Image of Andrew Pyper from Google
Andrew Pyper's books are not just read, they are devoured. You cannot read anything he has written and simply walk away when the last page is turned. Andrew Pyper creates stories and characters that stay with you long after the tale ends. He truly writes things that go bump in your brain, and it is my honor to present my interview with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Pyper.
1) A reviewer of your first book Lost Girls said it was as if Alice Munro and Stephen King had a secret love child. What inspired you to write such a memorable tale?
I had just graduated from law school, an experience that left me a bit depressed and wondering what I was going to do next with my life (I was damn sure I wasn't going to be a lawyer). So I moved to a small town where the rent was cheap and started to write a story about a cokehead lawyer taking on the first murder trial of his career. The set-up was fairly conventional: a murder mystery/legal drama. But as I went along, the more ghostly and monstrous elements introduced themselves. The presumed victims started to haunt the lawyer. A local myth of a Lady in the Lake who pulls swimmers down enlarged to become pivotal to the story. The supernatural creeped into the conventional realism all on its own. When I was finished, I didn't know what I'd made. A legal procedural/ghost story/psychological thriller hybrid? It was kind of a monster in itself. But obviously it was where my own interests and inclinations wanted to take me - the netherworld between genres. In varied ways, I've been there ever since.
2) Your most recent novel, The Demonologist was just named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Amazon.com. Did you know how well-received The Demonologist would be?
It's been gratifying (and rather surprising) to see how the novel has been received. But the thing is, you never know. I certainly don't, anyway. There's a little game I play before a book is published where I wonder what the one thing about the story will bug (some) readers most? Because there's always one. My guesses have never been right.
3) You seamlessly combine horror, humor and redemption in many of your novels. Do you draw off experiences in your own life for inspiration, and if so, can you tell us about one or two of those experiences?
A couple people close to me have said that the protagonists of my novels are the versions of myself I would have become had I taken a different course in my life. This is the sort of insight I would never have come up with on my own, but it seems right to me. Each novel is an exploration of an alternative reality that is, emotionally if not factually, very close to my current life, its dominant concerns and anxieties. I think I need to draw on that dynamic of "near-miss," of fear, a kind of There But For the Grace of God Go I consideration of how lives - the lives of others as well as the other lives we ourselves might have lived - are separated by an extremely thin membrane. In that sense, all experiences - even the most horrific, the most seemingly "unimaginable" - are always closer than you think.
4) Are you at all concerned about the adaption of The Demonologist into a feature film, or do you have faith that the screenwriters will stay true to the haunting qualities of the story?
Naturally, if they make the movie, I'd like it to be good. But what is "good"? Me being satisfied? Huge box office? Critical praise? It's like trying to hold an oyster. I'm quite happy standing apart from the process, letting the moviemakers make a movie, with me cheering them on from the sidelines. It's because, invariably, films are different from books. They are their own organism, with their own rituals and culture and expectations. It actually relieves a lot - if not all - of my worries on the matter when I remember this.
5) Classical literature plays a part in many of your novels, most notably Milton's Paradise Lost in The Demonologist. Who are some modern (or not so modern authors) you read and like?
My reading is all over the place, so my answer here may not have any apparent through-line to someone else, but there is one to me. In different ways, I love - and love to draw on - Henry James, Stephen King, Alice Munro, Conrad, Ovid, Martin Amis. That's this week, anyway.
6) Simon and Schuster will be publishing your next two novels, the first of which is Ash. Can you tell us a bit about your latest work?
I don't want to get in trouble here by saying too much! Ash is about fraternal twins and near death experience. What would happen if you died and returned to life, only you brought something else back with you. Someone.
7) Finally, you have a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor about your own notoriety. Is it difficult to remain humble when people compare your work to Ira Levin's and Willam Peter Blatty's?
I have two young kids who, when I come downstairs after a writing day, will stick their tongues out and cross their eyes and mimic a monkey punching a keyboard and say, "Oh, look! Guess who was working!" Around here, humble is the only option.
Visit Andrew Pyper's website and Facebook page for more information on all his books and upcoming events.
Please note: Andrew Pyper very kind to agree to this interview. Having this published here on Poking at Snakes in no way means he agrees or disagrees with any of the political pieces here.