Pleasant surprise for Irish writer

Pleasant surprise for Irish writer

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derek lam website + man hk fest
Derek Landy. Photos: Man HK International Literary Festival and www.skulduggerypleasant.co.uk

A sudden inspiration transformed Derek Landy from failed student to award-winning author, writes Mabel Sieh

His books could be made into the biggest movie series since Harry Potter, but the creator of Skulduggery Pleasant has never imagined himself as a successful person.

Derek Landy, award-winning author of the popular children's crime series, did not excel at school.

'I was a dreamer. I daydreamed a lot,' says the 37-year-old author who grew up in Lusk, a village in Ireland. 'I wasn't interested in school work. I was always too busy drawing or writing.'

Landy's lack of enthusiasm followed him after he finished secondary school, and he was kicked out of university after his first year. 'It was not what I did but what I didn't do,' he says, referring to his incomplete assignments. Lacking direction in life, Landy went to work on his father's farm. It was the worst decision of his life.

'I never wanted to be a farmer. And I hated being the one kid in the family who was a failure,' says Landy. His two sisters and brother all graduated from university and have what he calls 'normal' jobs.

Then he decided to get serious about writing. He wrote screenplays as a hobby while working on the farm. He finished two scripts which were made into films but the most important event of his life came in the summer of 2005. Landy was in London to meet some producers to discuss his new screenplay, when he had a sudden inspiration.

'I remember it amazingly well. I was standing in the middle of the room in this horrible hotel, staring into space, and suddenly, the name Skulduggery Pleasant and his story came to me,' says Landy. 'It's never happened before or since.'

He left without meeting the producers because he just wanted to 'go home and write'.

The main character of his successful series, Detective Skulduggery Pleasant, is a skeleton.

'Everybody thinks a skeleton would be a villain but I want it to be a hero. You can never judge a person by their appearance,' says Landy.

He set the story in the Irish capital, Dublin, keeping all the real street names and geographical locations.

Even one of the characters is true to life. Valkryie Cain, the detective's co-worker, is a 14-year-old female student who lives in Dublin. 'I based this character on one of my martial arts students ... exactly like her - what she likes and how she thinks,' says Landy, who has a black belt in karate.

Giving a teenage character such a prominent role in his books says something about Landy's opinion of young people. 'You will never find me patronising teenagers because I respect them. They are capable of handling their problems.'

Landy admits there is something strange about his transition from failed student to successful writer. But he believes the secret to his success is about having fun. 'If you have fun writing the book, your readers will have fun reading it. It is contagious,' he says.

With rave reviews, awards and the news that Warner Brothers has bought the film rights to his series, Landy has finally made his family proud. 'I was the black sheep,' he says, 'and now I am the golden child!'

Landy was in Hong Kong to take part in the 2010 Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival which ends today.

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