Andrew Pyper is a Canadian author, who was born in Stratford, Ontario in 1968. Pyper’s parents emigrated from Northern Ireland and had 5 children in total, Andrew the youngest. Growing up he found a love for books and hoped to one day write them. As a child Pyper wrote imaginary stories with a magic pencil, it is all he ever wanted to do, but never thought he would make a living off of it. He proceeded to obtain a law degree from the University of Toronto. He has never used his law degree for any cases but has been called to the bar once in 1996. While in school he published short stories in literary magazines, he published quite a few in Quarry and The New Quarterly. After his law degree, Pyper realized he didn’t love law and went on to receive a B.S. and M.A. in English Literature from McGill University. Pyper became a professional writer and is living entirely off of his work. Pyper currently lives in Toronto with his wife Heidi Rittenhouse, who works as a Toronto arts administrator, two children, and their dog. Now that his career is well on its way and his name is getting popular, Andrew Pyper is being said to be the new master of modern horror.
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I'm Andrew Pyper, a novelist who writes supernatural thrillers. My previous books include The Guardians, Kiss Me, The Trade Mission, The Wildfire Season, The Killing Circle, Lost Girls, and The Demonologist. My latest novel just came out yesterday and it's called THE DAMNED. It's the story of Danny and his evil sister Ash Orchard, fraternal twins who both die in a mysterious fire on their 16th birthdays - except Danny returns to life, leaving Ash behind.
And Ash is not happy about it. She haunts Danny his entire adult life... and when Danny dies again, this time, when he has his second near-death experience and returns to the living world, he doesn't come back alone...
I'm incredibly excited that THE DAMNED is being developed for film by Legendary Pictures (the company behind Inception, the Dark Knight movies, Interstellar) and I'm looking forward to answering your questions about the book, evil twins, whether you've encountered a ghost yourself, or really anything!
Why can't Danny stay dead?
It's a gift! Near-death experience, according to my research, is something far less rare than you'd think. People just don't talk about it because the doctors don't want to listen and, well, it's weird. So I had Danny go back and forth more than once (he's a death expert, as he calls himself). The short answer? If Danny stayed dead, I wouldn't have a story!
What inspired you to start writing horror books?
I started out being a big horror reader as a kid - Stephen King of course, Peter Straub, but also the older, dead guys like Henry James (The Turn of the Screw especially), Poe, the ghost stories of Dickens. But I never envisioned a future of being a "horror writer." That was a creative evolution over four or five novels (all thrillers, with paranormal elements, but not quite horror). Now, with The Demonologist and The Damned, I've opened a door to full-on psychological horror...and it feels good.
Is there a real-life inspiration or connection to the Ash character for you?
I've fortunately never known anyone as bad as Ash, but I've known some sociopaths - known well, as in really well - and I've lived and learned how the way someone appears can mean the opposite to who they "really are."
do you do research for your books and how?
Because I write about the supernatural, much of my research is folklore, myth, the Bible, etc. Also, for The Damned, I read a lot about Dante's Inferno - as well as the poem itself. What was cool was how the structure of Dante's underworld - the descending rings - looks like the street structure of Detroit where the novel is set (ending at the lowest point - the Detroit River - which is frozen in both my novel and in Dante's Inferno). So research, for me, is a combination of a) going to places, b) listening to people's stories, and c) reading mythology and adapting it to my own stories.
Hi Andrew, how do you figure out the cover art for your books?
Do you get any input into the film?
When it comes to covers, I know what I like, but I'm not much of a design person. (HUGE understatement). So while I do have a say about covers (if I throw a big hissy fit, which I've never done, I'm sure the publisher would listen) I usually leave it to the designers and marketing people who know more about it all than I do. I will say that I really love the cover for The Damned though! That's my Ash, alright.
The haunted house you created in 'The Guardians' was truly chilling. It had a psychological effect on the characters that I haven't seen in thrillers before. It's a well-used element in ghost stories but you breathed new life into it. Where did the idea come from?
Thank you for saying so. The Guardians is about ghosts, yes, but for me it's really a novel about male friendship, particularly male friendship as it moves closer to middle-age. It's about accounting for the past, and how secrets - even the ones you "get away with" - have a way of growing, of becoming monstrous. As for the characters, they hopefully feel real because, in a sense, they ARE real. The guys I grew up with. (Though we never tied up our hockey coach in the basement of a haunted house).
What's your favorite genre of literature that isn't horror/thriller?
I'll read anything that seems interesting to me, or that is recommended by someone I trust. For instance, I don't usually read sic-fi but I loved the Southern Reach trilogy (check it out), and I never used to read biographies and now I'm gorging on them. As I change, my reading changes. But I'm open to anything.
Legendary optioned The Damned for a movie. What does that mean? How long before we can see your book on the big-screen?
It means that the first step of a long journey has been taken. First step? The producers have to find a screenwriter who has a take on the book that feels right. (The producers see the main strength of The Damned as the characters, not just its concept, which is music to a novelist's ears). After that, it's all about the getting the script right. Then taking it to a director(s) Legendary wants to work with. Once the right director is found...we should hopefully be in so-close-we-can-taste-it territory. Casting! (Question: anyone have any casting ideas for Danny? Ash?)
Hi Andrew! waves
What's one of the first things you can remember writing?
As soon as I could write, I would go around writing stories in the air. I had this imaginary pen, and it would drive my mother crazy, so she got her imaginary eraser and would chase after me, erasing all the "pollution" (her word) I was putting into the world! (There's no critic like your mom). Soon after that, all through grade school, I would make DIY books. I remember "Germany Vs. The World," an epic WW2 drama, and "Trixie and Dixie," a tear-jerker about two rabbits who escape their cages but find life hard on the outside. Those masterpieces are lost to time, but I still have "The Dream," a spooky fantasy. It's behind glass on my office wall - looking at it right now - and it's hilarious because, on the back, I drew my own Author's Photo. Me, cross-eyed, wearing a turtleneck. It's humbling in so many ways.
What is your typical writing process? Does it start with an idea/scene/character?
Okay, I can get quite excited - in the dorkiest of ways - about this question. Because I'm a big "pre-writer": thinking about the story in advance, the concept, the characters, the main turns of the piece. The main advantage, I think, of thinking a lot about a novel before diving in is that you can do so much creative work, ask so many more "What ifs?", before you get deep into the ms. and then, if you have to change direction, it's much harder to turn it all around. I like to collect tons of notes - little scenes, descriptions, bits of overheard dialogue - while I'm considering the main story, because I find the brain, all on its own, starts fitting these details together with your story, even while you sleep. All of this inches me closer to the outline. Once I have that on the wall - a six-foot long storyline filled in with every scene and turn - and can say "THAT'S my story"...then I start.
If I have an idea for a story, but don't know how to end it, what tips would you have?
Endings are hard. Right up there with beginnings and middles. But seriously, I think endings should be connected to how you start out in some way. Not in the sense of obvious foreshadowing or some big thematic hammering away at a "message," but in the way a piece of music returns to itself, while taking you to a different place. That's maybe a fancy way of saying that the ending and the beginning shouldn't be strangers. My advice? Re-read what you have with a view to finding where the story MUST go.
I think you should share that author's photo with the rest of the class ;-D
I often do, as a matter of fact! When I give talks sometimes in high schools I bring "The Dream" along and let everyone have a good laugh at my expense by showing them the self-portrait author's "photo." It breaks the ice. And I guess it also shows I'm not easily embarrassed (because the truth is I don't look much unlike that goofy guy in the picture I drew in grade 5).
Can you share with us any hints about your current book project? What can we expect after The Damned?
Hmmm. I can say this: It's a big story. Big in concept, the time and history it covers, the places it takes us too. It certainly feels like my most ambitious book yet. Oh, and it's scary.
Hey, today is my birthday! Hoping you could answer two questions.
How do you plan out your stories? Is there a formula you use to outline your narrative? I guess any insight into your creative process! (That's like 3 questions, sorry bro.)
What beer should I drink tonight to celebrate? I'll tell everyone Andrew Pyper suggested it to me personally.
Happy Birthday! I've already sort of answered Question One above ("pre-writing", outlining - I'm a big advocate for testing your story a lot before starting it, pitching it on friends and strangers, and waiting until you consistently get "THAT'S AWESOME!" in their reactions). As for the second, far more important question re: beer. Personally, I like complex wines and scotch, but when it comes to beer, I'm a mainstream slob. Keep it simple. Nothing with too much, you know, flavour! PBR? Labatt's Blue? They'll all take you to the right place!