Welcome back, friends!
I’m really, really excited to officially kick off the exciting month of May with my celebration of all things Andrew Pyper! There’s some exciting stuff to look forward to this time around. I attempted a grand celebration last year and honestly, I failed me, Andrew and his fans. A part of it was my internal voice saying – it’s too much, you’re annoying him with this!
Kindly, Andrew has assured me that this is not an annoyance and so this time around – bigger and better!
So, what should you expect? Here’s what’s on tap!
May 1st – today’s post is featuring an all new interview with Andrew, so keep scrolling below. I’ve re-asked him some questions from last year, as well as new one’s!
May 4th – A retrospective on his book ‘The Demonologist.’
May 6th – Retrospectives on ‘The Damned’ and ‘Lost Girls.’
May 11th – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Wildfire Season.’
May 13th – Retrospective, Guest Review and Review of ‘The Only Child.’
May 15th – Article revisit on how Andrew helped in making me a better writer.
May 20th – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Homecoming.’
May 21st – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Trade Mission.’
May 22nd – Andrew answers some questions specifically to each of his books.
May 25th – Retrospective and Review of ‘Kiss Me.’
May 26th – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Residence.’
May 27th – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Guardians.’
May 28th – Retrospective and Review of ‘The Killing Circle.’
May 29th – Wrap up!
Wowsa. See what I mean about diving into the deep end, this time around!
Alright, so I’ll shut up and here’s the interview!
Andrew Pyper Interview 2020!
Once again, Andrew, thank you so much for putting up with my shenanigans and being such a great sport with this whole thing. I’ve said it before, but truthfully – I’m very honored and humbled that you’ve ever interacted or even replied to anything that I’ve sent your way. To have you agree to do this interview (and with this second go around – even more questions with the specific book focuses) is just outstanding!
So, without further ado, welcome back for PYPER-MAY-NIA 2!
Let’s dive right into the questions!
I asked this last year, but for those that missed it, what initially drew you to writing dark fiction/horror/psychological thrillers? Did you have a favorite horror book growing up?
It must be some form of hard-wiring because even my earliest short stories from childhood came out that way: not necessarily horror tales, but people on the run, dreams that invade reality, doors that open into different dimensions. Where did that come from? Certainly, the books I was drawn to. Stephen King, of course, but also Peter Straub, paperback monster horror (The Rats, The Swarm, Jaws) – along with much quieter literary fiction that I loved and didn’t see as incongruent with the scary stuff all that much, notably Alice Munro. Also, the movies that stayed with me the most tended to combine the domestic, the gritty, the smaller scale, with the fantastical or horrific. I loved then – and continue to love – stories that cross over from one set of “rules” to another.
Did you have a literary mentor when you started?
No. I’m jealous of colleagues who had mentors they corresponded with or were taught by. That would have been a comfort to have someone around to say “Yes, by all means, you can do it that way,” early on, but I didn’t.
Have you found any barriers to writing your style of fiction being Canadian?
More in the earlier days of my publishing career than now. But absolutely, I’ve encountered dismissiveness among certain critics, or resistance from cultural gatekeepers who see “quality” in Canadian fiction exclusively occurring on a narrow field. I even once had an editor who recommended that I write my novels under a pseudonym to avoid not being taken seriously when I returned one day to writing “proper fiction.” Today, I’m happy to report that while the publishing business remains difficult in all the ways it’s always been difficult, writing within and through genre in Canada is less of a disqualification than it used to be.
How much input do you typically have regarding your book covers? Do you suggest something once done writing and it’s been handed in, or do you typically let that be handled and then you approve the options?
I try to limit my involvement on covers to speaking up when I think a terrible mistake might about to be made. Fortunately, that’s hardly ever happened! My test is: Can you live with it? Can you look at it on a shelf and not feel a gag reflex? If you do feel those things, then jump into the mix. If not, then keep your powder dry.
Of your own books – do you have a personal favourite cover?
I love The Demonologist trade paperback in the US and Canada. Also, the US trade paperback for The Wildfire Season and the US/Canada hardcover for The Damned.
‘The Homecoming’ is your most recent release and has been greatly received. Have you begun your next book already or do you take some time post-release for promotion, reflection etc?
I’ve completed a new novel, The Residence, that’s coming out in September. But you mention the space between one novel and the next – that’s always a weird time for me. I tend to get antsy, or pursue stupid diversions, or (in my younger, wilder years) get into trouble of one kind or another during these periods between projects. Part of it, I think, is catching up from the person you were when you started the previous book to the person you are now. I feel like I grow up in a sometimes painful, hyper-accelerated way between novels, because in the time I’m writing them I’m frozen in the world I’m creating. It can be a disorienting, if necessary, experience.
Since we spoke last year for PYPER-MAY-NIA 1, ‘The Homecoming’ has continued to be prominently featured on bookstagram, Twitter and the Amazon charts, and you’ve announced your next book as well – ‘The Residence’ – which arrives in September. Has ‘The Residence’ been something whittling away for some time or was this the project you jumped into once ‘The Homecoming’ was out of your hands?
The Residence has an interesting origin story for me, as most of the time my underlying ideas for novels have been percolating away for some time – subconsciously probably for years – before I start on them. In this case, I was well along on an outline for a completely different project to follow The Homecoming when I was tooling around on the internet, just for fun, looking up true ghost stories. You know the ones: accounts by real people who buy the perfect little house in the country, move in, hear scratching in the walls, voices in the night, then catch a glimpse of a spectral grandma in the kitchen? I love those stories. Anyway, I was just wasting some time on that one day when my searches brought me to ghostly stories of the White House. Most of it was narratives I’d heard before. Not really my thing. But then I bumped into the Pierces and…hoo boy. President Franklin Pierce. I’d never heard of him. But I was immediately struck by his story of tremendous loss prior to becoming president, his odd marriage to his grief-stricken wife, Jane, the many unsettling facts that were attached to his single term of office. I was hooked. And within the space of a day or two, I set aside that outline for a different novel knowing The Residence was up next.
Was writing ‘The Residence’ daunting at all? Historical fiction can be challenging, but tackling one set in The White House must have presented some unique and different barriers. Had you considered writing historical fiction in the past?
I’d never really thought of writing historical fiction before encountering the Pierces. All the big, famous, dramatic episodes of the past seemed to have already been exploited in one way or another, and I’m not much of an amateur historian in the first place. I thought it was an area meant for others. But when I decided to write a ghost story in the White House based on real people and real events, I figured I had to come up with an approach that would suit my material along with my creative inclinations. So I devised a few guidelines right from the start: I would depart from the historical record freely on the ghost story side, but stick to the facts in most other respects; I would keep the book as crisply written as possible to avoid any excess historical exposition; I would make Jane an equal if not greater focus of the novel than Franklin (as it was Jane whom I fell for in the first place).
I asked you this last year, but what independent/self-published/small press releases have stood out for you lately?
There’s so much out there! I try to keep up with work that I hear others being excited about, but the TBR stack is going to topple over and smother me to death in the night. But off the top of my head, I’ve loved The Fisherman by John Langan, North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingsrud, Experimental Film by Gemma Files.
Similar question to last year, what advice would you give to any new authors out there that you wish someone would’ve given you?
I wish someone had told me early on to hold on to work longer before submitting it. The impulse to get stuff out there is strong, but despite what some might say along the lines of “I know it’s just a first draft, I’ll keep that in mind as I read” it’s not true. First drafts are judged the same as finished drafts, and it can jeopardize the viability of a project to have it burn out before it’s ready. Hang on to your drafts. Read them aloud to yourself. Pursue beta readers (with great love and lots of gifts for their labour). Ask yourself “Is this really, honestly, the best I can do?” If there’s a shade of doubt at all…go back to it again.
In most of your books, you’ve featured a small northern Canadian town or location. Even to the extent of having ‘The Wildfire Season’ set in the Yukon. Is there something you’ve found that continues to draw you to the far north?
I suppose there’s personal and aesthetic answers to that one. On the personal side, I love the north, both the down here and ‘Up There’ versions: the woods, the water, the quiet, the being away from things. It makes me feel at once small and empowered, if that makes any sense. On the aesthetic side, the north provides many narrative assets, especially in the stories I write: isolation, physicality, places to hide, places to be found, and lots of places to bury the bodies.
I recently messaged you asking if you’d heard of the mythical Nick Cutter aka Craig Davidson unreleased book. A book Craig has deemed so extreme that it will never see the light of day. Is there a mythical book in the Pyper vault? Is there much unreleased work sitting around collecting dust that us fans would love to see?
There are some things I’ve written that will never see the light of day but it’s not because they’re too extreme, just…not what I wanted them to be. Having said that, on the screenwriting side, I’ve got a few movie and TV scripts that failed to get off the ground that, who knows, might find another life down the line. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I’ve often referred to you as my ‘Stephen King’ and being able to have any sort of interaction through social media is mind blowing and frequently leaves me speechless. You’re pretty active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Do you enjoy the interaction and accessibility the platforms give or is it more of a necessity with the changing face of promotion?
That’s very kind of you to say! And in answer to your question, meeting readers like yourself is a great joy to me, an interaction I learn a lot from. It reminds me of something so fundamental you’d think you’d never forget it, but sometimes you do all the same: you write because there are people out there you hope to connect with, to create something that plays in their heads. It’s such a privilege when that connection is made, and social media is now the primary means by which one learns of it.
I asked a similar question to this last year. You have two kids. How old will they have to be until they are allowed to read any of your works?
My eldest is thirteen and loves horror, but it frightens her terribly and gives her bad dreams (she would deny this, but trust me, it’s true). My younger is more honest about it: he likes action, but not “the freaky stuff.” All to say that I’m not rushing any Read Dad! campaigns around here. My dream is that they find the books on their own time, on their own terms, when their curiosity gets the better of them.
Lastly – when you kindly participated in last year’s PYPER-MAY-NIA celebration, you’d indicated that you didn’t take a break after finishing a book and that (at that time) you’d already begun your next book. I’m going to assume that was referring to ‘The Residence.’ Should us die hard Pyper fans, aka your “scare hounds” (stick tap to Randall Perry for that!) circle 2021 to be a year to expect another Pyper release?
I wish! No, I’ve been working on a few different projects that came after The Residence, none of them novels. I can’t really say more than that, but I hope to be able to soon. But I do have an outline for a book I want to get back to – remember that book I mentioned that was up next before I met the Pierces? Maybe this fall I can dive in.
When I was finishing this up, my 3-year-old son, Auryn, came over and said I had to ask you what your favorite color is and do you like spiders?
Auryn, great questions! Blue. And yes!
Thank you again for doing this Andrew! It is incredibly gracious of you and I’m very humbled that you would take the time to answer these!
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