’s most dangerous dark wizard.

#2 The Growth Arc — The protagonist has to overcome an internal opposition (weakness, fear, etc.), while facing an external opposition (villain, difficult task, etc.) and by doing this they usually become a better, more well-rounded person. Example: Batman — he overcomes his fear of bats and uses his one weakness to drive himself to become Batman, the saviour of Gotham City.

#3 The Fall Arc — The protagonist manages to doom himself — and/or others — to a horrible fate/untimely death. Example: the really terrible captain from Titanic. He sunk a whole ship. Do I really need to explain any more than that?

(And what do you mean, “Titanic really happened?” Whu?)

But what is it about a good character arc that makes them so delicious? As human beings, we actually get pleasure from seeing people change and improve. We get enjoyment from watching someone (even if they’re entirely fictional) become a better people. Likewise, we get the same kind of pleasure from watching it happen completely in reverse, seeing a character spiral into despair and become the bad guy (because we’re all giant masochists at heart…! Yay!) because we, the human race, are the height of hypocrisy. And if you don’t think that makes any sense, then imagine how I’m feeling. I just had to write all of that…

But anyway, that is the science part of this evening’s entertainment out of the way. Now onto the fun bit!

We are back in full Olympic Medallist swing, ladies and gents, because tonight I am counting down my top three Villain to Hero character arcs, and it’s going to be awesome.

Am I building this up too much? Probably.

LET’S DO THIS!

(This blog post is rated ‘Mother Of God!’ for spoilers. You have been warned.)

BRONZE MEDAL: DAMON SALVATORE (growth arc) — THE VAMPIRE DIARIES SERIES, WRITTEN BY L.J.SMITH:

damon

He’s got it all, hasn’t he? Strong jawline, high cheekbones, those smouldering blue eyes and that crooked little grin…

What was I saying…? Oh yeah, he’s gorgeous. Typical bad-boy gorgeous. Like, do you have any idea how hard it was not to use a picture of him topless? The struggle is real.

But gorgeousness aside, the point I’m trying (and failing) to make is that he looks like a villain. He’s not a pretty-boy with the square jaw and the big, toothy, Hollywood smile. No, you look at Damon and you go, “Ohh… he must be the sexy villain, right?”

Right. And he’s a damn good one too. Damon Salvatore enters the first TVD book as the main bad guy. He’s a 200 year old vampire, killed by his father and turned into the monster he is by his brother, Stefan, and after years of avoiding his past, he’s finally come back to their home town to wreak havoc.

He wants to kill his brother and steal his girl from him. Part of being a vampire means Damon can turn off his emotions, and after running around for two centuries without a conscience, killing people to get his own way is second nature.

But it all changes when Elena Gilbert comes onto the scene. Equally beautiful (everyone in this town is gorgeous apparently) and delightfully human, Elena becomes Damon’s moral compass. She is the only one who can talk him down. She’s the only one who can make him switch his emotions on again. She’s the only one who makes him want to be the better man, and he falls for her.

With a reason to be a good again, and with the love of his life to suddenly protect, over the course of eleven books Damon transforms from baddie to goodie (even if he is a bit of an anti-hero), putting aside his differences with Stefan, and helping Elena and Co. fight off all paranormal villains and ne’er-do-wells that are weirdly only attracted to her.

Sure he makes some slip-ups along the way. He kills a few people (a lot of people) and he accidentally sends Elena and her friends to hell and back a few times, and he also steals his brother’s girl away from him… but he’s good at heart.

And let’s face it, if Damon was all good would we even still love him as much? He said it best himself, “If you’re going to be bad, be bad with a purpose. Otherwise you’re just not worth forgiving.”

He proves his heroism right at the very end by giving his life to save Elena. There was gross sobbing all round.

SILVER MEDAL: SERVERUS SNAPE (fall arc) — THE HARRY POTTER SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING:

snape

Okay, so admittedly, this picture of Snape isn’t the scariest picture I could find. There were loads of other ones, where he’s frowning, and looking all mad and broody, but the sentimental sop in me had to choose this one. Because of reasons.

And alright, before you Potterheads start throwing Order Of The Phoenix at me (because I can hear you out there rubbing your hands together, hoping for me to get this wrong), I know what you’re going to say: “Snape wasn’t really the bad guy. Snape was a good guy all along. Everything he did was to protect Harry.” Yes, I know all this, I’m a Potterhead too.

The point is, when you first start out reading the books, you don’t know Snape is a good guy. As far as you’re concerned, Snape is Harry Potter’s evil potions professor who likes scolding him in front of the class, ratting him out when he’s up to something, and giving him detention. And no one would blame you for thinking he’s the bad guy — we all did.

Throughout the first half of the series he comes across as one of those everyday villains. He’s that mean teacher we all had at school, the guy who just hated us for no reason, and although we wouldn’t wish any serious harm on the man, we’d still like to see him get his comeuppance.

And then you get to the second half of the series and you learn Snape is a Death Eater working closely with Lord Voldemort (gasp!) and you’re sitting there going, “I knew it! I KNEW IT!” and all the sudden you hate him. Because now you KNOW he’s a proper bad guy, his villain status granted the moment he kills Dumbledore.

It’s not till right at the very end that you discover he was a good guy all along, and the guilt you feel for hating him for all those years is almost unbearable. You find out that he was desperately in love with Lily Potter, and everything he did was to protect Harry, and that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him all as part of their plan to take Voldemort down.

And you don’t find any of this out until after he’s dead and you’re already sending yourself on the guilt trip from hell for hating him for the last seven years.

Read Harry Potter, they said. It’ll be FUN, they said.

And finally…

GOLD MEDAL: BILLY-RAY SANGUINE (change arc) — THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY:

billy ray

Okay, so first off he just looks like a bad guy. He’s got the cool shades, the expensive suit, and the sly little grin. This man practically oozes I’m-Up-To-No-Good-Ness and it’s beautiful.

Billy-Ray Sanguine, a self-professed psychopath and evil sorcerer from the heart of Texas, is a recurring villain throughout the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Originally only meant to appear in the second instalment, Playing With Fire, Sanguine is living proof that some characters really do live beyond the pages of their books.

But why is he such a baddie, Laura? What’s he done that’s so evil? Well now, where do I begin…?

  • He’s a hitman deluxe who kills people for fun as well as the money.
  • He used to be a detective but gave up when he kept killing his clients out of boredom.
  • He’s tried to kill Skulduggery and Co. more times than I can count on both hands.
  • He kidnapped Valkyrie (well, someone had to…)
  • He worked under notorious evil sorcerer, Baron Vengeous, for a large portion of Playing With Fire.
  • He released Springheeled Jack from prison.
  • He helped bring the Grotesquery to life.
  • He’s partly responsible for bring the Faceless Ones back.
  • Worked for the evil group, The Diablerie, for most of The Faceless Ones.
  • He once punched Valkyrie so hard he broke one of her teeth.
  • He helped his father, Dreylan Scarab, try to blow up Croke Park with 80,000 people inside it.
  • He worked as part of the Revengers Club (still laughing about it, even now) for most of Dark Days.
  • He started dating (and eventually got engaged to) Tanith Low when she became possessed by a remnant, taking her away from Ghastly and ruining hundreds of OTPs (One True Pairings) everywhere.
  • He went on a scavenger hunt/killing rampage set up Tanith (still possessed) to find all the God-Killer weapons and destroy them.
  • And plenty more…

And after all that he’s still my favourite character.

But then it all begins to change when he starts to actually fall in love with Tanith. It’s on the scavenger hunt for the God-Killers that he realises he can’t go through with it. As much as he wants to please Tanith, and as much as every instinct in his body is telling him to do the wrong thing, he just can’t justify getting rid of the only instruments on earth that are able to kill the soon-to-be-at-large, all-powerful, totally evil, Darquesse. He put it best himself when he said, “There wasn’t a lot of point in helping someone you love bring about the end of the world, if the end of the world meant you couldn’t be with the one you love.”

It’s not until the final book, when it’s crunch time, that Billy-Ray finally crosses into the hero threshold for good, and gives his life to save Tanith, the woman he loves, even though he knows she never loved him, and never would.

Billy Ray died a hero.

A lot of tears were shed that day.

Ahem.

And there you have it. My top three Villain to Hero character arcs, each of them stretching over the three different types of arcs (because variety is nice), covering growth, change, and tragically, the fall.

If you had as much fun reading this blog post as I did writing it then leave me a message in the comments section below telling me what you thought. But it’s goodbye for now. So… uh… bye!

Seriously though, Snape couldn’t be a little nicer to Harry while he was at Hogwarts? It’s not Harry’s fault his mum didn’t want to pork him.

funny snape

Laura, out!

Love-sick With Love Triangles

If there’s one thing that can ruin a good story, it’s a bad love triangle. We’ve all seen it before: dull, uninteresting girl meets hot boy, they fall in love, then an even hotter boy comes along, and all teenage hell breaks loose. Because what with everything else teenagers have to worry about(school, assignments, grades, social anxieties, friends, parents, peer-pressure, etc.) it makes perfect sense — apparently — for the most important thing to be going on in a girl’s life is to be liking two boys at once.

And why is it always aimed at girls? Why is it always the girl who falls in love with two different boys? Are these YA writers implying girls are weak? That they cannot resist a hot boy (or two)? Are they implying boys don’t have the capacity to have those same feelings? Why do these love Bermuda Triangles always pop up in YA novels — specifically YA novels that sit in the general genre of fantasy/supernatural? Isn’t it fairly insulting to assume all teenage girls want to pick up a YA novel and hope to read about another human/vampire/werewolf romance? Isn’t it more than slightly disappointing to pick up another fantasy book and put it back down again because the front cover looks something like this?

new moon

There is something these that specific middle-aged, love-starved, reality-impaired YA writers need to understand, and it’s that you don’t need a love triangle subplot — let alone a whole plotline itself — to make a book good and relatable to teenagers. Harry Potter was a brilliant YA series and there were no love tringles in the entire book/movie franchise. Skulduggery Pleasant was an exceptional YA book series, and once again no love triangles. And before all you Skuttle-Bugs out there call me out on the whole Valkyrie/Fletcher/Caelan drama, that wasn’t a love triangle. Not really. You want to know why?

Because it didn’t suck balls, that’s why.

So I’ve come to you today, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, to lay down my top five worst love triangles of all time. Hold your noses, because these whoppers really are a bunch of stinkers.

I’ll be ranking them from five to one, five being the most tolerable, and one being oh my god no.

First Love Triangle Tragedy:

#5 — Meggie, Farid and Doria – The Inkheart trilogy, written by Cornelia Funke:

inkheart11

This love triangle has been ranked as most tolerable because it’s almost understandable. Meggie doesn’t see the new boy and instantly run off with him. She falls out of love with Farid just in time for her to fall in love with Doria. I mean, it’s still a stupid and unnecessary subplot, but at least it is just a subplot.

The Inkheart trilogy is a YA series perfect for those who love fantasy and adventure. If you love reading about magic, travelling to other worlds, and ghosts, ghouls and grim reapers, then this is the YA series for you. (Yes you, reading this right now. Specifically you.)

Throughout the first two books, we follow the journey of Meggie and her father, both gifted in the art of bringing books to life. They read themselves in and out of their favourite books, helping save the characters from their horrible fates, and helping the good guys vanquish the bad guys.

And then of course, our leading lady, Meggie Folchart, meets Farid, the lovely young lad from a faraway land. They fall in love by the second novel and it’s genuinely heart-warming. I remember their first kiss, and how Meggie’s heart leapt in her chest, and how her world stopped turning for a few moments. I guess you could say they became my OTP.

(One True Pairing, for those of you who need stuff explained.)

But as the series goes on, you quickly come to discover that Farid is actually kind of a one-dimensional douchebag who’s more interested in spending time with his magic mentor than his actual girlfriend, and she quickly falls out of love with him. But before she can properly cut the apron strings, as it were, along comes Doria, the brown-haired, blue-eyed boy next door. His charm, good looks, and sweet demeanour captures her heart almost immediately. Come the last book in the trilogy, Meggie has traded in foreign Farid for dreamy Doria.

Why did I rate this as our most tolerable love triangle? Because it was realistic. It happens. People actually do fall out of love with each other, and Meggie handled the situation remarkably well for a sixteen year old girl. She didn’t string anyone along. She didn’t break any hearts. She was a respectable girlfriend through and through.

That being said, it was still a really stupid love triangle that added nothing to the storyline, and she should have never broken up with Farid.

Ahem. Moving on…

Second Love Triangle Tragedy:

#4 — Wanda, Ian, and Jared — The Host, written by Stephenie Meyer:

host-banner

This love triangle is almost tolerable, purely for the fact that The Host is a good book, and also because the love triangle is only a subplot. However, it appears in my Worst Love Triangle list because it is indeed a clichéd, sickly-sweet, reader-pleaser of a subplot, and if it wasn’t there the book would have turned out exactly the same. Possibly even better.

The Host is a sci-fi body-snatcher story. Basically, aliens have invaded planet earth and are slowly wiping us all out by possessing the human race. At first the humans are unaware of what’s happening, and by the time they catch on the last few handfuls of humans have to go into hiding, and the aliens begin to hunt.

But wait! It’s not what you think! These aliens are a peaceful kind (sort of…). They don’t want to harm the humans, they just want to make them better — kind of like The Stepford Wives. For years, the aliens have been watching the human race murder each other and pollute the earth, and they decide it’s time to stop them. In their own minds, like any great villain, they view themselves as the righteous heroes. It’s one of those ‘who are the real monsters?’ sci-fi thrillers. (I can practically hear all the sci-fi fanatics out there rubbing their hands together in anticipation.) It’s original. It’s interesting. It’s a great read.

And then along comes the love triangle, just in time to ruin the whole thing. Let me break it down for you…

Before the leading lady, Melanie Stryder, was possessed by the alien Wanda (stupid name for an alien, I know), she was in love with a boy called Jared. Perfectly fine. Nothing to complain about there. However, years down the line Melanie gets captured while Jared escapes with his human brain intact. Melanie is wiped out and only Wanda remains. We follow Wanda’s journey as she tries to search for her Host body’s old love, and we watch as she falls in love with another human boy, Ian, on the way. With her mind saying Ian, and the body of her Host saying Jared, it’s a whole mess of a love triangle up in that alien-chick’s head.

I’m actually making it sound a lot more interesting than it really is, but basically she wants to bang both dudes and get away with it. When someone can tell me how that fits into a sci-fi thriller story, please get back to me and I’ll take it off this list. Until then, this love triangle is at number four for most tragic. Case closed.

Third Love Triangle Tragedy:

#3 — Damon, Stefan, and Elena — The Vampire Diaries series, written by L.J.Smith:

Awesom-Dark-Wallpaper-from-Vampire-Diaries

Believe it or not, before Twilight was spawned into dreary existence, there was a vampire love triangle that already existed. Welcome to the much better (if albeit slightly ruined by a love triangle) world of The Vampire Diaries.

When I first picked up the debut novel in the TVD series it was mainly because I was promised faithfully by a friend that there would be cool vampires, people getting their necks ripped out, real werewolves, ghosts, monsters, demons, and all sorts of other nightmarish creatures running around.

I wasn’t, however, warned about the love triangle.

Now, people that know me well know I can’t stand romance novels, let alone really corny, clichéd, eternal love stories. And I hate love triangles with a burning passion. So when I picked up TVD and I started reading about vampires and demons and werewolves (all totally my kind of thing) imagine my disappointment when leading protagonist, Elena Gilbert, falls for the hunky new boy, Stefan Salvatore. Then imagine my even more immense disappointment when she realised Stefan had an even hunkier older brother, Damon.

I’d like to say there was more of a storyline to it than that, but there really isn’t. The whole eleven-book series is all about who will Elena eventually pick, Damon or Stefan? It’s boring, it’s insufferably drawn-out, and it’s full of YA paranormal-romance clichés.

You have Elena, the popular, pretty, perfect in every way protagonist. You have Stefan, the noble through-and-through hero, who’s fighting against his inner vampire urges to kill. And then you have Damon, the cool, leather-jacket-wearing bad boy, who drinks, curses, and acts like a villain when he’s actually the nicest character of all.

It really is dreadful. No novel should rely solely on a love triangle to carry it along through a nine book series, but there you go.

Hey, at least it’s consistent.

Fourth Love Triangle Tragedy:

#2 — Katniss, Peeta, and Gale — The Hunger Games series, written by Suzanne Collins:

hunger-games-katniss-peeta-and-gale-24342852-472-700

Where do I even begin to explain how wrong and inappropriate this love triangle is? In a story where all a girl wants to do is save her sister, why in God’s name would you ever need a love story to go alongside that? In a story where the basic plot is locking twenty-four children in an arena and watching them fight to death, would you ever need a love triangle? Katniss doesn’t even like boys! She doesn’t have time for boys! All she wants to do is look out for her friends and family, but along comes a cliché to try and build up an extra wall of readership from the love-story leeches out there.

Imagine a world where every year, every child between the ages of twelve and eighteen is at risk of being entered into an annual death match competition. Imagine a girl volunteering in order to save her sister from being entered into said death match. Imagine the only way for that girl to save herself in said death match is for her to enter into a romantic relationship with another one of its contestants. Imagine a corrupt world where the nation only wants the two main protagonists to survive so they can ship their relationship.

THAT’S WHAT WE’RE DOING.

(You know, minus the annual death matches…)

By including a love triangle into this story, you’re giving its audience the opportunity (and it’s not a good opportunity) to ship the characters. You’re letting them focus more on their OTPs and whether they support Team Gale or Team Peeta more than letting them focus on the real story at hand. The story isn’t about who will Katniss pick? It’s about Katniss stepping up to the plate, saving her sister, saving her district, and leading the rebellion against the corrupt Capitol and its dictator, President Snow.

Team Katniss all the way.

And lastly… yep, you’ve probably already guessed it…

The Fifth Love Triangle Tragedy:

#1 — Bella, Edward and Jacob — Twilight, written by Stephenie Meyer:

Edward-Bella-and-Jacob-edward-bella-jacob-35710231-1024-768

Oh, come on, you all knew it was coming. The terrible love triangle to end all terrible love triangles. The paranormal-romance-cliché to end all paranormal-romance-clichés. The crème-de-la-crème of supernatural love stories gone too far.

I won’t waste too much time summarising what this book series is all about, because most of us already know, even if you haven’t plucked up the courage to read the misogynistic likes of Twilight. Basically, a stupid human girl meets a male chauvinist vampire boy, and she loves him more than anything until a handsome (yet exceedingly thick) werewolf boy comes along to rock the proverbial boat.

Is there anything more to it than that? Not really.

The entire four-book saga (and it really is a saga) is all about leading lady, Bella Swan, and her eternal love for Edward Cullen, even though it can’t really be that eternal as she’s ready to drop him like a hot brick when Hottie McHotpants, Jacob Black, comes along.

Bella tries to convince herself and the readers that she loves Edward more than anything by marrying him (against her will, really) and having his vampire-baby-devil-child. And at every turn in this turbulent, unhealthy, abusive relationship, Jacob is there to offer her comfort and kisses, and to take his shirt off repeatedly for no reason.

Stephenie Meyer’s feeble attempts at an actual storyline amounts to little more than a crazy redheaded vampire woman hell-bent on killing Bella for reasons not properly explained — but it falls flat against the never-ending tragic love triangle.

It’s just awful, it really is.

Why has the Twilight ranked as number one on my top five worst love triangles of terror? Because it’s pointless. It’s dumb. It’s insulting to its own characters as well as its readers. It’s the main focal point of the whole series. It promotes an unhealthy view on relationships. Stephenie Meyer’s characters are bad role models for young readers everywhere.

So there you have it: my top five Worst Love Triangles. Let me know if you agree or disagree. Let me know if there are any other diabolical love triangles I missed out. I hope you enjoyed reading, and put it all in the comments below. As for me, I have a bed calling to me.

My bed is weird like that.

Seriously though, who even cares about love triangles? Girls don’t want boys, they want chocolate and dragons. Get it together, Stephenie Meyer.

Laura, out.

Do’s And Don’ts Of Movie Adaptations

Would I be going too far to say that it’s a dream come true to watch your favourite books turn into movie blockbusters? Would I be exaggerating? Would I be laying it on a little too thick? Would I be guilty of a bit of hyperbole?

Probably, but who cares?

Because despite what people say, despite all the adaptation admonishers and the novel Nazis and the screenplay Scrooges (I may be losing control of this a little bit), there really is a certain magic to it.

Cast your mind back to 2001 when the first Harry Potter book came to cinema. The excitement of seeing the characters you’d been picturing in your head for years finally coming to life! The thrill of finally seeing J.K.Rowling’s vision of what Hogwarts looked like! The eagerness and dread of finally seeing Voldemort in the flesh! (Well, stuck to the back of another guy’s head, but still…)

philosophers stone

The world was thrown into, dare I say, absolute pandemonium when The Philosopher’s Stone came out. The entire British nation had never been so proud to be British, as our girl J.K. finally had her dream come true. Whether you liked Harry Potter or not, it was big news.

And it was a smash hit. You didn’t see kids sulking as they came out of the cinema after watching The Philosopher’s Stone going, “Well, that was rubbish. Nothing like the book at all.”

Okay, point taken, they changed a fair amount throughout the eight Harry Potter movies, and I will acknowledge that before all the Potterheads out there eat me alive. (Please be nice! I’m one of you, I swear!) But you’ve got to admit, they did pretty well. I know they got some bits wrong, like Voldemort’s death, never mentioning his inbred family or the redemption of Dudley Dursley — and where the hell was Peeves the Poltergeist?! Although when you stack up what they got right against what they got wrong, it’s a no-brainer really. Here are some of their best Harry Potter book to screen adaptation moments…

  1. The Battle Of Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows(part 2):

battle of hogwarts

Okay this this scene was hands down awesome. It’s the big one. The final battle scene. The scene where we say goodbye to our favourite good guys and bad guys. It’s where Neville kills Nagini, and where the students of Hogwarts find out Harry is still alive. It’s were we say a tearful farewell to George, and where Molly Weasley finally kills Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, and everything is just so perfectly balanced and beautifully done that we don’t mind the small changes made here and there. (Like the weird cliff dive from the Hogwarts tower with Harry and Voldy. Seriously though, what was all that about?)

All in all? It was a lovely salute to the original novel. Well done, David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves!

The fight scene in The Department Of Mysteries in The Order Of The Phoenix:

department of mysteries

So this scene was undeniably cool. When I was a kid and I was reading the fifth book, I really struggled to picture what the Department Of Mysteries looked like, and to see it on the big screen was truly magical. The fight scene in the room with the prophecies was incredible. Watching the Death Eaters come and go, apparating in and out, was just like it’d imagined it. Watching them goad Harry and his friends into thinking they were winning was so chilling and so believable I began to think HP and Co. actually stood a chance at victory — and I had actually read the book! It was just so cool. The spells, the fighting, the chase through the department as the shelves of prophecies started to collapse…! It was just movie magic!

The maze in The Goblet of Fire:

maze

Okay, so this scene ruled. Has anyone else seen that film Maze Runner yet? Apart from being a total rip-off of Labyrinth — it’s basically the same film but in reverse — they also really channelled The Goblet Of Fire, using the idea of a maze that likes to switch and change around. But the reason it was so awesome and worked so well in The Goblet Of Fire was because it was true to the book. Sure they omitted a few bits from the actual novel, like the weird lion-creature thing, and a few other bits, but there is no denying that when Fleur was dragged into the undergrowth, or when the maze started to close in on Harry, that your heart skipped froze. Like I always say, there are two type of people who watch the maze scene in The Goblet Of Fire: people who were scared, and liars. The maze scene was awesome. End of.

  1. The first time we see Diagon Alley in The Philosopher’s Stone:

diagon alley

Oh, it’s like a trip down memory lane! The first time we saw Diagon Alley come to life! It brings a nostalgic tear to the eye, doesn’t it? We all remember the magic and wonder the first time Hagrid took Harry into the hidden realms of Diagon Alley. We were there with Harry when he picked his wand (or rather when the wand picked him), and we were there for his first adventure through the mines of Gringotts. And most importantly, we saw the first time Harry met Hedwig, the snowy white barn owl we all fell in love with right from book one, and we saw their inter-species romance bloom…

Alright, that got weird fast. Moving on…

The first time we see the Dementors in The Prisoner Of Azkaban:

dementor

Okay, so this was a pretty big moment for all the Potterheads out there. This was the moment was all got to see those grizzly, gruesome, soul-stealing, kiss-of-death creatures we’d all been fearing since we first read about them. The Hogwarts Express comes to a jarring halt. Everything goes cold. The windows ice up. And then we see them. The Dementors — terrifying, cloaked things. And they’re just so brilliantly done. They are a faithful tribute to J.K.’s descriptions in the books and they just get better and better in each film as the CGI technology improves. (Except for The Order Of The Phoenix. Those Dementors sucked.)

“Not my daughter, you bitch!” from The Deathly Hallows(part 2):

bellatrix death

This scene is perfect in its simplicity, so I won’t waste time saying too much about it. Bellatrix is trying to kill Ginny. Molly steps in to save her as the perfect mother she is — the perfect mother she was written as — and she saves her daughter. Word for word, action for action, this scene was a perfect representation of how it really happened in the book. Bravo.

And of course there are many more, but if I talked about them all, I’d be here all day, and I have cats downstairs that need feeding.

When you weigh up what the films got right in regard to the books against what they got wrong, it’s clear to see that this is how you adapt a YA book to screen without upsetting the readers and causing world war three within its fandom.

And Harry Potter isn’t the only franchise that’s gotten it right. There is a list as long as my leg (and I do have very long legs) of brilliant YA book to movie adaptations. Some of the best ones include:

The Hunger Games, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Divergent, Maze Runner, Twilight(yeah, it was a bad book, but it was adapted pretty perfectly, grumble grumble…), The Vampire Diaries (even though technically that was adapted to TV), Sherlock Holmes, The Fault In Our Stars, and so many more.

When you truly love a book, and you love the franchise and its fandom, you never really want it to end. And when you’re one of the lucky ones and your favourite novel, or trilogy, or series, is turned into a movie franchise then it really has to be done justice, or isn’t it just a mockery of the whole thing?

There have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt YA books to the silver screen. Well known and widely loved YA books flop all the time when they’re adapted. Some of the most famous flops including: Ella Enchanted, City Of Ember, Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants(part two), Ender’s Game, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, Eragon, the Percy Jackson films, The Golden Compass, and heaps, and piles, and stacks more.

But the top three worst YA book-to-movie adaptations of all time have to go to the following three paltry excuses for films. These movies were absolutely diabolical and ruined three of my all-time favourite childhood novels, and for that, they’ll never be forgiven.

Our first offender? Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, based off the Darren Shan series, written by Darren Shan.

cirque du freak

Okay boys and girls, sit down, get comfortable, and let Mumma Laura explain you a thing.

Surprisingly enough, movie adaptations don’t work when you try and cram the first eight books of a twelve book series into one 109 minute film. It just doesn’t work. It will never work. Ever.

First off let’s talk about characterisation, and how despairingly wrong they got that. There’s the main character, Darren Shan, who just so happens to have the same name as the bloke who wrote the book! What a cowinky-dink!

Now, in the books, Darren Shan is a fun, caring, somewhat sensible (albeit dim) boy. He’s a likeable character, because he’s been written that way. And then you meet movie Darren, a scrawny, whiney, pathetic oddball of a teenage boy, who does an inordinate amount of crying. Seriously, he cries a lot. You know when you sit down to watch the early Spiderman movies and all you get is Toby Maguire crying for two hours? Yeah, it’s a lot like that.

Then there’s Darren’s co-star, Larten Crepsley. In the books, Crepsley is a vampire with a heart of gold hidden somewhere under all those vests and capes, and he would stop at nothing to protect Darren, his ‘adopted’ son. In the movie he’s a douchebag with a ginger jerry curl. That’s it. That’s all there is to him. There’s literally nothing else to his character. At all.

And lastly, there is Mr Tiny, the baddie. In the books, Mr Tiny is a villainous, nasty, manipulative man who can make grown men cower with fear. In the movie, Mr Tiny is a regeneration of the beloved children’s nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Seriously, he looks like the lovechild of the bald guy from Despicable Me and unmasked Darth Vader. Trust me, go and google him. It’s just a mess, it really is…

And there are a whole other host of problems that surface in this adaption. Things like: bad acting, cheap CGI effects, important bits from the books missing, artistic licence adding in bits that never happened, bad storytelling, and just rushing the whole thing in general.

Time in the slammer given for this criminal movie adaptation? Ten years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take me to get over Larten Crepsley’s jerry curl.

Our second offender? The Host, based off the novel written by Stephenie Meyer.

the host

Right, let me just get one thing straight. This book nearly killed me. I swear to god, if there is such a thing as death by feels, then I’m lucky to still be alive today. Who knew that the same woman who spawned the misogynistic likes of Twilight could also write the masterpiece that is The Host? Never has a book moved me to tears so easily. It was compelling, and emotive, and utterly beautiful.

The film was none of these things. The Host movie was dull. It was boring, and dreary, and deathly uninteresting to watch. They stripped away the minimalistic beauty of the novel, rewriting the body-snatcher story with a needless love-triangle subplot, turning it into another Twilight Saga.

The director seemingly felt the bizarre need to turn the main character, Melanie Stryder, into another Bella Swan. Instead of Melanie being strong, courageous, and level-headed like she is in the books, Melanie’s only priority suddenly turns into “OMG does that boy like me?!”

The filmmakers clearly had no respect for the ethnicity of the characters as Melanie, with her Mexican roots, dark hair, and dark eyes, was played by the little Irish pixie, Saoirse Ronan. Likewise, with Melanie’s little brother, they cast an originally olive-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed boy by a twelve year old, doughy-faced, blue eyed child-actor you’ve never heard of and probably never will hear of again.

Casting problems are many, as is the director’s decision to leave out huge hunks of the story, resulting in the plot making absolutely no sense at all. He then added in pointless scenes that also make no sense, and drag the film out to a whopping 125 minutes. Because if there’s one thing an audience like more than a terrible film, it’s a long terrible film.

Really, I’m not exaggerating. It is a terrible film. Save a life and forward this blog post to a friend.

Time in the slammer given for this movie adaptation? Twenty years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take me to get over the fact that they turned down Ian Sommerhalder to play Ian O’Shea.

Like, seriously? What is WRONG with people…?

And our third and by far BIGGEST offender? (This one really broke my heart…) Inkheart, based off the novel Inkheart, written by Cornelia Funke.

inkheart

The Inkheart trilogy was one of my favourite book series as a child. It was right up there with Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant. It had everything a fantasy/adventure novel needed. It was funny, fast-paced, interesting, well-written, and each page was filled with magic and wonder.

And then the film came out. And it was vile. Heavy on movie clichés and light on actual story-telling, this adaptation makes a complete mockery of the books. Now, seeing as there are too many things they did wrong to have a rant and rave about each one, let me just list you off a few…

  • None of the actors cast to play the characters actually looked anything like the characters they were supposed to play. Like, not even
  • Meggie forgives her mother instantly for abandoning her and her father for ten years, when in the book series she never actually forgives her.
  • They added in stupid bits that didn’t make sense or even add to the story, like the weird fire/smoke/hurricane/thunderstorm of doom at the end.
  • Dustfinger’s magic isn’t real, it’s all magician’s tricks, whereas in the books all his magic is 100% authentic.
  • Meggie’s parents randomly invite a much older boy to live with them and their teenage daughter in their home for no reason. This doesn’t happen in the books either.
  • The storyline is rushed and makes no sense.
  • Brendan Fraser has a stupid face.
  • They leave storylines wide open and don’t bother to tie them up.
  • You want a satisfying ending that makes sense? Nope.
  • Meggie and Farid’s love story never happens.
  • Dustfinger magically gets transported back to his own world when it was impossible before, just so he can have a happy ending, when in fact this doesn’t happen in the book series until book two, and it actually makes sense.
  • Everything you loved about the book is brutally murdered and stamped out of existence in order to make this crappy film.
  • And one more time: Brendan Fraser has a stupid face.

Time in the slammer given for this movie adaptation? Fifty years. Because that’s how long it’s going to take for me to get over Brendan Fraser’s stupid face being cast as Mo Folchart.

No. Just, no.

And there you have it! How to — and how not to — adapt YA books into movies. For success follow the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. For failure cast John C. Reilly as a ginger vampire with a jerry curl.

And for the love of god, if you want your YA novel to become a successful movie, do not, I repeat DO NOT cast Brendan Fraser as the main character. Save yourselves.

Laura, out!

An Unorthodox Interview With Derek Landy

Derek Landy is more than just a writer. Derek Landy is a number one, bestselling, award-winning children’s author. He’s written two films, eleven books, one novelette for World Book Day, and has featured in three separate collections of short stories as a guest author. He is currently in the midst of writing the screenplay for the Skulduggery Pleasant movie, and has started writing the first novel in his newest book series. He’s a busy man…!

skul-and-Derek

Author of the wildly popular Skulduggery Pleasant series, Derek has had astronomical fame and success since the first book came out in 2007. Over the last seven years he’s won countless awards including: The Red House Book Award, The Irish Book Of The Decade, numerous Irish Book Awards, and he’s on Oprah Winfrey’s Recommended Reading List.

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His Skulduggery Pleasant book series is a brilliantly fun and exciting adventure story that follows the exploits of a 400 year old skeleton detective and his teenage partner in crime throughout the course of nine books. The last book in the series, The Dying Of The Light (shown above), just came out in August and I was lucky enough to bag an interview with the genius himself! Awesome!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I present to you, a very unorthodox interview with Derek Landy…

(This is a very PG version of the interview. There was so much funny material I had to leave out because it just wasn’t appropriate for the younger readers, but believe me, I was cracking up. Nevertheless, Enjoy!)

Me: Derek. How does it feel now that Skulduggery is over?

Derek: I’ve been back from touring for about two weeks now and acclimatising to normal life, such as it is, and for the first time I’m looking at a life without Skulduggery. It’s weird and unsettling. I feel glad that I managed to do what I wanted to do. I feel happy that I didn’t fumble the ball at the last moment. You write a nine book series and unless the final book is up to par, then what’s the point of the other eight? I’ve read plenty of series where it starts off brilliantly and then it flatlines. I don’t think Skulduggery did that. I think we went out on a high note. I’m proud of the books.

Me: What are some of your favourite reactions to the end of Dying Of The Light?

Derek: I’ve gotten used to releasing a book and then watching the anguish, heartache and the heartbreak when I do horrible things to people’s favourite characters, and now it’s just standard. It’s never less than enjoyable, but it’s standard. With Dying Of The Light my favourite reaction is the reaction to the twist at the end. You think it’s going one way and then it spins. The reaction to that, the screams and the wails, is brilliant. Readers have taken selfies of themselves in tears, and then once they realise what I’ve actually done… I can hear their curses from here. It’s lovely. The amount of stories I’ve been told about readers getting to a certain chapter near the end and slamming the book closed, throwing it across the room, not picking it up again for a few hours or even a day or two, because they’re so distraught and tormented by feels. But then eventually they do pick it up again, because they have to finish it, and then they realise what I’ve done, and then they hate me even more. I love it.

Me: And how do you compare those reactions to the ones you got after Death Bringer when the big secret was revealed?

Derek: The reaction to that revelation was uniform. It was shock and it was dismay. It was disbelief. It was as if each reader got to that point and they got a punch in the chest. They had to sit down and absorb it, and go “what just happened?” They had to revaluate everything they thought they knew. That kind of twist is very effective, but it’s deadly serious. There was no one reading the twist in Death Bringer and laughing about it.

Whereas the reactions to some of the things in The Dying Of The Light, absolutely some of it was shock, some of it was “I can’t believe he did that” and heartbreak, trauma, all very fine and expected. And then there are some twists that make you laugh, and make you grin, and make you curse me in a nice way. The twist in Dying Of The Light is me playing with the reader because I know the reader. The online presence, the online community of Skulduggery readers is extraordinarily vibrant as everyone knows, so I keep tabs on the forums, and the comments, and the blogs, and Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

I saw theories, and people guessing and projecting what they thought was going to happen in the final book, and it becomes a very tricky tightrope to walk to give them what they need, but not to give it to them in a way they’d expect. Book nine was all about me navigating that tightrope, and I think I pulled it off.

Me: Did Dying Of The Light have any other possible endings?

Derek: Yes.

Me: Can you tell us?

Derek: I can’t really. I didn’t know until I wrote it what the ending was. I knew what the last scenes were, and what the last chapter was, but I didn’t know exactly how it ended. My options were: happy ending, sad ending, tragic ending, traumatic ending, funny ending. I chose the ending I chose because that’s where the story and the characters were going. The readers expect certain things, because they know how bloodthirsty I am, and they know how merciless I am. I know they know that. They know that I know they know that. It’s a massive loop that never ends, and so you just try your best to give them a totally natural and organic ending. Not to change it to spite them. It has to be natural. It has to be the only ending you could possibly imagine, and the only way you will know that as a writer is when you finish it and you go “ah, so this is how it ends.”

Me: You just got back from your tour. You travelled the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, how was it?

Derek: It was fun. Exhausting. I’m not the biggest fan of tours.

Me: Why’s that?

Derek: I don’t like being away from home. My family go, “Oh look you’re going first class! Everything is being paid for! You stay in lovely hotels! You go to London and stay in top hotels! You go to Sydney and Perth! You’re travelling around the world and your publisher is paying for everything! It’s wonderful! It’s marvellous!” but they don’t understand that it’s not. It’s airports, hotel rooms, book shops, malls and libraries. You meet so many people they blur into one, so at the end of the two weeks you’re going “Where was I? Who did I meet?” but the fact is, if it was just that amount of pressure and just that hectic all the time I wouldn’t go on tour.

But the upside is such an upside. The upside of being on tour is that you get to meet the readers. It sounds amazingly corny, you know, “I want to meet the readers, I want to connect with the readers,” but that’s what I want to do. After a book I want to see their faces. I want to sign their books and interact with them. If I had the chance to meet my favourite writer when I was a kid, or a teenager, or in my twenties, I would have killed for it. I’ve always looked on the tours as a way to thank the readers.

It’s not for me. It’s not about publicity, and it’s not about selling books. It’s the part of the year where I actually physically thank the people for reading the books. It’s worth it.

Me: Can the readers be comforted with the knowledge that there might be a Skulduggery movie coming out at some point?

Derek: Emphasis on the word “might.” I’ve been promising this for years. I’ve been promising this since 2007 when the first book was out. It’s been in various stages of development since then. The fact is, making movies is an extremely uncertain business. As it stands, I’ve just signed a new movie deal, I’m writing the script and the studio is very enthusiastic. They’re very positive and they love the script as it is.

I’m writing the second draft and everything is looking good, but I said this five years ago. You can never be sure of anything in Hollywood. Everything can look absolutely rosy and positive, and still nothing might happen. There literally is no way to tell. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a Skulduggery movie and the readers will have another outlet to obsess over, and get weird and freaky about.

Me: At this moment in time what is more important? What are you focusing on more, the movie script or the next book series?

Derek: I’m giving both of them equal levels of importance in my head. I feel the pressure more for the book than the script. The movie, if it happens, is a team effort. I would love to stay on as writer for the entire thing, but I’ll be happy to just stay on for as long as I can. I may be replaced as screenwriter at any stage, and that’s the risk you take when you make movies.

But I know what I’m doing when it comes to screenplays and I know I’m good. I know the book and I know the world very well, so I don’t feel the same level of pressure for the script at all, because I feel comfortable with it. I’m confident writing Skulduggery. The new series though, that’s where the pressure is. I’ve got to come up with something new, and yet appeal to some of the same people. The pressure is on that one, that’s the big one. I know Skulduggery like the back of my hand, but with this new book series I don’t know it at all.

Me: Can you give us any details on what the new book is about or give us a title?

Derek: I can’t give you the title. It’s about a sixteen year old girl whose being chased across America by a pack of demons. It’s horror. It’s three books long. I don’t know what age group it is, I’ll know that when I finish, but by the sound of it, it sounds like it’s for a slightly older age group than Skulduggery. I’m sure my publisher would like me to stay within the same age group because it’s a good age range, and obviously I’ve found success there. Eleven to thirteen is a vibrant age group. It’s just huge, and you appeal to so many others, above and below that age range. It’s a lovely range to hit.

I don’t have a clue about any of this, obviously. I just write the book and then I’m told who it’s aimed at. That’s the marketing side of things. While I expect they’d like me to stay within a very lucrative target audience, it’s really not even up to me. It’s up to the book. It’ll be whatever it is, it’ll be for whoever it’s for. There’s nothing I can do or say about it. I can’t change it because it is what it is, and it’ll probably be for a slightly older audience.

Me: If it does turn out to be for a slightly older audience, and the older Skulduggery fans pick it up, how accepting do you think the Skulduggery superfans will be of new stuff?

Derek: When the last Skulduggery book was released and I was talking about the next series, I was expecting a lot more “I don’t want a new series! I want Skulduggery! Give me Skulduggery!” but I didn’t really get any of that. I got a lot of “I’m really glad it ended on a high, and now I’m really looking forward to what’s coming next!” I didn’t expect that kind of eagerness, and that kind of trust.

They just want — especially the older ones — they just want something new. Whenever I tell people it looks like it’s going to be more horror and less adventure, they just get excited. In Armageddon Outta Here, the biggest story that I get feedback from is Get Thee Behind Me, Bubba Moon, which is a horror story. It’s unlike any other Skulduggery story. It’s not as funny. It’s horror. It’s dread. There’s an adult main character. It’s full on, older audience horror. I think they’re suddenly very eager to see what I have in store for them. I go “now I’m writing a horror book” and they seem eager and that’s so nice.

Me: Does it feel like you’re leaving old friends behind, saying goodbye to the Skulduggery cast?

Derek: It does. I’ve been writing Skulduggery since 2005, that’s nine years. I know Skulduggery and Valkyrie so well. I know the supporting cast so well. Writing the Skulduggery books was never a hassle, it was never a problem. I would always just settle right back into it, because it is like meeting up with old friends. It’s like continuing conversations you had a few months ago, and you just pick it up again and go on. So I’m very grateful to these characters and I’ve got huge amounts of affection and loyalty to them, because they’ve changed everything in my life. I owe them everything.

Me: And then you kill them off, naturally.

Derek: I’m really horribly mean to them. I don’t know what that says about me. As I writer I miss them. Writing this new series without Skulduggery, and Valkyrie, and Tanith, and coming up with an entirely new cast of characters is hard. I’m writing a new book, whereas none of the Skulduggery books I saw as new books, they just felt like one big long book, one big long adventure, one big long story. I don’t have that. I don’t have my friends anymore. I can’t trust my characters anymore. Before I would sit down to write and I would trust my characters to approach my story outline and make it better, and flesh everything out. It’s not me, it’s them. My friends will do this, my friends will make this a good book. Now I don’t have my friends anymore and it’s up to me again.

Me: Who is your favourite Skulduggery hero, villain, and idiot, and why?

Derek: My favourite hero is Val. She’s obviously the main character. If I didn’t absolutely adore her I couldn’t have written the books. She’s very special to me. She’s very, very flawed. Over the years I’ve gotten comments from people going “I just don’t like Valkyrie. She’s not nice. I don’t like how she treats Fletcher. I don’t like how arrogant she is. I don’t like this and that” and I’m like “Yeah that’s the point.” It’s as if everyone expected the main character, because she’s a girl, to be perfect. To be beautiful, and flawless, and nice, and lovely, and that’s what everyone expects. And then they’re confronted by the reality that Val is a real girl. She is arrogant, she’s narcissistic, selfish, self-centred, just like everyone is.

No one is completely bad, no one is completely good. No one is selfish all the time, no one is self-centred all the time, no one is arrogant all the time, but they’re just facets of who we are. It’s always been interesting to talk to people or to hear from people who’ve just been confronted with the fact that just because this is the main character of a book it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a nice person, or a complete cookie-cutter kind of character. She will be flawed. Val has always been my favourite good guy.

My favourite bad guy is Darquesse, because she’s awesome. She is so much fun. She’s just a wonderful psychopath in every sense of the word. She so much fun to write because there is no malice. She’s evil, she’s merciless, and she’ll kill you and the entire world, but there’s no nastiness there. She’s just doing it because she wants to. There’s a kind of innocence about her, and that’s a lot of fun to write, especially after you write bad guys with an agenda. Serpine, Mevolent, Vengeous, Scarab — these people have agendas. They have their own motivations, and so from their own point of view, they’re the good guy. But Darquesse isn’t the good guy, and she doesn’t fool herself into thinking she is. Darquesse is pure impulse. She’s the unrestrained part of us all — if we didn’t have a conscience, if society didn’t block us off and stop us from behaving one way or the other this is how we’d be. We’d be carefree and wonderfully violent, in a lovely way.

And my favourite idiot is Scapegrace. You didn’t see that coming, you didn’t see his evolution coming. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t have any idea about incorporating it into the main storyline. It just happened, and along the way he’s just gotten more and more fun to write. And then it got to the point where I’d go, “Right, I’ve got my storylines, I’ve got my plots, I’ve got my characters, now how will I put Scapegrace in?” and then I just do. I don’t care if you like him or not, he’s just a character who is a perfect example of the characters living beyond the writer’s expectations.

Me: Are you excited to be starting something fresh?

Derek: Yes. At the moment it’s work. Writing Skulduggery was all fun, this new series is work. I’m not allowing myself the same kind of indulgences that I had with Skulduggery. There’s no wise-cracking, there’s no huge big fight scenes, it’s just horror. It’s serious stuff. There’s fun and there’s jokes, but there’s no Skulduggery-like character, and because I don’t have that, suddenly this is work. It’s weird to write a book and for it not to flow naturally because I’ve been doing it for so long.

Me: The character Valkyrie is based off one of your real friends, Laura. In your new book are there going to be any characters based off anyone you know?

Derek: No. I based Val off a real person because I needed a real person. This was my first attempt at writing a book, and as a new writer still learning his trade I needed all the help I could get. I don’t need that anymore. I’m now entirely comfortable writing whatever it is that I choose to write. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to that kind of thing. I don’t need to, so probably not. Skulduggery was the perfect place to put in people I know, like Gracious O’Callaghan, and Donegan Bane, and Maybury, and all these people influenced by friends of mine. I also took the opportunity wherever possible to include readers, just drop in a reader or two. But that’s it, that’s over. Skulduggery was the place to do it, it won’t be happening again.

Me: You just had a birthday last week. How was that?

Derek: It was a milestone. It was my 40th. I still can’t quite reconcile that I’m now forty. I’m forty. It’s just weird. You never quite think that you’ll get to what you once thought of as middle-aged. You always think that these milestones will always be ahead of you, but they won’t. You’re going to hit them and suddenly they’re going to be behind you. My next milestone is my 50th. Jesus. That’s just scary. I just thought of that right there. My next milestone birthday is my 50th. It’s in ten years’ time, fair enough, but still. Wow, that’s depressing.

But I got to my 40th, and I went to lunch with a friend of mine, who’s also a writer, and she was saying isn’t it wonderful the fact that, yeah I’ve reached forty, but so many people reach forty and they go “What have I done with my life? I’m doing a job I hate. I can’t get that promotion. I’ve got this work, and that stress, and this anxiety. My life hasn’t worked out the way I wanted. I don’t have my dream job. I don’t have this, I don’t have that,” and I don’t think any of that. I have my dream job.

I’m a writer and a successful one. If you hope to be a successful writer you’re an idiot. It’s so unrealistic. It’s so farfetched. And yet here I am. I’m one of the people it happened for, by pure chance. So yeah, I’ve reached my 40th birthday, but I’m not thinking to myself “what have I don’t with my life?” I’m not thinking, “I don’t have my dream job.” I’m thinking, “I’ve made it! Whatever happens from now on, I’ve made it. I’ve impacted the world. I’ve changed people’s lives. No matter what happens to me my books will always be out there,” and that’s a lovely consolation to turning forty.

Me: Did you think you’d be here ten years ago?

Derek: Ten years ago I was just writing Skulduggery. Writers are a very special breed of people. They like to delude themselves. If you’re a writer and you’re not published, or you’re a writer and you’ve yet to break through, or catch your break, or make it big, or even if you just want to be a writer, if you’re in school and you want to be a writer, you’re going to delude yourself. That’s what we all do. If you have a few books out and no one bought them, you’re still deluding yourself, because the chances of you making it are remote.

I was thirty and I was deluding myself, and I made it. Writers delude themselves until they make it a reality. And that’s just the lucky ones. There are other writers who will delude themselves and not make it. But I was one of the ones, just like every other writer out there, who deluded himself into thinking I was going to make it, and that I was going to be successful, that I’m going to be able to write for the rest of my life, no matter what level of success I’m at, that I’ll be able to write because that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I’ll do. I won’t have to get another job, I’ll be able to write to support myself. Even when I was thirty, as I was writing the first Skulduggery book, before I had my book deal, I was deluding myself into thinking I was going to make it. And I did.

Me: You recently just did the Ice Bucket Challenge, can you tell us about the charities you donated to?

Derek: I donated to the Irish charities for motor neurone disease, for cancer and for autism. It took me more than three days to do it so I decided I would do a big one, and I’d donate to three causes. I’ve got a little four year old niece who’s autistic and she’s just a bundle of unfettered joy to be around. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing her smile and laugh.

Me: Halloween will soon be here. Do you celebrate it?

Derek: I used to when I was a kid. When I was a teenager I didn’t because I lived in the middle of nowhere, and going out and dressing up never really appealed to me. And nowadays I still don’t. I don’t have any trick-or-treaters calling round to the house. I don’t partake. I think when my nieces are older and they actually realise what Halloween is then it’ll be fun. Then it’ll be a family thing again, the same as it was when I was a kid. I’m looking forward to that. Of course, every one of them dresses up as a princess every day of the week anyway, so Halloween isn’t really going to make much of a difference to them.

Me: What are your top five Halloween movies?

Derek: If I wanted to terrify someone who’d never seen a movie in their life I’d sit them down and I’d make them watch: A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Thing, The Ring — the Japanese version, not the American one — Poltergeist, and I would end the night on a funny note and I’d go for Evil Dead 2.

Me: Christmas is coming. Last year you made the Twelve Days Of Christmas video. Is there a Christmas fan project for this year?

Derek: No.

Me: Oh great.

Derek: I didn’t expect that to take up so much of my time. I’d never edited anything before, so I had to teach myself how to edit using YouTube, which it fine, it’s easy, but not when you’re learning. It was a massive undertaking that I undertook naively without any idea how many videos I’d be getting sent by people. I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be repeating it.

Me: What are your top five Christmas movies?

Derek: The Nightmare before Christmas, because I just love it. My second favourite Christmas movie is Die Hard. My third favourite is Lethal Weapon. Fourth favourite Christmas movie… Love Actually. I love that film! Richard Curtis is hit or miss, but there’s just something about that movie I adore. And I don’t have a fifth. Maybe Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Or Gremlins. Or Batman Returns.

Me: Mortal Coil was set at Christmas. Any particular reason why?

Derek: I think everyone expected each book to be set a year apart, but they weren’t. Some were set six months apart, four months apart, nine months apart, thirteen months apart, and each book only lasts for a few days, so I could choose any time of year to set it. I actually wrote Mortal Coil during a very heavy snowfall. There were just a few weeks of very wintery weather, and I said “This is it. This suits it,” and it was nice to set something at Christmas. You get to make your feelings clear about certain traditions, which is nice.

Me: How does Skulduggery normally spend Christmas?

Derek: Saving the world. He usually gives Val the day off if he can, but evil does not sleep. Evil doesn’t take Christmas off.

Me: Evil doesn’t let Skulduggery have a roast turkey?

Derek: No. Evil does not do that. Evil is mean.

Me: What if he invited Evil round for Christmas dinner?

Derek: You would have to get Evil a very good present, because Evil is spiteful. But hey, if you do, and you get Evil drunk, you’re in for a fun evening. Charades! Evil is great at charades!

Me: There are a few purposefully unanswered questions left in the Skulduggery books — are you ever going to answer them?

Derek: Yes. I was approaching the end of The Dying Of The Light and I realised I had hadn’t answered this, and I hadn’t resolved that, or explained this, and I made the decision that I wouldn’t. If I had to shoehorn in a reason or explanation, or an answer or solution, then it’s not natural, it not organic, and it wouldn’t fit into the story. I wasn’t too upset about that. I wasn’t preoccupied about he fact that I never said what Dusk sensed in Valkyrie’s blood. I never got to say what Rue’s power was. I never got to do a lot of things, but I wasn’t worried. I think what I will do, is on the anniversary of the publication of The Dying Of The Light, on my blog, I’ll answer one question every year.

Me: You’ll be popular.

Derek: Every year if there’s something in the series that you feel is unresolved, or are dying to know, and want me to explain, then check in on the blog once every year and eventually I’ll get round to you.

Me: What’s your favourite secret you’ve yet to reveal?

Derek: What Dusk sensed in Valkyrie’s blood. That is huge. I thought it would be a part of the series, and it turned out, no, it wasn’t.

Me: Your next series is a trilogy. With the way you reveal your secrets in the Skulduggery series, when you have to wait six books to find out the big twist, in a trilogy will you be able to reveal things in the same way? Are you limited with just three books?

Derek: No, but then, the new series is not like Skulduggery. It’s a lot more immediate, especially the first book. It’s a lot more straight forward. It’s a chase. There are good guys and bad guys. There’s hiding, fleeing, dying, and screaming. With Skulduggery I was spoiled, because most of the characters were over 400 years old. They have so many secrets and so many hidden motivations, whereas in the new trilogy you’re not going to have that. You’re not going to have those centuries of rivalries and secrets. It’s just a different way of approaching it. A different way of writing. It’s a different sort of story.

Me: Will you miss the freedom of not having nine books in a series? The freedom to make one a horror and one a whodunit?

Derek: I don’t think so. Skulduggery was the perfect series for me, and the perfect series to start with, especially. It was everything I needed it to be. The new series is different. It’s a lot more limited in scope. You’re not saving the world, you’re saving one girl’s life, and in the context of the story that’s just as important as saving the world.

Me: What are you looking forward to most in the New Year?

Derek: Getting a new book out there. Seeing the reaction to that. 2015 will be my first non-Skulduggery year, so it’ll be weird and unsettling. I’m looking forward to people reading it. It sounds obvious, but there’s a lovely feeling that comes when your book is out there and people are reading it and discussing it. I’m just curious to see how it’ll do. I’m not in the slightest expecting it to be as big as Skulduggery ended up being. It doesn’t matter how big your last series was, your new series will not be as big. That’s a fact of writing. It’ll take time to build up its own readership. There will be a lot of Skulduggery readers picking it up because they’re loyal to me, and they like Skulduggery so they’ll give this new one a go. It’s going to take a while for the new series to reach the same level because it’s going to have to build its own momentum and find its own followers. I’m very curious to see how it’ll do and the reaction it‘ll get.

And then we moved onto the lightening round…

Me: Favourite colour?

Derek: Black! Blue? Black? I don’t know, is black a colour? Or just the absence of colour? Blue/black!

Me: Favourite song?

Derek: Famous Blue Raincoat, by Leonard Cohen. Maybe.

Me: Favourite animal?

Derek: Dog.

Me: Favourite Disney movie?

Derek: The Avengers!

Me: No, animated Disney movie.

Derek: Beauty And The Beast.

Me: Your guilty pleasure?

Derek: I don’t have one. None of my pleasures are guilty.

Me: You can only eat one thing for the rest of your life — what is it?

Derek: Food.

Me: What kind of food?

Derek: Roast chicken. Or pizza. Or a cheeseburger.

Me: If you were a chocolate bar, what would you be?

Derek: A chocolate bar.

Me: Yes, but what kind?

Derek: A Crunchie bar. Because I crunch when eaten.

Me: Your happiest memory?

Derek: The look on my mum’s face when I told her about the book deal.

Me: Kiss, marry or kill: China, Tanith, and Darquesse?

Derek: Kiss China, marry Tanith and kill Darquesse.

Me: Kiss, marry or kill: Billy-Ray, Scapegrace, and Lord Vile?

Derek: Er… kiss Billy-Ray, marry Scapegrace and kill Lord Vile.

Me: You’re stuck on a deserted island. What movie book and film do you bring?

Derek: The book I’d bring would be ‘How To Build A Raft’. The person I’d bring would be Bear Grylls, so I could cook him and eat him. And to make sure I did it right, I’d bring the box set of Hannibal.

Me: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Derek: Teleportation.

Me: To get off the island?

Derek: Yes!

Me: Who would win in a fight, Skulduggery or Batman?

Derek: Batman.

Me: Who would win in a fight, Lord Vile or Voldemort?

Derek: Lord Vile.

Me: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing right now?

Derek: I’m a fully qualified bodyguard, so probably that.

Me: The most important thing you’ve learnt from your career as a writer?

Derek: Brevity!

(And lastly, the final question…)

Me: One motto you always live by?

Derek: Walk tall and carry a big stick.

And there you have it! My exclusive interview with the one and only Derek Landy! The number one, best-selling author! The legend! The hero! The Golden God! How did I ever get so lucky to get such a prestigious interview with such a great and powerful man…?

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Oh yeah. That’s how. He’s my BAE.

Ahem.

Laura, out!